Conjuring images of snowy landscapes, barren trees, and frigid temperatures, winter weather imparts an instant and identifiable tone. It’s no wonder that a number of key films use this particular season as a constant backdrop. Rarely does the mere use of weather render such an immediate impact as it does when characters are exhaling steam as snow falls in an ever-present blanket around them. Indeed, audiences can practically feel the shivering cold through the screen.
Putting tone aside, winter often plays an even more direct role in the narrative. Films such as Christmas Vacation wouldn’t make much sense if they didn’t take place during the holiday season, after all. That’s not to mention the obstructive nature of snow and freezing temperatures in films such as Cold Mountain, Fargo, and Force Majeure. In John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing, which takes place in the heart of Antarctica, the desolate winter weather mirrors the isolation characters face as the film progresses.
Meanwhile, audiences get to wrap themselves in warm blankets and sit next to the fire as they partake in the viewing experience. That makes winter-weather movies all the more appealing, as if they reinforce one’s own sense of comfort. It also helps that a number of these films are just downright great in their own right. Here are 20 of the best.