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Twister is a American disaster film starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as "storm chasers" researching tornadoes. It was directed by Jan de Bont. The film was based upon a script by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin. The film was executively produced by Steven Spielberg, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Gerald R. Molen. Twister was the second-highest grossing film of 1996, with an estimated 55 million tickets sold.

In the movie, a team of storm chasers try to perfect a data-gathering instrument, designed to be released into the funnel of a tornado, while competing with another better-funded team with a similar device during a tornado outbreak across Oklahomamarker.

Twister is notable for being both the first Hollywood feature film to be released on the DVD format and the last to be released on HD DVD. Twister has since been released in high definition on Blu-ray disc. It was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound in 1997.


The film begins in June 1969 on a rural Oklahoma farm as severe weather looms. A family (including five-year-old Jo) seeks shelter in a storm cellar as an F5 tornado strikes. However, the storm is so strong that the locks on the cellar door fail and Jo's father is caught up in the storm and killed as young Jo struggles to catch a glimpse of the powerful storm.

Years later, Dr. Jo Harding (Hunt) is reunited with her estranged husband, Bill Harding (Paxton). Bill is a former weather researcher and storm chaser who has taken a job as a weather reporter. He is planning to marry his new girlfriend, Dr. Melissa Reeves, and arrives at Jo's research lab seeking Jo’s signature for the final divorce papers. Bill discovers that Jo has built a tornado research device called DOROTHY based upon his own design; the device is designed to release hundreds of sensors into the center of a tornado to study its structure. The team later meets up with Dr. Jonas Miller, a smug and unscrupulous (but well-funded) fellow meteorologist and storm chaser. When Bill discovers that Jonas has "invented" a device almost identical to DOROTHY, he vows to help Jo deploy DOROTHY before Miller can claim credit for the idea. Bill and Melissa join Jo and her eccentric team of storm chasers.

Tensions rise between Jo and Bill when they have several close calls with dangerous tornadoes as the team tries unsuccessfully to deploy the new device. One tornado hits Wakita, Oklahomamarker, destroying the home of Jo's aunt Meg. Melissa, frightened by the dangers of storm chasing and recognizing the unresolved feelings between Jo and Bill, leaves. The team then attacks their goal with even more fervor, chasing an increasingly intense storm in an attempt to deploy DOROTHY. The rival team's hubris and lack of instinct proves fatal as Dr. Miller's truck is swept up and destroyed in a tornado due to overzealous chasing, despite Bill's warnings.

Eventually Jo and Bill set out on their own and, in a risky maneuver, are able to deploy DOROTHY successfully, surviving a direct contact with a huge tornado and re-sealing their personal bond in the process.

Main characters

  • Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt): The leader of her storm-chasing research team.
  • Bill Harding (Bill Paxton): Jo's estranged husband and former fellow storm-chaser.
  • Dustin 'Dusty' Davis (Philip Seymour Hoffman): A wise-cracking member of Jo's chase team.
  • Robert 'Rabbit' Nurick (Alan Ruck): The navigator for Jo's chase team.
  • Laurence: (Jeremy Davies): A quiet member of the team, in charge of photographing tornadoes on film.
  • Joey: (Joey Slotnick): In charge of taking measurements of wind and taking care of their doppler radar.
  • Alan Sanders (Sean Whalen): Rabbit's driver, usually chastised by Rabbit for folding instead of rolling the maps.
  • Tim 'Beltzer' Lewis (Todd Field): Driver of the van that holds the doppler and one of the more wild, and dedicated, members of the team.
  • Haynes (Wendle Josepher): The youngest member (and only other female) of the team, rides with Beltzer.
  • Jason 'Preacher' Rowe: (Scott Thomson): Member of Jo's team, called Preacher because of the numerous religious references he gives.
  • Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz): Bill's new fiancee; her love for Bill is strained after she too takes part in storm-chasing.
  • Aunt Meg Greene (Lois Smith): Jo's aunt and mother-figure to her team.
  • Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes): The leader of the rival storm-chasing team; he aims to take credit for Bill's idea for DOROTHY in the pursuit of fame and profit.
  • Eddie (Zach Grenier): Jonas' reluctant assistant.
  • Young Jo (Alexa Vega): Witnesses her father killed by a powerful tornado.


Twister was a joint production between Warner Bros. and Universal Studios. (This fact is reflected in the movies comprising a double-bill advertised on the marquee of a drive-in theater featured in the film: The Shining, a Warner Bros. release, and Psycho, a Universal owned production). Both studios had often collaborated with another of the film's production companies, Amblin Entertainment, prior to this film.

After spending more than half a year on pre-production on Godzilla, director Jan De Bont left after a dispute over the budget and quickly signed on for Twister. The production was plagued with numerous problems. Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, were paid a reported $2.5 million to write the screenplay. Joss Whedon was brought in to do rewrites through the early spring of 1995. When he got bronchitis, Steve Zaillian was brought in. Whedon returned and worked on revisions right through the start of shooting in May 1995. He left the project after getting married and two weeks into production, Jeff Nathanson was flown in to the set and worked on the script until principal photography ended.

Halfway through filming both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were temporarily blinded by bright electronic lamps used to get the exposure down to make the sky behind the two actors look dark and stormy because it was too bright outside. Paxton remembers, "and these things literally sunburned our eyeballs. I got back to my room, I couldn't see". To solve the problem, a Plexiglas filter was placed in front of the beams. The actors took eye drops and wore special glasses for a few days to recuperate. After filming in a ditch that contained bacteria, Hunt and Paxton had to have hepatitis shots. During the same scene, she repeatedly hit her head on a low wooden bridge because she was so exhausted from the demanding shoot that she forgot not to stand up so quickly. Hunt did one stunt in which she opened the door of a vehicle that was speeding through a cornfield, stood up on the passenger side and was hit by the door on the side of her head when she let it go momentarily. As result, some sources claim that Hunt got a concussion. De Bont said, "I love Helen to death, but you know, she can be also a little bit clumsy," to which she responded, "Clumsy? The guy burned my retinas, but I'm clumsy ... I thought I was a good sport. I don't know ultimately if Jan chalks me up as that or not, but one would hope so".

