Aloha! Hawaii on my mind… what’s your fave movie(s) set in America’s tropical paradise?

Happy Monday, everybody! Well, as I mentioned on my monthly roundup, I’ll be off for a two-week vacation to my hometown Jakarta and then Hawaii on our way back to Minnesota. So in less than two weeks, I’ll be arriving in Hawaii, Kauai to be specific. This will be my second time in Hawaii as I went to Honolulu when I was about 13 with my family, but my first time on Kauai island.

Anini Beach – the closest beach to our resort

It’s no surprise that America’s tropical paradise has been a popular spot for the movies and TV shows. I grew up watching Tom Selleck in his indecently short shorts in Magnum P.I. and I think my brothers like watching the original Hawaii Five-O. I quite like the current remake on CBS as well though I haven’t been watching it much lately (I’m horrible with keeping up w/ TV shows!)

FromHeretoEternityAs far as movies go, there seems to be a ton of films set in Hawaii. The busy Hawaii Film Office calls the islands ‘Hollywood’s Tropical Backlot.’ Perhaps the generous production tax credit makes it a welcoming place for filming, on top of the welcoming climate and spectacular locations of course. From classics like From Here to Eternity, Blue Hawaii, and Tora! Tora! Tora! to contemporary ones like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Punch Drunk Love, Pearl Harbor and Oscar-nominated The Descendants, there have been some popular films set on the islands. Even some of the non-CGI scenes of Avatar were shot in Hawaii. As this site pointed out, the two leads of the movie actually filmed some scenes on location in order to “… give them all a taste of how the scenes would feel if they were being shot in a real rain forest.”

JurassicParkFallsJust on Kauai alone, there are a dozen movies set on the fourth largest island on the archipelago (per Of course the most notable one being Jurassic Park (though the theme park was filmed in the family-owned Kualoa Ranch in Oahu island). I can’t wait to take the helicopter ride to Manawaiopuna Falls, or the Jurassic Park Falls as it’s become known for. The breathtaking 360-foot high falls is in my list of memorable waterfalls in the movies I made almost exactly a year ago. I need to rewatch that movie one of these days, it’s one of my fave movies of the 90s and surely on my top 10 from Spielberg.

My top three movies set in Hawaii (of the ones I have seen so far) would include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and The Descendants. Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor would make my worst, ahah.

So now your turn. What are your top three movies set in Hawaii?

61 thoughts on “Aloha! Hawaii on my mind… what’s your fave movie(s) set in America’s tropical paradise?

  1. I’d have to go with “The Descendants”… a, Cause I love the movie, but b, because it actually isn’t just filmed in Hawaii, the story is set in Hawaii. So I think that’s the trump card there. 🙂

    1. Great choice man! Good point about the story is actually set in Hawaii also. Actually when I was watching The Descendants I kept saying to my hubby, ‘we should go there!’ So it’s nice that the day is finally here 😀

    1. I haven’t even seen that movie but that iconic kissing shot is pretty darn memorable 😉 Yeah I think Blue Crush is set in Hawaii. Hey you were in London for Skyfall, I was super jealous of you then, he..he..

  2. We re-watched ‘The Descendents’ just this weekend! Hmm… I’ll go with three WWII classics:
    • From Here to Eternity
    • In Harm’s Way
    • Tora! Tora! Tora!

  3. PrairieGirl

    A couple of my favorites are TV series: Fantasy Island and Magnum PI (yes, I will shamelessly admit I’m totally OK with Tom Seleck’s shorts -:D). And I’m fascinated by Dog The Bounty Hunter.
    Also, Forgetting Sarah Marshall has truly become quite a guilty pleasure of mine…

    1. I should watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall soon. Maybe if I have some free time before I go (doubt it) I might watch it, I think it’s on Netflix Instant.

  4. Ted S.

    It’s funny that a lot of films were shot in Hawaii but wasn’t set there, they’d used it for a different country or Island.

    I haven’t seen The Descendents yet so I’ll go with some other films I like that were set in Hawaii. Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates was pretty good and Punch Drunk Love.

    I still watch the new Hawaii 5-0, they seem to have more bad episodes than good ones lately.

    1. Yeah, I think the filmmakers probably assume nobody would notice the difference.

      I haven’t seen those two Sandler movies but I heard Punch Drunk Love is good so I might give it a shot even though I’m not normally a big fan of his.

      Ahah, 5-0 is only fun for me because of Alex O’Loughlin but he can’t act. I get bored even after like 5 or so episodes.

    1. You should give The Descendants a try Paula, even as a non-Clooney fan I really like him in it. He..he.. yes I am, but lots to do until then.

    1. Glad to hear! Oh yeah Tropic Thunder is a lot of fun. Kind of vulgar at times but worth seeing just for RDJ’s performance alone. I wonder if I could figure out the exact location of filming in Kauai.

  5. From Here to Eternity stands out from the films on your list, I watched it again a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed watching that stellar cast. Another Hawaii set movie I like is 1987’s Black Widow. There’s a really interesting chemistry between Debra Winger and Theresa Russell in that one and any film featuring the great Dennis Hopper is always worth watching.

