Movie Moments: Hawaii Family Movie Night

The countdown is ON! Steve and I are planning our yearly trip to Hawaii for our anniversary, and it was too impossible to pick just one movie to represent Hawaii. So I decided to do a series of movie nights highlighting all my favorites and the most notable! This week we’re going family friendly. Check out these blockbusters and plan your own family movie night inspired by my favorite place in the world: HAWAII! Be sure to click the movie posters below to rent or get your own copy from Amazon!

Lilo and Stitch

Type: Cartoon
Runtime: 1h 25m
Year: 2002
Family Value: “Ohana means family!”
Best Hawaiian Feature: Hula! I love the emphasis on Hula and the Hawaiian language in the film. As a traveler, I see the value in knowing that cultures are different and people speak languages other than English. Exposing kids to those facts may shape their understanding of the world (and our country, since Hawaii is a U.S. state)!
What makes this movie so great?

Well, there’s fun music, an alien, strong family emphasis, and of course, the Hawaiian setting! If you’ve never seen it, put it on your list, especially if you have small (or even small-ish) kids. It’ll make you laugh, and if you’re a particularly sentimental family person, you will probably cry. All in all, with a little Hawaiian pizza, this could be a very memorable family movie night!

Prefer the DVD? Get yours here!


Type: Cartoon
Runtime: 1h 53m
Year: 2016
Family Value: Listen to your grandmother.
Best Hawaiian Feature: Polynesian Canoes
What makes this movie so great?

The music! Seriously, I put “How Far I’ll Go” on my running soundtrack, and somehow it makes me tear up and yet run faster every time it comes on. If you’re like some families I know, you might want to make this family sing-a-long night! Music aside, Disney really did their research of Polynesia (as usual—the level of detail they include in their movies is amazing, even if the main storyline doesn’t always match up), so I loved that they included elements from Hawaii (The Rock’s character, Maui, honoring Hawaii), Easter Island (Motonui, referring to a small but significant island next to Easter Island), the double-hulled canoes the Polynesian people used to navigate the Pacific, and more!

Prefer the DVD? Get yours here!

Soul Surfer

Type: Live-action
Runtime: 1h 46m
Year: 2011
Family Value: Never. Give. Up.
Best Hawaiian Feature: Incredible surfing footage by Bethany Hamilton herself!
What makes this movie so great?

This is an incredible movie because of its inspirational message that God never gives up on us, and we should never give up in life. If you don’t already know, pro surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack at age 13. This is that story, so this may be better for families with older kids. If you want to give your kids an encouraging, motivational role model, Bethany is the one. Not only is she still a pro athlete, she is also a wife, mom of two, and motivational speaker. This defining moment in her life not only gave her opportunities to rise above, it also didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for her upcoming documentary, Unstoppable, coming out in theaters this year (2019)!

Prefer the DVD? Get yours here!

Blue Hawaii

Type: Live-action
Runtime: 1h 42m
Year: 1961
Family Value: There is no lesson. It’s a fun, fluffy 1960’s Elvis movie!
Best Hawaiian Feature: The opening shot of Diamond Head during the beginning credits; also the footage of Hawaiian airports in the 1960s!
What makes this movie so great?

Elvis! American icon, King of Rock ‘n Roll, movie star, etc., etc., etc. The soundtrack for this album is Elvis’s most successful chart album (according to IMDb) and the #1 album of 1961, so there will probably be some familiar songs. Elvis plays a soldier just returned to Hawaii from overseas (where there was not a war), and his plan is to go back to the life of a beach boy instead of working for his father’s pineapple company. He winds up working for his girlfriend’s tour company and has a few misadventures with some girls along the way!

Paradise, Hawaiian Style

Type: Live-action
Runtime: 1h 31m
Year: 1966
Family Value: Elvis appreciation
Best Hawaiian Feature: Amazing helicopter videography of the dramatic Na Pali Coast on Kauai, plus footage of 1960s Waikiki!
What makes this movie so great?

“Former” womanizer tries to create a real flying job for himself after his reputation prevents all the major airlines from hiring him. It’s flying, it’s adventure, it’s Hawaii… throw in some serious hula sequences and what more could you want?! The scenery is probably the best of any vintage Hawaiian movie, and you’ll probably recognize some of the songs along the way, too.

Prefer the DVD? Get your copies of Blue Hawaii and Paradise, Hawaiian Style here!

Donovan’s Reef

Type: Live-action
Runtime: 1h 49m
Year: 1963
Family Value: Families come in all colors and cultures!
Best Hawaiian Feature: Beautiful footage at Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” You’ll see it in the scene where the characters are cutting down their Christmas tree and Princess Lailani sings to the gods and goddesses of her people.
What makes this movie so great?

The Duke! John Wayne is the headliner for this film. He plays a fisherman—far removed from his usual role as a cowboy! While the movie is set on a fictional island in French Polynesia, any filming that didn’t take place in a Hollywood studio happened on my personal favorite island of Kauai, Hawaii! The Polynesian language spoken in the film is also Hawaiian. I also love that they’ve featured Waimea Canyon. The shoreline shots and views of the epic Kauai coastline are always stunning, but this canyon deserves her recognition, too!

There are some references to racism in the film, so there may be some questions if you’re watching with a younger bunch. It might be an excellent idea to use any questions that come up as opportunities to explain and clarify those things. I might also include that the past was a very different time and place, and that some things that were acceptable then are not acceptable now.

Prefer the DVD? Get yours here!

Which one would you choose for your Hawaiian Movie Night? Tell me in the comments!

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