“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain.”
This, one of the most famous soliloquies in the history of cinema, is spoken by replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) on top of the Bradbury Building at the end of Blade Runner (1982). Appropriately enough, just like the rest of the film, the scene takes place during a bucketing downpour in 2019 Los Angeles.
There has probably never been a film so bathed in torrential rain as Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, but cinema has an illustrious history of great rain scenes. These are some of the most memorable…
- Spoiler warning! This article gives away plot details
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Director Clint Eastwood
If anyone could dry out the lachrymose sentimentality from Robert James Waller’s bestseller it was Clint Eastwood, but he still knows when to go for the emotional punch. Towards the end, Meryl Streep’s neglected housewife runs away from the possibility of happiness with her weekend lover (played by Eastwood), but before leaving she sees him standing in the rain, perhaps crying, and staring with longing through the windscreen of her car. Clint’s eloquent expression of yearning is perhaps his finest acting moment.
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Director Alfred Hitchcock
The second of Alfred Hitchcock’s American films uses a wet morning in Amsterdam to memorable effect. An assassination takes place in front of hero Joel McCrea, and the subsequent chase takes place amid a sea of undulating umbrellas.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Director Mike Newell
One of the most popular of all British films, Four Weddings and a Funeral culminates with Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant both escaping from the wrong partners and finally expressing their love for each other. This being the epitome of a vision of England for the international audience, it’s perhaps entirely appropriate that the finale takes place in the rain.
Director Tod Browning
The circus performers of the title are generally portrayed in a humane and sympathetic light. But come the rain-sodden finale, they are transformed into terrifying monsters as they take their revenge on those who have betrayed them.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Director Richard Brooks
Towards the end of In Cold Blood, an adaptation of Truman Capote’s book, Robert Blake’s hopelessly damned Perry Smith stands by a window and talks about his father. As the rain falls down, the angle of light makes the droplets reflect on his face as if they were a stream of tears. The effect, apparently a happy accident on the part of Conrad Hall, is emotionally devastating.
Director Sidney Lumet
Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. He chooses to impart this message to the world during a torrential New York rainstorm, and it is followed by a montage of angry citizens opening their windows to the onslaught and screaming their lungs out in agreement.
Partie de campagne (1936)
Director Jean Renoir
Jean Renoir’s 40-minute classic depicts a day in the country taken by a shopkeeper and his family. Intended to be bathed in idyllic sunlight, the film was delayed by incessant rain and Renoir used this sequence as an analogue for the end of this and, perhaps, all idylls.
Director Ron Howard
One of the pivotal sequences in Ron Howard’s gripping version of the true rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda takes place during the 1976 Nurburgring Grand Prix when heavy rain made the track lethally dangerous. Lauda suffers a crash and is horribly burned. Later, at the equally drenched race in Japan, Lauda retires after the second lap and loses the season to his rival. The danger faced by the real life sportsmen is vividly depicted with incredible technical skill.
Seven Samurai (1954)
Director Akira Kurosawa
Credit: Toho Co., Ltd
In Akira Kurosawa’s films, rain is often associated with resolution, and the final battle in his samurai epic is a gruelling struggle through rain and mud that was shot in a freezing February on location in Shizuoka. Endlessly influential, the scene contrasts the insistent downward motion of the rain with the sideways movements of the bandits in a highly organised visual scheme which is paradoxically both frenzied and formal.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Director Frank Darabont
At the risk of spoiling the story, there are few more memorable moments in prison movies than the escape sequence in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella. After crawling through “five hundred yards of shit-smelling foulness”, one of our heroes emerges into a glorious, hammering rain that seems to sum up the spirit of freedom.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Is this the most famous scene that ever took place during a downpour? Using a 1929 song by Arthur Freed and Herb Nacho Brown, it was shot on a backlot when Gene Kelly was suffering from a fever. Myths abound about the filming – that it was shot in one take and that milk was mixed in with the water – but the truth is that it took three days to film and that the raindrops were made sufficiently visible on camera through the use of extensive backlighting.
Director Andrei Tarkovsky
When the troubled scientist Kelvin seems to travel back to his father’s house on Earth at the end of Solaris, it is raining just as it was at the beginning of the film – but with one difference. This time, it’s raining inside the house, drenching everything including Kelvin’s father. We move way, way back for a big reveal…
Director William Friedkin
William Friedkin’s long-undervalued remake of The Wages of Fear (1953) has as its centrepiece a nerve-shredding crossing of a suspension bridge during a storm by trucks filled with volatile nitro-glycerine. To create the rain, Friedkin had water pumped from the Papaloapan River in the Mexican locations. The result took more than 12 weeks to film and cost several million dollars.
Director Dario Argento
Right from the start, Dario Argento announces his intention to scare us out of our seats. Nothing particularly scary happens in the first scene of Suspiria. Indeed, it simply features our heroine (Jessica Harper) arriving in Munich. But the effects of lashing rain, heavily saturated colours, creepy close-ups and pounding Goblin music are enough of a combination to put us in the mood for the gothic treats to come.
Withnail & I (1986)
Director Bruce Robinson
At the end of Bruce Robinson’s much-loved journey through the dying months of the 1960s, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) walks Marwood (Paul McGann) through Regent’s Park on the way to the station. As his friend vanishes from his life, Withnail stands in the rain and quotes one of Hamlet’s soliloquies to the watching wolves. The scene sums up the strange, sweet and sad quality of this most distinctive of British comedies.