Apparently, amid the blistering cold of the Alaskan wilderness, there's an out-of-the-way spot on the map called Barrow. And every single year, like clockwork, the sun stays out of sight for a whole month. Now, for some odd reason, there's an opportunistic clan of undying, snaggle-toothed vampires (led by character actor Danny Huston) who are interested in paying a visit to Barrow and its temporarily nocturnal residents. Hmm … I wonder why that could be? Vampires. They're such suckers for good night-skiing.
'AVP: Aliens vs. Predator' (2004)
A group of researchers (from the familiar Weyland-Yutani Corporation) head to a ghostly, abandoned whaling station located in a remote section of Antarctica, in order to investigate strange readings from one of their satellites. What they find is a creepy, seemingly vacant pyramid frozen beneath the ice, which they immediately deem as a historically significant find. There's a slight problem, however. Unbeknownst to them, they've stumbled across an ancient arena in which a continuous game of extraterrestrial tag is played between a certain race of dreadlocked warriors and everyone's favorite slime-dripping "aliens."
Based on true-to-life events, this harrowing drama will have you second-guessing the safety of single-engine planes for the rest of your days. Meanwhile, it'll have you sparking up interesting postfilm ethical debates between you and your fellow movie watchers. A Uruguayan rugby team innocently boards a plane in Argentina to play a routine match in Chile. However, they never make it. Their plane crashes amid the savage Andes mountains along the way. The trip, which starts with 45 passengers, only yields 16 traumatized survivors, who are found 72 days later. Let's just say they don't survive on bags of honey-roasted peanuts.
'Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (2007)
Young Lucy Pevensie is playing hide-and-seek with her brothers and sisters when she manages to find a fantastic hiding spot within a wardrobe. In fact, it's such a good spot that it leads to a whole other world entirely. Enter the Land of Narnia, which has been plunged into 100 years of winter by an evil, child-hating sorceress named the White Witch (played by Tilda Swinton). This imaginative adventure is the first entry in a series of films adapted from C.S. Lewis' celebrated children's novels.
Sylvester Stallone plays Gabe Walker, a "retired" rescue ranger who's haunted by a mountain-climbing tragedy that involved his colleague Hal (Michael Rooker) and his now ex-girlfriend. Gabe is eventually forced back into the rescue business after Hal is taken hostage by a sadistic criminal mastermind named Eric Qualen (played with reckless abandon by John Lithgow), who needs a guide to help him recover his lost briefcase, which is full of money and has conveniently found its way onto a nearby mountaintop. Filled with lots of explosions, fisticuffs and gunfights, this action-packed blockbuster also features Stallone traversing numerous rock faces wearing nothing but booty shorts and a tank top. How's it hangin', indeed.
Horror maestro Stephen King undeniably has the talent to make any scenario seem frightening. So, how hard would it be for him to unearth the terror within a secluded hunting cabin amidst the frozen tundra of Maine? Now, if you take some vicious, shape-shifting space invaders, add a super-secret military operation and a group of four childhood pals who possess telepathic powers, then you have a solid foundation for an atmospheric sci-fi thriller. Just be warned. The alien "birth" scene, which takes place within a locked bathroom, makes the chestburster scene from the original Alien seem like a C-section.
Well, geez. If this isn't considered the quintessential flick concerning the quirky side of the American Midwest, then I'll give you a case of Tru-Coat -- on the house. Based on actual events, this best picture Oscar nominee tells the tale of a botched kidnapping involving an ordinary housewife in snow-covered 1980s Minnesota. The kicker is: The husband is the one behind the whole shebang. William H. Macy offers up a delightful performance as the bumbling husband, but it's Frances McDormand who winds up stealing the show (along with a best actress Oscar, I may add) as the very determined (as well as extremely pregnant) sheriff on the case, Marge Gunderson.
Not to be confused with the upcoming Disney film of the same name (they're, uh, polar opposites), this thriller asks the audience a very simple question: What would you do if you were stuck on a ski-lift, legs dangling 100 feet in the air, with no way to call for help, no way to get down, and nobody due back to the resort for days? Oh wait, did I mention there are wolves circling below, watching your every move, and patiently waiting for you to come down and join them for dinner? Just think of this as Jaws for the Aspen crowd.
Loosely adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen story called "The Snow Queen," it tells the story of two sisters. Inhabiting the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa is next in line to become the queen, while her sister, Anna, is more of a fun-loving free spirit. Here's the twist. Elsa is what they call a cryokinetic, which means she's able to unleash icy blasts from her fingertips anytime she gets either nervous, anxious or angry. Due to this gift/curse, Elsa accidentally causes Arendelle to enter into an eternal state of winter. Whoops. Cryokinetics are so careless sometimes.
