20th Century Fox

The best beach movies of all time

It's summer. And while going to the beach in this current climate might not be possible, there are plenty of movie options to fill that void. Whether drama, comedy or action, beach/ocean/lake movies are summer staples.

Here's a look at some of the better ones through the years. 

 
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"Gidget" (1959)

"Gidget" (1959)
Columbia Pictures

"Gidget" Lawrence, no matter who played her, has become synonymous with beach culture entertainment, whether on television or film. In this case, Sandra Dee stars as the bubbly, fun-leaving surfer girl who was a ray of sunshine for everybody she came in contact with. This movie spawned various sequels, TV series and spinoffs that can still be enjoyed today.

 
2 of 20

"Blue Hawaii" (1961)

"Blue Hawaii" (1961)
Paramount Pictures

While many Elvis Presley fans don't consider this one of The King's better films, it's still a fun-loving romp and musical romantic comedy that is pretty enjoyable. While the Elvis die-hards might not have rank this movie too high, one can't help but enjoy hearing his classics like "Blue Hawaii" and "Can't Help Falling in Love." 

 
3 of 20

"Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965)

"Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965)
American International

Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were king and queen of the 1960s beach movies, and this might be their most popular. It was an innocent time. Hanging in the sand, catching some rays and some waves. Plus, there's the music — the title track and “I Think You Think." There really was not a care back then, when it always seemed like a day at the beach.

 
4 of 20

"The Endless Summer" (1966)

"The Endless Summer" (1966)
Cinema V

Considered the most detailed and influential surf films ever, it essentially introduced the world to the surf culture, documenting the lives of surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August, who traveled the world looking for that "perfect wave." The movie is also highly acclaimed for its photography and the way it captured the relationship between man and the water — specifically the waves. 

 
5 of 20

"Jaws" (1975)

"Jaws" (1975)
Universal Studios

Not exactly an uplifting beach theme of a movie. Maybe because a mayor like Amity's Larry Vaughn failed to heed the advice of knowledgeable officials (sound like someone American's might know?) and keep people off the beach because of a shark in the water. One would think some of those same people would learn that it's not always safe to go in the water.

 
6 of 20

"Jaws 2" (1978)

"Jaws 2" (1978)
Universal Pictures

One would think the folks — or at least teenagers — on Amity Island would have learned their lesson from 1975. That was not the case, and another great white was on the loose, terrorizing the sailing-crazed and irritating Chief Brody (Roy Scheider). And, once again, Mayor Vaughn refused to keep his citizens and visitors from taking to the beach. How did that guy keep getting elected?

 
7 of 20

"The Blue Lagoon" (1980)

"The Blue Lagoon" (1980)
Columbia Pictures

It was the film that brought Brooke Shields to prominence even while being panned for her role. It's also a picture that, looking back on it today, might be kind of hoaky. Two youngsters stranded on an island and forced to grow up and deal with puberty without any adult supervision. It was controversial at the time but also rather popular with audiences. Co-star Christopher Atkins was actually nominated for a Golden Globe.

 
8 of 20

"Weekend at Bernie’s" (1989)

"Weekend at Bernie’s" (1989)
20th Century Fox

What can be more fun than hanging with a dead Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) at a Hamptons beach house? For Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman), it became a chore, and, really a way to stay alive. However, it was all a silly good time that audiences actually ate up in bulk. Bernie's time on the boat is highly entertaining

 
9 of 20

"Side Out" (1990)

"Side Out" (1990)
TriStar Pictures

Back to a time when beach volleyball was as hot as the sand it was played on. So of course, Hollywood had to take advantage. C. Thomas Howell starred as a Midwest transplant in California for a law internship, only to be turned on to pro volleyball. This movie is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else, but it's fun in the sense that it does not take much to enjoy or long for a day in the sand.

 
10 of 20

"Point Break" (1991)

"Point Break" (1991)
20th Century Fox

A guilty pleasure to some is a crime-action classic for others . This one starred two of Hollywood's biggest draws at the time in Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Johnny Utah (Reeves), the football player-turned-FBI agent, infiltrates a group of surfers who are believed to be criminals. It's what one would expect from an early 1990s film but still a lot of fun to watch in the present day.

