A Summary of the Film "Twister"

by Sarah Nyako
Scientists battle against the destructive force of nature in this thriller.

Scientists battle against the destructive force of nature in this thriller.

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"Twister" is a 1996 disaster movie. The plot follows a team of storm chasers who are researching tornadoes. "Twister" was wildly popular; it was the second-highest grossing film at the box office that year. The film was co-written by Michael Crichton and directed by Jan De Bont. It was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Effects (Visual Effects) and Best Sound. Humorously, it also won a Razzie Award (which "awards" the worst movies) for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million.


Helen Hunt stars as Dr. Jo Harding, a scientist who has spent years developing instruments that will help her team study tornadoes. Her motivation stems from a traumatic childhood incident. She is reluctantly going through the divorce process with her husband Bill Harding (Bill Paxton), who is a retired storm chaser. He is engaged to Dr. Melissa Reeves, played by Jami Gertz. Cary Elwes plays the rival storm-chasing team leader Dr. Jonas Miller. Minor characters play the assistants on both teams -- one notable example is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the eccentric navigator Dusty on Harding's team.


The film begins with a flashback to 1969, where a young Jo Harding watches as her father is sucked into a tornado. The film then moves to the present, where meteorologists are predicting a record number of tornadoes in Oklahoma. Bill Harding and his fiance show up and confront Jo to get her to sign divorce papers. She pretends to sign them because she is still in love with her estranged husband. She also explains the work she and her team have been doing -- building four machines called "Dorothy" that release balls into the center of a tornado to collect and transmit data. Dr. Miller's rival team shows up and it is revealed that they have stolen the machine idea and built a replica. Bill agrees to help the team for one day, mostly out of spite for the money-hungry Miller.

Rising Action

A small tornado is spotted nearby and the two teams chase it. The tornado destroys Jo's truck, as well as one of the Dorothy machines. After the team chases a few more small tornadoes, Bill's fiancee's nerves are frazzled and she begins feeling uneasy with Bill's excitement over the tornadoes. Soon after a failed attempt to gather data for yet another tornado, Bill and Jo realize they still have feelings for each other. Their confession is accidentally broadcast over a CB radio to the truck where Bill's fiancee is listening. Later, at a nearby theater, Jo signs the divorce papers. An F4 tornado destroys the theater, but the team gets the public to safety. Melissa breaks up with Bill and gives her blessing for him to reconcile with Jo. The team then hears that an F5 tornado, which is very rare and powerful, is being predicted.


Jo's team desperately tries to place a Dorothy machine in the path of the F5 tornado, and Jo and Bill narrowly avoid death many times. Dr. Miller and his assistant are killed in the chase after they ignore Bill's warnings. Jo and Bill finally manage to deploy a Dorothy machine by driving the truck into the center of the storm (ejecting themselves from the truck moments before it hits the tornado). Later, they take cover at a nearby barn in the final action-packed scene. The Dorothy machine works and transmits data to the team. Bill and Jo reconcile and decide to run the lab to analyze the data together.


About the Author

Based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Sarah Nyako has been writing professionally since 2008. Her area of expertise is health, fitness and the pharmaceutical industry. She is currently working towards a master's degree in medical writing.

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