Top 20 Movies Filmed in Hawaii
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Even before our islands even became a State in the United States, there were many great movies filmed in Hawaii. The Pacific Islands have always been one of the most desirable locations for film scores, and there’s no question why with our beautiful islands, landscapes, oceans and Hawaiian culture to share. With gorgeous year-round weather and breathtaking locations, it’s no wonder why studio execs continue to choose the land of aloha for their perfect movie setting. While there have been over 100 movies filmed in Hawaii over the last century, below you’ll find a list of our favorite Hawaii based movies that span through several film genres, decades and locations throughout Hawaii. Enjoy reading Pride of Maui’s list of the Top 20 Movies Filmed In Hawaii.
TOP MOVIES FILMED IN HAWAII
#1 50 First Dates (2004)
Released on Valentine’s Day in 2004, “50 First Dates” stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. This funny and engaging comedy naturally brings out the charming connection that these two actors share as a perfect casting pairing. Viewers will surely enjoy beautiful Hawaii scenery, and quirky and heartfelt moments throughout this film.
Previously afraid of commitment, Henry (Adam Sandler) finally meets the girl of his dreams in a Hawaii diner, Lucy (Drew Barrymore). Thing is, Henry soon discovers that Lucy suffers from short term memory loss and can’t remember meeting him at all, day after day. “50 First Dates” was the second romantic comedy collaboration between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and definitely not one to be missed.
This Hawaii film was shot across several scenic locations on Oahu, including Waimanalo Beach, Dillingham Estate, Ka’a’awa Valley, Kualoa Ranch, Waimea Bay, Sea Life Park, Kaneohe Bay and Waikane Pier.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit 50 First Dates on IMDb.
#2 Tropic Thunder (2008)
Directed by Ben Stiller, “Tropic Thunder” is a super fun action comedy starring Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Kahn, Anthony Ruivivar, and spoofy Ben Stiller as Tugg Speedman. Actually filmed on the Island of Kauai, with a plot set in Southeast Asia, “Tropic Thunder” is a story about actors portraying soldiers in a Vietnam War memoir; only to be placed in actual danger and forced to become the soldiers that they portray.
Released in 2008, “Tropic Thunder” became the largest film production in Kauai’s history, contributing to more than $60 million to the local economy. While definitely high on the ridiculous scale, this Hawaii action comedy film took home several awards. Actor, Robert Downey Jr., was nominated for the Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” for his character, Kirk Lazarus, “a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.”
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Tropic Thunder on IMDb.
#3 The Descendants (2011)
“The Descendants” was filmed on Oahu and the Island of Kauai. The film follows the story of Matt King, played by George Clooney. Matt King is a multi-generational Hawaii resident who is battling the soon-fatal results of his wife’s tragic boating accident alongside his two daughters. At the same time, Matt is faced with news of his wife’s past marital affair, as well as enormous family and corporate pressure to sell 25,000 acres of his family’s in-trust, undeveloped land on Kauai.
Based on the novel written by Kaui Hart Hemmings, a longtime Hawaii resident, this film not only has historical relevance, but also a commonality that is definitely experienced in Hawaii today. Film Director, Alexander Payne, moved to Oahu for eight months in order to understand more about Hawaii’s culture and way of life. This is especially apparent in the film’s depiction of a modern Hawaii development mindset, versus a local interest of keeping untouched Hawaii land preserved and intact.
Filming locations include Oahu’s Nu’uanu neighborhood, Elk’s Club Honolulu Lodge, Queen’s Medical Center, Kauai’s Kipu Ranch, Hanalei Bay, the Tahiti Nui Bar and more. The film took home the 2012 Academy Award for “Best Writing,” and was highly praised by local and national audiences. The cast includes George Clooney, Patricia Hastie, Beau Bridges, a Laird Hamilton cameo appearance, and some wonderful young actors like Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller and Nick Krause.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit The Descendants on IMDb.
#4 Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” stars Jason Segel as the hilariously heartbroken Peter Brenner. After being dumped by his famous TV girlfriend, he travels to Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort to escape and find solitude, only to run into his ex-girlfriend, and her new boyfriend vacationing at the same hotel.
