Best Movies Set in Hawaii

Hawaii is a paradise on Earth, its shores are blessed with their white sands, palm trees and clear water. It is a wonderful destination for tourists from all over the world, and it’s also an ideal location for movie producers to make the best romantic and adventure films. If you want to enjoy this piece of heaven, find here our list of the best movies set in Hawaii and enjoy watching.

Soul Surfer – 2011

One of the best movies set in Hawaii created by Sean McNamara, starring Anna Sophia Robb, Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt. It’s about Bethany Hamilton, the 13th years old girl who is enchanted by surfing and wants to become a champion of this sport. One night she goes out surfing but she gets attacked by a shark and loses her arm. Despite this, she kept her faith and trained hard to bring back her abilities and do everything with one hand.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Movie Type: Biography, Drama and Family.

The Descendants – 2011

A comedy movie created by Alexander Payne, and starring George Clooney and Shailene Woodley. It’s about Matt King the rich guy from Hawaii. His family owns about 25 thousand acres in Kauai. The family’s right to use the hand is about to end in 7 years, so they hope they can sell it before this time. However, Matt does not care about all of that and lives his life as a lawyer in Honolulu, although he has a troubles in his marriage with Elizabeth he still cares too much about their daughter Alex. Later, Elizabeth falls into a coma so he decides to raise their daughter by himself.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Movie Type: Drama and Comedy.

50 First Dates – 2004

A romantic movie and one of the most famous movies set in Hawaii starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and directed by Peter Segal. The movie is about Henry Roth who gets in multiple relationships with no strings attached. He has a wonderful life in Hawaii until he saw Lucy. He felt that he finally find his soul mate, and prepares himself for a serious relationship, but when he met her the next day she could not recognize him, and it was an awkward thing for him, but later he learns that she has a rare kind of memory loss, and she cannot remember what happened to her yesterday. This did not stop him from fighting for her and staying with her till the end.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Movie Type: Drama, Romance and Comedy.

Aloha – 2015

Another romance and one from the great movies set in Hawaii created by Cameron Crowe, and starring Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone. The movie is about Brian Gilcrest the famous contractor working for the U.S. army. When he came back to Honolulu to join the U.S. space program. Brian reconnects with the love of his life Tracy Woodside, and finds out that she’s a wife and a mother of two kids. At the same time he falls in love with Allison the air force officer who is working as a watchdog to him.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Movie Type: Drama, Romance and Comedy.

Godzilla – 2014

A Sci-fi movie directed by Gareth Edwards, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston. The movie is set in 1999, when the Janjira nuclear station exploded mysteriously. Most of the people working there were put under quarantine, including Joe Brody the supervisor and his wife Sandra. After that, Joe’s son Ford who is working for the U.S. Navy went to Japan to reveal all the secrets behind the accident, especially after he heard that his father left the quarantine area because he never believed the official report about the accident.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Finding ‘Ohana – 2021

Another comedy and one of the movies set in Hawaii directed by Jude Weng, starring Kea Peahu and Alex Aiono. The movie is about the long summer days in O’ahu from the point of view of two siblings, raised in Brooklyn. Both of them were feeling bored until they found a journal with some instructions leading to a lost treasure, and from this point they set themselves up for an interesting adventure with some new friends, and they reconnect with their Hawaiian legacy.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Comedy.

Lilo & Stitch – 2002

An animation movie created by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, and starring Daveigh Chase and Chris Sanders. The movie is about a genetically modified creature created by Dr. Jumba Jookiba. The creature is so aggressive and become a danger to humanity, but it has only one weak point, and that is his body is high in density, making him sink in water and lose all his power.  The scientists put him in the Galactic jail, and the creature escaped to Earth, and found itself in Hawaii, surrounded by water from all directions. Not only that, but also there are two well-equipped federal agents chasing him. Could they find the creature before causing any harm?

Movie Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Movie Type: Animation, Adventure and Comedy.

