July 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM ET
Unless you're actually in Alaska, you know full well that the U.S. is stuck in the midst of a heat wave. (And even if you're in Alaska, it's pretty warm — Wednesday's high in Juneau is slated to be 75 degrees.) With that in mind we compiled a list of some of our favorite frozen films that might, if you use your imagination, keep you a few degrees closer to cool.
So fire up (whoops!) your DVD player or streaming service, crank the air conditioning and check out these cold little gems. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Red blood contrasts so nicely with the vast, unending whiteness of a North Dakota winter; in 1996, the Coen brothers painted extraordinary images with the snow — remember beleaguered Jerry Lundegaard walking across a nearly stark-white parking lot? -- to create a chilly dark comedy masterpiece.
Want a reason to be glad you're not stuck in the middle of a winter wonderland? Start with cannibalism; when Uruguayan rugby players crash land in the Andes in this 1993 film, they've got to come up with some desperate means for survival, and one involves lunching on their late comrades (and yes, it's based on a true story). At least you have your fridge.
"Into the Wild"
Those rugby players weren't the only ones who faced potentially fatal food decisions; in 2007's also based-on-a-true-tale "Into the Wild," poor Christopher McCandless' journey around the U.S. comes to a bad end in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness after he consumes the wrong plant.
If you are lost in the Alaskan wild, however, don't tangle with Anthony Hopkins. Or a bear. That's what Alec Baldwin learned in the 1997 survival film about two men — one having an affair with the others' wife — after the two were stranded after a plane crash and had to rely on their wits to avoid freezing to death.
"Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"
Being stuck out in the middle of the windy eternal winter of the planet Hoth with just a dead tauntaun? Take a tip from Han Solo, who in the 1980 film helped save his friend Luke Skywalker from perishing by shoving him into the warm body of the late animal. Gross, but effective.
Sometimes, it's better to be outside than in. Particularly when dad has gone a little stir-crazy in a big empty hotel. It might have been a frozen Colorado winter outside the Overlook in the 1980 film, but once Jack Nicholson got his hands on an axe, his son had to escape being hacked to death by hiding out in a snowy maze. Dad followed him into the twisty corridors and never made it out.
"The Ice Storm"
Compact and effective, the 1997 drama starring a pre-"Lord of the Rings" Elijah Wood and pre-"Spider-Man" Tobey Maguire took place over Thanksgiving in Connecticut during a winter storm that ultimately led to tragedy. Watch those downed power lines, kids!
Not every film about winter is full of bears and axe-wielding maniacs; in this delightful, lively animated 2002 film (the first in a franchise that is ongoing), a wooly mammoth with the voice of Ray Romano teamed up with an unlikely group of fellow prehistoric pals to return a human child to its parents.
"Happy Feet" and "March of the Penguins"
And what visit to the frozen wasteland would be complete without penguins? In both the animated 2006 film and the 2005 documentary, the tuxedoed little guys prove that whether they're tapping their feet or slogging it through mating season, they're bound to warm the cockles of every viewer's heart.
What films did we miss? Chill out and let us know by commenting in "Discuss" below!