The movie provides an entertaining look at Hawaii resort life, and, if nothing else, has taught thousands of people how to accurately pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the State Fish of Hawaii. Filmed in 2008 in California and Hawaii, this movie is as feel good as it gets with hysterical too-real dialogue, and a great cast of characters.
Additional celebrity guests in this Hawaii film include Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand and Bill Hader. Specific Hawaii-based film locations include La’ie Point and the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, and more Honolulu areas.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Forgetting Sarah Marshall on IMDb.
#5 Soul Surfer (2011)
Here is the inspirational story that every surf girl waited for on the big screen; glimpses of the early years of famous female Hawaii surfer, Bethany Hamilton. Starring AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany, this film expresses how Bethany Hamilton overcame her fears, and the odds of professionally surfing after a shark attack led to her losing her left arm as a teenager.
Shown through the lens as a sort of a drama, sport and biographically infused film, this movie definitely portrays the strength, spirituality and humility of one of the most recognizable and talented female surfers known to date. Bethany Hamilton is an everyday star in Hawaii. Her community outreach programs, and “by-invite only” girls surf camps speak volumes for her invested interest in Hawaii’s female surf culture.
Celebrity stars that adorn this Hawaii family film include Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood and more. This film was shot throughout the Hawaiian Islands, with a special presence in Bethany Hamilton’s home, the Island of Kauai.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Soul Surfer on IMDb.
#6 Jurassic Park & Jurassic World (1993 + 2015)
A fan favorite since its debut in 1993, the original “Jurassic Park” movie is without a doubt one of the most widely recognized movies of the 20th century. Winner of 3 Academy Awards, it’s safe to say that Jurassic Park goes down in history as one of the most popular movies filmed in Hawaii, and perhaps one of the best movies of all time.
Who can help but love a film that brought dinosaurs back to life and created such classic lines as ‘hold onto your butts,’ ‘clever girl’ and ‘must go faster.’ Filmed across locations in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, California and Hawaii, Kauai’s Manawaiopuna Falls (now often referred to as “Jurassic Park Falls”) and Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch were some of the most iconic filming locations in this Hawaii movie. The “Jurassic Park” franchise also includes “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997), “Jurassic Park III” (2001), and “Jurassic World” (2015).
“Jurassic World” was an instant box office hit this past year, grossing $204,600,000 just in the opening weekend. In “Jurassic World,” 22 years after the original Jurassic Park failed, a new and improved park is opened on the original site. After years of research, scientists found a way to genetically engineer a new breed of dinosaur. Unfortunately, it goes terrible wrong, and the adventure unfolds! All four of the Jurassic Park movies have been filmed in parts throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and there is apparent talk of a fifth addition that will be released in 2018.
For more fun facts about the Jurassic Park films, please visit IMDb.
#7 Pearl Harbor (2001)
Although primarily a romance movie, Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor,” successfully recreated an accurate look at the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Starring Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Voight as FDR, the film was a major blockbuster hit.
Filmed in Hawaii, California, Nevada, Indiana, Texas and England, popular Hawaii film sites include Ford Island, Pearl Harbor and more Honolulu areas. Pearl Harbor grossed a little over $75 million during its opening weekend of domestic box offices sales alone.
The premiere was held at Pearl Harbor aboard the carrier USS John Stennis, and although the love story in the movie was not well-received by critics or viewers, the depiction of the attacks at Pearl Harbor have been praised and agreed upon as reflective of the true situation experienced by many survivors and witnesses.
The cast includes lots of familiar faces including Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., William Lee Scott, Ewen Bremner, Alex Baldwin, Jaime King, Catherine Kellner, Jennifer Gardner, Jon Voight, Michael Shannon, Matthew Davis and more. This rendition of Pearl Harbor won an Oscar in 2002 for “Best Sound Editing,” and had eleven other various wins among 48 nominations.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Pearl Harbor on IMDb.
#8 Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
“Punch-Drunk Love” is a romantic comedy/drama that revolves around a character named Barry Egan who has various psychological issues that include over doing it on phone-sex lines, and buying incredible amounts of pudding.
Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson, here is yet again another funny flick starring Adam Sandler as the main character. Rated R for strong language and sexual dialogue, you will find that although this is a comedy, it leans towards a more mature audience due to subjects and themes that are brought up throughout the film.
