A Bill Paxton Classic Is Doing Incredibly Well On Streaming

Bill Paxton's classic Twister is the #1 streaming movie on Max.

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

bill paxton

If you’re a fan of flying CGI cows, you’re in luck! The ’90s disaster classic Twister is the #1 streaming movie on Max right now, according to FlixPatrol. Watching the Bill Paxton tornado thriller is the perfect way to relive the decade of sheep cloning and dial-up internet.

Twister stars Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as storm chasers who drive around looking for crazy storms to catalog. Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, and a pre-Boogie Nights Philip Seymour Hoffman round out the cast. Speed‘s Jan de Bont directed the 1996 thriller from a screenplay credited to Jurassic Park scribe Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin.

Steven Spielberg‘s production company Amblin Entertainment produced Twister, and Spielberg himself was even supposed to direct the film originally. Directors James Cameron, Tim Burton, and Spielberg’s protege Robert Zemeckis were also in negotiations to helm Twister at one time or another. Ultimately Jan de Bont won the job after coming to his senses and leaving the spectacular cinematic failure that was 1998’s Godzilla.

There were further musical chairs-like shenanigans during the production of Twister. Bill Harding, the role eventually played by Bill Paxton, was originally supposed to go to Tom Hanks, who left the film to write and direct That Thing You Do! Instead. Meanwhile, the part of Jo Thornton Harding ended up going to Helen Hunt only after Laura Dern relinquished it. Hunt herself quit the John Travolta flick Broken Arrow to join the Twister cast.

Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in Twister

The production of Twister had more problems to contend with than just casting issues. Once Bill Paxton and Co. were all set there were still script problems to attend to. Joss Whedon was brought in to rewrite Crichton and Martin’s script until he fell ill and had to be replaced by Steven Zaillian.

Joss Whedon got better and further revised the Twister script until he got married and again left the project. Execs still weren’t satisfied with the story, however, and waited until Bill Paxton and the others had been shooting for two weeks before flying in writer Jeff Nathanson of Speed 2: Cruise Control fame to further tinker with the screenplay.

It was De Bont who insisted that Twister be filmed in Oklahoma, a decision that came back to bite him when filming had to be suspended due to the tragic Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. The director was notoriously difficult on set, demanding the camera crew frequently change and move setups so he could film different angles based on a spur-of-the-moment impulse. Jan would then berate the crew if they didn’t move everything around fast enough.

Oh, and he blinded Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.

Roughly halfway through principal photography, both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt temporarily lost their sight due to the lamps being used on set to make the sky behind the actors look dark and stormy. Paxton compared the experience to having his eyeballs “literally sunburned,” and the two actors had to take eyedrops and wear special glasses to aid in their recovery.

Further incidents on set included Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt filming in a ditch so filthy that they had to get hepatitis shots afterward and Hunt possibly receiving a concussion on set. Cinematographer Jack N. Green’s crew took over camera duties after De Bont knocked over a camera assistant for missing a cue. The attack caused the director’s original camera crew to walk out in solidarity.

Green himself was later hospitalized after a ceiling was accidentally dropped on his head.

Somehow, despite all the drama during production Twister was released and became an immediate hit. The movie opened in May with what was, at the time, the sixth-largest opening weekend of all time. After twelve weeks in theaters, the Bill Paxton vehicle surpassed The Empire Strikes Back to become the then 10th highest-grossing film of all time.

Even today, Twister ranks #76 on the list of highest-grossing North American movies ever released and #105 on the worldwide all-time earners list, not adjusted for inflation.

Today Twister is a reminder of a time when big-budget summer blockbusters didn’t have to be sequels or reboots of existing IPs to be successful. A time when a cool idea done well could dominate the box office without any superheroes or lightsabers in sight (although Twister does borrow a quote from Star Wars during a famous scene, so there’s that). Perhaps most importantly though, Twister is a reminder of a time when realistic-looking flying CGI cows were still a fun novelty.