April 2, 2010

Great rainy scenes in film

I currently live in Portland, Oregon, home of "it rains so much here that we stubbornly refuse to use umbrellas even though that doesn't make any sense shut up!" My former native cities of the last year include New York and Boston, both recovering from huge rainstorms that required emergency measures. April seems to be rainy everywhere, and while it can be a drag in real life, it makes for some great movie scenes. Here's a smattering of some great rainy scenes/films. (Spoilers indicated by an asterisk, but most of them aren't things you couldn't figure out yourself)

*The Public Enemy (1931) - In James Cagney's star-making turn, hardened gangster Tom Powers meets his end from a gunshot in a rainy street while wimpering "I ain't so tough." Incidentally, he would go down in literal flames in White Heat (1949).

Key Largo (1948) - The rain could almost be considered another character in this noir - it's what keeps the protagonists trapped inside a hotel with a crazed criminal and his goons, and keeps making menacing cameos through the windows or when the doors periodically blow open.

Gun Crazy (1950) - An obsession begins. Young Bart Tare stands out in the rain, lusting after the guns in a shop window. He impulsively breaks the window and steals one, but trips in the course of his getaway and sees his prize slide to the feet of the local sheriff. From there, reform school and then even worse, a woman...

The African Queen (1951) - It's a small moment, but a significant one. Katharine Hepburn's prim and proper missionary and Humphrey Bogart's rough and tumble captain are stuck together on his boat, and when it starts raining in the middle of the night Bogey tries for entry into Hepburn's makeshift tent. Appalled at his lack of propriety, she quickly shoos him out, but when she realizes how miserable the weather is she begrudgingly allows him in, starting on the path to getting over herself.

Singin in the Rain (1952) - The one and only. Rain is often used to indicate misery, intrigue or even passion, but rarely is it featured in scenes of unbridled joy. Gene Kelly is high on love, and he tap-dances through pouring rain with an umbrella as his partner in one of the great scenes in cinema history. The fact that he filmed the scene with a high fever makes it all the more impressive.

*Seven Samurai (1954) - How do you make one of cinema's most epic battles even more epic? Rain! It turns the village to slush as bandits (unsuccessfully, of course) attempt to do the same.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) - At the core of Louis Malle's debut film is a heartbroken Jeanne Moreau wandering the streets of Paris in the rain, looking for her lover that never showed up after murdering her husband (he's stuck in an elevator, hence the title). Malle insisted she didn't wear makeup and consequently several labs refused to process the footage, but he persisted and the result is the very incarnation of bleak misery and heartbreak.

*Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) - Many films have a tearful and rain-soaked reunion of lovers at the end, but how many of those start as a search through the streets for a cat and end up featuring a wet and pissed-off cat smooshed into the final embrace?

Two for the Road (1967) - In this criminally underrated film, Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn play a couple reminiscing on their often joyous but often tumultuous marriage. In one of the happier memories, they are hitchhiking in Europe and get stranded in the rain, so they seek refuge in a giant concrete tube they find and fall asleep. When they wake up, they find themselves on the back of a truck (but without the "headed for a giant nefarious crushing machine!" cliche you would expect to find next).

*Blade Runner (1982) - Dying replicant Roy Batty becomes embroiled in a chase with Deckard in a downpour, but he ultimately can't outrun the pre-destined end of his life. He delivers a soliloquoy about his life, likening the events he's seen to "tears in the rain," a line that was unscripted but became one of the film's most memorable.

Jurassic Park (1993) - I wouldn't have guessed that rain could somehow make a T-Rex more menacing, but there you go.

Chasing Amy (1997) - A scene that you'd expect to be at the end of the movie, but here it proves to be only the beginning. Holden spills his love for his allegedly lesbian friend Alyssa in the pouring rain, in a scene that would probably be cheesy if it wasn't for Kevin Smith's characteristically great and down-to-earth dialogue.

The Ice Storm (1997) - The titular storm is rain before it's ice, and it serves as a catalyst near the end of the film that kills, reconciles, and teaches the self-absorbed characters what's actually important.

Pleasantville (1998) - A film that primarily takes place inside a 1950s sitcom, which is perfectly controlled universe until a brother and sister from the present arrive and cause all kinds of trouble. Sex, rebellion, and even color enter the black-and-white world, but a turning point is when Pleasantville gets its first rain. The teenagers react with delight, and the older generations respond with fear, panic and the notion that this is indicative of great evil. (I won't make the obvious political analogy for fear of the foaming-at-the-mouth comments it may incite.)

