How realistic was the movie "Twister"?

Nov 21, 2004
How realistic was the movie "Twister"?

I already know the answer to this question ("not very"), but perhaps a learned chaser could explain some of the numerous inaccuracies that this Hollywood spectacle presented.
>Twisters suck, not blow: In the movie it appears from the motion of objects and debris that the wind is blowing away from the tornadoes. In real life, wind blows toward the tornado to feed it with moist air. Tornadoes dominated by outflow like those in the movie would dissipate quickly.

>The movie doesn't do a very good job of showing supercell structure. On many occasions the tornadoes are shown descending from a nondescript stratus deck. I believe I only saw one tornado that formed from what could be called a wall cloud during the entire film.

>There's no way to determine the strength of a tornado while it is on the ground, or before it's formed. The only way to assign a Fujita rating is to assess the damage.

>In few scenes with real storm footage in the movie, it's apparent the "chasers" don't know what they're looking at. Early on, around when Bill remarks "the sky is talking", it shows a clip of a spectacular supercell. If they were really that desperate to get in the path of a tornado, they would want to be under that cloud right now.

>The chasers don't die in about 50 situations where they should have been killed.

>They have a tornado on the ground before 11 AM one day, and an F5 on the ground as the sun rises the next morning. This is not impossible, but is rather farfetched. Most classic tornado outbreaks start developing in the early afternoon and reach their peak in the late afternoon or early evening.

>The crushed ice cubes that they use for hailstones don't look quite realistic enough to pass muster to anyone who's actually seen a hailstorm.
I was always baffled by the fact that they had all of these decked out chase vehicles with live weather information, yet they were totally surprised when a huge wedge tornado rampages through the drive-in movie theater they were at. Clearly the thing didn't just develop, it was way too powerful.

Talk about a lack of situational awareness!
Science, via the NSSL, learnt in 1985 — not 1995 — that putting a big, clunky device in the estimated path of a tornado with the aim of getting scientific data from within doesn't work nearly as well on the field as it sounds in theory. They learnt this with TOTO (the TOtable Tornado Observatory), which tipped over in 67-mph winds and got limited data. Technically, you could get more data if you strapped TOTO onto the back of an NSSL chase vehicle, but I don't know if their budget really covers that.

At any rate, attempting this to extend tornado warning times from "3 minutes to at least 20" is something of a folly, as three-minute warnings are not the average now, or even 10 years ago — it really is closer to 20, if not more.

At the beginning of the movie there talking about how the tornado getting ready to hit the farm could be an F5, to bad it was 1969 and the Fujita scale wasn't ready for use until 1971! And those ice cubes certainly didn't look anything like real hail! (as was stated in another post).
LOL! I'm trying to think of something in that movie that actually was realistic......still thinking....

Got it. They make it seem like common practive for researchers to make fun of the weatherman on TV. In the real world this actually has some truth!
They make it seem like common practive for researchers to make fun of the weatherman on TV. In the real world this actually has some truth!

:D :D Check this out:

It's chaser Dean Schoeneck's list of on-air goofs by TWC meterologists. I recall one from earlier this year where somebody on there (Vivian Brown I think) said, "there is a tornado watch in effect, which means you need to take shelter immediately". All the effort Greg Forbes and Jim Cantore put into drilling the difference between a watch and a warning into viewers' heads, and one of their own needs a refresher course.

Speaking of Dean Schoeneck, does he belong to this forum? Anybody know what happened to him, was he forced to quit chasing at the end of April for some reason?
"NWS has issued a tornado watch for most of Mississippi..."

What's wrong with this one?

Maybe someone doesn't think the SPC is part of the NWS? Or, maybe there is a misquote and she said local NWS? I don't get it either.


There has always been a discrepency in my head between SPC and NWS even though SPC is part of NWS. I do wish TWC would stick with one because it has obviously resulted in confusion among even weather savy persons. Personally I think they should stick to saying SPC issues the watches,which is true, and NWS issues the warnings, which is true. Saying NWS has issued a Tornado Watch is not incorrect, but misleading and confusing!!
The NWS issues both watches and warnings.

The SPC issues the watches.

The WFOs issue the warnings.

They are all part of the NWS.
Ooh, that reminds me — not in Twister. There, the NSSL takes care of everything.
I think what newbies want to hear when they ask this question is simple to deliver in one sentence:

No, chase days like the one in TWISTER aren't common. In fact they're rare. However, contrary to what many naysayers blabbed in the weeks following the movie's release, May 3, 1999 proved that it's quite possible to (a) see five tornadoes in a day and that (B) tornado outbreaks sometimes DO last into the night and over to the next morning.

