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« HMWYBS: The Saddest Children in the World Trilogy | Main | Sandra at the Top »
Tuesday
Aug052014

Top Ten: "They Are Groot" - Best Cinematic Trees

"Groot" a walking fighting talking (well, sort of) tree is easily the best character within the #1 movie in the world right now. I didn't like Guardians of the Galaxy but I loved Groot. So here's a top ten devoted to his fellow upright leafy green characters. Trees have often played key roles in dramas, fairytales, and horror alike whether as fantastical homes, formidable characters or mysterious passageways to adventure.

So herewith...

TOP TEN: BEST TREES IN MOVIES 

Honorable Mention: That tree Mowgli was hypnotized in in The Jungle Book, spooky 'Tree of the Dead' in Sleepy Hollow, the Christmas tree Gremlins wield like a weapon, the Swiss Family Robinson's main address, any tree that nimbly supports the weight of Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons on its delicate green branches, any tree that gives us opportunities to ogle various Tarzans or George of the Jungles from, uh, below (shush. You're no innocent of ogling!), or virtually any colorful tree in Disney's Alice In Wonderland but particularly the one she reads by and dozes on that dumps her into that trippy world of invisible cats, size-altering portions, and rodents having tea parties.

10  Holiday Trees in Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Located in The Hinterlands these seven trees lead you into your various Holiday towns. We only get to see Halloween Town and "what's this?" Christmas town. If only Jack Skellington could have tried them all out. Imagine him delivering Easter eggs or cupid's arrow. Imagine the production design and merchandising opportunities! For all I know these other worlds have already been exploited in bad straight to DVD follow ups but if so I am blissfully ignorant.

Nine more barking great characters / symbols after the jump...

09 Neighborhood Tree in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
If you ever have the urge to leave pieces of chewing gum, pennies, a ball of twine and a busted pocket watch for neighborhood children in the knot in your tree please do not also make soap carving figurines of those same neighborhoood children because that's likely to be misinterpreted in 2014. Not that that other items wouldn't be since they were kind of hard to figure even in 1930s Maycomb Alabama.

09 Hangman's Tree in Peter Pan (1953)
As a hiding spot for the Lost Boys you have to admit that this isn't very practical. Hangman's tree screams out "flying boys hiding inside!" what with all the glowing entry points and its spotlit place in a clearing in the woods. But you have to admit that it LOOKS cool which is most of the point in fantastical places like Neverland.

 

07 Mr Fox's Home in Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
Admit it. You wished you were a tiny stop motion figurine just so you could also live inside it and wear those awesome minitature costumes and gaze at its stunning views of Boggis Bunce and Bean farmlands.

06 Apple Trees in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Dorothy is pretty much terrible at following directions, always stepping off that Yellow Brick Road for one reason or another. She's tired. She's hungry. wah wah wah. Those crabby croaky-voiced trees aren't having it when she spots a snack but the jokes on them when the Scarecrow tricks them into throwing their delicious red treats at our heroes.

05 Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas (1995)
Sure, she dispenses wisdom as Old Lady Supporting Characters are wont to do. But she's more than just a stock character. She's a living woodland rosetta stone - imagine learning a foreign language just by standing under a breezy weeping willow listening to her humming "que que na-to-ra you will understand". Every shot of her is a fairytale beauty with deep blues, warm greens, mystical spotlights and peaceful serenity. [Much more on Pocahontas here.]

04 Tree in Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Google Search "pan's labyrinth vagina" and be amazed at the many articles on the imagery of that gloriously symbolic tree that Ofelia passes through.

03 Tree of Souls in Avatar (2009)
Weeping Willows are the giants of all trees in fantasy and why wouldn't they be with their mysterious old beauty, secretive protective curtains of green, dramatic flourishes with each and every breeze. They're otherworldly even without magical properties. But what if they also had glowing tendrils you could plug into while plugging into your hot blue girlfriend during your cosmic environmentally friendly whoopie? I love Avatar and I am not ashamed. I shouldn't be so flippant. The attack on the Tree of Souls is just gut-wrenching, like a blasphemic desecration.

02 Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
My absolute favorite thing about Groot's "I am Groot" refrain is Rocket's unfussy conversational responses, never skipping a translated beat. So funny.

01 Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) & The Ents in The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (2002)
The decision I made to skip The Hobbit movies has served me well since I am still able to hold the original trilogy so sacred. It remains a perfect landmark of the early Aughts both in terms of cinema and life since everyone loved them and the experience was so communal each holiday season. It's impossible to choose a favorite character even if you divvy up into leading, supporting and peripheral characters but within the peripheries my answer for The Two Towers might be Treebeard who make such a glorious impression, is Gandalf friendly, and leads that Magnificent Ent attack on Sauron's Isengard. It's like nature taking its revenge after being defiled.

This top ten has been brought to you by my childhood home's tree (oh how I wish I had a picture) that had exactly four big branches, one for each of us. As the baby of the family I got the least impressive and lowest branch which curved over our lawn gently, the ideal branch to lay on without fear of falling and hang swings from and claim as one's own. I completely loved it and cried when part of it had to be cut off because it was extending over the neighbor's yard and they complained. Several years ago while visiting Michigan I drove by the old place out of nostalgia. The tree was gone and I felt so bad for any children that might grow up in that house in the future. That tree was magic. Like Groot and Treebeard.

