By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 20, 2020 at 12:01 PM

While everything else was canceled this summer, the dog days of summer and the brutal heat that can come with – that feeling like Mother Nature's bombarding you with blankets on fire – were unfortunately not. Usually, we would have movie theaters and their glorious air conditioning to escape into, but in many cases, they're still closed due to the growing number of COVID cases. But you can still escape with the help of the movies with these nine cold-weather films that'll transport you to refreshingly frigid winter wonderlands. (OK, maybe not that wonderful since there's ax murderers, shapeshifting aliens and ferocious wolves – but you know what else is just as deadly and scary? Heat stroke.)

So put the "chill" into the next time you're Netflix and chilling (no, not THAT kind of Netflix and chill!) away a devastatingly humid summer day with one of these very good, very cold movies that are so frosty, you might need a blanket even during the muggiest forecasts of the year. 

"The Shining"

Now streaming on: Fubo, DirecTV and Amazon with Showtime

The movie that inspired this very piece, I watched Stanley Kubrick's horror classic the other day – not because it's the greatest horror film ever made or because Jack Nicholson's iconically deranged performance or the impeccable craft on display but solely because it was ridiculously hot and muggy outside, and the movie takes place during a freezing cold blizzard. And honestly, it was remarkably soothing – even with, you know, the axe murders and creepy ghost twins and masterful foreboding sense of dread echoing through literally every single frame. The famously frosty Kubrick and his masterful craft on display will send shivers down your spine, while the blizzard-struck Overlook Hotel and Rocky Mountain settings will send shivers through the rest of your body – a perfect combination to keep you inside on those scorching summer days. Though maybe don't spend too much time cooped up inside ...

"The Empire Strikes Back"

Now streaming on: Disney+

One of the greatest blockbusters of all time also makes for one of the best cinematic summer escapes thanks to the iconic Hoth sequences that start Irvin Kershner's spectacular sequence. Set on the ice and snow covered planet, the opening is filled with images that freeze their way into your brain forever, like the AT-AT's ominously emerging from the ice blue mist, stomping their way toward our rebel fighters or a chilled Luke hanging upside down using the force to escape a wampa. Just the frozen setting alone made this sequel feel new, visually compelling and refreshing – especially during the humid heat of summer with ghastly temperatures outside that feel like you're bunkered inside of a dead tauntaun.


Now streaming on: Prime Video and Kanopy

If you truly just want pure, clean, uncut cold radiating from your television, to the point that icicles start forming on the speakers, check out this sparse little 2019 gem. All it needs to keep you entertained and air conditioned is a desperate Mads Mikkelsen (the blood-crying villain from "Casino Royale") and a whole lot of empty, frozen Arctic landscape as Mikkelsen's plane crash survivor must venture through the unpredictable wilderness to find his way back to society and back to safety. And that's just about all there is to it – the amount of dialogue spoken throughout the film probably barely fills a post-it note – but all that survivalist intensity is a natural thrill to watch, Mikkelsen is a hugely compelling screen presence and did I mention that it's really hot outside and this movie is 95 minutes of nonstop cold? It's a low-key but exciting adventure thriller that, during this steamy summer, is like hooking a IV of ice water up to your veins. 


Now streaming on: Disney+

Parents, you'll have to make a tough choice: Is cooling off with this snowy Disney smash hit worth getting "Let It Go" stuck in your kids' heads again for the 16,714th time? Honest answer: probably! The 2013 animated blockbuster earns most of the insane love heaped upon it with its story's clever play on classic princess story tropes, its sweet sister relationship, its funny jokes and character (remember when Olaf was just a charming and fun supporting character and not beaten into the ground by the sequel and spinoffs?) and, yes, its earworm-y hit songs, written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the award-winning couple behind "Avenue Q" and "The Book of Mormon." Never mind the hysteria (and the lukewarm sequel): The original "Frozen" is still pretty great. Just make sure you rent the animated one and not the 2010 horror movie of the same name – though that "Frozen" is about three people stuck on a ski lift, so maybe that would make a good summer streaming option too. Just maybe don't pick that one for family night ... 