Snowden – 2016 

A biography created by Oliver Stone, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. The movie is about Edward Snowden, the agent who resigned from the National Security Agency after he got information about a new program that collects data to track all digital communications. That program will track everyone, not just criminal suspects all over the world. Snowden leaks this information to the public, then the National Security Agency considered him a traitor. Until now, some people consider him as a hero, while others think he is an outlaw.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Movie Type: Biography, Drama and Crime.

Just Go with it – 2011

Another one of the famous movies set in Hawaii directed by Dennis Dugan, and starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. The movie is about doctor Danny the plastic surgeon, who asked his assistant Katherine to pretend that she is his ex-wife, because he lied to his girlfriend telling her that he is married to avoid any strange attachment before he falls in love with her and wants to marry her. But soon he found himself forced to create more and more lies, and he has to learn that a real relationship means you don’t need to create lies or pretend that you are something except yourself.  

Movie Time: 1 hour and 57 minutes.

Movie Type: Romance and Comedy.

Honeymoon in Vegas – 1992

A romantic movie directed by Andrew Bergman and starring Nicholas Cage. The movie is about Jack who went to Las Vegas with Betsy to get married against the will of his late mother. She made him promise her he will never ever marry in his life. In Vegas, Jake lost a lot of money in a poker game to a rich old man, so the man offered him to cancel his dept if he let Betsy go with him for a week. Betsy accepts the offer but Jack feels jealous and chases them everywhere. Could she marry him after all?

Movie Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Movie Type: Romance, Thriller and Comedy.

The Wrong Missy – 2020

A romance movie and another one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Tyler Spindel and starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus. The movie is about Tim who went on a blind date with Melissa (Missy). Before Tim enters the Date location which is a local bar, he got a text message from Missy telling him that she is wearing a blue dress. He found the woman but she was being hit on by a big man called Joe. Tim tries to save her but he knows later that she is not his Missy and the man is her husband. The right Missy interferes at this moment and pretends that the woman’s husband was staring at her and she terrified him with a knife. Tim sneaks out of the bar from the window. Could he and Missy meet each other later or was that the end of their story?

Movie Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Movie Type: Romance and Comedy.

Big Eyes – 2014

Another one of the most famous movies set in Hawaii directed by Tim Burton, and starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. The movie is about a true story that happened in San Francisco in 1950th to the painter Margaret Keane, who tried to find a place for her art specialty; the children with big eyes she used to draw, until she met Walter who married her and pretended that he is the artist that painted her works. At some point Margaret could not tolerate more lies from her husband and wanted to tell everybody in the world that she is the creator of these paintings. She goes to the court trying to prove her rights, but Walter is still playing in his own way to keep everything as it is.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 46 minutes.

Movie Type: Biography, Crime and Drama.

Tropic Thunder – 2008   

A comedy movie directed by Ben Stiller, starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr.. It is one of the best movies set in Hawaii about Tugg Speedman, the action movie star who wants to get more serious roles in his career, but his past haunts him, as well as his addiction to drugs. He wants to adapt a memoir into a new movie. The memoir is written by a war veteran that fought in Vietnam, and his name is Tayback. The movie will be called “Tropic Thunder”. Could Speedman prove himself as a serious actor with this role?

Movie Time: 1 hour and 47 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Comedy and War.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981

An Indiana Jones movie and one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. The movie is set in 1936 about a new adventure for the archeology professor Indiana Jones who is looking for a golden statue  in South America’s jungles. He survives a deadly trap, then he starts to looks for “The Ark of the Covenant” which is an artifact mentioned in the Bible as the key to human existence key. In order to find it, he traveled to many places including Egypt and Nepal.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Movie Type: Action and Adventure.

Jurassic Park – 1993   

Another Steven Spielberg movie and another one of the great movies set in Hawaii starring Sam Neil, and Laura Dern. It’s about John Hammond who owns an advanced technology that created a big number of dinosaurs. He is making an isolated island as a theater for his experiments, calling it “Jurassic Park”. One day John invites 4 family members to visit his island, but it seems like the visit will not go as they plan, because one of his employees steals some dinosaur embryos and the safety system suddenly stopped.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Paradise, Hawaiian Style – 1966

An Elvis Presley movie directed by Michael D. Moore, the movie is one of the classic movies set in Hawaii. It’s about a helicopter pilot named Rick Richards that has ambitions to start a charter service in Hawaii, and to do that he has to make good connections with the Hawaiian people including Judy Hudson (Suzanna Leigh) and her father, and he sings a lot of romantic songs for her.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes.

