7 Movies to Take Your Mind Off the Winter Weather

winter storm

A man crosses a street during a winter storm in New York | JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

With powerful winter storms still affecting the northeastern United States, many people are eager for warmer weather to return. Although nothing can be done to hasten the arrival of spring, you can always vicariously experience warmer weather through the magic of film. Thankfully, there are plenty of “hot” films available for movie fans looking for a little warm weather escapism.  Here are seven movies that will warm up your TV screen and help you forget the cold weather.

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

 Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia | Columbia Pictures

Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia | Columbia Pictures

David Lean’s critically-acclaimed epic adventure film set in Arabia provides plenty of blistering desert footage for viewers trying to forget the cold weather. This classic film is based on the real-life historical figure of T. E. Lawrence, who helped organize the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Besides offering viewers plenty of sun-drenched landscapes, Lawrence of Arabia also features a cast filled with legendary actors, including Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal, Anthony Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi, and Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali. Lawrence of Arabia won seven Academy Awards soon after it was released and it is widely cited as one of the most influential films in the history of cinema. The film currently holds a 98% “Fresh” rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a 93% audience approval rating.

2. The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

Like the title suggests, The Long, Hot Summer offers viewers plenty of hot Mississippi summertime weather. Loosely based on William Faulkner’s novel, The Hamlet, The Long, Hot Summer features a steamy storyline that matches the film’s sweltering setting. The film stars Paul Newman as Ben Quick, a drifter and suspected barn-burner who suddenly arrives in a small Mississippi town and proceeds to curry favor with the Varners, the town’s richest family.

Besides Newman, the film also features Joanne Woodward as Clara Varner, Orson Welles as the family patriarch Will Varner, and Angela Lansbury as Minnie Littlejohn. The genuineness of the onscreen chemistry between Woodward and Newman became apparent when the couple got married during the film’s production. Although The Long, Hot Summer was only a modest box office success, it was praised by the critics and garnered Newman a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film currently has an 88% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an 84% audience approval rating.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Perhaps the best of the many “Spaghetti Western” films that were shot in Europe during the 1960s, this Sergio Leone-directed masterpiece stars Clint Eastwood as “The Good,” Lee Van Cleef as “The Bad,” and Eli Wallach as “The Ugly.” Besides starring an impeccable cast of western film veterans, the movie also features an unforgettable musical score thanks to Ennio Morricone.

Not surprisingly, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly provides viewers with plenty of sweltering hot desert landscapes. In one particularly thirst-inducing scene, Wallach’s character forces Eastwood’s character to march across a desert until he passes out from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  Although the film was widely panned by the critics when it was initially released, today the film is considered a seminal western film that reinvigorated the genre.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly currently has a 97% “Fresh” rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 97% audience approval rating.

4. Dune (1984)

Still feeling chilly? Then try visiting the desert planet of Dune, also known as Arrakis, the setting of David Lynch’s ambitious film. Based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, Dune takes place on a parched planet where “melange,” a valuable spice that is essential for space travel, is mined.

With its convoluted storyline and broad themes of empire, destiny, and messianic prophecy, Dune may be too complex of a novel to pack into one movie. Although the film features a star-studded cast that includes Kyle MacLachlan, Sting, Max von Sydow, Patrick Stewart, and Sean Young, Dune received harsh reviews from most critics. Many negative reviews about the film centered on its confusing plotlines. “The plot of ‘Dune’ is perilously overloaded, as is virtually everything else about it,” wrote New York Times film critic Janet Maslin. However, audiences have warmed up to Dune since its initial debut and the film has even gained a cult following.

5. Backdraft (1991)

Nothing takes your mind off the cold weather like a five-alarm fire. Ron Howard’s film about a group of Chicago firefighters stars Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, and Robert De Niro. However, the biggest star of this film may be the fire itself, which at times behaves like a sentient being. As the title suggests, the film features plenty of explosive backdrafts lovingly captured in slow-motion by director Ron Howard.

The pyrotechnic special effects seen in Backdraft helped garner the film three Academy Award nominations, including Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing. Although a burning building is probably not the kind of warmth that most viewers are pining for, the film’s fiery effects are guaranteed to take your mind off the cold weather.

6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name and directed by Terry Gilliam, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas stars Johnny Depp as writer Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as his traveling companion Dr. Gonzo.  Although Duke is ostensibly travelling to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, he and his partner are also enhancing their stay in the desert city by consuming large amounts of drugs, including mescaline, LSD, cocaine, and ether.

Besides featuring various hellish drug-induced hallucinations, the film also provides viewers with plenty of sunbaked desert landscapes as the duo drives in and out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Although the film was a box office flop, it slowly gained cult status as a DVD release. The mixed reviews from film critics are reflected in the movie’s 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. On the other hand, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has a 90% audience approval rating.

7. The Beach (2000)

With its tropical island setting, The Beach is the perfect film for viewers that want to take their minds off the ice and snow. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an American tourist who stumbles upon a secret island, the film features lush tropical backgrounds and, as the title suggests, plenty of footage of beautiful sandy beaches. While the film’s setting may make you wish you were in Thailand, the beach that DiCaprio’s character finds in the film soon turns out to be less than idyllic.

Although DiCaprio made this film on the heels of his blockbuster success in Titanic, critics were less enamored with his aquatic adventures in The Beach. The film currently has a low 19% approval rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, while the audience approval rating sits at 58%. However, the critics had no problems with the film’s paradisaical landscapes. “Points go to the gorgeous cinematography,” stated the critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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