'Groundhog Day' (1993)
Okay campers, don't forget your booties because it's cold outside! Due to an unforeseen blizzard, preening weatherman Phil Conners (Bill Murray in a career-defining role) somehow becomes perpetually trapped in Punxsutawney, Penn., during the annual Groundhog Day festival, leading him to experience the same series of events over and over again. The upside: He's able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no consequences whatsoever. The downside: He wakes up to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You, Babe" blaring on his alarm clock, morning after morning after morning …
'Grumpy Old Men' (1993)
John Gustafson and Max Goldman (the late, great Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, respectively) are both retired widowers from Wabasha, Minn. For the last 50 years, there have been two things that John and Gus love to partake in -- ice fishing and getting under each other's skin. While putting two comic geniuses together undoubtedly leads to some ridiculously funny and memorable scenes, it's the late Burgess Meredith who proves to be the grumpiest (and the funniest) in his role as Grandpa Gustafson. His sexually charged outtakes during the credits are legendary.
'Let the Right One In' (2007) and 'Let Me In' (2010)
Based on a novel by Swedish author Ajvide Lindqvist, both entries follow the escapades of a young boy who befriends a mysterious and reclusive young girl, who also happens to be a vampire. While both films use the 1980s as a backdrop, the former is a Swedish film, which also takes place in Sweden, while the latter is the obligatory Hollywood remake, which is set in New Mexico. There is, however, one more thing that both versions possess: snow. Lots and lots of snow. By the way, without getting into it, there is a metaphorical aspect to all that glorious white stuff.
Yet another film based on a Stephen King novel that makes the list. Driving through Colorado, best-selling author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) gets caught up in a major snow storm and runs his car off the road. Although he's a little banged up, he's heroically rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, in an Oscar-winning performance), who, in a fortuitous turn of events, claims to be his "number one fan." Annie invites Paul to her isolated cabin in the woods, where she slowly nurses him back to health. Nevertheless, when Annie finds out that Paul has killed off Misery Chastaine, her all-time favorite character of his, she lets him have it … literally … with a mallet … to the legs.
Mixing Native-American legend with Donner party antics, this atmospheric and underrated movie is hard to pigeonhole into a genre and is the better for it. Set during the Mexican-American War amid the country's obsession with westward expansion, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) and the ornery crew of lost souls who occupy the secluded Fort Spencer are stationed amongst the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada for a reason -- either for some peace and quiet or to be forgotten. However, when a frostbitten, scared and emaciated man named Colqhoun appears at their doorstep one day, raving about a cave in which unspeakable, unholy things have occurred, they can hide no more. Something has finally found them.
'The Day After Tomorrow' (2004)
Due to global warming, the temperature in the Earth's oceans swiftly plummets, which in turn causes a massive climate shift plunging most of the Northern Hemisphere (including all of the United States) into a new Ice Age. During this catastrophic event, paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) trudges from Philadelphia to New York City, braving ungodly winds and deathly cold changes in temperature, to find his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) before it's too late. Now that's a man who can wear his "# 1 Dad" T-shirt with a sense of pride.
'The Edge' (1997)
Billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) is a man who has everything, yet still yearns for adventure. Photographer Bob Green is a man who has a pretty cool camera and yearns for Charles Morse's beautiful model wife. When the men (along with Bob's assistant, Bearbait … I mean, Stephen) head out on a propeller plane to bond in the Alaskan wild, the plane goes down and the three of them must survive the cold weather, bouts of extreme hunger and a man-eating bear. What will turn out to be their biggest obstacle: their fellow man or the gargantuan grizzly bear? I vote grizzly bear.
'The Grey' (2010)
A group of grizzled oilmen who work at "the end of the world," must work together to stay alive after inclement weather causes their plane to crash-land (in one of the scariest airline disaster scenes ever) amid the arctic wastelands of Alaska. If being stranded in the freezing cold wasn't bad enough, a pack of wolves have decided that these men are a threat to their territory and systematically hunt them down. A surprisingly moving and deeply lyrical film, The Grey also benefits from a haunting score, a well-layered screenplay from writer-director Joe Carnahan, and a fabulous ensemble cast featuring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo and Dallas Roberts.
'The Last Winter' (2006)
This cult horror-thriller from writer-director Larry Fessenden is a revenge tale featuring Mother Nature punishing mankind for all those fossil fuels that have been extracted from her soil during the recent past. The story focuses on a small team of poor saps from the KIK Corporation -- a fictional American oil company -- who mistakenly disturb some sacred land within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which in turn unleashes a group of ghosts (including the legendary Native-American spirit of the Wendigo) to bring about "The Last Winter." And you thought Greenpeace was relentless.
'The Shining' (1980)
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And apparently shuffling around and getting lost in a snow-covered hedge maze without a coat on makes Jack a frozen-solid, ax-wielding, dead boy. Fueled by a maniacal performance by Jack Nicholson as Overlook Hotel caretaker/doomed family man Jack Torrance, Stanley Kubrick's classic adaptation of Stephen King's novel features a striking visual style and an overall sense of impending dread that never lets up.
'The Thing' (1982) and 'The Thing' (2011)
This double feature includes director John Carpenter's brilliant, claustrophobic remake of the classic 1950s monster movie The Thing From Another World, as well as the recently released prequel that bears the same name. Both films together spell out a terrifying story, combining blisteringly cold environments and good old-fashioned paranoia with a sci-fi twist, highlighted by an unforgettable, ooey-gooey, organic mess for a monster that is able to shape-shift into any being it wants -- even Wilford Brimley.
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