Trees. What are trees? Are they just bits of wood? Or are they, in fact, wise and ancient beings that will outlive us all? Maybe they’re both. Or neither. Maybe we’re overthinking this. But with yet another Earth Day here to celebrate the beauty and wonder of nature, what better time to bathe in the awesomeness of the tree?
And because we basically live and breathe movies, our favorite trees are actually those from films. So let’s look at IGN Entertainment’s 10 greatest movie trees.
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Groot – Guardians Of The Galaxy
Actually, Groot isn’t a tree at all – he’s a sentient, tree-like creature from outer space who is (in the comics) the monarch of Planet X, and not just somewhere for dogs to wee up in the park. Capable of saying just three words – “I am Groot” – he’s not the most chatty of trees, but he puts more inflection into those three words than you might think. You see, Groot is actually super-intelligent and something of an expert in quasi-dimensional super-positional engineering – it’s just that Groot’s wooden larynx renders the subtleties of his speech void to human ears. Also, he’s quite nice to sit under when it’s sunny out. Of course, we still mourn the original Groot, but Baby Groot took his place in Guardians Vol. 2, followed by Teen Groot!
Treebeard – The Lord of the Rings: The TwoTowers
He’s the big daddy in the Forest of Fangorn, the eldest of the Ents – and a hoot at parties. Or perhaps not: Treebeard speaks in a deliberately slow manner, is careful not to rush anything (motto: “Do not be hasty”) and almost bores Pippin and Merry to tears during their lengthy encounter. Despite the fact that he and his Ent brothers played their part in the eventual downfall of Saruman and the Orc armies, he sounds like the tree equivalent of the kind of person you get stuck behind walking through the London Underground. And yet we love him so!
Toad Tree – Pan’s Labyrinth
This being a tree designed by Guillermo del Toro, you won’t be surprised to discover it’s not the kind of tree you gather your friends beneath to have tea parties. No, the tree in Pan’s Labyrinth is a twisted oak that’s home to all manner of disgusting bugs and insects, not to mention an over-amorous toad with a key to immortality in its belly. Rule of thumb: If you find any tree in the woods that you can climb inside or scurry beneath, or that contains a portal to a world of mystery, give it a miss. Other trees are available to play in.
The Whomping Willow – Harry Potter
Trees are idiots, for the most part – they just sit there sulking while you carve your initials into them and climb all over them. Not the Whomping Willow of Hogwarts – this perennial plant has attitude. Planted in 1971, it hides a secret passage between the school grounds and the Shrieking Shack, and if anyone tries to pass, they get a bloody great branch thwipped to the face – legend has it one Hogwarts student almost lost an eye trying to touch its trunk. Tree justice. Nature fighting back? Maybe M. Night Shyamalan was onto something with The Happening.
Possessed Tree – Evil Dead
It’s one of the most horrendous images of the video nasty era in the UK: The demonically possessed branches of a tree invading the body of Ellen Sandweiss to the sounds of her screaming. That something as innocuous and mundane as your run-of-the-mill tree could be turned into such a devious device of horror is testament to the mischievous mind of filmmaker Sam Raimi – he could make a bowl of cereal seem evil given the right camera angles. As trees go, however, this one is definitely not suitable for picnics or late-night rambles.
Agent 13 – Get Smart
In what must qualify as the oddest cameo of Bill Murray’s career – yes, even stranger than Zombieland – the legendary funnyman plays second fiddle to Steve Carell’s Agent Smart, pleading to spend one more minute in his company while suffering the indignity of lodging inside a tree costume. That you only see his face – his needy, desperate, smiling face – poking out of a knot-hole makes it all the more hilarious. “I get it. Who wants to talk to a guy in a tree?” laughs Murray. Carell doesn’t bother telling him what he already knows.
Grandmother Willow – Pocahontas
“Pocahontas… that tree is talking to me!” Face made of green bark and with hollow black eyes, old lady Willow looks like something Guillermo del Toro might sketch after a particularly bad cheese nightmare, but in the Disney universe, a tree with a face – and a song to sing! – is par for the course. Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas to listen to her heart and sets her on her path, but we would not recommend asking real trees for advice unless you want to become known as a “colourful character” in your local paper.
The (Metaphorical) Tree of Life – The Tree of Life
As far as I can make out, Terrence Malick wasn’t referring to, like, a literal tree in The Tree of Life, man. He was talking about, like… all trees. Like, nature and junk. We are all trees in our own way, are we not? We lay down roots, we branch out, we shed our, er, leaves… umm… Oh hang on, it turns out there was an actual, literal tree in The Tree of Life that Brad Pitt and his family have fun climbing in. Thank goodness. That’s the tree I’m talking about here. Forget all that other stuff. That’s one top tree!
Apple Trees – The Wizard of Oz
There’s plenty nightmarish about The Wizard of Oz, but the concept of talking trees who vocally object when you pluck their fruit as Dorothy does is quite distressing. Does this cause them physical pain? They certainly seem very put out. “How would you like someone to come along and pick something off of you?” one tree asks Dorothy. Do all trees secretly feel this way? When trees lose their leaves in Autumn, is that them going bald every year? How horrible. In any case, Scarecrow intervenes before it all gets a bit Evil Dead.
The Demon Tree – Poltergeist
Parents today have enough on their mind without having to worry about demonic trees snatching children from their bedroom windows. It’s not an everyday occurrence, unless you live on a plot built over an ancient Indian burial ground, but nonetheless the kids of the Freeling family had to fend off the twiggy advances of the spooky-ass tree in their backyard during an inter-dimensional disturbance. Would things have been different if the Freelings tended to the tree once in a while? Maybe swang gaily from its branches? Climbed it affectionately every so often? I can say with absolute certainty that the answer is yes. Trees have feelings too.
What are your favorite movie trees? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Note: This story originally ran in July of 2014.