The Best Surfing Movies From The 80s, 90s & 2000s

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We have compiled the “best” surf movies. Why is best in quotes?

Well, while we love surfing movies, they aren’t necessarily known for their awarding-winning plots, scripts and acting.

And we love them just the same.

Here is a rundown of the best surf flicks that will get you excited about your next surf, be it at your local break or on your next trip to your favorite island.

One more thing: If you aren’t lucky enough to have surfing buddy that already owns these movies, first get yourself better surfing friends and second, go watch these surfing movies on Amazon Prime or Netflix.

Better yet, buy the DVD and you can be your own best friend. 


Resurface is a documentary film produced by Netflix.

It follows the story of several vets as they use surfing as a means to recover, recuperate, and get through the trauma of a turbulent personal life.

It’s a sad and inspiring documentary, and if you’re looking for a mindless flick that shows some cool surfing tricks, this is definitely not the film for you.

Under an Arctic Sky

Under an Arctic Sky is a modern surf film that follows a gang of surfers (including the photographer Chris Buckard) as they tackle the unforgiving shores of Iceland.

It is a beautifully shot and arranged film and is by far one of the best surf movies on streaming platforms right now.

Fish People

Fish People is a 2017 surf film directed by Keith Malloy.

It’s not entirely about surfing and is more about the relationship that humans have with the sea (including fishing), but surfing makes an appearance.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Unstoppable tells the story of Bethany Hamilton, a pro surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack when she was just 13 years old.

She was just a young and promising surfer at the time and while the attack would have ended the careers of many lesser people, it spurred Bethany on and she became a champion surfer.

Unstoppable is an inspirational film that highlights Bethany’s journey from shark attack victim to professional surfer.


Surfwise is a fascinating documentary by Doug Pray. It tells the story of Doc Paskowitz, who decides to pack his life (and his nine children) into a camper van and live life on the road. His journey involves daily surfing and clean living, and it’s a great story for anyone who has ever dreamt of doing the same thing.

The Endless Summer

This the classic surf film that started it all.

This classic surf documentary features two young surfers as they chase waves around the world.

They explore the uncharted waters of West Africa and find their way to Australia and eventually land in Tahiti.

It is a spell-binding documentary that draws the attention of surfers and non-surfers alike.

It was written and directed by Bruce Brown. It stars Robert August and Michael Hynson as the principal surfers.

Other characters include Lord James Blears, Terrence Bullen, Lance Carson, and Roy Crump.

It has an IMDb rating of 7.7 and a staggering 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.

The Endless Summer 2

It’s a sequel and worth the watch, but it ain’t the original.

Maybe we are just too attached to the first one. You decide.

This surf documentary was directed by Bruce Brown and it features two expert Californian surfers Patrick O’Connell (shortboard surfer) and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver (longboard surfer).

The two travel across the beautiful waters of the world from Costa Rica to Fiji and Alaska in search of the next perfect wave. Included in this documentary is a freebie of twenty minutes of acrobatic surfing.

The documentary lasts for 107 minutes.

It was written by Bruce and Dana Brown and directed by Bruce Brown.

The limited edition was released in 1994 while the public version was released in 2003.

It has a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and a 7.5/10 rating on IMDb.

Step Into Liquid

This is a surf documentary featuring surfers from all walks of life.

Some consider surfing a hobby, others take it as a job or lifestyle while some consider it a religious pursuit.

This documentary was written and directed by Dana Brown.

It was released in theatres in 2003 and became available for streaming in 2004. It runs for 87 minutes.

The cast features Dana Brown, Dan Malloy, Chris Malloy, and Kelly Slater.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 81% and an IMDb rating of 7.5/10.

Bustin’ Down The Door

This is a surf documentary that narrates the tale of ambitious young men who helped to shape surfing into a recognizable (professional) sport in the winter of 1975.

It was directed by Jeremy Gosch and written by him and other film writers.

It was first released in theatres in 2008 and became available for streaming in 2009. It runs for 95 minutes.

Another classic worth your watch.

The cast features Edward Norton, Ian Cairns, Wayne Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, and Michael Tomson.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 79% and an IMDb rating of 7.1/ 10.

Riding Giants

This surf documentary takes a historical look at the origins of surfing and the surf culture.

This begins at the beautiful beaches of Hawaii and travels across the globe.

It examines the thrill of riding giant waves and the pleasure derived from kinetic energy.

It is PG rated for use of strong language and for waves that are big enough to kill you 10 times over.

It was written by Stacy Peralta and Sam George and directed by them as well.

It was released in theaters in 2004 and became available for streaming in 2005.

It runs for 105 minutes.

The cast features Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, Peter Mel, Laird “Let me show you a thing or two about surfing big waves” Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, Mickey Munoz, and Darrick Doerner.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 93% and an IMDb rating of 7.9/ 10.

North Shore

This is easily the best surfing movie that ever was and will ever be.

No question about it. Is it a great movie? No. Have we tortured non-surfing friends with it. Maybe.

