Beach Movies for Your Next Staycation

If you cannot make it to the beach (or if you’re having a staycation), there’s no reason you cannot have some living room fun in the sun. The beach is a marvelous place to play a volleyball match, find love, or even find yourself, and there’s a beach movie for all those occasions. 

We’ll count down our top ten beach movies and even give a few honorable mentions (after all, we only have so much space to gush about the beach). Our picks are in no particular order; they’re just the top ten beach movies that come to mind. 

Top 10 Beach Movies

1. 50 First Dates (2004) 

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Dan Akroyd

We have mixed feelings about Adam Sandler movies, but when his films are good, they are definitely worth a watch (Uncut Gems, anyone?). Taking place in Hawaii, Adam Sandler plays a zoo veterinarian who falls in love with Drew Barrymore, playing a woman with anterograde amnesia. She forgets him the day after they first meet (in quite the hilarious freakout scene), but that strengthens Sandler’s resolve to win her over again.

While some trademark Sandler flatulence jokes ruin the mood sometimes, it’s still a charming film, with some very genuine performances. The Hawaiian landscapes are magnificent, and the story is surprisingly poignant. Plus, Sean Astin’s lisping bodybuilding character is worth a few chuckles. 

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Starring: Jason Segal, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand

Another film about finding love in Hawaii, Forgetting Sarah Marshall shows Jason Segal taking a Hawaiian vacation to heal from a breakup. In the mother of all coincidences, his ex-girlfriend is on the same island with a new boyfriend. Comedic hijinks ensue as people keep running into each other at the most inconvenient times, and new love arises.

Let’s be honest: any movie featuring Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis is an automatic winner, but the whole cast is pretty charming too. The Hawaiian flavor is strong in this one, with plenty of lais, hot torch-lit nights, and luxurious hotels. If you’ve never been to Hawaii, you can probably live vicariously through this movie—without the actual trouble of running into your ex.

3. Cast Away (2000)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy

One of the more dramatic and heart-wrenching entries on this list, Cast Away, shows Tom Hanks as an uptight FedEx employee stranded on a remote island after his plane crashes into the ocean. We all know Tom Hanks has had plenty of nuanced roles, but you genuinely feel the desperation, the loneliness, and the triumphs as his character adapts to island life and tries to get back home.

Cast Away might be the movie to watch when you need to cry, but at least you’ll cry while marveling at beautiful island landscapes and appreciating what you have right now.

4. Finding Nemo (2003)

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney

One of Pixar’s finest films, Finding Nemo is a perfect nostalgic movie for all kids (or kids at heart) getting into a marine-going mood. We all know the story of a paranoid father clownfish who loses his son to the vast ocean and the journey he takes, along with a colorful cast of new friends, to rescue him. However, knowing this story so well doesn’t mean we cannot continue to enjoy it.

The animation: stupendous. The voice-acting: top-notch and emotional. The story: a heck of a lot of fun. If anything, it might inspire you to go snorkeling on a reef on your next vacation. Just make sure you don’t take any young clownfish—or any fish, for that matter—off the reef!

5. Jaws (1975)

Starring: Roy Schieder, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Here’s a movie that might scare you away from the beach as opposed to going to one. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a lot of fun to watch, though. Jaws is a classic of suspense and horror, with first-time director Steven Spielberg at the helm (no pun intended) of the movie that birthed the summer blockbuster film.

Jaws may be a 70s flick, but the effects still hold up well, and the music from John Williams is among the most chilling of any suspense movie. Add Roy Schieder’s foreboding line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” and you’ve got the recipe for one of the greatest suspense films ever made.

6. Soul Surfer (2011)

Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood

Soul Surfer also involves a shark, but it’s a much more inspirational flick, based on the true story of champion surfer Bethany Hamilton. When a shark bites off 13-year-old Bethany’s arm while surfing, she has to learn how to surf again, among other things, with support from her family and friends, both at home and around the world.

Any Hollywood movie based on a true story certainly has a cheese factor, and this one does not escape that fate. Still, AnnaSophia Robb (the real Bethany Hamilton hand-picked her for this role) is a winning heroine, and Carrie Underwood gets to show her acting chops (although there aren’t many to speak of). Plus, Hamilton herself did all of Robb’s surfing in this movie, and it’s thrilling to see her strut her stuff on those mighty waves.

7. Gidget (1959)

Starring: Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson, James Darren, Arthur O’Connell

The beach party film genre owes everything to this movie, even if the characters have some pretty ridiculous (but very 1950s) names. Sandra Dee stars as “Gidget” (“girl” and “midget” mashed together), a teenage girl who joins the teen surfing scene over one summer, making new friends and falling in love on the way.

Gidget’s tomboyish nature is refreshing in a 1950s movie, and watching the guy surfers take her under their wing is sweet. Plus, the gorgeous beach scenes make you wish it could be summer again. It might be corny sometimes, but it’s surprisingly mature for a teen movie. If you like fluffier Frankie-Avalon-Annette-Funicello movies, you might like this one too.

8. Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) 

Starring: Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Paul Lynde, Buster Keaton

Speaking of, Beach Blanket Bingo might be slightly sillier and less mature than Gidget, but you can bet it’s a lot of fun. For one, the soundtrack has a bouncing nostalgic 1960s flavor that is impossible not to dance to. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon are charming, even in their usual “golly gee whiz, stupid adults don’t understand us” way.

If you’re looking for a movie with a discernible plot and unforgettable characters, you’re not going to find that here. However, if you want some kicking music and some silly shots of carefree teenagers having fun in the sun, it’ll work just fine.

9. The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Starring: Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern, William Daniels

This controversial 80s film is not necessarily good, but it is fascinating to watch. Two Victorian-era children (though that fact is easy to forget here) find themselves stranded on a remote Pacific island. When their sole caretaker dies, they have to learn to grow up without adult supervision. Things get complicated when they hit puberty and discover a mutual attraction to each other.

Be wary if you have kids: there’s a lot of nudity and other sexual content in this film. Plus, the two main leads being cousins is strange in a modern context. Otherwise, it’s an interesting, if quite cheesy, take on young love in isolation. If you want a silly if idealized version of isolated island life, or if you’re a Brooke Shields fan, give it a try. Just don’t expect a masterpiece.

10. The Descendants (2011)

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard

Yet again, Hawaii serves as the backdrop for a gripping family drama. George Clooney plays a father who must take responsibility for his two distant daughters after his wife falls into a coma. Things get even more complicated when he learns his wife was also cheating on him.

Critics lauded this film when it came out in 2011, and we agree with every ounce of praise it got. We love the Hawaiian landscapes just as much as the dysfunctional drama in Clooney’s on-screen family. Whether you wind up crying or cheering for Clooney’s underdog character, you’ll also enjoy some beautiful backdrops and sweet Hawaiian flavor.

A Few Other Beach Movies Worthy of Mention

We wish we could keep talking at length about other incredible beach movies, but you’ll have to settle for this small honorable mentions list and check these movies out for yourself.

  • The Endless Summer (1966)
  • Six Days, Seven Nights (1998)
  • Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
  • Point Break (1991)
  • Blue Crush (2002)

We also have other articles that comprise the list of movies you’ll enjoy watching:

Wrap Up

Whether you watch beach movies to party, find love, or learn something about yourself, we think these movies should do the trick. There might even be a few movies that we missed, and for that, we apologize. As for us, we’re off to marathon the films on this list and have some sunny, sandy fun until we go to the beach again.

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