Winter is the harshest of seasons in many parts of the world. It’s so harsh that it changes lifestyles. People stay indoors more, traveling becomes dangerous, schools close, and even special wardrobes must be worn to fend off potential weather-related illnesses. Overall, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s so cold that it makes normally easy things rather arduous.

There are many movies that capture wintry environments and their harsh realities so well that they make viewers never want to leave the comfort of their warm beds. They make us long for summer days, where the sun shines, the weather is beautiful, and life is easy. These brutal wintry movies are sure to make audiences count the days until summer returns again.

10 Frozen River

Frozen River is the story of a mother (Melissa Leo) who has fallen on hard economic times so she begins to traffic illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States across a frozen river. The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving high praise from Quentin Tarantino, and winning two Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

Filmed in sub-freezing temperatures in Upstate New York, the winter makes the main characters’ illegal task even more arduous, which greatly exemplifies her desperation.

9 Fargo

Considered one of the best, if not the best, Coen Brothers film, Fargo takes place in frigid Fargo, North Dakota, and involves the investigation of a kidnapping and murder by a pregnant policewoman (Frances McDormand). Fargo premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and garnered seven Oscar nominations, winning two for Best Screenplay and Best Actress.

Taking place during winter, there are very few frames that aren’t blanketed in white. The harshness of the winter depicted matches some of the character’s often harsh and cold actions. Plus, a scene where William H. Macy struggles to scrape the ice off his windshield will make anyone thankful for warm weather.


8 Hold The Dark

Jeffrey Wright stars as a writer summoned to an Alaskan village to hunt down the wolves who are supposedly the cause of three small children’s disappearance. However, he uncovers something far more sinister at play.

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This film’s winter setting amplifies the bleakness of its story, making it a tough watch for some but a gripping watch for others. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and garnered mostly positive reviews before being released on Netflix.

7 The Mountain Between Us

After bad weather cancels their flight, two strangers, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, charter a private plane, but their pilot suffers a stroke mid-flight and the plane crashes in the northeastern Utah wilderness. The two try to survive together in the plane’s wreckage during a harsh winter.

Filming took place in very cold temperatures on a mountaintop in Canada. Crews could use a helicopter to reach the set, but on bad weather days, they had to drive 40 minutes to the location. This comes across, as the cold is almost a character and an antagonist in the film.

6 Alive

Based on the true story of the Uruguayan rugby team’s plane crash in the Andes mountains, Alive tells the ultimate story of survival. After dealing with the environment’s brutal temperatures and lack of supplies, the rugby team resorted to eating the flesh of the group’s deceased members.

The movie received mixed reviews but noted it for being thrilling and engrossing. The brutal cold depicted in the film prompts the extreme lengths people can go in order to survive. Audiences can feel thankful they’re viewing the film in the warm comfort of their own home, not having to endure such a horrible situation.

5 The Hateful Eight

Sometimes regarded as The Thing without aliens, The Hateful Eight is the eighth film by director Quentin Tarantino and, like his previous film Django Unchained, it’s a Western, though set during a blizzard this time. The story concerns eight strangers who seek refuge in a cabin during an awful snowstorm.

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The film was regarded with high acclaim and nominated for several Oscars, winning one for Ennio Morricone’s musical score. It’s another film where the wintry backdrop is a metaphor for the harsh winter within the Hateful Eight’s souls.

4 Everest

Everest depicts the true story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which eight climbers died in a blizzard while attempting to scale the mountain. The tragic event is portrayed with harsh realism and will make any viewer think twice about wanting to scale Everest and endure the elements.

The film received mixed reviews, however, it gets the point across well about making such a risky journey, as many climbers didn’t survive the cold. Many survivors came off the mountain with horrible frostbite that caused permanent damage or prompted amputations.

3 The Thing

Based on a short story, John Carpenter’s The Thing is about a group of researchers in Antarctica who discover an alien life form that can imitate people. Paranoia overtakes the group, as any one of them could actually be an alien in disguise. Initially deemed a failure when first released, The Thing has since become a science fiction classic.

In this case, the chills produced by the environment’s harsh and snowy setting add to the terror of being stranded alone with a monster in an already inhospitable environment. Many have tried to imitate The Thing’s mixture of terror and claustrophobia, with little success.

2 The Grey

The Grey is another plane-crash-stranding-survivors-in-a-cold-climate-story, however, this time, the survivors must deal with vicious timberwolves as well. Watching The Grey makes it impossible to not feel cold at some point. Philosophical themes underscore the movie, making the wintry backdrop a metaphor for how punishing life and nature is. Many critics noted its comment on religion and faith during perilous times.

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The movie was a modest success at the box office, though some felt the ending was anti-climatic. Famous critic, Roger Ebert, was so affected by it, he had to walk out of his next movie screening, as he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

1 The Revenant

The Revenant is based on the legend of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman in 1823, who, after being left for dead, trekked across a harsh terrain for revenge. Directed by Alexandro Innaritu, the movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass and Tom Hardy as the man who left him for dead. First, Glass survives a violent bear attack, then treks through the wilderness where he comes under attack by Native Americans. He endures the brutal elements, which at one point causes him to shelter inside a dead horse’s carcass.

DiCaprio finally won a long-deserved Oscar for his performance. The Revenant’s realistic portrayal of its setting depicts a world where having to endure harsh environments is a part of everyday life, producing harder, tougher people.

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