Either way, it’s a must-watch, must-own, must-quote surfing movie. 

Stop what you are doing and watch it now. About the movie…

This is a surf movie with a love twist to it that makes it intriguing.

A young hot surfer from Arizona, Rick Kane, abandons his studies in a bid to pursue waves on the Hawaiian North Shore.

Things are rough for Rick at the start until he meets an aging hippie named Chandler who teaches him the ropes of surfing and in no time Rick is surfing better and finding love, albeit, a summer fling.

Maybe it would have been love, but North Shore 2 never happened.

We’re not bitter about it.

This movie is yet to receive a rating on Rotten Tomato but has an audience score of 83%.

Why it hasn’t received a score of at least 101% is beyond us.

It is directed by (make a wild guess) William Phelps himself! It is written by Tim McCanlies, William Phelps, and Randal Kleiser.

A limited edition was first released in 1987 while the streaming version was released in 2003.

The run time is 96 minutes. Not long enough.

The cast is made up of Matt Adler, Nia Peeples, Gregory Harrison, the one and only “Mr. Pipeline” himself, Gerry Lopez, and John Philbin.

Blue Crush

This movie is one part romance all parts surfing that tells the story of Anne Marie and her three roommates.

Anne Marie moves to Hawaii where she hits the waves every morning religiously until she comes across Matt Tollman (a pro quarterback) who pushes her off-balance, literally.

This is a PG 13 movie with a couple of heated-up romance scenes.

It was directed by John Stockwell and written by Stockwell and Lizzy Weiss. It was released in theatres in 2002 and runs for 105 minutes.

The cast is made up of Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davies, Michelle Rodriguez, Sanoe Lake, Mika Boorem, and Faizon Love among others.

This movie has a Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer) rating of 61% and an IMDb rating of 5.7/10.

Point Break (1991)

This is an adrenalin pumping surf movie that is full of action, adventure, and mystery and goes great with popcorn. 

It’s a story about FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) who goes after a bunch of Southern California surfers suspected of robbing banks.

It was written by Rick King, Kathryn Bigelow, W, Peter Iliff, and James Cameron.

It featured in theatres in 1991 while the streamed version was made available in 2001.

It runs for 122 minutes.

The cast features Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Garey Busey, Lori Petty, John McGinley, and James Le Gros.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 69% and an IMDb rating of 7.3/10.

We don’t talk about the reboot of Point Break from 2015. Fine, we just did, but that’s all we will say about that.

It’s dead to us.

Soul Surfer

This is a bestselling surf movie featuring AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton who is a born surfer.

She begins her surfing escapades on Kauai where she is accompanied by her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) as they chase the next perfect wave surfing Tunnels.

The dreams of this young surfer are almost shattered when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark one fateful Halloween morning in 2003.

Fortunately, she lives to tell the story as she struggles to find her footing and tackle the waves again. It’s real-life story about perseverance.

This movie was directed by Sean McNamara and written by Sean McNamara, Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Deborah Schwartz, Matt Allen, Brad Gann, and Caleb Wilson.

It debuted in theatres in 2011 and became available for streaming in the same year.

The cast features Annasophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Hellen Hunt, Lorraine Nicholson, Carrie Underwood, and Kevin Sorbo.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 45% and an IMDb rating of 7/10.

Surf’s Up

This animated film is a “mockumentary” that narrates how penguins invented surfing.

It features a footage of the Penguin World Surfing Championship taken from behind-the-scenes.

It is more of a kid friendly animation.

It was directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck and written by Don Rhymer, Joe Syracuse, Lisa Addario, Christian Darren, Christopher Jenkins, Ash Brannon, and Chris Buck.

Its debut in theatres was in 2007 and was available for streaming in the same year. Its runtime is 85 minutes.

The animation cast features James Woods, Diedrich Bader, Danny Mann, Jon Heder, Mario Cantone, and Kelly Slater.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 79% and an IMDb rating of 6.7/10.

Surf’s Up 2

This is a surf animation comedy featuring WWE Superstars as the animation crew.

The team (of penguins) goes out in search of a mysterious surfing spot known as “trenches” which allegedly has the biggest waves.  It was directed by Henry Yu and written by Abdul Williams.

It was released in 2017 and runs for 90 minutes.

The cast features Jeremy Shada, John Heder, Melissa Sturm, John Cena, and Mark Calaway among others.

This animation does not have a rating on Rotten Tomatoes, probably for good reasons.

Big Wednesday

This 1978 surf movie is packed with comedy and drama. It is a story about friends who were once carefree surfers reuniting after serving as soldiers in Vietnam.

It’s a classic and should be in your collection.

The movie was directed by John Milius and written by John Milius and Dennis Aaberg.

It was first released to theatres in 1978 and became available for streaming in 2002. Its runtime is 120 minutes.

The cast features Garey Busey, Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Lee Purcell, Patti D’Arbanville, and Sam Melville.

It has a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating of 67% and an IMDb rating of 7.2/10.