All About My Mother (1999) - A mother watches her teenage son get hit and killed by a taxi containing his favorite actress, whom he was chasing for an autograph. Apparently this scene is blatantly lifted from John Cassavetes' Opening Night both in style and plot (Pedro Almodovar said so himself), but where the latter uses that incident as a launching point to focus on the actress, AAMM focuses on the mother. Particularly heartbreaking since at the end of the scene the camera has the POV of the victim and spirals around his grieving and screaming mother.

Spider-Man (2002) - KIRSTEN DUNST'S BOOBS! KIRSTEN DUNST'S BOOBS! But seriously though, this scene was hot and original before it was iconic and oft-parodied. If you live under a rock and still don't know what I'm talking about, Peter Parker as Spider-Man rescues Mary Jane from some thugs and she treats him to a kiss in the rain while he's upside down. And because of the rain, you can kind of see her BOOBS.

And if you don't define rain strictly as water...

*Magnolia (1999) - It rains frogs. Even more insane than that is how not entirely insane it feels in what's otherwise a mostly realistic drama.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) - It rains everything from steaks to ice cream and of course, spaghetti and meatballs. This is rain I could get behind (imagine the savings on your food budget!)

And also...

Almost any movie with John Cusack, apparently - it seems pointless to isolate just one or two when this exists.

And a billion gazillion more - I apologize in advance for all the ones I forgot. What are your favorite rainy scenes?


marla said...

What about the fight scene in "The Outsiders"? I'm surprised this one wasn't mentioned.

Unknown said...

The T-Rex reveal in Jurassic Park is definitely near the top of my list.

Stu said...

Road To Perdition, where Tom Hanks finishes off the rest of Paul Newman'a mob..

Nick said...

What about Road to Perdition and Shutter Island?

Anonymous said...

The Shawshank Redemption when Andy makes his escape.

Derek Gereg said...

Suspiria should be up at the top. One of the greatest openings to any film, rain soaked atmospheric horror!

Anonymous said...

Shawshank and Road to Perdition for sure.

JimEl said...

There are several I'd like to point out (all recent) :


Seeing everyone lined up on the wall, the thrumm of half a million Uruk-hai cascading towards them, and next thing, the rain spills. Music wails in sympathy, as old men, young boys and our main protagonists begin to truly feel the weight of despair. Best moment in the trilogy for me.


Pitt and Freeman follow their hunch, find the apartment...and a man, down the end of the hall. Shots are fired. pitt chases him through hallways, apartments, down stairs into the messy misty rain. Panicked leaps across moving traffic, the camera swerving and struggling to keep up.And then to the murky alley, the engine of a large truck grumbling, the slow approach, gun in hand, and the sudden attack from above. The enemy has his weapon on target, in Pitt's face. The rain soaks the guys and the camera. Everything is grey and liquid,and all hope seems lost. Pitt is practically choking on rain, as blood seeps from his head-wound. And the enemy flees. Powerful moment, unorthodox chase scene, everything is off-kilter...and the rain serves to muddy up the already askew mood.


The rain system malfunctions, and suddenly it's like a giant garden hose, sprinkling here, then there, moving with the ecstatic Truman's runs here and there. then the entire area is covered in rain, as if it were all one big dream. It's a moment of levity,and epiphany, for Truman and the viewers. We both realise the truth will out.

Mnemo said...

The Day After Tomorrow - The rain on New York making the Hudson rise until it looks like a tsunami is great.

Patriot Games - Having the lights go off with the storm, then the terrorists vs civilians, with a kid, on the side of the house with the storm and of course the high speed boat chase in the storm. Without the storm it would have been nothing.

Sleeping With the Enemy - Laura uses the storm to fake her death and Martin goes REALLY nuts. He looked like he wanted to hurt the storm for taking away his punching bag.

I totally agree with Road to Perdition, Jurassic Park and Two Towers. And Two for the Road has always been a favorite of mine.

Anonymous said...

Brotherhood of the wold:

The fight scene at the beginning when you are introduced to the charachters was pretty bad ass! The rain hitting the puddles was beautiful

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the single best effect in The Matrix was the shot (CG) of rainwater rushing down the dark walls of building. Other than setting mood, it had almost nothing to do with the rest of the movie, and it was very brief. But it was definitely one of those "whoa!" moments.

Also, there was Rod Steiger's stint in The Illustrated Man.

