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You're landlocked in the middle of summer, down to your last popsicle, and the A.C. is no longer doing it for you. The salty sea breeze of a classic beach movie will cool you down STAT. Beach movies are always fun, even if they're a little spooky or melancholy. Actors want their #TodaysOffice to be the waves and shore as much we do.
Just looking at images of white sand and turquoise water flicker across your screen is instantly relaxing, like a cold glass of H2O on a hot day. There's a reason all those pre-set laptop screensavers are pics of empty beaches. Show me a video of palm trees swaying in the wind and watch as my heart rate lowers.
If you're wondering what makes a beach movie a beach movie, allow me to break it down:
It was filmed at the beach
It's about the beach
It features some kind of beach vacation scene
All the above
Now that that's settled, let's get to the list so you can start sipping the frozen Piña Colada sweating on your coffee table. (No? Get yourself a blender!) These beach movies are so delightful, you'll literally feel the sand between your toes and the warm sun on your skin through the screen.
It's not a beach that I personally would like to visit, but it is a beach! Director M. Night Shyamalan's thriller about the beach that makes you old is a must-see, even if you need to read the Wikipedia page first.
After Bridesmaids there were a ton of female-led ensemble comedies trying to recapture that vibe. This one kind of flew under the radar, but it's super fun! Your faves are in it and the antics are delightful. Nobody's gonna say no to a movie with Zoë Kravitz, Jillian Bell, Scarlet Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Ilana Glazer.
You could thrift a whole wardrobe trying to channel Kate Bosworth's breezy surfer vibes...or you could just pop this movie on. Your call.
The Secret of Roan Innish
This is a beach movie for a rainy day and/or if you have kiddos about. It's all about a young girl who goes to live with her grandparents on the Irish coast and starts... if you can believe it... refurbishing houses on an abandoned island for fun. There's magic and stuff too but dang, is this what kids did before the internet?
Honestly, thinking about being stranded on an island with a bunch of FedEx packages reminds me a lot of April 2020 quarantine lockdown times. But sometimes you just need to cuddle up with your volleyball bestie and watch Tom Hanks go to work.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Seagulls in a group, can you hear my prayer? Barb & Star is already an instant classic. Two best friends step outside of their comfort zone for a beach vacation that's anything but basic... and all of the goofy shenanigans that Kristin Wiig can provide? Thank Trish for this perfect beach movie.
It's the ultimate chick flick and it's literally called Beaches, sooo...
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
The best thing about the Dirty Dancing... prequel, technically... is that it's not trying to copy the original at all. That and Diego Luna is super cute and chaotic. And it has the beach!
The Rogers and Hammerstein musical has some classic beach looks and is honestly pretty challenging with its social themes. It's a tricky one, because there are some harmful stereotypes and really thoughtful exploration of implicit bias. Plus, you know, some banging melodies.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
This sexy psychological thriller would be nothing without its sunny beach setting. The water! The swimsuits! All the better for what goes down.
Nights in Rodanthe
Nicholas Sparks is a very beachy writer, and the beach inn featured in this movie is ICONIC. It's also set in North Carolina, so Outer Banks fans might want to take note.
The Way Way Back
It's a coming-of-age story. It's a family vacation on the beach. There's a water park. It's very 2013 but what can you do?
Okay, so this is an action movie but watching a heist unfold is pretty dang escapist, and it's about surfers. It doesn't get beachier than that, right? Wrong! Human Mai Tais Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves are in this movie, too.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
For the wistful, contemplative beach movie seekers out there, I got you. Lisa Frank colors aren't for everyone. Grab your coziest mug of tea, turn off folklore, and settle in for this gorgeous (and very sandy) romance.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
This insta-classic features a beach approximately 1/4 of the time, so we're counting it! There's no better summer movie, truly.
This New Zealand-set coming of age story will warm your heart while you're enchanted by gorgeous scenery. Whale Rider is about a girl named Pai who believes she is destined to be the next chief of her Maori tribe, but her grandfather isn't willing to let go of patriarchal tradition. It's also a perfect family film if you happen to be in mixed company, BTW.
Gillian Jacobs' work trip to Barcelona becomes a sexy adventure when her two chaotic BFFs insist on crashing, and before they know it, they're chasing hot DJ Richard Madden from gig to gig, all the way to the island of Ibiza. This movie is perfect, I have absolutely no notes. It's the only thing that made me smile in the early days of 2020 Vitamin D deprivation, you have no idea.