Now streaming on: Netflix

There's never been a better time to dip into the sci-fi thrill ride that is "Snowpiercer." For one, writer-director Bong Joon-ho this past year became one of the most beloved and sought-after creators in the film industry after his twisty Korean thriller "Parasite" won a surprising but worthy Best Picture plus three other Oscars – and if you want more of his wholly unpredictable, exhilarating work, "Snowpiercer" is a great next step. (I'd even argue the 2013 actioner – a sci-fi allegory about a train in the post-apocalypse driving the remains of humanity, with the oppressed poor in the back beginning to rebel against the aloof rich up front – might be even better than "Parasite.") But second, and most relevant to this article, it takes place in a frost-covered, globe-encompassing frozen wasteland that turns people into popsicles in mere minutes ... which sounds awful, but at least slightly less awful when you're watching on a brutally hot summer day. It's a great way to catch up on one of the best filmmakers currently working today without breaking a sweat – quite literally. 

"The Grey"

Now streaming on: Fubo, DirecTV and Amazon with Showtime

"The Grey" started as almost a joke. What, a "Taken" movie but with Liam Neeson punching wolves instead of Albanian gangsters? Ridiculous (though still not as ridiculous as "Taken 3"). But then something even wilder than the frosty Alaskan forest setting happened: "The Grey" ... was really good? What was sold as an action movie about Neeson battling timberwolves with brass knuckles made of broken booze bottles turned out to be a tense, moving and haunting survival story about men looking back at their lives while facing death – a horrifyingly cold death at the hands of cruel, uncaring Mother Nature, captured in frosty, wind-whipping, relentless detail by writer-director Joe Carnahan. It's not a fun watch – especially if you're walking in expecting "Wolf Punches: The Movie," though, yes, a wolf does take a well-deserved fist to the face – but it's also unsurprisingly exciting while also surprisingly rich and rewarding, especially when it's 95 degrees outside in the shade. 

"The Thing"

Now streaming on: Starz and DirecTV

It's bad enough being stuck in the middle of relentlessly cold Antarctica tundra for weeks upon weeks at a time, far away from any other human contact, stuck with the same bunch of gruff researchers and outdoorsmen. But to make matters worse, when you finally get a guest, it's a shape-shifting alien creature that's plotting your gruesome demise and comes in horrifically slimy spider-legged monstrous forms when it's not disguised as your best friend or a cuddly husky. At least they've got flamethrowers to keep themselves protected – from both the cold and the creepy alien. And at least you get to watch from the safety of your couch, where the frosty conditions (and the chills from this excellently creepy classic thriller, perhaps John Carpenter's finest film) can help keep the summer heat at bay while the screen keeps the paranoid shenanigans at a distance too. 

"Ice Age"

Now streaming on: Disney+, Starz and DirecTV

You know, the OTHER popular animated movie taking place in a snow-covered world. The "Ice Age," like many of its animated brethren, got franchised into oblivion with sequels ranging all the way from middling to adequate, but the original 2002 movie, about a crew of prehistoric animals (voiced by Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo) trying to bring a lost baby back to its tribe, is still charming, funny and, best of all during the summer, very chilly thanks to being set during its titular era – though considering the sequels involve dinosaurs and a cataclysmic meteor strike, is this THE ice age? How are the talking animals not the most scientifically dubious part of this series? Anyways, the first movie's still nice – and puts the "ice" in nice.


Now streaming on: Starz and DirecTV

What's colder than having your wife kidnapped by a pair of bumbling but dangerous criminals in order to con her wealthy father into giving you money, resulting in multiple gruesome deaths? Uh ... honestly not much, but the frigid Midwestern weather in the Coen Brothers' Oscar-winning dark comedy breakthrough hit comes respectably close, putting a snowy, memorably pure white backdrop to the grim Minnesota underworld misadventures. Normally, we Wisconsinites are fine being as far as possible from reminders of the all-too-familiar blistering winds, frozen windshields, crunching snow and generally frostbite-inducing temperatures – but considering the smotheringly hot recent summer days and the lack of usual places to escape them, I welcome this trip to a winter not-so-wonderland.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.