A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Twister is a 1996 movie about the dangers and exhilaration of pursuing tornadoes on the Oklahoma plains and the types of personalities attracted to the endeavor. Cows, semi-trucks, trucks, and houses are shown to whirl around and crash violently to the ground in the action sequences; while younger audiences will note that these special effects are superior to the CGI sharks from the Sharknado franchise, the spectacle of these large bovines and objects spinning airborne might not impress them as much as the audiences who saw this when it was first released. A man is shown trying to keep a storm cellar shut before getting violently blown away by a tornado in front of his wife and young daughter. A man is impaled by a piece of metal that crashes through his windshield, causing his truck to flip and explode, killing the other passenger. There's occasional profanity, including one use of "f--k." A small town is shown devastated after a tornado struck. Some gratuitous innuendo: A tornado chaser talks about the "suck zone" in a way that implies he's not just talking about tornadoes; a woman later revealed to be a reproductive therapist answers her cell phone and exclaims, "She didn't marry your penis!"
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What's the story?
When conditions create a perfect storm for multiple tornadoes in TWISTER, storm chaser Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) finds herself re-teaming with her ex-husband, Bill (Bill Paxton), to collect valuable data using their high-tech invention called DOROTHY. Meanwhile, corporation-funded Dr. Miller (Carey Elwes), armed with a similar device, tries to get the vital statistics before Jo and Bill do.
Is it any good?
Twister's raison d'etre is showing off elaborate special effects that create the experience of being near and even in a tornado. A tornado isn't an easy phenomenon to build a plot around -- they can't be predicted more than three minutes in advance, and they don't last very long. So it's partly forgivable that the filmmakers haven't come up with much of a story. The relationship woes and scientific rivalries only serve as filler between the scenes featuring huge objects hurtling through the air.
The opening scene, about Jo's first experience with a twister, is both exciting and scary. After that, the filmmakers satisfy themselves with thrilling viewers rather than frightening them. They also drop so many references to The Wizard of Oz that families can make a game of counting them. It's a bit of a disappointment that scientist-turned-scriptwriter Michael Crichton didn't challenge the audience a bit more here. Still, despite being clichéd, the characters are likable. In particular, Helen Hunt is as inspirational to young women interested in science as Jodie Foster was in Contact.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of disaster films, and what makes a good one.
How does the movie use contrasts between the two tornado chasing groups, and between Melissa and Jo, to reveal character?
The opening scene is a flashback showing a pivotal moment in Jo's life. Why do you think that scene is in the movie? What would be lost if it wasn't there?
Has the movie aged well?
For kids who love action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.