By Eric Henderson

You’ve seen the latest forecast. You know that snow’s coming. Maybe not quite enough to leave you entirely cut off from civilization, but certainly enough to leave you unwilling to leave the house. If you’ve already finished binge-watching the entire second season of House of Cards and aren’t quite ready to double back to start Breaking Bad all over again, or if you want to watch a few movies centering about desperate souls more hopelessly snowbound than yourself, why not check out one of these five frigid masterpieces?

(credit: United Artists)

05. The Gold Rush

(Charlie Chaplin, 1925)

You remember those Looney Tunes cartoons where characters trapped inside a remote cabin start picturing the other people as giant walking rotisserie chickens? Or that Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns and Homer start hallucinating snowmen? They all were at least partially inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 classic detailing the Little Tramp’s journey to the Klondike in search of gold, a movie that’s admittedly more about greed than gluttony, but what sins aren’t any of us willing to commit to end winter come March?

(credit: Universal)

04. The Grey

(Joe Carnahan, 2012)

If you think Old Man Winter hates us, wait until you see what it thinks of Liam Neeson and his crew of oil rig workers. En route home from Alaska, their plane crashes during a blizzard, leaving the remaining survivors stranded in the middle of nowhere with no immediate hope for rescue. Oh, and pursued by an unyielding pack of ravenous wolves. Not just one of the ultimate man-against-nature melodramas of our time, but also a brutal plummet into existential depression and the question of God’s purported benevolence. Tough stuff. Nearly as tough as keeping those ice dams off your roof.

(credit: Universal)

03. The Thing

(John Carpenter, 1982)

I actually field-tested this selection during a snowstorm with a pair of friends a few years back, and I can tell you, flesh-splitting shapeshifters and exploding dogs aside, John Carpenter’s polar plunge into the dread of isolation is absolutely best experienced when you’ve holed yourself up inside the comfort of your own home. It’s even better when you can start questioning whether your companions are still who they say they are or are just perfect imitations. Also, the enigmatic conclusion is the perfect set-up for any late-season snowstorm that leaves you wondering if this region will ever see the sun again.

(credit: Gramercy)

02. Fargo

(Ethan & Joel Coen, 1996)

Few films have offered a more amusing (or, depending on your viewpoint, downright libelous) look at what six months of hard freeze can do to an entire populace’s state of mind. And Joel and Ethan Coen, as any Minnesotan knows, ought to have known. Their ice-cold satire Fargo isn’t just one of the best excoriations of the duplicitous nature of “Minnesota Nice” out there, it’s also one of the most surprising endorsements of it. Sure, William H. Macy’s ineffectual schemer and the two-bit lowlifes he hires to kidnap his wife come in all different flavors of dissolute, but there at the center of the frosty, murderous maelstrom is Frances McDormand’s zen-like Brainerd Police Chief Marge Gunderson, their most endearing creation.

(credit: Warner Brothers)

01. The Shining

(Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

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(in chronological order)
Nanook of the North (Dir: Robert J. Flaherty; 1922)
Marketa Lazarová (Dir: František Vlácil; 1967)
Misery (Dir: Rob Reiner; 1990)
The Day After Tomorrow (Dir: Roland Emmerich; 2004)
30 Days of Night (Dir: David Slade; 2007)

Eric Henderson