Twister touched down in theaters on May 10, 1996, storming its way to a $494 million global box office to become the second highest-grossing movie of the year behind only Independence Day. The dizzying disaster movie, produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and the creative team behind Jurassic Park, follows estranged couple and storm chasers Bill (Bill Paxton) and Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) during their attempt to launch DOROTHY — an instrument intended to act as an advanced tornado warning system — while their team, including Dusty Davis (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Rabbit Nurick (Alan Ruck), contends with a rival researcher (Cary Elwes) amid a severe storm outbreak.
Directed by Jan de Bont, who previously steered Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in 1994 blockbuster Speed, the film faced its own turbulent weather when a reported 20-plus crew members walked off set over a clash with the filmmaker. As Entertainment Weekly quipped in a 1995 story, "The relationship between De Bont and his crew became so strained, the National Weather Service would have been well within its rights to issue an advisory."
But Paxton, star of such films as the James Cameron-directed Aliens and True Lies, predicted Twister would do anything but suck at the box office as was suggested by one proposed tagline — "It sucks!" — before producers decided against advertising their $92 million dollar movie with a line that could be misappropriated. Instead, ominous posters for Twister invited moviegoers to witness "the dark side of nature."
"Sure, there were hardships," Paxton told Entertainment Weekly. "You don't put a story like this on the screen without paying the freight. Rumors may abound, but come next summer we're gonna blow 'em away."
Prolific film critic Roger Ebert, who described Twister as "loud, dumb, skillful, escapist entertainment," gave the film a stormy two-and-a-half stars, writing in his review:
Twister, directed by Jan de Bont, is tireless filmmaking. It lacks the wit of his Speed, but it sure has the energy. If the actors in this movie want to act, they have to run to catch up with the camera, which is already careening down a dirt road to watch while an oil tanker truck spins into the air, crashes and explodes. The movie is wall-to-wall with special effects, and they're all convincing, although it's impossible for me to explain how Bill and Jo escape serious injury while staring right up into the Suck Zone of the Finger of God.
Despite mixed reviews, Twister became the number one movie at the domestic box office with $41 million when it opened on May 10, 1996. After earning nearly $500 million at the global box office, Twister was nominated for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects at the 1997 Academy Awards.
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