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Reader Comments (30)

Can I shout out some love for The Whomping WIllow in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

GROOT! The B&N in Union Square told me a couple days ago they quickly ran out of Groot Pop! figures and had to order some more (the others weren't sold out). Disney not already having a dancing Groot toy on the ready is MILLIONS in merchandising lost.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

The Whomping Willow deserves a mention!!!

I also want to add the tree at the home of the family in The Tree of Life which was a centerpiece to the sense of innocence of the children in the film.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

The creepy tree in Antichrist is crying somewhere.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

haha this is a fun article.

Top 3 choices are definitely on mark.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

The first tree that came to mind was the buxom tree in Last Unicorn. I was simultaneously terrified of and fascinated by that movie as a child. I would also offer an honorable mention for the tree entrance to the Pit of Despair in Princess Bride.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGuest459

If you were going to focus on just scary trees, the one from Poltergeist comes to mind. But in any case, great list! I also have fond memories of trees from the house I grew up in. Glad to see Treebeard as #1 (and that you are able to hold the trilogy sacred!)

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

Without a second's hesitation my pick would be the camphor from My Neighbor Totoro.

The Last Unicorn's anthropomorphic willow gets an honorable mention though, for being a fucking insane sequence.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterarlo

Arlo & Guest -- i guess i need to watch that again. I don't remember that sequence

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

A few corrections:
1. I think you're thinking of the attack on Hometree (i.e. where they all live) in "Avatar" as the particularly gut-wrenching one, not the Tree of Souls (which they do attack, I think, but don't destroy).
2. It's Saruman's Isengard, though I guess Sauron responsible as well.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMia

Fun fun idea for a list, and a fun fun fun list.

Ronan the Accuser: I have an army.
Star Lord: We have a Groot.

See ya 'round the web.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKevyn Knox

I had a professor in college who looked EXACTLY like Treebeard. Except he was, you know, human. I never had the guts to say it to his face, because even his voice had the same old-and-wise-but-also-SCARY tone as Treebeard.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

For creepy trees, don't forget the Evil Dead.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

Now isn't someone supposed to make the joke that all these performances are terribly wooden?

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

The tree in Sleepy Hollow!

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

uh SLEEPY HOLLOW tree all the way!

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I love this, I think this is exactly what I would've added as well. (I especially love that you included Nightmare Before Christmas) Even though I hated Avatar, that tree was beautiful. I can give it credit for that.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

There's also that great tree in THE FOUNTAIN...

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

ferdi --- Oooh, can't believe i forgot that one.

brittani - and i nearly forgot nightmare. it was between that and the sleepy hollow tree for that last spot on the list.

August 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

There's a lovely Australian film, "The Tree," with Charlotte Gainsbourg. I may be the only person who ever saw it -- perhaps it got lost, as it was in theaters the same time as Mallick's "The Tree of Life." At any rate, the titular fig tree is magnificent and is a/the central character in the film. Worth a rental.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdtsf

I know probably no one will agree with me on this one, but the tree the sisters tried to save in the Virgin Suicides. That tree was so god damned important.

And let us not forget the tree in Forrest Gump. That thing is what magical childhood dreams are made of. It was beautiful and sweeping and romantic and everything.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe bloody munchkin

dtsf...That was the first film I thought of. I don,t think many people saw "The Tree," though.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

The Ents were my favorite in the Lord of the Rings. I wasn't broken-hearted when Boromir was killed, but seeing some of the Ents on fire made me so sad.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Great list, I especially like the inclusion of the "Pan's Labyrinth" vagina tree and the shout out to the trees of "Crouching Tiger" but for me...
"My Neighbor Totoro" for the gold: one for the dream garden camphor with Totoro and the gang perched on top; and two for the giant hollow tree where Mae naps take what I imagine is the greatest nap ever on a slumbering Totoro.
Then for "Sleepy Hollow" Tree of the Dead, the polar opposite of heartwarming arboretum of Totoro.
Treebeard and the Ents, both lovable and fearsome, round out the top three.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

What a great article.

Backing up the people who are giving a shout out to the tree from My Neighbour Totoro, and the Womping Willow.

What about the tree from Fern Gully?

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

Was going to suggest The Fountain and The Tree of Life but got beaten to it.

@dstf and @Bill_the_Bear: I saw The Tree in the theater. Morgana Davies was amazing in it! Marton Csokas so good, too.

August 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

What about the glowing spirit tree from Tropical Malady? My memories of that movie are fuzzy, but that thing will be with me forever.

August 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMikadzuki

Thank you to the two of you who mentioned the bosom-y tree of The Last Unicorn. That movie is a fascinating relic of childhood that, upon reflection, is way darker and weirder than I gave it credit for when I was a kid. I instantly thought of that trippy tree sequence when I saw the title of this post. I long for the days when children's movies actually tried to tell a good tale and say something quasi meaningful about human existence.

Also, hells yes to Treebeard.

August 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

The monster tree in "From Hell It Came". Don't know why, but that tree scared the bejeezus out of me on late nite tv when I was a little kid.

August 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzeecube

The monster tree in "From Hell It Came". Don't know why, but that tree scared the bejeezus out of me on late nite tv when I was a little kid.

August 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzeecube

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