    On a more factual level Stacey Peralta’s surfing documentary Riding Giants, broke the mould of conventional documentary film making, with a dynamic account of the pioneers of Hawaii’s big wave surfing pioneers. If I’m not mistaken one of those big wave surfers, Laird Hamilton, has a cameo role in The Descendants.

    Anyway enjoy your trip and catch a wave for me!

    1. Hi Paul! I still need to see ‘From Here to Eternity’! Looks like a great film and it’d be nice to see that iconic kissing shot in context 😉

      Oh yeah, I think Hamilton did have a cameo in The Descendants, good call. I’m not into surfing so I found that out later. He..he… the only wave I’d be catching is those that roll into my foot. I don’t think I could even stand up on a surfing board, well unless it’s just laying on the beach, ahah.

  6. Good question! First three that come to mind for me are Punch-Drunk Love, The Descendants and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

    BTW, if you want to catch Jurassic Park again, apparently it’s coming to theaters in 3D sometime soon. Saw the trailer for it before Life of Pi, and it looked surprisingly slick.

    1. Man, I still need to see two of your faves.

      Oh really? It’d be fun to rewatch Jurassic Park on the big screen, but in 3D would be extra intense! 🙂

  7. As much as I adore “The Descendants” and as soft a spot as I have for “Blue Hawaii”, my answer is “From Here to Eternity.” One of my all timers. I cherish that film.

    Have fun in Hawaii, Ruth! Perfect timing for the trip!

    1. Ok, one more vote for “From Here to Eternity.” I definitely need to see that film! 😀 Thanks Nick, yeah it’s gonna snow this weekend here so definitely perfect timing to leave MN!

  8. I liked “The Descendants” but didn’t love it. As wonderful as the performances were, I didn’t feel that the relationship between father and older daughter was done well. But that’s a different discussion. Like many movies, it did show the beauty of Hawaii.

    When I think of Hawaii I instantly think of the TV show “Lost”. It didn’t take place there but it was filmed there. Gorgeous!!! I know you’re going to have such a good time.

    1. I actually like the relationship between Clooney and the older daughter but at times it did feel somewhat awkward. I do like the premise though and indeed it showed the beauty of Hawaii!

      Oh yes, LOST definitely was filmed on the islands. There might be a tour to the filming sites. Have you been to Hawaii Keith?

  9. That’s great news Ruth. Glad to hear that someone will be toasty over the winter. 🙂
    It’s hard for me to pick three but The Descendants and From Here To Eternity have be in there. Those are certainties.

    1. Well, toasty for a little while. There’ll still be 4 months of Winter to endure afterwards.

      Hey nice picks Mark, I still have to see that classic film!

  10. Such a stunning part of the world. I’d love visit one day. I think The Descendants captures the grandeur of the islands really well plus that map helps you find your way around! 🙂

  11. I didn’t know Jurasic park was shot in Hawaii.
    I dont remember movies set in Hawaii except a tv series called Hawaii Five-O.

    I guess you’ll b having 2nd honeymoon there 😉

  12. The first thing that popped into my mind when mentioned Hawaii is “Lilo & Stich” but I won’t call that a favorite movie. Although I used the “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten” line frequently.

    Didn’t know Jurassic Park was filmed there. Looking the films you’ve mentioned I’ll go for “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” as my pick.

    1. I think the animators did use Hawaii in their storyboard and sketches for the movie, but I haven’t seen Lilo & Stitch. I LOVE Raiders too, but at first I didn’t realize it was shot in Hawaii, I thought it was in South America somewhere.

  13. Magnum PI! Well, if this were about TV series. Strangely, my mind goes to A Perfect Getaway first off. Not a bad film – it does a great job at selling Kauai. Also Jurassic Park – can’t not have that film here.

    1. That’s the one w/ Karl Urban right? I remember seeing the trailer. I like him a lot so I might give it a rent, esp. since it’s set in Kauai!

  14. markuswelby1

    A complete and utter guilty pleasure of mine is a film called “North Shore” about a teen surfer. It’s an 80’s time capsule with bad acting, bad dialogue, and great surfing. When it’s on I simply cannot turn it off. Hawaii’s finest hour.

  15. You are so lucky Ruth! Have a great vacation that will last for a lifetime 😀

    It’s surprising that there isn’t more movies set in Hawaii.. It’s so picturesque. My pick would be The Descendants.

    1. Thanks Castor. Well I hope everything goes well. I think there are actually a lot of movies set in Hawaii, we just probably don’t know ’em if they’re used as a sub for some other place 🙂 Good call on The Descendants.

  16. Vony

    I’ll be going home to my hometown in a couple of weeks 😉 Have fun, mbak !! My fave movie set in Hawaii still ‘Endless Summer’ .. You have to see it !! It’s an oldie, but it’s a great one to see..

    1. Hi Von! Oh so it looks like we’ll miss each other over there. I’m only in Jkt for a week. Enjoy your time there as well. I’ll look up Endless Summer on your recommendation 😀

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