After enjoying lots of wonderful holiday food at the tail end of 2015, I thought I’d make my first list of the new year deliciously random: corn! If you were expecting corny movies, as in “tiresomely simple and sentimental” (according to Merriam-Webster), this isn’t it. I’m talking actual corn, one of the most versatile of all vegetables.
Think of all the things you can do with corn. I’ll use my Bubba voice: corn on the cob, creamed corn, corn fritters, cornbread, corn dogs, corn chips, corn pudding, hominy, grits, polenta, corn meal, corn flakes, corn chowder, corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, corn tortillas, corn nuts, corn maze, and…that’s about it. Wait, let’s not forget the use that most applies to film, everyone’s favorite movie-watching snack, popcorn! Heck, there’s probably corn in your gas tank as ethanol. Based on my Southern roots, I for one prefer my corn creamed and served over fried okra; nothing corn-related is better.
With so much corn at our disposal, it’s no wonder that it has cropped up in countless films, whether as food or still on the stalk. Still, I’m honestly surprised I had enough to make up the top twelve, let alone any honorable mentions. So without further ado, here are my favorite cinematic uses of corn:
- Wild Wild West (1999)
This movie has a lot of detractors, but I’ve always found its steampunk Western vibe to be goofy fun. One of the most memorable scenes involved Will Smith and Kevin Kline fleeing from giant flying blades through a corn field. Talk about mowin’ ‘em down.
- Pocahontas (1995)
Corn, or maize, is a uniquely American crop, and its origins in the New World explain how prevalent it was among Native American cultures. Disney’s Pocahontas uses corn harvesting as a backdrop for certain scenes, and when John Smith explains the concept of gold, Pocahontas offers the only shiny yellow thing around: a corn cob.
“You are about to be crushed by a giant corn.” Enough said.
- Oklahoma! (1955)
What better way to start a Western musical than with a singing cowboy riding through a corn field? It’s always a beautiful morning where “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.”
- Troll 2 (1990)
I haven’t seen much of this notoriously awful “best worst movie,” but the corn scene is, well, something else. When some troll witch in disguise seduces an unsuspecting moron who admits he likes popcorn, it leads to possibly the most bizarre and corniest kiss(?) I’ve ever seen.
There are several films that involve driving through a corn field, but these two scenes stick out the most for me. The big finale of Twister involves Bill and Jo driving toward and then running from a massive tornado as it rips through a defenseless field of corn. On the other hand, Interstellar’s corn chase is at the beginning, as Coop and his kids chase a solar-powered drone. It must be said that, despite all the corn Coop grows, Interstellar features one of the most nightmarish lines ever uttered: “They say it’s the last crop of okra…ever.” No! Corn without okra; now that is apocalyptic.
- Secondhand Lions (2003)
I love this underrated movie about a boy (Haley Joel Osment) staying with his two crotchety great-uncles on the Texas prairie. When he convinces them to buy from a traveling salesman, they plant various crops, only to find that it’s all “corn, corn, corn. Nothing but corn.”
- Field of Dreams (1989)
While this film isn’t as dear to me as it is to many people, there’s no denying the presence of corn. Kevin Costner is a farmer called to build a baseball diamond out of his corn field. The corn itself also serves as a magical gateway for former baseball players and other significant people.
- Witness (1985)
Death by corn! Who knew that one of the most dangerous weapons on an Amish farm is the corn silo? When Harrison Ford’s John Book lures a bad guy inside, we get a notorious example of grain engulfment.
- Signs (2002)
M. Night Shyamalan was not the first to make a corn field scary, but he did throw in the idea of aliens and crop circles. Mel Gibson obviously didn’t know that when he wanders into his corn field to ward off supposed pranksters. Never enter a corn field at night!
- WarGames (1983)
How is such a small and insignificant scene so memorable? Buttering corn on the cob can be more trouble than it’s worth, but this movie offered the answer. First, Matthew Broderick’s dad butters his bread heavily and then proceeds to roll his corn on the cob against the bread. Genius! Can anyone else think of a better way? I’m all ears.
- Big (1988)
Again, it may seem weird to give the number one spot to such a small scene, but it was watching Tom Hanks in Big recently that gave me the idea for this list. The suddenly grown-up Josh Baskin isn’t familiar with adult party food, like dip and caviar, and he’s obviously never seen how to ingest those little baby corn. Hanks is so awkwardly cute here, it’s no wonder Elizabeth Perkins fell for him.
Before the honorable mentions, I should include that the most obvious choice for this list should have been Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, but I’ve never seen it and don’t really want to. But it’s in the title so how can I not include it? I’m sure there are lots of other films with corn or corn fields that I’m not familiar with, such as a 1975 film called Cornbread, Earl and Me and a 2004 film actually titled Corn.
Here are my honorable mentions, though:
Big Fish (2003) – Remember the scene in that Tim Burton movie where Ewan McGregor sees his sweetheart for the first time and time freezes and he walks through popcorn hanging in midair? I didn’t, but now I do.
Chicken Little (2005) – Many Disney fans would like to forget this film exists, but there is a corn field chase that recalls both Signs and Wild Wild West.
Foul Play (1978) – I could use any movie that features popcorn, but somehow the scene where blood drips in Goldie Hawn’s popcorn sticks out in my mind. “Beware the dwarf!”
The Green Mile (1999) – Tom Hanks’s wife’s cornbread means a lot to Michael Clarke Duncan in this Stephen King prison drama.
Gremlins (1984) – Any scene in a movie theater probably has popcorn, but let’s not forget that Stripe survived that scene because he wanted more popcorn.
Joseph: King of Dreams (2000) – This second DreamWorks Bible story interprets Pharaoh’s famine-predicting dream about grain as seven healthy corn stalks being devoured by seven sickly ones.
The Last Stand (2013) – The car chase through a corn field in this Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner actually has corn cobs hitting the windshield.
Life Stinks (1991) – This Mel Brooks dramedy flopped, but there’s a scene in which a guy can’t seem to wipe some corn off his face.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – Early in their quest, Sam and Frodo are joined by Merry and Pippin amid Farmer Maggot’s corn field.
The Lovely Bones (2009) – This film actually has two significant scenes set in a corn field. There’s the creepy underground lair that Stanley Tucci builds beneath a harvested field, as well as the scene in which he lures Mark Wahlberg into a corn-concealed trap.
The Maze Runner (2014) – This may be a weak example, but the Gladers do hide in a corn field when the Grievers attack. Plus, I can’t help but think this should have been called The Maize Runner.
Sleepwalkers (1992) –Haven’t seen this one either, except a scene where someone actually gets stabbed in the back with a corn cob. What is it with Stephen King and corn?
True Grit (1969) – Throughout this Western, John Wayne munches on corn dodgers, whatever those are.
What about Bob? (1991) – In one dinner scene, Bill Murray really enjoys the heck out of some corn on the cob. “Is this hand-shucked?”
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – When one of your characters is a scarecrow, it’s likely there will be a corn field somewhere.