The cast is full of fun characters played by Adam Sandler, Jason Andrews, Don McManus, Emily Watson, Luis Guzman, Rico Bueno, Julie Hermelin and more. “Punch-Drunk Love” was filmed in various locations around Southern California and Oahu, Hawaii. The poster cover design for the film was shot at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Punch-Drunk Love on IMDb.
#9 North Shore (1987)
A 1987 cult classic, “North Shore” tells the story of Rick Kane, an Arizona teenager who travels to Oahu’s famous North Shore after he wins a wave tank surfing contest in his home town. He ventures to Hawaii to try his skills in the world of professional surfing, but finds he’ll definitely need some help on the way.
Filmed across several famous North Shore surfing locales, the film also includes stunts and appearances by several of Hawaii’s real-life professional surfers including: Laird Hamilton as the film’s awesome antagonist, Lance Burkhart, Gerry Lopez, Alex Rogers, Robbie Page, Mark Occhilupo, Shaun Tomson, Derek Ho and more.
While “North Shore” certainly didn’t take home any Oscars, it did produce memorable lines such as ‘he’s so haole he doesn’t even know he’s haole,’ and ‘you’ve got a single fin mentality.’ It’s definitely worth a watch.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit North Shore on IMDb.
#10 Six Days Seven Nights (1998)
This action-adventure and comedy film set on a deserted South Sea Island (Kauai), is a perfectly charming story about a magazine writer who’s on vacation with her boyfriend, but decides to cover a story on a neighboring island. She has to take the only available plane to get there with a boozy, laid back pilot (Harrison Ford) that she doesn’t seem to care for, then the plane crash lands on an uninhabited Pacific Island.
Here’s an awesome hit from the 90’s starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche. The real fun begins while the two get to know one another while in survival mode. The plane crashes once, then twice, and the two are off of an adventurous plot that surely entertains all viewers. The bold pilot (Harrison Ford) and the main character played by Anne Heche soon fall for each other, and the rest is left for you to see on screen!
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Six Days Seven Nights on IMDb.
#11 Blue Crush (2002)
“Blue Crush” is as classic as you can get for a film set in Hawaii with a storyline surrounded by surf culture, drama and love. There was also a “Blue Crush 2” filmed in Hawaii, but the original is where it’s at! The main character is played by Kate Bosworth in her early years, and she is as recognizable as ever with her two-toned eyes.
The story circles around the life of a hardworking surf girl named Anne Marie who takes the role of mom to her kid sister, works in hotel housekeeping with her friends, and spends her time surfing Oahu’s North Shore. Anne Marie has an opportunity to showcase her skills at an upcoming Pipe Masters surf contest, so throughout the movie we see her balancing life’s challenges while still waking up at dawn to train for a Hawaii surf event.
During her day to day life, Anne Marie ends up falling in love with a NFL football player visiting Hawaii from the mainland, and romantic drama unfolds as the two strive to make a relationship happen in the midst of Anne Marie’s personal discoveries.
The movie has a cameo role with famous female surfer Keala Kennelly, one of the other surfers in competition with Anne Marie. The cast includes both Hollywood actors and local Hawaii celebrities like Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davis, Michelle Rodriquez, Sanoe Lake, Mika Boorem, Chris Taloa, Kala Alexander, Kaupena Miranda, Asa Aquino, Fiji and more. Filming locations on Oahu are the Hawaii Film Studio in Honolulu, and a ton of popular North Shore of Oahu areas.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Blue Crush on IMDb.
#12 The Big Bounce (2004)
The “Big Bounce” is a crime-ridden comedy film shot in Hawaii-based locations on Oahu. The storyline is about Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson), also a surfer, and a guy with a small time con-artist past that ventures to bigger and better things in Hawaii.
Jack soon finds a tempting friend, and a pack of big time criminal bandits as the movie unfolds. “The Big Bounce” is definitely an entertaining film that revolves around organized crime, theft, wealthy living, disguise and seduction. This film was originally rated R due to sexual content, nudity and language, but somehow squeaked through with a PG13 rating after they removed some of the more revealing scenes.
Throughout this movie, you’ll see segments filmed at beautiful North Shore Oahu locations like Historic Haleiwa Town, Waimea Valley, and the Ke Iki Bungalows located near the Banzai Pipeline surf break in Pupukea. Directed by George Armitage, viewers will enjoy a screenplay that’s funny, and full of a celebrity cast; Morgan Freeman, Owen Wilson, Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sarah Foster and Gregory Sporleder.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit The Big Bounce on IMDb.
