Who doesn’t love a fun, free-wheeling retro beach movie! Whether you enjoy them because they remind you of youthful fun in the sun and sugar-fueled slumber parties or simply because they make you laugh at the outlandish plots and outfits (such high-waisted pants and pointy bras! It’s hard to believe we, er, anyone actually wore those!), watching retro beach movies is a fun ways to spend the night with your girlfriends or family.
So many movies were created during the height of the Beach Party Film genre that it’s hard to pick the right one for your movie night. So we thought we’d put together a list of Retro Beach Movies that you just have to see again, or maybe for the first time.
Starring the ever-enthusiastic Sandra Dee, Gidget is a fun film about a spunky tomboy on the verge of adulthood that discovers California surf culture and all the excitement and drama that it entailed, including the thrill of riding waves, chasing men, associating with beach gangs, dealing with the police and battling teenage depression. For a headstrong young woman who pooh-poohed the “manhunting” ways of her girlfriends at the start of the film, Gidget’s main objective in life quickly turns to finding love. Does she find it?
2. Beach Party
Credited with creating the Beach Party Film genre, Beach Party introduced teens to the idea of living in a world free of parents or other authority figures telling them what to do. No wonder it was such a hit! It also offered a glimpse into the mysterious beach culture of the 60s and, in fact, made the study of this culture a main plot point. A professor researching the “wild mating habits” and surfer jargon of Southern California teenagers gets wrapped up in their lives, becoming the object of teenage girl crushes and biker gang fury as he seeks to comprehend and document this uninhibited new world.
3. Beach Blanket Bingo
Beach Blanket Bingo is one of the most well-known films in the Beach Party Film series. This film too involves gangs, this time pitting a surfer gang against a biker gang to rescue a beautiful singer, Sugar Kane. Surfing and finding love aren’t the only extreme sports in this film, however. Skydiving is a main plot driver, with several of the main characters falling out of the sky to drive record sales, make lovers jealous and simply for the thrill of it.
4. Surf Party
If there’s one film on this list that you haven’t seen, it’s probably Surf Party. That’s because it was rarely screened at time of release and was only made available for home viewing in 2013. But if you can get your eyes on it, you’ll surely enjoy it! Three young women drive to Malibu looking for fun in the sun, surf lessons and the one woman’s brother, Skeet. What they weren’t looking for, but they find of course, is love and adventure with the locals.
5. Blue Hawaii
No beach-themed film list would be complete without the appearance of Elvis! Starring as Chadwick Gates, Elvis has recently returned from the Army and reclaimed his status as an unfettered surfer, much to the dismay of his mother. Mrs. Gates wants her son to settle down and take over management of the family business. The characters in this film are a bit older than those in the other movies on this list, and thus the film addresses topics that are a bit more sophisticated as well, such as finding a job, getting married and upholding moral values. This film was a turning point for Elvis’s career, and whether you feel that was a positive or a negative one, it’s still a beautiful one to watch.
6. Wild on the Beach
Wild On The Beach was popular due to the cameos by musical acts, such as Sonny & Cher and The Astronauts. It is one of the few Beach Party movies that was filmed in black and white, lending to the nostalgia of the film. The plot elements are similar to other beach-themed films–leading male and female characters are at odds at the start of the film then find commonalities and eventually love. The “Wild” aspect comes from the main setting of the film–a beach house that was inherited by the female lead, whose plans were to turn it into a boarding house for college girls. The house was also allegedly promised to the leading male, so that he could turn it into a male boarding house. It quickly turns reckless as the female and male students cohabitate the house, and they try to keep it secret from the university administration.
7. Pajama Party
Pajama Party veers slightly from the typical Beach Party film due to it’s inclusion of the extraterrestrial. The main character, Gogo, is an alien sent to Earth to prepare for a Martian invasion. He is quickly brought into the local beach culture as a way for one of the female characters to make her love interest jealous. Wealthy shop owners, plotting motorcycle gangs, dopey volleyball players and tons of dancing and music ensure this film is full of action, adventure, romance and other high hinks.
What’s your favorite retro beach movie? Share your list in the comments!