The 15 Best Movies Set in the Snow and Ice, Ranked

It's one thing to be stranded in the desert or lost in a jungle, but snowy icescapes can be harsher and more unforgiving.
The 15 Best Movies Set in the Snow and Ice, Ranked

If you buy something using our links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Snow-dusted mountain ranges and wintry cottages, nestled between the fir trees... Winter landscapes can be so idyllic!

Then again, the frozen tundra can also be harsh and unforgiving as it threatens us with deadly frostbite, black ice, and polar bears.

Here are several great movies set in the snow and ice, surrounded by chilly terrain where the pretty snow could be a friend one moment but turn into a menacing foe in the blink of an eye.

15. The Grey (2011)

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Starring Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

Action, Adventure, Drama (1h 57m)

6.7 on IMDb79% on RT

If you enjoy classic survival films like 1993's Alive, then The Grey is definitely for you! At first glance, it might appear to be an entertaining but forgettable film (like every other Liam Neeson action flick). But this one stands out for its visceral moments.

The brutality of The Grey stays with you long after the credits roll, even making renowned film critic Roger Ebert walk out of a different same-day movie screening because he couldn't get The Grey out of his head!

Director Joe Carnahan treats the surviving passengers of an Alaskan plane crash as individuals rather than a group. Commanding them all is Neeson's suicidal sharpshooter John Ottway, who goes head-to-head with a den of wolves that symbolize fear itself.

14. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 4m)

6.5 on IMDb45% on RT

There's a whole section of cinema dedicated to stories of the world ending. And we don't just mean zombie apocalypses! We're talking about the literal Earth falling apart at the seams.

The threats are numerous: meteors (Deep Impact, Melancholia), aliens (Cloverfield, War of the Worlds), viruses (Contagion, I Am Legend), and more. But what about the weather?

Climate change takes an extreme turn in Roland Emmerich's sci-fi disaster The Day After Tomorrow when natural disasters in the form of deadly hail and huge tornadoes threaten human extinction.

The Day After Tomorrow unfolds mainly in Manhattan, where knee-deep floodwater freezes and traps Sam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) in a public library. For similar antics, check out the film 2012.

13. The Snowman (2017)

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Crime, Drama, Mystery (1h 59m)

5.2 on IMDb7% on RT

The Snowman is a snowy murder mystery that leans more on the side of thriller than drama, unlike some of the other movies on this list.

Tomas Alfredson directs Michael Fassbender as Inspector Harry Hole in Oslo, Norway. A chain-smoking and reclusive alcoholic with questionable methods, Harry becomes obsessed with tracking down a serial killer who leaves snowmen at his crime scenes.

The film is based on Jo Nesbø's 2007 novel in his Harry Hole detective series. Though a little incoherent at times, there's a compelling story to be found beneath The Snowman's cold, stylish surface.

12. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)

Directed by Andrew Adamson

Starring Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, William Moseley

Adventure, Family, Fantasy (2h 23m)

6.9 on IMDb75% on RT

C. S. Lewis's classic children's book series was magically translated to film by Andrew Adamson in the first (and best) installment of the franchise. You likely already know the premise of a little girl who steps through a wardrobe into the fantasy land of Narnia.

There, the girl meets an evil witch and a brave lion... as well as James McAvoy shirtless in the snow, sporting goat legs and a scarf.

Thanks to the White Witch (played by Tilda Swinton), Narnia is cursed with a never-ending winter, and all without Christmas. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is an escapist adventure fit for the whole family!

11. Wind River (2017)

Directed by Taylor Sheridan

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene

Crime, Drama, Mystery (1h 47m)

7.7 on IMDb88% on RT

A character-driven neo-Western minus the desert cacti, Wind River takes place on the snowy Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Director Taylor Sheridan wrote the script in order to raise awareness for the vast numbers of indigenous women who are killed in America every year, with a plot that's woven together by an FBI murder investigation.

A chilling tale—both literally and thematically—Wind River boasts stellar performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, who both tap into a more humanistic side to the murder mystery genre.

10. Everest (2015)

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes

Action, Adventure, Biography (2h 1m)

7.1 on IMDb73% on RT

From the poster alone, you can already guess what kind of harsh survival story awaits in this film. Based on true events, Everest retells the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where eight climbers were caught in a blizzard and tragically died.

Baltasar Kormákur directs this unforgiving biographical drama, honing in on two expedition groups who are fighting for their lives.

One is led by Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke) and the second by Scott Fischer (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), and both must learn to cooperate if they're to beat overexertion, high altitudes, and broken equipment.

9. Against the Ice (2022)

Directed by Peter Flinth

Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joe Cole, Heida Reed

Adventure, Drama, History (1h 42m)

6.5 on IMDb56% on RT

Peter Flinth's historical drama Against the Ice was sourced from Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen's 1912 memoirs Two Against the Ice.

Way back in 1909, the Danish explorer set off to uncover the lost records of a tragic Denmark expedition. After one failed attempt, only a young and inexperienced engineer is willing to join him on his bitter mission the second time around.

A polar bear, lost supplies, and two dead dogs later, the duo are left to spiral into isolated madness in an abandoned shed. With everything turning against them, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole give stunning performances as two men at the mercy of a miracle.

8. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Crime, Drama, Mystery (2h 48m)

7.8 on IMDb75% on RT

The Hateful Eight is a bloody revisionist Western movie that has all the makings of your classic Quentin Tarantino flick: an ensemble cast (including Samuel L. Jackson), riveting dialogue, and a bloodbath finale.

Set in 1877, a misfit group of bounty hunters, prisoners, and cowboys wait out a blizzard while tensions rise and guns cock. This lengthy film slots neatly as the eighth movie in Tarantino's bloody, violent filmography.

Despite its controversial handling of sex and race, The Hateful Eight was praised for its carefully constructed scenes and brilliant performances, which all take place in one Haberdashery lodge.

7. Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis

Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 41m)

8.0 on IMDb94% on RT

The snow in Groundhog Day isn't apocalyptically fatal, but it's still annoying for uptight weatherman Phil (played by Bill Murray).

Despite having a career in weather, Phil misjudges the duration of an impending blizzard and finds himself stuck in a small Pennsylvanian town. Not ideal for a cynical man.

On February 2nd, Phil gives a dull report on the outcome of Punxsutawney's Groundhog Day festivities (which supposedly predicts the length of winter). But the next day, it's still February 2nd. And the next. And the next...

Groundhog Day remains stuck in a hilarious never-ending winter, minus the magical whimsy of Narnia.

6. The Thing (1982)

Directed by John Carpenter

Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David

Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 49m)

8.2 on IMDb85% on RT

The North and South Poles are both often used as metaphorical representations for the edge of the world. A cold, uninhabitable end to the map. It's here, in a barren Antarctica, that a group of American scientists meet a creature from another planet.

In The Thing, Kurt Russell plays the helicopter pilot who's investigating the ruins of a snowy Norwegian research base. What ruined it, you ask? Well, it's difficult to say...

Horror master John Carpenter was initially criticized for making such a trashy, over-the-top alien sci-fi flick. Years later, the eponymous "thing" (there's really no other way to describe the shapeshifting creature) has grown into a cult symbol of 1980s horror cinema.

5. Misery (1990)

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth

Drama, Thriller (1h 47m)

7.8 on IMDb91% on RT

Though Misery isn't the most enticing title, it sure is accurate! Paul Sheldon (played by James Caan) really does have a miserable life after stumbling into the falsely caring arms of nurse Annie Wilkes.

Perfectly played by Kathy Bates, Annie claims to be Paul's number one fan. Annie loves his romance novels featuring a woman named Misery Chastain, but the author Paul wants to write more serious books—much to Annie's hatred.

Unfortunately for Paul, a blizzard breaks both his legs and traps him in Annie's warped prison. Rob Reiner's adaptation of the 1987 book is still hailed as the best Stephen King film adaptation to date!

4. The Gold Rush (1925)

Directed by Charlie Chaplin

Starring Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray

Adventure, Comedy, Drama (1h 35m)

8.1 on IMDb100% on RT

Calling all old movie and Charlie Chaplin fans! We're stretching back a little further for this one. The Gold Rush (originally released in 1925 and re-released in 1942 with an added voice-over) takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 19th century.

Inspired by the Donner Party—a group of pioneers who got stuck in the Sierra Nevada and resorted to eating each other—Chaplin turns tragedy into comedy per his usual style.

Iconic gags, cartoonish characters, and the sweet old Tramp caricature made The Gold Rush an instant silent movie success. That said, we recommend the later version with Chaplin's narration!

3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Directed by David Lean

Starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin

Drama, Romance, War (3h 17m)

7.9 on IMDb84% on RT

British director David Lean loved making epic films, from 1957's The Bridge on the River Kwai to 1962's Lawrence of Arabia.

Next in store for Lean was 1965's Doctor Zhivago. The original novel had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union by a left-wing Italian publisher before it could land in the lap of MGM.

So, why all the hubbub? Well, Boris Pasternak's Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the events of the Russian Civil War that immediately succeeded WWI, and it was banned for many years.

Winter in Russia was a big contributing factor to Germany losing WWII in 1945—that's how cold it is there! Rewind a few decades and the fictional physician Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif) is writing poems and falling for the wrong woman in Moscow.

2. Fargo (1996)

Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Starring William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi

Crime, Thriller (1h 38m)

8.1 on IMDb94% on RT

Fargo is one of the most—if not the most—famous movies by the Coen brothers. Their trademark offbeat humor, eccentric characters, and collaboration with Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi emerge as early examples of their iconic style.

Set in snowy North Dakota during the 1980s, Fargo follows a pregnant police chief investing a homicide that came about from a failed attempt at kidnapping for ransom.

A bumbling (in a good way), original, and wonderfully entertaining black comedy, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen set a high bar. Then, a subsequent five-season TV show adaptation was conceived in 2014.

1. The Revenant (2015)

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter

Action, Adventure, Drama (2h 36m)

8.0 on IMDb78% on RT

Like many of the films on this list, The Revenant is a true story about one man's fight for survival against the frigid elements of nature.

Finally bagging himself an Oscar for his performance, Leonardo DiCaprio drags himself across the Dakotas in 1823, battling not only the freezing temperatures but also grizzly bears and Arikara warriors.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu injects this epic survival drama with sweeping wide-shot views of the snow-covered mountains, balancing out the savage violence with tender and abstract emotion, making it feel like a man wandering through a dream.