Some crew members felt De Bont was "out of control" and left five weeks into filming. The camera crew led by Don Burgess left the production after five weeks, claiming that De Bont "didn't know what he wanted till he saw it. He would shoot one direction, with all the equipment behind the view of the camera, and then he'd want to shoot in the other direction right away and we'd have to move [everything] and he'd get angry that we took too long ... and it was always everybody else's fault, never his". De Bont claims that they had to make schedules for at least three different scenes every day because the weather changed so often that "Don had trouble adjusting to that". When De Bont knocked over a camera assistant who had missed a cue, Burgess and his crew left, much to the shock of the cast. Burgess and his crew stayed on one more week until a replacement was found in Jack N. Green. Just before the end of the shoot, Green was injured when a hydraulic house set, designed to collapse on cue, was mistakenly activated with him inside it. A rigged ceiling hit him in the head and he injured his back and had to go to the hospital. Green missed the last two days of principal photography and De Bont took over as his own director of photography.

De Bont had to shoot many of the film's tornado-chasing scenes in bright sunlight when they could not get overcast skies and asked Industrial Light & Magic to more than double its original plan for 150 "digital sky-replacement" shots. Principal photography had a certain time limit because Hunt had to return to film another season of Mad About You but Paul Reiser was willing to delay it for two-and-a-half weeks when the Twister shoot was extended. De Bont insisted on using multiple cameras and this led to the exposure of 1.3 million feet of raw film (most films use no more than 300,000 feet).

De Bont claims that Twister cost close to $70 million with $2–3 million going to the director. It was speculated that last-minute re-shoots in March and April 1996 (to clarify a scene about Jo as a child) and overtime requirements in post-production and at ILM, raised the budget to $90 million. Warner Bros. moved up the film's release date from May 17 to May 10 in order to give it two weekends before Mission: Impossible opened.


Twister featured both a traditional orchestral film score (by Mark Mancina) and several rock music songs, including an instrumental theme song composed and performed for the film by Van Halen. Both the rock soundtrack and the orchestral score were released separately on compact disc.

Rock Score

  1. Van Halen - "Humans Being"
  2. Rusted Root - "Virtual Reality"
  3. Tori Amos - "Talula (BT's Tornado Mix)"
  4. Alison Krauss - "Moments Like This"
  5. Mark Knopfler - "Darling Pretty"
  6. Soul Asylum - "Miss This"
  7. Belly - "Broken"
  8. k.d. lang - "Love Affair"
  9. Nine Stories Feat. Lisa Loeb - "How"
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Melancholy Mechanics"
  11. Goo Goo Dolls - "Long Way Down"
  12. Shania Twain - "No One Needs to Know"
  13. Stevie Nicks Feat. Lindsey Buckingham - "Twisted"
  14. Edward And Alex Van Halen - "Respect the Wind"

Orchestral Score

  1. Oklahoma: Wheatfield
  2. Oklahoma: Where's My Truck?
  3. Oklahoma: Futility
  4. Oklahoma: Downdraft
  5. It's Coming: Drive In
  6. It's Coming: The Big Suck
  7. The Hunt: Going Green
  8. The Hunt: Sculptures
  9. The Hunt: Cow
  10. The Hunt: Ditch
  11. The Damage: Wakita
  12. Hailstorm Hill: Bob's Road
  13. Hailstorm Hill: We're Almost There
  14. F5: Dorothy IV
  15. F5: Mobile Home
  16. F5: God's Finger
  17. Other: William Tell Overture/Oklahoma Medley
  18. Other: End Title/Respect the Wind - written by Edward and Alex Van Halen


Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "You want loud, dumb, skillful, escapist entertainment? Twister works. You want to think? Think twice about seeing it". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Somehow Twister stays as uptempo and exuberant as a roller-coaster ride, neatly avoiding the idea of real danger". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, "Yet the images that linger longest in my memory are those of windswept livestock. And that, in a teacup, sums up everything that's right, and wrong, about this appealingly noisy but ultimately flyaway first blockbuster of summer". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "But the ringmaster of this circus, the man without whom nothing would be possible, is director De Bont, who now must be considered Hollywood's top action specialist. An expert in making audiences squirm and twist, at making us feel the rush of experience right along with the actors, De Bont choreographs action and suspense so beautifully he makes it seem like a snap". Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "when action is never shown to have deadly or pitiable consequences, it tends toward abstraction. Pretty soon you're not tornado watching, you're special-effects watching". In his review for the Washington Post Desson Howe wrote, "it's a triumph of technology over storytelling and the actors' craft. Characters exist merely to tell a couple of jokes, cower in fear of downdrafts and otherwise kill time between tornadoes".


On May 21, 1996, a tornado destroyed a drive-in theater in St. Catharines, Ontariomarker which was scheduled to show the movie Twister in a real-life parallel to a scene in the film in which a tornado destroys a drive-in during a showing of the film The Shining. The facts of this incident were exaggerated into an urban legend that the theater was actually playing Twister during the tornado.

Theme park attraction

The film was used as the basis for the attraction Twister...Ride It Out at Universal Studios Floridamarker, which features filmed introductions by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.


  1. Twister (1996) - Trivia
  2. HD DVD Disc Historical Release Dates | High Def Digest

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