BySam Cooper, writer at
Spastic writer and a lover of all things with the word "espresso" in the title.
Sam Cooper

It's that time of year again: tornado season. From April to June, everyone in the Great Plains holds their breath when they look at the sky, searching for dark clouds among the blue. It's a dangerous time. Kansas alone averages 92.4 tornadoes per year, and that doesn't include the countless other storms that scour the land.

Hollywood has never done much to ease fears, thanks to dramatic misrepresentations and bad special effects (I'm looking at you, The Day After Tomorrow), but there are a few gems in the severe storm collection. Whether you need an inside look at how twisters work to ease your fears, a distraction, or just some eye candy, here are four and documentaries that will help you survive tornado season.

1. 'Twister' (1996)

Go ahead and laugh. Get it all out.

'Twister' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Twister' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Alright, now listen. Twister, the blockbuster that swept audiences away back in 1996, is a different kind of gem. Even though the representation of severe weather survival is a bit skewed (OK, it's hilariously inaccurate), Twister provides something that no other severe weather flick can offer in high doses: eye candy. Twister is cool because tornadoes are just cool. Take a ride with storm chasers and learn to marvel at the sky at the same time you fear it. With Twister, the only thing from which you'll have to hide is the extra drama, not the storms.

2. 'Tornado Glory' (2006)

When severe weather strikes, most people hide, but some people forgo the storm cellar and chase the sky. Seems legit, right? Tornado Glory is a low budget indie that originally aired on PBS. It follows Oklahoma University students Reed Timmer and Joel Taylor as they search the Great Plains for a storm to catch, showcasing the reckless ambition and unrivaled passion of the two chasers. Tornado Glory is unrefined and old. It is, by no means, an informative look at how the meteorological field works, but it does one thing brilliantly: change your perspective.

'Tornado Glory' [Credit: Angry Sky Entertainment]
'Tornado Glory' [Credit: Angry Sky Entertainment]

Sometimes it seems like storms are hunting you down, but rest assured that there's someone out there hunting the storms right back.

3. 'Take Shelter' (2011)

Granted, this is the strangest entry on the list, but definitely the most unique. Take Shelter is not a tornado-focused movie or a factual look at weather — it's a . Take Shelter tells the story of a man (played by Michael Shannon) who sees apocalyptic visions of a storm. He channels his anxiety into preparation and survival, driving cracks into the shell holding his family together. What is this film doing on the list? Take Shelter is a frightening reminder that even when the forces of nature seem threatening, our minds can be just as scary.

'Take Shelter' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]
'Take Shelter' [Credit: Sony Pictures Classics]

4. 'Tornado Alley' (2011)

Remember when Storm Chasers was a hit reality show on Discovery? Chaser Sean Casey not only starred on the show, but also went on to make an IMAX documentary about his experiences. Tornado Alley spans a short 40 minutes and follows Sean's team as they collect meteorological data, capture gorgeous footage of thunderstorms, and drive their vehicles straight into tornadoes.

'Tornado Alley' [Credit: Giant Screen Films]
'Tornado Alley' [Credit: Giant Screen Films]

Tornado Alley is often overstuffed with transitions and down time, but it still serves as a solid look at how weather behaves in the Great Plains.

Tornado season isn't always a fun time, especially for those living in the danger zone. Storms are scary, they're hard to understand and often misrepresented in entertainment. However, with the proper distraction, education and reckless excitement, anyone can overcome their fear of the sky. Check out these four features and settle into your storm shelter, because you're in for a whirl.

What's your favorite weather-based movie?


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