It's been almost a decade, and anyone who chases knows it's not real. Amazes me how people still take cheap shots at this flick, like they're afraid someone else in the room will think they're stupid if they don't point out every flaw.
The Weed...

I couldn't get past the weed in the beginning of the movie.. You know the one that sways in the wind, straigtens up instantly and sways in the wind again. One happy weed. :D
LOL - those were great Chris! :lol:

If you ever get a chance watch Twister on DVD with the directors comments on. (Yeah, I get bored sometimes)

They have Jan Debont (sp?) and the guy who did the visual effects commenting on it. It was hillarious! The visual effects guy
asks Debont why something exploded on top of hailstone hill?? Later, when the 18-wheeler gas truck explodes, he says something like 'it's an action movie, we need explosions' and then when Jonas's SUV explodes he says 'oh yeah its been 30 minutes - time for an explosion'

He's totally ripping on his own movie. :lol: :lol:
Not to belabor the point, but the most amazing thing about watching those explosions was the lack of continuity--a factor that is usually watched with some degree of quality/reality control in mind. But they were sleeping when they allowed large flaming clouds to float lazily straight up while everything else was flying across the screen in the simulated windfield.

Perhaps there was not a reliable way to film a fireball influenced by a cinematic wind machine to dub into the production.

Dave Gallaher
Huntsville, AL
I got quite a kick out of this. On the back of the video box for Twister, it states its rated PG-13 for, get this... "Intense depiction of very bad weather"!! I was rolling around on the floor with tears in my eyes after reading that one! :D
I've recently wondered if they could've made a more realistic movie and still gotten the fun action flick they were aiming for? Here's a question: how would you redo the questionable scenes while still keeping them interesting?

(I confess, even after reading all the flaws in it, I still enjoy the flick! :) )
Twister lost my interest within the first five least regarding accuracy.

For example, Jo Harding's dad was supposedly sucked out of his storm cellar and killed by a F5 tornado in Oklahoma during 1969...and there WASN'T an F5 tornado anywhere in America in 1969. In fact, there wasn't even a F4 in the state of Oklahoma during 1969.

Also, the fact Jo's farmer dad supposedly knew about something (Fujita-Pearson intensity scale) which didn't exist until several years later was a major gaffe..

It was a fun movie to watch (especially since I'm a fan of both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt)....but the lack of research/ accuracy into past Oklahoma tornadoes was dissapointing to me.
Twister was a good watch from an entertainment standpoint to me. but the more I learn, the more the science sucks. also, did anyone notice how many times they were under total cloud cover, but when they switched to inside the truck, it was full sunlight complete with strong shadows? and did anyone catch the scene where they were on a deserted road with a tornado right in front of them, then they switched to an inside the truck shot, and you could see a car going by them the other direction, once again in full sunlight? and yes, the ice chips sucked.
As an old photographer, I'm especially sensitive to lighting gaffs in movies. So much so that I have to control myself or people may not enjoy watching movies with me. :oops:

Darren Addy
Kearney, NE
The only thing I got out of "Twister" was a hearty laugh and a life-long obsession for a chase partner like Helen Hunt. :wink: I should also throw in the most worn-out and now irritating question I always get from people when they find out I chase storms. Good grief! I now count down the number of seconds before they ask what I thought about "Twister"...just for grins. :wink: That ranks second with "Fly Like An Eagle" regarding my namesake.

If you watch it, look carefully in the background while they are supposedly traveling through'll see Texas FM road signs. :) The crushed ice that they got from an ice machine supposedly representing hail was hilarious. I would have loved to have seen "behind the scene" to see a bunch of stage hands throwing handfulls of ice at the truck. LOL! I could go on, but I digress.

It's Hollywood, folks. What else didya expect? Definitely my favorite comedy of all-time. :lol:
I'm the world's worst at picking apart movies, and I needed a legal pad for this one.

It seemed the storms in the movie blew up out of nowhere and were tornadoing within minutes. Then, once the tornado had managed to pass right over them, the skies parted a-la C.B. Demille and everyone went back to Defcon 5.

A little dramatic interlude and it's back again.

Unless the day was already busted, I likely would not being stopped at Auntie so-and-so to have "chicken fry" and not paying attention to what's around me.

That is, as mentioned above, unless Helen Hunt asked me to. :)
For example, Jo Harding's dad was supposedly sucked out of his storm cellar and killed by a F5 tornado in Oklahoma during 1969...and there WASN'T an F5 tornado anywhere in America in 1969. In fact, there wasn't even a F4 in the state of Oklahoma during 1969.

Actually there wasn't an F-rated tornado period, as the Fujita scale had not been invented yet.