17 Movies Filmed in Hawaii


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The Aloha (meaning both hello and goodbye) State is unique from the rest of the United States in a lot of ways, such as not observing daylight savings time and they even have two official languages: English and Hawaiian. And its 137 islands (only seven inhabited) represent the largest chain in the world.

But it’s the geography of Hawaii that really makes it stand out, as it has the tallest mountain in the world, Maunakea, when you include the base that is submerged in the Pacific. It’s the most isolated population on the globe (2400 miles from closest land), and then there are the beaches, over 100 beaches throughout, providing 750 miles of sandy coastline, some of it green, red, pink, and even black.

With all this sheer beauty and exclusivity, it’s not surprising that so many filmmakers have chosen the one and only island state as a location for certain scenes in their movies or even their entirety. See below for a list of some of the most well-known:

Flicks Filmed on Location in Hawaii

Jurassic Park (1993)

Aside from the dinosaurs, Steven Spielberg’s smash hit had some of the most beautiful scenery, which can all be found on Oahu right at Kualoa Ranch. You may recognize it from other movies and TV shows, as it’s heavily used and has even been nicknamed “Hawaii’s Backlot”. The movie won an Academy Award for both sound and visual effects.

Lord of the Flies (1990)

This adaptation of William Golding’s 1954 novel used areas of Hamakua, Kauai, Hana, and Maui to represent the remote island the boys land on, as opposed to Peter Brooks’ 1963 version, which used Puerto Rico. In real life, none of these islands or areas are really the worst place to be stranded. Unless of course, you’re with Jack and his crew.

Point Break (1991)

For a movie based around a group of criminal surfers, it’s no surprise that many scenes with FBI agent Johnny Utah and Bodhi and the Ex-Presidents were shot in Oahu at Pipeline Beach, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay. Keanu Reeves is part Hawaiian himself, his name meaning “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian, which is very fitting.

Battleship (2012)

Although not quite as well-received as Clue was when it hit the screen in 1985, this military science fiction action film, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Liam Neeson, is loosely based upon the naval combat board game that was released by Milton Bradley in 1967. Filmmakers used both Maui and Oahu to fill in several scenes throughout.

The Hunger Games- Catching Fire (2013)

Of course Peeta and Katniss will have to face the consequences for their unprecedented win of the 74th Annual Hunger Games. When they are forced back into competition in Catching Fire, they must fight for their lives in a treacherous jungle. That jungle is in the Waimea Valley and the Manoa Valley of Hawaii’s most populated island, Oahu.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Peter Brenner thought the best way to get over his superstar famous ex was to take a vacation. He chose Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu to escape, but we all know that instead of escaping, he plunged himself directly into his ex and her new beau. The film was able to use the actual Turtle Bay Resort for filming, which boasts five miles of beachfront.

The Descendants (2011)

The George Clooney-led comedy-drama finds the main action of the movie set in Hawaii. As Matt King struggles to deal with his wife’s boating accident, her will, raising his teenaged children, and his wife’s supposed affair, at least he has the backdrop and beauty of Oahu and Kauai to look at. The film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Hawaii took on the role of Vietnam in this action-comedy, both starring and directed by Ben Stiller. Filming locations include Kauai Ranch, Kipu Ranch, Hanalei Bay Resort, and Keahua Arboretum. Other actors who played actors playing soldiers included Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, and Anthony Ruivivar. And Tom Cruise’s role is not to be missed.

Avatar (2009)

Like every other out-of-this-world movie that has been made, Avatar suffers from the fact that its setting does not exactly exist. So James Cameron improvised. In addition to other locations throughout the US and foreign countries, he used Hawaii, namely the Hamakua Coast, Oahu, and Kauai to bring his science fiction masterpiece to life.

Waterworld (1994)

Although we are not quite a world full of water just yet, the majority of this Kevin Costner-led post-apocalyptic action movie was filmed in Hawaii. At the time, at $175 million, it was the most expensive movie ever made. Unfortunately, it did find success at the box office. You can spot Kona, Kawaihae Harbor, and Waipio Valley.

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)

Although a good portion of the film takes place in Vegas of course, Elvis impersonators included, James Caan jets Sarah Jessica Parker off to Hawaii as part of Nicholas Cage “paying off debts”. There were various scenes all over Kauai, from the Marriott Resort to the Westin Kauai Hotel to the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

George of the Jungle (1997)

While it’s obvious that the city scenes within this comedy movie were shot in San Francisco where the movie’s setting later moves to, those scenes in the jungle weren’t shot where they were set. The jungle where they find George is in the East African country of Uganda, but those large shots were actually done in Kauai.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

For this first installment of Indiana Jones, writer George Lucas chose Peru as the setting. However, when it came to getting that on film, Spielberg brought Harrison Ford and company to Kauai’s Kipu Ranch and Anahola Mountains. And if you’re wondering, the famous boulder chase scene also came out of Hawaii: Huleai National Wildlife Refuge.

Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)

It’s no secret that singer Elvis Presley had a thing for Hawaii; it was his most favorite vacation spot to rest and relax. This musical comedy was one out of three of his thirty-one movies that were shot there. Locations for this picture included Waikiki Beach and Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. It featured Presley’s hit song “Return to Sender.”

South Pacific (1958)

Since the movie never makes mention of where exactly in the South Pacific they are, the options for shooting are plentiful. However, in this case, filmmakers totally left the South Pacific and chose Hanalei Bay in Kauai to tell the story. And Bali Hai, which is known as Ambae, was represented by Mount Makana.

The Karate Kid Part 2 (1986)

The second part of the Karate Kid series finds Daniel accompanying Mr. Miyagi back to his homeland of Okinawa, one of Japan’s five main islands. However, in the film, Oahu posed as Okinawa, which is much closer to Daniel’s hometown of Reseda, California. The movie was the most profitable of the franchise until the 2010 movie was released.

Outbreak (1995)

There probably isn’t too much of a need to summarize this Dustin Hoffman/Morgan Freeman medical disaster movie, despite it being released over two decades ago, considering how popular it was this past year. The beginning scenes that took place in Central Africa’s Zaire were done in Kauai.

With Hawaii’s rich beauty and unique landscapes that enable filmmakers to replicate locations that would otherwise be nearly impossible, filming in the state that gave us Barack Obama, Bette Middler, Jason Momoa, and many others, will only become more popular. Which will in turn, continue to keep tourism as the leading source of income.