Teen Beach Movie
You know how sometimes you just wanna turn your brain off and watch a Disney Channel Original Movie? What if I told you this one is low-key a masterpiece? It's about two kids who, on the verge of breaking up after a perfect summer, get sucked into an old '60s style beach movie (it used to be a whole thing, Google "Annette Funicello") and fall back in love while figuring out how to sing and dance their way out of this wacky situation.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
If you want to watch some seriously horny coming of age movie instead, Alfonso Cuarón's iconic film is right for you. When their girlfriends go away for the summer, Julio and Tenoch go on a road trip to the beach with an older woman that takes some angsty and sexy twists and turns. That's probably oversimplifying the plot of this, but uhhhh... vibes only.
Featuring the legendary rom-com duo Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, this early 2000s flick involves an elaborate treasure hunt in the Caribbean. Think aquamarine water, lush tropical islands, and that Hudson-McConaughey chemistry we all love and need. Goes perfect with a rum drink and your couch.
I can't decide what's more mesmerizing in my all-time favorite movie: Meryl Streep singing ABBA or the breathtaking views of Greece. TG I don't have to choose, ya know? Mamma Mia! is basically an ad for the Greek islands with its deep blue ocean and crisp white buildings. It's also a magical, happy, feel-good movie that'll brighten your mood 100%.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Also: Don't forget about the sequel!!
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
So you go to Hawaii after getting dumped (break-up vacays are most definitely a thing) only to discover that your ex (and their new S.O.) are staying at the same hotel. This comedy starring Jason Segal and Mila Kunis puts Drake's question to the test: how you goin' be mad on vacation?
Four couples head to legit paradise but soon find out they have to endure marriage counseling in order to stay. The movie is shot in Bora Bora which is pretty much a screen-saver background come to life. Besides drooling over the fake-looking turquoise ocean and the overwater villas, you'll be cracking up at this hilarious comedy.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Stella is a hard-working, bad-ass boss who hasn't relaxed in a minute. Her friends force her to go on vacation to Jamaica (side note: where can I find friends like that?) where she meets the smokin' hot Taye Diggs. The kind of island fling you've always dreamed about during vacay, tbh.
Into the Blue
Bikinis, chiseled bods, and diving in the Bahamas...what more could you want? Oh, add a young Jessica Alba and Paul Walker and you have Into the Blue, a movie that's part action, part thriller, and major beautiful scenery.
The Last Song
Miley and Liam might be over IRL, but this movie is forever. That's what happens when you combine a teen romance set on the stunning southern coast with Ms. Miley's singing. A major throwback, but you'll still belt out every word to "When I Look At You" when it comes on.
The Other Woman
I guarantee you'll laugh your lil bum off throughout every second of this movie about, er, unconventional friendships...like becoming BFFs with the woman your husband cheated on you with and then joining forces to ruin the scumbag's life. Did I mention: beach scenes in the Hamptons and Jamaica. Plus Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton, and Nicki Minaj. Pee-your-pants funny.
Yes, of course Aquamarine is on this list, don't act surprised. Hello, two girls find a real-life mermaid who help them live their best lives. Still not over those talking starfish earrings...
This movie is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, the champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. If you're looking for an inspirational and heart-warming story with a Hawaiian backdrop, get your eyeballs on this one.
Something's Gotta Give
Would it truly be a Diane Keaton movie without a picturesque house at an enviable location, such as, IDK, a mansion in the Hamptons? A classic rom-com about falling in love on the beach. And Keanu Reeves plays a doctor, in case you needed another reason to love him.
Like the book it's based on, Something Borrowed is perfect for the beach. The movie is what we all wish our summers in the city looked like: going back and forth between NYC and the Hamptons. It also has a pretty entertaining and intriguing story line, like having an affair with your best friend's fiancé who you've been in love with forever. You know, a typical summertime romance ordeal.
Just Go With It
With a cast featuring Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, and Adam Sandler and lush Hawaii as the backdrop, this rom-com is exactly what you want from a beach movie: funny, easy, not so serious, and most of all, re-lax-ing.
50 First Dates
Another classic Adam Sandler situation: a Groundhog Day-esque movie (but with the beach instead of snow, phew) about falling in love with a girl who has memory loss. The comedy poses a seriously difficult question: would you go on 50 first dates if they were all on the beach?
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