We almost never lose site of the beach and the ocean in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 timeless film Jaws – over someone’s shoulder, outside the window, just beyond the swing set in the back yard, the threat of the great white is ever present. Far from their home in the Big Apple, Amity Island’s new Sheriff, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), and his family try to adapt to life in a small summer resort town. When the remains of a shark attack victim are discovered on the beach just days away from the official start of tourist season, the Sheriff must decide just how far he’s willing to go to protect his family, the Islanders and the influx of summer visitors.
2. Apocalypse Now
On the beaches of Vietnam, cocky Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duval) prances around shirtless with cowboy boots and hat, mentoring his troops with “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” Duval is just one of the heavy hitting actors in Frances Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Based on the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, burnt-out operative Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent deep into the jungles of Vietnam on a secret mission: to kill renegade U.S. Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has established himself as a god to a local tribe. What Willard finds at the end of his journey is not just Kurtz, but what compelled Kurtz to his present state of being: the realisation that we are all walking a fine line, just a breath away from being swallowed whole by the force that is Nature.
3. From Here to Eternity
If you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve most certainly seen the image: Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Deborah Kerr who plays the wife of his commanding officer, lying on a Hawaiian beach, locked in an embrace, the waves crashing up around them, as they remain oblivious to the imminent attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Amidst their romance, the film depicts the reality, corruption and isolation of US military personnel in an army barracks before the attack that led to the United States’ entry into the Second World War.
4. Chariots of Fire
The iconic image of the group of athletes running along the beach while the theme song rises in triumph, heralds the beginning of Chariots of Fire. The film follows two British runners who are both set to compete in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Scottish missionary Eric runs to please God, while Jewish Harold runs to be accepted by society. Told in flashback style, the film cuts from one man’s life to the other as they train for the competition, two very different people representing the same virtues: integrity, commitment and sacrifice.
5. Saving Private Ryan
The beach scene in Saving Private Ryan is epic as the film opens with a flashback of Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and his troops as they land on the beaches of Normandy and face a barrage of enemy fire. This harrowing slaughter of U.S. soldiers is a story told time and again, and in this 24-minute arrangement by director Steven Spielberg, the historic moment is a gut-wrenching, confusing bloodbath. After learning that three brothers from the same family were killed in battle, the U.S. government sends Captain Miller and his men to save Private James Ryan, the family’s sole remaining son, thinking it would be good for troop morale. But the soldiers sent to find Ryan must decide whether they want to risk their lives for government propaganda.
6. The Piano
Jane Campion’s The Piano is an erotic and haunting story set in 1850s New Zealand where mute Ada (Holly Hunter) and her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) are sent to the island by Ada’s father who arranged for her to marry Stewart, a wealthy landowner played by Sam Neill. Ada soon learns that life with her new husband will be a lonely one at best: in the opening scenes, on the grey New Zealand beach, Ada, Flora and Ada’s prized piano are rowed ashore. The piano, Ada’s only form of communication aside from sign language, is decidedly left on the shore by Stewart, who feels it too heavy to bother with. Devastated, Ada soon meets Baines, a Maori tribesman (Harvey Keitel) who trades Stewart land for the piano. Slowly, Ada discovers that for access to the piano, Baines wants something in return.
7. Planet of the Apes
3978 AD and a spaceship carrying four astronauts crash-lands on a planet much like earth. Taylor (Charlton Heston) and the two other living astronauts are jolted out of hibernation to find the planet inhabited by uncivilized grunting humans that are treated like animals by intelligent apes. Taken as slaves, Taylor and his fellow travellers fight to survive and are befriended by two ape scientists who oppose their leader and his army, desperate to find out about their ape history. The movie climaxes at its end in the classic beach scene with Taylor discovering the truth about this topsy-turvy world.
8. Dr. No
It is quite the entrance Ursula Andress makes upon the scene when she saunters out of the ocean and onto the beach with her two conches in Dr. No. Singing Underneath the Mango Tree, Andress’ Honeychile Rider collects sea shells while Sean Connery’s Bond watches from the trees in his pastel-blue outfit, his uni-brow rising and falling in curious compulsion. Bond eventually emerges from the trees, chiming in on one of the song’s lyrics. The sixth Bond novel in the Ian Fleming series, Dr. No follows 007 as he investigates the disappearance in Jamaica of a fellow agent, John Strangways, with the help of CIA agent Felix Leiter and Quarrel. The trail leads straight to scientist Dr. Julius No and his plans to take over the world.
9. Point Break
Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a rookie FBI agent who goes undercover to investigate numerous robberies committed by the Ex-Presidents – criminals who wear masks of former presidents Reagan, Nixon, Carter and Johnson. Following a lead that the Ex-Presidents are a gang of surfers, Utah sets out to infiltrate the surfing community. With the help of Tyler, a female surfer, Utah learns how to surf, gains the friendship of local surfer Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and gets addicted to the lifestyle. Utah eventually discovers that Bodhi and his surfer buddies are in fact the Ex-Presidents and is forced to decide where his loyalties lie.
10. Karate Kid
After moving to California with his mom, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) finds that things are not what he expected: His dark, Italian features and Jersey accent make it tough to fit in with the blond, bullying surfer crowd. Finding an unexpected connection with Miyagi the gardener (Noriyuki Morita), a handyman/martial arts master, Daniel learns not only karate, but a new understanding of life. The go-to image from this 80s classic is of Daniel on the beach practicing the crane kick: perched perilously atop a stump jutting from the shoreline, arms raised as if to take flight, Daniel jumps from one foot to the other, practicing the kick that will eventually take down his opponent.