 
11 of 20

"Six Days, Seven Nights" (1998)

"Six Days, Seven Nights" (1998)
Touchstone Pictures

Quinn (Harrison Ford) is a surly pilot flying a fashion editor (Anne Heche) in the South Pacific. The plane crashes and these two opposites are stranded on a deserted island. The action heats up when some pirates burst on to the scene. The Ivan Reitman film has its moments and Heche and Ford have enough modest chemistry to keep the viewer entertained without being been too bored.

 
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"The Beach" (2000)

"The Beach" (2000)
20th Century Fox

This is not one of Leonardo DiCaprio's best films, and some even felt it was downright bad. The latter might be a bit harsh. The story is interesting enough, with Leo's Richard hanging on an island near Thailand that includes some strange farmers. Sure, it's a little freaky and uninhabited on a few different levels that leaves some scratching their heads. Still, it's not necessarily time wasted for the viewer. 

 
13 of 20

"Cast Away" (2000)

"Cast Away" (2000)
Twentieth Century Fox/Dreamworks Pictures

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) did not intend to spend several years alone on a deserted island, but after a plane crash that's exactly what happened. Chuck made the most of his time, fishing, making fire, building a raft and even doing some personal dentistry. He also made a special friend: Wilson. It's among Hanks' better films and one about self-reflection and direction

 
14 of 20

"Psycho Beach Party" (2000)

"Psycho Beach Party" (2000)
Strand

Based on an off-Broadway play, this is one of the more underrated horror/beach movies out there. Then again, most might have missed it, and that's kind of a shame. Starring Amy Adams and Lauren Ambrose, this is an all-encompassing parody of the old-timey beach movies and the popular slasher films of the late 1970s and '80s. It's actually a good time all around when you get into it.

 
15 of 20

"American Pie 2" (2001)

"American Pie 2" (2001)
Universal Studios

Not as good as the first "American Pie" movie but enough to be considered a solid summer film that takes place at a "lake" house somewhere in Michigan. Of course, the usual hijinks involving Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott) are there, but again, it is not as hilarious as the first take. However, it's enough to kill some time if a day at the beach is not possible. 

 
16 of 20

"Blue Crush" (2002)

"Blue Crush" (2002)
Universal Studios

This is not your mother's surf movie. "Blue Crush " showcased the surfing scene on O'ahu's North Shore. It follows former teen surfing star Anne Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth), who is trying to make a comeback following a serious wipeout. It's also got a rom-com feel and plenty of captivating photography from one of the world's best surf spots.

 
17 of 20

"Surf's Up" (2007)

"Surf's Up" (2007)
Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures

Surfing penguins. Why not. Cody (Shia LaBeouf) dreams of becoming a superstar surfer. However, he's still a little immature and needs a some wisdom to keep him on the right track. This Oscar-nominated animated film was a hit, and even earned a sequel: "Surf's Up 2: WaveMania." Though that one went straight to video. Still, this original, which is somewhat of a spoof on the aforementioned "The Endless Summer," is a quality family film whose message never tires. 

 
18 of 20

"The Descendants" (2011)

"The Descendants" (2011)
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Set in Hawaii, attorney Matt King (George Clooney) has a lot on his plate while living in this beautiful island landscape. Directed by the great Alexander Payne, there is his usual strong  balance of drama and appropriate humor among family dysfunction and tragedy. There are also plenty of poignant beach and outdoor moments that reinforce how cinematically strong this film is. This a breakout moment for actress Shailene Woodley.

 
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"Soul Surfer" (2011)

"Soul Surfer" (2011)
TriStar Pictures

This is based on the real-life story of young Bethany Hamilton, the surfer girl who lost her arm in a shark attack . However, she showed her resilience to get back on the board and tackle the waves again. Starring AnnaSophia Robb in the lead role, and also featuring Dennis Quaid, this is a heartwarming film and one the entire family can enjoy. Plus, there are more fabulous visuals of Hawaii to make us wish we were there.

 
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"The Shallows" (2016)

"The Shallows" (2016)
Columbia Pictures

If you have not figured out by this point, surfing has become somewhat of an underlying theme to this list. Blake Lively stars as a medical student who finds herself at a personal crossroads, trying to survive while stranded on a rock in the middle of shark-infested waters while vacationing on a Mexican beach that holds sentimental value. This thriller might be under the radar for some but certainly worth a look.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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