Movie Type: Musical and Comedy.

Battleship – 2012

Another one of the movies set in Hawaii starring Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård and Rihanna, and directed by Peter Berg. The movie is about an Alien invasion starting with five spaceships. The invasion interrupts the routine exercise of the international fleet of naval warships, and constitutes a big threat to life on Earth. People need to face it bravely, especially Alex Hopper and his crew who are working on the guided-missile destroyer, USS John Paul Jones.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 11 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Punch-Drunk Love – 2002

One of the famous movies set in Hawaii. The movie was created by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson. It’s about Barry Egan, who is treated badly by his sisters and suffers from low self-esteem. Even though he runs a successful company, he is afraid of getting into a relationship, and doesn’t dare to follow his dream of traveling around the world. He couldn’t recognize how his sister’s friend Lena is attracted to him and he let Georgia and her family take advantage of him.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Movie Type: Comedy, Drama and Romance.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 2013

One of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Francis Lawrence, and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. The movie is a sequel that follows the story of Katniss Everdeen and her partner Peeta Mellark who found themselves again in the hunger games “Victor’s Tour” after their epic winning one year before. President Snow created this contest to punish her because she choose to die with Peeta instead of killing him. Could they win again?

Movie Time: 2 hours and 26 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Tora! Tora! Tora! – 1970

A history movie directed by Richard Fleischer, and starring Martin Balsam and Sô Yamamura. The movie is about the Japanese army attack on Pearl Harbor, and how this decision took place after a tense period between the Japanese government and the U.S government, following the U.S. embargo on Japanese raw material. American intelligence agencies intercept a Japanese communication, and know about the intention to attack, but they didn’t believe it would really happen.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Drama and History.

Everything, Everything – 2017

A romance movie and one of the movies set in Hawaii directed by Stella Meghie, and starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson. It’s about Madeline Whittier who lived in her house and never went outside because she is suffering from a rare disease that makes her very sensitive. She spends most of her time reading books, until one day a new neighbor named Olly Bright lives next door. They connect with each other through emails, then they become closer, and fall in love with each other. He makes her feel that she isn’t living her life as it should be.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Movie Type: Drama and Romance.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – 2011

A fantasy movie and one of the great movies set in Hawaii directed by Rob Marshall and starring Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz. It’s about Captain Jack Sparrow who has a crush on an unmerciful woman named Angelica. He doesn’t know whether she likes him or if she’s just using him to find the Fountain of Youth. To complete her plan, she forced him to go with her onboard Queen Anne’s Revenge ship, so he found himself in an unexpected adventure.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Fantasy.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle‬ – 2017

An adventure movie directed by Jake Kasdan, starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. It is about a special kind of video game called “Jumanji” found by four school teenagers. When they start the game, they become their avatars and find themselves in the Jungle. Another surprise was waiting for them, which is they need to survive and avoid death or they will be losing their life. They also found traces left by Alan Parrish, who enter the game 20 years prior. The adventure makes them learn more about themselves and also about each other.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Comedy.

Jumanji: The Next Level – 2019

Another adventure from the famous sequel and one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Jake Kasdan, starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. The adventure this time is about the same players who went back to the game to find that it has changed dramatically. Nothing is as it was before, now they need to discover uncharted territories, going through the snowy mountains and arid deserts, to find their way out of the most dangerous game ever made.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Comedy.

Plane – 2023

Another adventure movie and one of the movies set in Hawaii Created by Jean-François Richet, starring Gerard Butler and Mike Colter. It’s about Captain Brodie Torrance, a pilot who lives in Singapore and wants to invite his daughter Daniela to spend the holidays together in the family home in Honolulu. But first, he needs to do a mission for the FBI, to transport a criminal named Louis Gaspare onboard the Trailblazer Airlines Flight 119, alongside a few other passengers. They face a storm, which keeps getting worse and worse, until it causes serious damages to the airplane. Brodie manages to land them safely on an island. However, he finds himself and the other survivors hostages to a dangerous rebel group on the island, and now the only person who can save them is Louis Gaspare.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 47 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Thriller.

