Top 20 Movies Filmed in Hawaii

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 some of the most desirable locations for filming, and there’s no question why with our beautiful islands, landscapes, and oceans, not to mention the warm and brilliant Hawaiian culture. 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.

Top 20 Movies Filmed in Hawaii

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 several film genres, decades and locations throughout Hawaii. Enjoy reading Pride of Maui’s list of the Top 20 Movies Filmed In Hawaii.

01

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 perfectly cast pairing. Viewers will surely enjoy the beautiful Hawaii scenery, and quirky and heartfelt moments throughout this film.

Previously afraid of commitment, Henry (Sandler) finally meets the girl of his dreams, Lucy (Barrymore), in a Hawaii diner. The 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.


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02

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 the hilarious Ben Stiller as washed-up actor Tugg Speedman. Actually filmed on the Island of Kauai, with a plot set in Southeast Asia, Tropic Thunder is a story about actors playing 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. Robert Downey Jr. was even 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.”


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03

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 is a multi-generational Hawaii resident who, alongside his two daughters, is battling the soon-fatal results of his wife’s tragic boating accident. 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. The film’s 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 development mindset versus a local interest of keeping untouched Hawaiian 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.


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04

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

2011

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.


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05

Soul Surfer

2005

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 Hamilton, this film expresses how she overcame her fears and the odds of professionally surfing after a shark attack led to her losing her left arm as a teenager.

Soul Surfer is a sort of fusion of drama, sports and biographical films, and successfully 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 vested interest in Hawaii’s female surf culture.

Celebrity stars who elevate this Hawaii family film include Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood and more. This film was shot throughout the Hawaiian Islands, with a special presentation of Bethany Hamilton’s home, the Island of Kauai.


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06

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 three 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 greatest movies of all time.

You can’t 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 now spans over thirty years with six films, several series, novels, video-game adaptations and so much more.

Jurassic World was an instant box office hit in 2015, grossing $204,600,000 in just 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! The first five of the Jurassic Park movies have been filmed in several locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands; that almost-perfect streak was ended by 2022’s Jurassic World: Dominion.


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07

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.
It was filmed in California, Nevada, Indiana, Texas, England and, of course, Hawaii with popular Hawaiian film sites including Kualoa Ranch, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor and other 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 on 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 adaptation of the events at Pearl Harbor won an Oscar in 2002 for “Best Sound Editing,” and had eleven other various wins among 48 nominations.


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08

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 overdoing 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 as the film focuses on more grounded and sometimes gritty subjects and themes.

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. Even the photo for the film’s poster was shot at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.


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09

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 along 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!


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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 named Robin (Anne Heche) 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, flown by boozy, laid back pilot Quinn (Harrison Ford) whom she doesn’t seem to care for, and their plane crash lands on an uninhabited Pacific Island.

The real fun begins when the two get to know one another while in survival mode, running from pirates and enduring through all sorts of mishaps.

The cast includes many favorites like Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Allison Janney, Amy Sedaris and Danny Trejo. Filming was carried out mostly in Kauai, specifically on Honopu Beach, which was also used as a location for 1976’s King Kong!


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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 is centered 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 by 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.


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12

The Big Bounce

2004

“The Big Bounce” is a crime-ridden comedy film shot in several locations on Oahu. The storyline is about Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson), a surfer with a small time con-artist past who 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 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.


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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,” which is said to hold the key to human existence, and Indy’s next journey begins as he sets off 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 (soon to be five!) Indiana Jones movies, Harrison Ford stars as the legendary titular professor of archaeology 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 is that 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 classic movie stars actors like Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Denholm Elliott, William Hootkins and more.


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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 starring the one and only Elvis Presley.

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!


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15

South Pacific

1961

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 expatriate plantation owner, and undergoes much personal discovery when learning to accept his children. While watching this film, viewers will gain a certain perspective 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. South Pacific was even the Oscar winner for “Best Sound” in 1959, and movie lovers can watch and fall in love with it time, and time again.


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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 was between Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed on a beach in Hawaii. Today, that Oahu beach is still known as “From Here to Eternity Beach”. See more about it here.


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17

Aloha

2015

There was a bit of an uproar when this movie was first released due to local Hawaii residents’ concerns about how well it would 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 Hawaii-based drama/romantic comedy was shot throughout Oahu, with a special attention paid to Honolulu areas and Hickam Air Force Base. There is also a nice cameo by 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)


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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 she in backroom art studios as the real painter, her husband stole her work and reveled in his ill-gotten glory. In the end, divorce and justice are served.

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. The parts filmed in Hawaii showcase a classic Hawaiian era when Waikiki was the most popular destination here. Hawaii is where Margaret Keane begins to heal from trauma, and rediscovers her inner strength as a woman and a celebrated artist.


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19

Point Break

1991 + 2015

The original and amazing Point Break stars Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey. The film follows FBI agent Johnny Utah (Reeves) as he goes undercover as a surfing amateur in order to track down a gang of successful bank robbers and adrenaline junkies known as the “Ex-Presidents.”

The culprits of this film are called the Ex-Presidents because they wear the masks of Presidents 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 was an avid skydiver in real life and performed his own skydiving stunts in this film. Fun Fact: 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 on 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.


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20

Hard Ticket to Hawaii

Hard Ticket to Hawaii is a 1987 action-adventure-stinker-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, a Frisbee with razors and a mutant snake, this is definitely one you have to watch purely for humor’s sake.

If you’re searching for ultimate movie ridiculousness, look no further. Winner of zero Academy Awards, Hard Ticket to Hawaii was named the “Best B-Movie of All Time” by Paste Magazine in 2014.


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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 many more. We hope you enjoyed our list of the Top 20 Movies Filmed in Hawaii.