#13 Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders Of The Lost Ark is a story that takes place in 1936. Indiana Jones is an archeological professor who sets out to South America in search of a golden statue. The film opens into traps, adventure and escape, and continues when Dr. Jones gets word from Marcus Brody, a museum curator. Brody informs Indiana about a biblical artifact called the “Ark of the Covenant.” It is said to hold the key to human existence, and Indiana’s next journey is set before him to find it.
Eleven years before he would return to Hawaii to film Jurassic Park, Director Steven Spielberg chose Kauai’s Kipu Ranch and Anahola Mountains to portray the booby-trapped Peruvian temple and Amazonian jungle in the hit film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The first of four ‘Raiders’ movies, Harrison Ford stars as the legendary Indiana Jones in this 1981 gem.
Winner of 4 Academy Awards, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was actually dreamed up while George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were vacationing in Hawaii in 1977, just after the release of Star Wars. Another interesting fact – Tom Selleck was the first choice to play Indiana Jones, but was barred by CBS due to his commitment to star in the Hawaii television hit, Magnum, P.I. Besides Harrison Ford, this Indiana Jones movie stars classic actors like Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Denholm Elliott, William Hootkins and more.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Raiders Of The Lost Ark on IMDb.
#14 Blue Hawaii (1961)
“Blue Hawaii” is a classic romantic musical comedy about a young man named Chadwick Gates who’s fresh out of the Army, and enjoying his life in Hawaii. He also seems to be very popular with the ladies…
“Blue Hawaii” is the first of three Hawaii based movies that Elvis Presley starred in. The soundtrack became the #1 Album of 1961, and the film includes scenes at several Hawaii locations, including the former Coco Palms Resort on Kauai, Kaiser Hawaiian Village Hotel in Waikiki (now the Hilton Hawaiian Village), and Oahu’s Hanauma Bay Beach Park.
Whether it’s hearing a young Elvis sing Ke Kali Nei Au (the Hawaiian Wedding song) or Can’t Help Falling in Love With You, “Blue Hawaii” remains a nostalgic look at 1960’s Hawaii, inspiring much more than tiki culture and a Hawaii born tropical cocktail!
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Blue Hawaii on IMDb.
#15 South Pacific (1958)
Starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, Ray Walston, and Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary, “South Pacific” is a historical classic. Filmed on Kauai, scenes feature some of the Garden Isle’s most prominent landscapes including Hanalei Bay, Lumaha’i Beach, Kalapaki Bay and Mount Makana.
This film adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical by the same name, “South Pacific,” debuted in 1958, a year before Hawaii was granted statehood. The storyline focuses on an American nurse that is stationed on a Pacific island during WWII. She falls in love with a French ex-patriate plantation owner, and finds much personal discovery when learning to accept his children. When watching this film, viewers will gain much knowledge on the complications of loving relationships, various pre-civil rights dispositions on racial equality, and more.
This film helped put Kauai on the map for future film sites thanks to its sweeping beauty and dramatic, picturesque landscapes. Oscar winner for “Best Sound” in 1959, viewers can watch and fall in love with “South Pacific” time, and time again.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit South Pacific on IMDb.
#16 From Here To Eternity (1953)
Set in 1941, the story is about Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), a soldier who requested an Army transfer, but was sent to Schofield Barracks/Fort Shafter on Oahu instead.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann, and starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra, “From Here To Eternity” is the most classically famous movie ever filmed in Hawaii.
Once an avid boxer, Prewitt’s new captain tries to encourage him to get back in the ring, and while he’s unwilling, challenges begin to unfold in his new Hawaii military life. All set before the bombings of Pearl Harbor, a romance unfolds between Prewitt and social club server, Lorene (Donna Reed). One of the most famous love scenes ever filmed to date was between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on a beach in Hawaii. Today, that Oahu beach is still known as “From Here To Eternity” Beach. See more about it here.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit From Here To Eternity on IMDb.
#17 Aloha (2015)
There was definitely a miniature uproar when this movie was first released due to local Hawaii resident concern about how this movie will actually represent the ‘spirit of aloha.’ Throughout the movie, you will experience a glimpse of Hawaii life through the character’s eyes, and without a doubt fall in love with the beautiful Hawaii scenery.
Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe, “Aloha” tells the story of a decorated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returning to Hawaii on a new mission, dealing with a past love theme, and falling in love with the cute and fierce Air Force watch-dog (Rachel McAdams). This drama/romantic comedy Hawaii-based film was shot throughout Oahu, with a special presence in Honolulu areas and Hickam Air Force Base. There is also a nice cameo role for Hawaiian activist, Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele who has defended the film by stating “This big screen thing is really going to be helpful for us,” in regards to the current state of affairs for Hawaiian Sovereignty. (buzzfeed.com, 2015)
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Aloha on IMDb.
#18 Big Eyes (2014)
With a storyline that begins in San Francisco during the 1950’s, “Big Eyes” is a great Tim Burton film about the life and challenges of celebrated artist, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Margaret’s problematic and manipulative second husband Walter Keane, is played by Christoph Waltz, who kills it in this role.
This film shows the struggle Margaret Keane went through to create a name for herself in the modern art world of the 1950-1960’s. While hiding in backroom art studios as the real painter, her husband stole and idolized himself in the glory. In the end, divorce and justice are served. All art and drama lovers will enjoy watching this film with wonderfully vintage costume and set designs. The movie was filmed in popular San Francisco neighborhoods including North Beach, and in more locations like Los Angeles CA, Vancouver BC, Bristol UK, and Waikiki, Hawaii. Parts filmed in Hawaii reveal a classic Hawaii genre when Waikiki was the most popular destination in Hawaii. Hawaii is where Margaret Keane begins to heal from trauma, and rediscovers her inner strength as a woman and a celebrated artist.
For more fun facts about the film, please visit Big Eyes on IMDb.
#19 Point Break (1991 + 2015)
The original and amazing “Point Break” movie stars Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey. The film follows FBI agent Johnny Utah (played by Reeves) as he goes undercover as a surfing amateur in order to track down a gang of successful bank robbers known as the ‘Ex Presidents’ (who are also surfers).
The culprits of this film are called the ex-presidents because they wear the masks of President Reagan, Carter, Nixon and Johnson when they rob banks. Although the film was shot in several locations throughout California, some of the surf scenes were filmed at Oahu’s famed Waimea Bay. Released in 1991, actors Swayze and Reeves received surf coaching prior to filming from big wave surfer and stunt double, Darrick ‘Double D’ Doerner. Keanu Reeves actually learned how to surf for this role, and still surfs today. The late Patrick Swayze (RIP) was an avid skydiver in real life; performed his own skydiving stunts in this film. Cool Note: The Malibu, CA beach where the football game is being played in the beginning of this film is called Leo Carillo Beach. It’s the same beach used for the soccer game in the first Karate Kid movie (1984).
Released in 2015, the newest “Point Break” film was filmed at a host of stunning locations around the world, and partially filmed at Maui’s biggest surf break, Jaws-Peahi. With a story line based off the original, but lacking compared to the first, the 2015 version also follows a young FBI agent who’s mission is to infiltrate a group of corporate heist radicals.
For more fun facts about the Point Break films, please visit IMDb.
#20 Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)
“Hard Ticket to Hawaii” is a 1987 action adventure movie turned cult classic that was filmed entirely on the Island of Moloka’i. With gratuitous use of over-the-top fight scenes, nonsensical story lines, bad acting, explosions, and a Frisbee with razors and a mutant snake, this is definitely one you have to watch for pure humor sake.
If you’re searching for ultimate movie ridiculousness, search no more. Winner of zero Academy Awards, “Hard Ticket to Hawaii” was named as the ‘Best B-Movie of All Time’ by Paste Magazine in 2014.
For more fun facts about the “Hard Ticket To Hawaii” film, please visit Hard Ticket To Hawaii on IMDb.
Obviously we couldn’t fit all of our favorite movies filmed in Hawaii on this list, and there are so many other noteworthy contenders. More movies filmed in Hawaii include: Honeymoon in Vegas, Hawaii, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, King Kong, Godzilla, Donovan’s Reef, Picture Bride, A Very Brady Sequel, tons of surf films, and more. We hope you enjoyed our list of the Top 20 Movies Filmed in Hawaii.