Waterworld – 1995

A Sci-fi movie and one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Kevin Reynolds, starring Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The movie is set in the future about a mariner who sails in his boat over the sea after water has covered most of the Earth due to climate changes. The survivors live in towns called “Atolls”, but they all dreaming about “Dryland” which is a place suitable for living. They get attacked by pirates who call themselves The Smokers, so Helen and her daughter Enola ask the Mariner to take them to the Dryland, using the map drawn on Enola’s back as a tattoo.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Throw Momma from the Train – 1987

A comedy movie directed by and starring Danny DeVito, about the famous writer Larry Donner who worked as a literature professor and his life was going well, until one day his ex-wife published a book under her name to get rich. Larry felt so bad but he got a strange offer from one of his students named Owen. The deal was that the student would kill his ex-wife Margaret but in return Larry had to kill this student’s mother. Larry thought this was a joke, but Owen did his part of the deal, and now it is Larry’s turn to kill Owen’s mother.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 28 minutes.

Movie Type: Comedy, Crime and Thriller.

Hereafter – 2010

A fantasy movie directed by Clint Eastwood and one of the best movies set in Hawaii starring Matt Damon and Cécile de France. The movie is about George Lonegan the American construction worker, Marie Lelay the French journalist, and Marcus the schoolboy from London. All of them somehow get haunted by death, and they go on a spiritual journey that changes their point of view on life and humanity.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Movie Type: Drama, Fantasy and Romance.

Hotel Transylvania – 2012

A movie directed by Genndy Tartakovsky and one of the best movies set in Hawaii starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Selena Gomez. The movie is set in 1895 about Dracula the vampire who built a hidden hotel in Transylvania, away from humans to raise his daughter Mavis and provide her with a good environment. At this hotel, all kinds of monsters can spend a good time together without fear of judgment. On Mavis’s 118th birthday, she meets Jonathan, a guy that got lost in the forest and found himself near the hotel. This was the first time in her to see a human. Mavis falls in love with him despite all her father warnings to stay away from humans.

Movie Time: 1 hours and 31 minutes.

Movie Type: Animation, Adventure and Comedy.

Addams Family Values – 1993

A comedy movie directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd. The movie is about Gomez and Morticia Addams who hired a new nanny for their newborn son. They want her to keep an eye on him after his siblings Wednesday and Pugsley tried to get rid of him several times, but Debbie (the new nanny) is not who they think. She is a serial killer that marries rich men to take their money, and she is here to take care of the new baby but to  seduce Gomez’s little brother or Uncle Fester.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 34 minutes.

Movie Type: Fantasy and Comedy.

Avatar – 2009

Another one of the best movies set in Hawaii created by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. It is about Jake Sully, the retired marine soldier who decides to take his brother’s place after he died in a mission, which requires using his avatar to mine materials from Pandora for the benefit of Parker Selfridge, the leader of an energy corporation. In return, Selfridge will pay for a spinal surgery to fix his legs. However, day after day Jake forms a strong bond with the natives on Pandora, or the Neytiri nation.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 42 minutes.

Movie Type: Fantasy, Action and Adventure.

Jungle Cruise – 2021    

Another one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. The movie is set in 1916 about two siblings, Dr.Lily Houghton the botanist and her brother MacGregor, who went on an adventure hoping they can change the world. Dr. Houghton hired Captain Frank Wolff to take her in a river boat through Amazon River, in a green maze full of dangerous animals no one can defeat. She was looking for a mysterious thing. Could she find it at the end?

Movie Time: 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Movie Type: Comedy, Action and Adventure.

