Top 10 Movies Produced In Hawaii

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 28, 2007

The film industry has contributed more than $160 million tax revenues to the state since 1992. Yes, that is a lot of money. We know what the financial impact has been from film, but what about the finished product? I’ve got some questions for you.

* In what year was the first Hollywood production in Hawaii?

* Can you name the title? * What was the best year for film production in Hawaii?

* Which film made the greatest contribution to the local economy?

* What was the best film ever made in Hawaii?

I’ll get to the answers later. Here are my Top 10 Movies Produced in Hawaii (drum roll, please).


10) Lilo and Stitch, Walt Disney Pictures (2001)

Yes, I know. It’s animated. But it is all about Kauai. If I am not mistaken, I believe the production came to Kauai to ensure its authenticity. The movie introduced a cultural icon, Stitch, especially if you are under 5 years old. The story was compelling, and many live action films had a more outlandish premise. Tia Carrere and Jason Scott Lee gave it local cred.

9) 10, Warner Bros. (1979) OK, Oscar didn’t come knocking on the door, but the flick was ultra-cool back in the day. Blake Edwards assembled the perfect cast for such a memorable film. Dudley Moore, as manic as ever, was given a stage for his piano playing, and Bo Derek had a look women around the world envied. Hawaii did a great impersonation of Mexico while the great unwashed were introduced to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.

8) Blue Hawaii, Paramount (1961)

The Fern Grotto, the Waialua River and the unspoiled beauty of the Garden Isle. Oh yeah, and Elvis, too. The music, the girls, Elvis, more music, more girls and even more Elvis. No wonder this movie captured the imagination and romance of people worldwide. Not only one of Hawaii’s best films, but one of Elvis’ as well.

7) Mr. Roberts, Warner Bros. (1955)

Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon. This comedy classic brought together the perfect storm of traditional, “serious” actors and let them loose with a comedic send-up using the beauty of Hawaii as its backdrop. A refreshing reminder that comedy can be gentle and thoughtful.


6) 50 First Dates, Columbia Pictures (2003)

The premise is a little iffy, but the good-natured performances by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore make this a sentimental favorite. The great thing about this movie for locals is we can recognize just about every scene. The movie was filmed and produced entirely here in Hawaii, and went on to do pretty good business. How about those scenes at Sea Life Park?

4) Papillon, Allied Artists (1973)

This was the only film production of the year for Hawaii. Well, if it’s the only one, it better be a good one. Papillon was and is one of the best movies ever. The team of Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen brought the audience a sense of the pain, frustration, sadness and elation that courses through this story. The cinematography is spectacular with breathtaking sweeping vistas.

3) Jurassic Park, Universal Studios (1993)

I love the plot line of this film. A brilliant, but somewhat wacky, scientist populates a tropical island with genetically reconstructed dinosaurs providing a thrilling firsthand experience to his theme park patrons. Where do we start with the social commentary? Is it an indictment upon Man for manipulating nature for his own obscene good? Is it a thinly veiled anti-genetic research statement? Or could it simply be one of the most successful and entertaining movie franchises of all time? I’ll go with the latter.

2) From Here to Eternity, Columbia Pictures (1953)

The incredibly intertwined story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption culminating with the attack on Pearl Harbor. If you aren’t moved by the relationship between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, then you need to check if you have a heart. The remarkable performance by Frank Sinatra catapulted him into a bona fide Hollywood movie star, and Donna Reed solidified her position as America’s Sweetheart. This was Montgomery Clift’s opus and he never enjoyed such a role again in his career. Hawaii should have won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for its sheer beauty and historic context.


1) Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas-Spielberg Prod. (1981)

I can feel some of you cringing at the thought this movie would be named The Best. But in my humble opinion, this series was the most fun, enjoyable and this film in particular was a raucous good time. Indiana Jones, by all accounts a mild-mannered archeology professor, moonlights as a globe-trotting, relic-gathering, Nazi-killing action hero. I mean, the man uses a whip! Granted, the storyline does not specifically feature Hawaii, but the production was centered on Kauai. It is a modern classic.

Here are the answers to the questions I asked above:

* 1913 * There were two, Hawaiian Love and The Shark God

* 1994 * Waterworld : $35 million on the Big Island

* To be determined ...

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