While we hadn't quite envisioned Gerard Butler doing a frontside cutback back when he was flexing his biceps and vocal chords during the sturm und drang 300 days, we're still happy to see him looking for the right swell in the new surf movie Chasing Mavericks. Here, in honor of glassy and not-so-glassy wave riders everywhere, we present our rankings for the top 10 surf movies ever.
#10 – (Tie) In God's Hands/ North Shore
What do both of these big studio surf movies have in common? That's right. They're both god-awful – in terms of conventional things like plot, character, dialogue, acting, etc. However, they also feature gorgeous surf footage in exotic locales like Hawaii, Bali and Madagascar. Forget the stories. As far as bad surf movies we love go (featuring beaches, beauties and big, big waves)…these are aces.
#9 - Surf's Up
It is a cartoon, and it does feature penguins on boards, but this bright and colorful tale about rockhopper penguin Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) and his quest to win the Big Z Memorial Surf Off has a lot going for it – likeable heroes, a rollicking tropical score and some believable rides through an animated pipeline. You'll come out of it with a big grin, and an itch to jump on some real H20. Surf's Up!
#8 - Billabong Odyssey
This list comprises some big budget Hollywood productions and some unique big budget surf documentaries. First up on the doc side is Billabong Odyssey, which follows first-class pros Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Flea Virostko and more on a world-wide tour to ride the toughest waves known to mankind. Needless to say, the results are fascinating and awe-inspiring.
#7 - Point Break
Lots of folks will tell you Point Break isn't a pure surfing movie. On one hand, that's true. It also includes bank robbing, skydiving and other kinds of manly bravado. But the tagline "100% pure adrenaline" and the spirit of the film are based around that central concept of getting into the flow, hard-charging, and flaunting conventional rules. It looks and plays like a whole lot of fun. Exactly like surfing.
#6 - The September Sessions
The September Sessions is a little bit insiders' baseball when it comes to surf movies, but even for the casual viewer, that should be fine, as this is a leisurely paced and lovingly crafted, inclusive 40 minute ode to the passion of riding waves. It's actually directed by musician-surfer-uber star Jack Johnson, and the central focus is surfing's equivalent to Michael Jordan, the incredible Kelly Slater.
#5 - Big Wednesday
What do "Air Wolf," Mr. Joshua from Lethal Weapon and TV's "Greatest American Hero" have in common? Once upon a time, in the 1970s, they all rode waves together in Big Wednesday, the tale of three friends who move through the ocean and the years together, go their separate ways and eventually reunite for one last session. More often than not, the surf stories in Hollywood movies are a bit of a trifle. For once, here, they feel authentic.
#4 - Riding Giants
From the makers of Dogtown and Z-boys comes this monstrous surf movie about big-wave riding and many of its seminal heroes, chief among them surf legends Laird Hamilton and Greg Noll. Riding Giants is expertly narrated by actor Sean Penn, telling the story of big waves and the equally larger-than-life characters who ride them.
#3 - The Endless Summer, Part 2
Incredibly, nearly three decades after the classic The Endless Summer, the sequel nearly replicated the original experience. It's as playful, genuine and stoke-inspiring, and follows a similar format, with surfers Robert "Wingnut" Weaver and Pat O'Connell retracing the globe-trotting steps of the original Summer's heroes, in pursuit of the season that never ends.
#2 - Step Into Liquid
Here's the ultimate barometer of a great surf movie. At the end, whether you surf already or not, your urge to get in the water is at its maximum peak. Watch Step Into Liquid, which focuses on all types of surfers in all types of environments. We bet afterwards you'll be hooked.
#1 - The Endless Summer
Released on June 15, 1966, The Endless Summer started a world-wide movement – into the water. Filmmaker Bruce Brown, and stars Robert August and Mike Hynson, make surfing inviting, accessible and most of all, fun. It doesn't matter if you don't know a goofy foot from a barrel roll. Everyone's invited on this never-ending, timeless adventure.