Unknown said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned the outdoor sex scene in Match Point. Very memorable.

Mike B said...

The Cable Guy when Matthew Broderick tells Jim Carrey that they're not really friends. Genuinely saddening. Then the rain washes away Jim Carrey's amicable persona and he becomes the Cable Guy.

Chellis610 said...

What about "The Quiet Man"? That kiss in the rain between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara is one of the hottest in film history!

Anonymous said...

How about High Fidelity where Rob waits for a bus in the pouring rain before Laura picks him up and they make love in the car?

Anonymous said...

From Anonymous: "How about High Fidelity where Rob waits for a bus in the pouring rain before Laura picks him up and they make love in the car?"

This belongs in the "any John Cusack movie" category indicated at the end of the list.

Anonymous said...

The kiss scene from the Notebook when Noah and Ally realize they were meant to be together. My favourite rain scene for sure.

Anonymous said...

For me Seven is a movie where the rain becomes a character, it makes you feel the rot.

In Shutter island also the rain takes up a character of its own.

The matrix revolutions - just for the cool effects of the fight scenes.

Hero - Jet Li and Sky battle it out in the ta room. the rain has stopped, but it lends a lot of character to the fight.

Some morgan fox/ christian slater movie set in a flooded town.

Identity - but like you said, all john cusak movies feature rain.

Many of Kurosawa's movies have rain as a character who creates drama, like rashomon, the movie starts as a story told by people waiting for rain to stop, In Seven Samurai, it makes the battle messier, In Red Beard it appears again during a house call, In stray dog, it is the heavens bursting at the end of the sweaty humid summer and an equally heavy investigation.

Indian movie Dweepa(Kannada) about families displaced by a dam.

Indian movie Vaishali(Malayalam) about a land suffering without rain.

Indian movie Pather Panchali(bengali) where a family blighted by poverty lose almost everything in the rain.

Monsoon wedding ... the name says it all.

There ought to be many british movies with rain playing a major part, but I cant seem to remember any. Whitnail and I had some rain in it, but it wasnt memorable.

Anonymous said...

Obi-Wan fighting Jango Fett on the rainsoaked landing platform on Kamino. Ace.

Unknown said...

Sin City?? Marv walking in the rain, shooting at the statue
The rain was one of the singular great visual effects that sold the comic-y noir world of the movie. wouldnt have worked without.

Anonymous said...

No one mentioned "Casablanca" when Rick is reading the note from Ilsa and the rain on his hat smears the writing. One can just feel the heartbreak and anger of Rich from that scene.

Of course it is also the most famous "continuity glitch" when Rick and Sam get on the train bone dry.

Kelly said...

I think American Beauty is a brilliant movie, using a rainstorm during the climax & denouement.

And I agree with Marla about The Outsiders.

Anonymous said...

Diva when they are walking in Paris at night in the rain. Absolutely beautiful.

Alex Schechter said...

Let's not forget Cinema Paradiso.

Anonymous said...

First thing that came to mind for me was Antonioni's La Notte. The rain scene is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Saving Private Ryan. The rain starts light, as the soldiers trudge towards there destination, then it gets heavier and louder before you realize it, the sound of the rain drops turns into bullets. Brilliant

Anonymous said...

Two favorites: The final climactic fight during the Hurricane in "Cape Fear" (both the 1962 and the Scorsese versions).

The jailbreak by Gale and Evelle in "Raising Arizona" (which came our years before the jailbreak scene in "Shawshank Redemption). I loved the former because it was played for laughs as a symbolic birth scene.

Anonymous said...

one of the best films with rain is the joan crawford version of "rain", somerset maugham's story of sadie thompson.

Unknown said...

Nice article

Dave Mullen said...

Don't forget Rashomon. Also, the rainy end of American Beauty with all those emotions flying about and Annie Lennox on the stereo, is IMO, one of cinema's finest twenty minutes.

Anonymous said...

You forgot another JC rain film classic with THE SURE THING. Classic lines also.

Author said...

I agree with JimEl, but only on 'The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers' and Se7en'. This two film have greatest rainy scenes in recent time, especially the rainy battle of Helms Deep in Two Towers.

Another one is 'Saving Private Ryan' where Vin Diesel's character died in rain.

Anonymous said...

What about the creepy scene in Fatal Attraction with Glen Close standing under her umbrella?

or of course, Scarlet Ohara standing under the bridge hiding from the YANKS, with Melanie, her baby & Prissy in the carriage?