While the beach’s natural beauty may seem like a cinematographer’s dream, the truth is, it’s one of the most difficult locations to film. Mother Nature unfortunately takes over as assistant director when it comes to scheduling shoots, as uncontrollable conditions—the burning sun, unrelenting wind and loose, unstable sand—often cause delays in production. Yet screenwriters can’t get enough of the beach as a backdrop for their stories and as a result, numerous moviemakers have braved the rough conditions in order to capture the shoreline’s effortless beauty.
Though we hate to admit, the summer is soon coming to a close. As we rush to get in those perfect beach days and even out our tan lines before the leaves begin to turn, MovieMaker is bringing you 10 beach-themed films to inspire your end-of-summer travels. If you can’t find your way to a coastline before season’s end, each of these films will bring paradise to your front door, minus the sunburn. From adventure to romance, documentary to cop thriller, a day at the beach has something for everyone.
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster’s legendary beach scene from this Academy Award-winning romantic drama continues to be imitated, parodied and adored nearly half a century later. Garnering eight Oscars in all, including Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actor for Frank Sinatra, the infamous love scene is actually much less explicit than in James Jones’ original novel, thanks to 1950s censorship. However, maybe it’s best to leave some things up to the imagination, as Kerr and Lancaster still have young couples rushing to take off from work.
Beach Party & Beach Blanket Bingo (1963 & 1965)
Life’s a beach when you’re young and good-looking. The first and fourth installments in the classic “beach film” series starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, this fun-loving franchise was criticized by real-life surfers for misrepresenting their culture in order to cash in on the sport’s growing popularity. Obviously striving for campy entertainment over accuracy, the beach film series did perfectly fine without the support of the surfers, for Frankie and Dee-Dee had every land-locked teen California dreaming.
Swept Away (1974)
Known for her explorations into socialist politics, Italian director Lina Wertmüller again brings class warfare under intense scrutiny in this twisted romantic drama which sees a wealthy upper-class woman and the communist sailor of her yacht forced to spend the night together in the middle of the sea. Just don’t use Swept Away as a model for your romantic getaway; while it’s set up for romance, Wertmüller instead exposes the discrepancies in class divisions in a way that’s often described as violent and brutal.
Point Break (1991)
This 1990s cop drama moves off the rough and tarred streets of Los Angeles and onto smooth white sands as young FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and his partner Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) infiltrate a local surfing gang lead by a bleached-blonde Patrick Swayze. Determined to get into character, Reeves and Swayze trained in Hawaii with world-class surfers months before production began, and Swayze also cracked four ribs while shooting the difficult surfing sequences. Keeping to the film’s authenticity in its portrayal of California’s surf culture, there’s even a cameo from Anthony Kiedis, front man for the state’s born-and-bred band Red Hot Chili Peppers.
To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (1996)
In this adaptation of Michael Brady’s stage play of the same name, David (Peter Gallagher) loves to frolic on the beach outside his Nantucket home with his wife, Gillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). The catch? Gillian’s a ghost. While the film may be a bit lackluster in plot and performance—the exception being Clare Danes’ charming turn as Gallagher’s teenage daughter—those long walks on the beach make for plenty of beautiful images of sand, surf and sunsets for those who can’t afford the beachfront real estate.
The Beach (2000)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a young traveler seeking the perfect vacation in this adventure-thriller set against the backdrop of Thailand’s expansive shoreline. Adapted from Alex Garland’s 1996 novel of the same name, the film received only mixed reviews from critics and DiCaprio was even honored with a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor. Fortunately, Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton shines in her turn as a Utopian leader.
Cast Away (2000)
While we all need to get away from time to time, Tom Hanks receives a bit too much solitude after landing on a deserted island as the sole survivor of a plane crash in Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away. Hanks was honored with an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe award for the role, which called for a majority of screen time opposite an inanimate object—a Wilson brand volleyball that in turn made Cast Away one of the biggest product placement films of all time. Yet as lovable as “Wilson” is, it’s Hanks’ incredible strength and desire for survival that will forever leave a mark on the viewer.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Pixar’s Academy Award-winning feature reveals what lies beneath the ocean’s surface is a colorful world that’s just as eclectic and diverse as it is on land. The heartwarming tale of an over-protective clownfish named Marlin searching the sea for his missing son was able to obtain a diverse audience, bringing in an astonishing $70 million in its opening week and grossing more than $866 million worldwide by the end of its theatrical release. During his journey, Marlin discovers that the ocean truly isn’t a scary place; maybe those refusing to leave their beach blankets will discover that, too.
While many may disagree with doctor-turned-pro-surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz’s alternate lifestyle and family values, it’s hard to ignore director Doug Pray’s intriguing and well-crafted documentary that provides us with an extraordinary look into the “first family of surfing.” Pray pieces together interviews with Paskowitz’s nine children plus exclusive photographs and footage of the 11-person family—which at one time lived in a single, 24-foot camper on the beach—to create a portrait of a little-known counter-culture where “surfing” and “family” were synonymous.