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Is Twister Based On A True Story?

One of the absolute greats of the 1990s disaster movie genre has twisted its way over to AMC. Director Jan De Bont's 1996 tornado hunting epic Twister focuses on a team of storm chasers who head for Oklahoma in an attempt to debut a brand new tornado-studying device ahead of their competitors. As you can probably imagine, they get a lot more than they bargained for when a series of increasingly destructive extreme weather phenomena wreak havoc on the area. 

Though Twister's style is fairly rustic for a big-budget disaster movie, its flying CGI cows and erratically wandering tornadoes make it seem easy to file the movie under A for "Armageddon-style mess of plot holes."  Still, the untold truth of Twister is that real-life storm chasers and meteorologists — who by all logic should have been outraged by an inaccurate depiction of their work — loved the movie so much that when male lead Bill Paxton died in 2017, they teamed up and used their GPS systems to write the actor's initials in gigantic letters over Tornado Alley. It's one heck of an homage, considering the fact that North America has the most tornadoes in the world.

Since you don't get that kind of tribute from a crowd that hates your film about them, this begs the question: Was the movie actually way more accurate than you'd think? Is Twister based on a true story?

Twister is a mix of real science and Hollywood invention

While Twister isn't an entirely accurate depiction of storm chasing and its characters are fictional, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been happy to point out that the movie was based on real, solid work of the good people at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. Twister's screenwriters and producers consulted the real-life storm scientists, and Paxton and other actors hung around with them to learn the craft — and even took part in real storm chases. The real storm scientists even had a device like the movie's storm-observing machine DOROTHY, and theirs was also named after The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, TOTO never succeeded despite several attempts — though later, more sophisticated versions have had more success.

As Forbes pointed out, meteorologists appreciate the movie and the attention it has brought to their field, and even outright credit the movie for attracting new people toward atmospheric sciences, meteorology, and (of course) storm chasing. Still, that's not to say that the movie is 100% factual. Twister takes its share of Hollywood liberties with tornadoes. The scientific community seems to understand that it's not meant to be a completely accurate depiction, and greatly appreciates the attention it has brought to their field, regardless. 

So, while Twister is not quite based on a real story, it knows and appreciates its subject matter, and has promoted science in a massive way. Let's just hope that the upcoming Twister reboot keeps up the original's good work.