Triple Frontier – 2019  

A movie created by J.C. Chandor and starring Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac. It’s about a group of former Special Forces operatives, they communicate together and reunite to plan a heist. They went to South America, choosing the triple borders area between Peru, Brazil and Colombia. They want to take the money from a cocaine cartel boss, but nothing goes as they had planned.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Movie Type: Action and Thriller.

Snatched – 2017

A movie directed by Jonathan Levine and one of the movies set in Hawaii starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. It’s about Emily Middleton the 30-year-old woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend and loses her job on the same day. She was planning to go with him on a vacation to Ecuador, and she has two non-refundable tickets for the trip, so she asked her mother to go with her to Ecuador, and forget about all the stresses of her daily life, but her dream vacation turns into a nightmare, and now all they want is to escape with their lives.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Comedy.

Windtalkers – 2002

A war movie directed by John Woo, starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach. The movie is set during World War II, and its about a secure way used by American Soldiers to communicate with each other. They used the Navajo language, and hired people who can speak it. They also have to protect them to prevent the enemy from knowing their code. Joe Enders is one of the soldiers who is protecting a Navajo speaker called Ben Yahzee. At first, they could not tolerate each other, but later they become best friends.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Drama and War.

Read also: Movies Shot in Amsterdam

Planet of the Apes – 2001     

A Sci-fi movie directed by Tim Burton, and starring Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter. The movie is one of the famous movies set in Hawaii about Leo Davidson the astronaut who lives in 2029. He goes on a mission to a space station to rescue the crew over there, but he passes through a wormhole into a strange planet run by apes. The apes in this planet are leading human. Leo helped people on planet ape to avoid General Thade and his Gorilla army, and take them to the forbidden zone on the planet, revealing many secrets about the past and the future of humanity.

Movie Time: 2 hours.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Ant-Man and the Wasp – 2018    

Another one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Payton Reed and starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. The movie is about Scott Lang who is trying to meet his responsibilities as a super hero. Dr. Hank Pym sent him for a new mission with Hope van Dyne, to face Ghost who is a criminal with superpowers. They both try their best to avoid failing and use their skills to stay alive with this tiny size.  

Movie Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Comedy.

Aloha, Scooby-Doo! – 2005

An animated addition to the best movies set in Hawaii, directed by Tim Maltby, and starring Casey Kasem and Frank Welker. The adventure this time is about Daphne who went to Hawaii to join a company as a clothing designer, and she takes the whole group with her. Before they leave their place, a man warns them about an evil spirits over there, but the group did not listen to him and went to Hanahuna. They went to watch a Big Kahuna Surfing Contest, and they knew that Manu was the last year champion. This year, the Mayor lets everyone join the Surfing Contest, and that makes the Wiki Tiki spirit so angry because only locals are usually allowed to join the contest. Could the Scooby Doo group save the contest?

Movie Time: 1 hour and 14 minutes.

Movie Type: Animation, Adventure and Comedy.

2012 – 2009

An end of the world movie created by Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack and Thandiwe Newton. It is about a cataclysmic event that may doom life on Earth. Dr. Adrian Helmsley says that it is due to the radiations coming from the solar system, which is heating up the Earth’s core. Dr. Adrian Helmsley warns President Thomas Wilson, sending everyone into a panic as they try to find a way to survive. The movie follows Jackson Curtis, a writer who wants to save his family, but earthquakes and volcanic eruptions increase making it impossible to survive.

Movie Time: 2 hours and 38 minutes.

Movie Type: Action, Adventure and Sci-fi.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall – 2008

A comedy movie and one of the best movies set in Hawaii directed by Nicholas Stoller, and starring Kristen Bell, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Mila Kunis, and Russell Brand. It is about Peter the composer who got depressed after he was dumped by his girlfriend the actress Sarah Marshall. His step-brother Brian takes him on vacation to cheer him up, but when they both reach Oahu they found Sarah with her new boyfriend Aldous the rock star at the same resort. This makes Peter so sad again, until he met Rachel the hotel clerk who rescues him and makes him love life again.

Movie Time: 1 hour and 51 minutes.

Movie Type: Comedy, Drama and Romance.

Hanan Hikal
Hanan Hikal
Articles: 62

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