Kauai has been a prime film location for numerous full-length feature movies bringing some of the world’s most famous movie stars to the island’s spectacular locations and communities. If you know Kauai well, you’ll recognize much of Kauai’s exquisite scenery and charming small towns in films, television series and commercials. Kauai has been selected to represent not only Hawaii, but also the South Pacific, Asia, South America, Africa and other tropical locales.
It all started in 1933, with the filming of White Heat, directed by Hollywood’s influential female director, Lois Weber. Originally titled Cane Fire, the feminist Weber worked with a diverse cast to show the angst of mixed ethnic love relationships. White Heat was released in June 1934. From there, Kauai has served over the decades as a movie location for more than sixty feature-length films shot by a host of national and international film-makers.
Read below for a list of movies starring some of the more notable names in the movie industry.
1934 to 1963
Sixteen years after the release of White Heat, Olympic swimmer, Esther Williams came to Kauai to film Pagan Love Song (1950). Rita Hayworth showed up in 1954 to star in Miss Sadie Thompson. Tony Curtis followed two years later to star in Beach Head. The international hit, South Pacific, was filmed entirely on Kauai’s north shore in 1958, starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi. Jack Lemon and Ricky Nelson hung out on Kauai in 1960 to star in The Wackiest Ship in the Army.
The 1960 film first connecting Elvis Presley with Hawaii, Blue Hawaii, also made Kauai’s former Coco Palms Hotel famous. Presley starred in three movies filmed in Hawaii. Following Presley to Kauai in 1963 were Hollywood’s macho men, John Wayne and Charlton Heston. They starred in Donovan’s Reef and Diamond Head.
1965 to 1984
Frank Sinatra starred in None but the Brave, filmed on Kauai in 1965. Julie Andrews was seen on both Oahu and Kauai during the filming of James Michener’s Hawaii in 1966. Charlton Heston returned to Kauai in 1970 to star in The Hawaiians. Four years later James Garner showed up for Castaway Cowboy, the first of Disney’s five movies featuring Kauai.
The second production of King Kong was shot on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast in 1976 with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges. Two years later, George C. Scott showed up on Kauai for the film, Islands in the Stream.
Disney came back to Kauai in 1979 to film Last Flight of Noah’s Ark with Elliot Gould. Steven Spielberg chose Kauai as a location to film parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 starring Harrison Ford. Kathleen Turner and William Hurt turned Kauai “steamy” during that same year for the filming of Body Heat.
1987 to 2001
In 1987, Danny DeVito brought comedy noir to Kauai with the film Throw Mama from the Train. Nicolas Cage was spotted around Kauai’s east and north shores in 1991 during the filming of Honeymoon in Vegas. Steven Spielberg returned to Kauai in 1992 to shoot Jurassic Park starring Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. Its sequel, The Lost World, was shot on Kauai four years later. Castle Rock Pictures brought Bruce Willis to Kauai to film North in 1993, directed by RobReiner.
The filming of Outbreak followed in 1994 starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman. Disneyshowed up on Kauai three times over the next five years to film George of the Jungle (1996), Dinosaurs (1997), and Lilo and Stitch (2001).
In 1997, Harrison Ford came back to Kauai bringing his co-star, Anne Heche for the filming of Six Days Seven Nights. Four years later Kevin Costner was seen on Kauai locations to star in the movie, Dragonfly.
2006 to 2010
Kauai was featured as a film location for two action movies released in 2006 and 2007. The first, Tears of the Sun, starred Bruce Willis. The second, Tropic Thunder, included the masculine trio, Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr.
From 2008 through mid-2010, four more movies were filmed on Kauai; The Descendants, staring George Clooney, Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. These three will be released in 2011. The fourth, Soul Surfer, with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt is the story of Kauai’s, Bethany Hamilton, made famous by her comeback from a shark attack. This movie was released in 2009.
Undoubtedly, more movies, TV series and commercials will be filmed on Kauai in the years to come taking advantage of its extraordinary scenery, rural charm, and outstanding climate.
Written by: Margy Parker