Home Articles A Blink of History: 4 Movies With Ice Baths

A Blink of History: 4 Movies With Ice Baths

By Dr. Dennis Cronk, CC BY-SA 2.5,

One of the most intriguing parts of the weight loss method that Wim Hof innovated is cold therapy. What it’s important to understand about the method is the fact that it reconnects us to survival methods that have long been bred out of our system.

Initially rising to notoriety under the nickname ‘The Iceman’, Hof’s discoveries about the physiological elements of his weight loss method arose from his extreme displays of survival at exceptionally low temperatures. 

His Kilimanjaro climbs in shorts, his barefoot half marathon around the Arctic Circle, and the ever-famous image of him standing in a vat of ice cubes. Dating back to our ancestors before heat wasn’t such an easy thing to find, our bodies needed to adapt.

And the fact that we don’t need to do it anymore doesn’t mean that we can’t, which is how Hof discovered his secrets to losing weight. But of course, there are a number of other different ways to lose weight and in addition to the Wim Hof method, it would be worth exploring a few others.

And with cold therapy in mind, spending some time in an ice bath is one of the potential ways to tap into the same physiological processes involved in the Wim Hof method and reaping some of the same benefits for your health and weight.

Though not necessarily a very common approach, perhaps due to the unconventional nature being a cause for suspicion among some, it is one that has been explored for several decades, and over the years has even crept its way into mainstream media.

Let’s take a look at some famous movies which use ice baths as a plot device:

  1.   Atomic Blonde

This 2017 spy thriller is not short on action-packed scenes, intricate espionage, and some of the most unique and eye-catching visuals we’ve ever seen in a film of this kind. It was a fresh take on the spy film from an angle we hadn’t seen before.

With Academy Award winner (and rising action hero superstar) Charlize Theron playing what could be described as the female successor to the one and only James Bond, we see her kick as much butt as it is humanly possible to kick.

But we also see her in a few of her more intimate moments. This is a film that’s heavy on the action, the fights and the setpieces, but there is a human behind all of that and we get a glimpse of her in some more vulnerable moments.

One of which involves her taking a dip in a bathtub full of ice cubes. Now the purpose of it for Theron’s character in this film isn’t weight loss, but it is similar in a sense because she’s putting her body’s defense mechanisms to work.

She spends the entire film fighting, and while she normally wins, that amount of combat comes with a lot of scrapes and bruises. To help her body heal faster and better deal with all of that pain, it’s a dip in the ice bath for her. 

And it works too, because the second she gets out of the bath she’s ambushed with another fight, which of course she wins. 

  1.   Wanted

Much like the last entry on this list, this is yet another film which is packed to the gills with action and combat and the presence of the ice bath occurs in somewhat similar fashion and for similar enough reasons.

This film sees Scottish actor James McAvoy playing Wesley, a meek and weary accountant who is reluctantly recruited by a guild of assassins and put through a series of rigorous training drills to get him in condition to carry out some missions of his own.

As Wesley is training, we see a montage of him basically getting violently abused by the other assassins in a number of different ways which culminates with him being stabbed right through his hand with a large knife.

From this shot, we cut to Wesley waking up in what is a very bizarre take on an ice bath, with his hand basically healed. Now of course, this is not an accurate portrayal of the effects of an ice bath by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a highly stylized film set in an almost fantastical universe.

And the principle of what is achieved in the ice bath is similar in theory to what benefits you can normally expect to get from spending some time in one. It helps your body’s natural immune system and healing properties to get to work faster. 

  1.   Jacob’s Ladder

From one extreme to another, Jacob’s Ladder is a horror film which stars Tim Robbin as a Vietnam war veteran suffering from a severe case of dissociation, who spends the film trying to determine which of his experiences are real and which are dreams.

The method through which the ice bath is used to propel the narrative of this film is quite interesting and this is perhaps the most well-known and significant ice bath scene ever put to film due to how memorable it is. 

In the film, Tim Robbins’ character Jacob is suffering from a severe fever which his girlfriend attempts to subdue by placing him in an ice bath. While submerged, Jacob finds himself in a completely different reality where his circumstances are drastically altered.

This is a common occurrence in the film usually brought on by a considerable mental or physical change and the use of the ice bath is one of those. Symbolic, perhaps unintentionally and definitely exaggerated for dramatic effect, of the changes you can experience by using ice baths yourself.

  1.   The Wolfman

This questionable remake of the 1941 Universal werewolf classic, we see a somewhat different take on the use of an ice bath, because in this case it is used in an attempt to solve a problem that is perceived to be entirely mental.

This film is a fairly standard werewolf tale and unfortunately, it’s executed with precious little grace. We see Benicio Del Toro in the titular role of Talbot, who is bitten by a wolf and then suffers the curse.

As the curse is taking hold, the natives in his village are highly skeptical of Talbot’s claims that of the things that he’s feeling and seeing within himself and in typical 19th Century fashion, he is subjected to a series of rather brutal and forcible treatments to expel these impure thoughts.

Naturally none of them work, but one such attempt is a dip in an ice bath. The difference here from the others on the list being that he’s tied to a chair and lowered in against his own will by a sadistic doctor.

This is an interesting portrayal, because from it we can see that much like many other modern treatments, it was used for different purposes many years ago. It was assumed to be effective but not in the same way.

So as you can see, despite the lack of popularity as a treatment for issues such as weight loss, the concept of ice baths for health purposes is fairly well ingrained in our culture, to the point where it’s been portrayed a number of times in films.

And as discussed, while it’s not always for weight loss, it’s rooted in the idea that extreme cold can be used to stimulate physiological mechanics which the body is not accustomed to using anymore.

Remember, ice baths have some proven benefits for weight loss, but it’s not a guaranteed fix and you should always be sure to explore other options like some really high rated programs out there that can help you reach your weight goals maybe in a healthier and more sustainable way.