Water is life. That sounds like a really obnoxious corporate slogan but it’s the truth. If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll die. Water is essential for good health. It makes perfect sense, then, that something so simple and fundamental to life would show up in so many movies, often integral to life or death. Here are my nine favorite uses of water supplies in film.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Put aside for a minute that the water rights holder, an “Irishman” named McBain, looked about as Irish as Ronald McDonald. His land rights, and the whole plot, revolved around the water on his acreage. In fact, it led him to name his patch of land “Sweetwater”. Sweet, indeed, Mr. McBain.
Batman Begins (2005)
So I guess it’s kind of a spoiler- read no further if you haven’t seen it- but R’as al Ghul’s plot for the destruction of Gotham is based on using the water supply to make everyone hallucinate. Basically, it’s like San Francisco in 1967, but with no sunlight, more concrete, people dressed like scarecrows, and less Jerry Garcia.
Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources (1986)
If you ever feel like you’ve messed up your life, watch these movies. You can’t possibly mess up your life more than Cesar (Yves Montand) does, and it all happens in the interest of owning land with a fertile water source. Bonus points go to these films for driving home the importance of water sources in day-to-day life.
Chinatown is the king on the throne when it comes to movies about water supplies. As Noah Cross (John Huston) said, “Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.” In fact, Chinatown’s use of water as an integral plot point was so impressive that it was duplicated in…
Rango copied the Chinatown concept right down to the perpetrator confined to a wheelchair, sporting suspenders and a cowboy hat. I suppose you could also point out that John Huston’s Noah Cross looked a little like a turtle, but that’d be blasphemy. John Huston would kick your ass if he heard you saying that.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
It all begins when Cable finds water, a residual of a deal with God. Then there’s violence and a woman named Hildy and he abandons it, but the water is always there.
The Crazies (2010)
Somehow, Timothy Olyphant is in two of these movies. And Jason Robards too. They must be some thirsty sons of bitches. At least Robards didn’t have to deal with as much nutty behavior as Olyphant.
I’m not going to try to convince you that Waterworld was good. It earned its title as “Fishtar”. But the concept was a really good one, even if it was fumbled in every single way in its execution. Plus, you get to see Kevin Costner drink his own piss. It’s like instant payback for half of his career.
This is a lot like Waterworld, where the execution clearly lacks (as it pertains to water supplies). But there’s no denying that a water supply played a major role… even if it was kind of laughable.