Water, Water, Everywhere: The 9 Best Uses of Water Supplies in Movies

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.

Kind of like this

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 (1974)
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 (2011)
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.

This is exactly the face I’d make if I drank urine.

Waterworld (1995)
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.

Signs (2002)
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.


Filed under Humor, Movies

17 responses to “Water, Water, Everywhere: The 9 Best Uses of Water Supplies in Movies

  1. Glad to see Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources here. I just saw those for the first time a few months ago and absolutely loved those movies.

    • They’re great. And really, you almost have to take them in tandem. Not that either film wouldn’t stand on its own, but it’d be a damned shame to not know the whole story.

  2. Also nice you mention “Ballad of Cable Hogue”, which is wuite a different type of Peckinpah film, it’s so gentle and funny!

  3. nimorphi

    What about Flashdance?
    Also, I love waterworld. I have not seen it since I was a young boy and don’t plan to either because I am pretty sure I will hate it, so I am holding on to the memories from when I was 13.

    • Ha… I haven’t seen Flashdance but it’s great that water plays a major role, apparently.

      I tried Three Amigos a few years ago and feared I’d think less of it than I did when I was 10, and wound up loving it more. But Waterworld could definitely be a different story.

  4. surroundedbyimbeciles

    Rango was great. However, I spent the entire time figuring out the movie references. Think of the countless poor souls who never realized that the connections were there.

    • I know a few people who saw it and liked it less for that very reason- they weren’t in tune with the references. There’s Chinatown, Apocalypse Now, Cat Ballou (a few references to that one, actually), the Man With No Name movies, even stuff like Raising Arizona with the yodeling comedy chase sequence. The first thing I said when I left the theater after Rango was “That’s the perfect kids movie for movie geeks with kids”.

  5. heyzeus

    Btw, the true story of LA’s early 20th century water escapades that inspired Chinatown is just as corrupt and sordid as the movie. The book Cadillac Desert (recommended to me by Hungary Jack) has the best telling of it, but the wikipedia page is a good summary too.


    If you read the description of Mulholland and Eaton’s antics, you see the bones of the story of Chinatown (just subtract the murder mystery, and add in farmers bombing LA’s aqueduct.)

    • Ha… I didn’t even think about it when I wrote this, but this is a list that’s right up your alley.

      I love that the water wars conflict was still going on in court into the 90s.

  6. And what is wrong with Waterworld? The dude had gils!!

  7. Fay

    Netflix streaming FAIL. No Ballad of Cable Hogue, no Jean nor Manon, no Crazies. All of which I wanted to add to my queue.

    On a different note, think of all the movies that water, while not the focus, played a pivotal role by saving the day…Wizard of Oz (wicked witch’s demise), Day of the Triffids… Surely there are others

    Oh…and you left off The Milagro Beanfield War.

    • I still need to see The Milagro Beanfield Wear.

      I’m sort of surprised that Netflix is missing all four of those, streaming. Their streaming in general is sooooo lacking.

  8. ilovethatfilm

    Respect for putting Waterworld in. It’s a very fun film! And good call on Rango too.

  9. Pingback: » Movie Review – Wyatt Earp (1994) Fernby Films

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