The Best Movies About Norway to Watch Before Your Trip

Stave Church Norway

In this article, we have gathered the best movies about Norway to watch before your trip. By enjoying them before you leave you will ensure your trip is as meaningful and enjoyable as possible. Learn more about the history, culture, language, and extraordinary natural beauty of Norway before you arrive and you will enhance many parts of your trip.

I’m a travel education specialist and support curious travelers like you in finding ways to learn more about their destinations. This summer our family was finally able to enjoy a dream trip and visit our ancestral homeland of Norway. We spent months learning about the country before we went and it improved our trip dramatically.

In this post, I’ve asked other travel writers to share some of their favorite shows and movies about Norway and why the recommend them to other travelers. I hope you find some great films to add to your watch list and that they help you have an even better trip!

Norwegian Documentaries and Docudramas

Kon-Tiki (1950)

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Before leaving on your trip to Norway, be sure to watch the documentary Kontiki (1950). It is directed by the explorer himself, Thor Heyerdahl. He and his crew set out on a wooden raft to test his theory that the Polynesian Islands were originally populated from Peru, not Asia. 

Kon-Tiki won the 1952 Academy Award for the year’s Best Documentary. The film chronicles a daring expedition 101- day journey across the Pacific, reflecting the Norwegians’ spirit of exploration and adventure. As you witness the challenges faced by the crew, you’ll gain insight into the country’s maritime history and the tenacity of its people.

To deepen your connection with the film, visit the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, housing the original raft and artifacts. The Bygdøy Peninsula, where the museum stands, also features other maritime gems like the Fram Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum, and the Viking Ship Museum (closed until 2027). These sites offer a captivating glimpse into Norway’s seafaring heritage, providing context for the documentary.

Kon-Tiki (2012)

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Fast forward to 2012, where directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg reimagine Heyerdahl’s epic tale in a feature film. Watching “Kontiki” (2012) brings the narrative to life with stunning visuals and a contemporary perspective.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film of the Year and won multiple other awards. While the film takes some creative liberties for dramatic effect, it remains remarkably faithful to the spirit of the original journey.

The Kontiki documentary-docudrama duo serves as a cinematic gateway, enriching your travel experience with a deeper understanding of Norway’s rich heritage and adventurous spirit.

22. July (2018)

22. July is a compelling and emotionally charged docudrama based on a true story. It offers a harrowing yet important cinematic experience. Directed by Paul Greengrass, the film delves into the horrifying events of the 2011 Norway attacks, primarily set in Oslo and Utøya.

While the Norwegian film uses actual events as its basis, it includes some fictional elements to enhance the narrative. Starring Jonas Strand Gravli, the movie effectively captures the resilience of the survivors and the nations response to the tragedy. It’s a gripping and well-acted account of the attacks and their aftermath.

22.July is one of the best movies about Norway to watch before a trip because it will enhance the viewer’s experience. It provides historical context and a deeper understanding of the resilience and unity of the Norwegian people in the face of adversity.

Travelers will gain insights into the country’s culture, values, and how the nation came together during a dark period. This film offers a unique insight into the human spirit and the power of solidarity in the face of tragedy.

Contributed by Victoria at Guide Your Travel

Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway (2023)

Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway is a movie loosely based on Sagarika Chakraboty’s memoir, The Journey of a Mother. It tells a story about her battle to fight the Norwegian Child Welfare Service for her children’s custody after they were forcibly taken from their family house and moved them to foster home. 

Set in Stavanger, the movie follows the story of Debika and her husband Aniruddha. They get a visit from the Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Velfred) employees. 

The Chatterjee family moved to Norway from India and, during these Velfred visits, there were some obvious cultural differences that resulted in Velfred’s decision to take custody of their children. Some things that are common in Indian culture such as feeding their children with their hands or letting the kids sleep with their parents, were seen as unfit by the Norwegian authorities. 

Starring Rani Mukherjee as Debika, the movie highlights some interesting aspects of Norway that most people wouldn’t see otherwise. The media often portray Norway and other Scandinavian countries as picture-perfect places to live, but this movie highlights the flaws and struggles that immigrants could face due to cultural differences. 

The movie is suitable for families with kids, especially if they plan to move overseas. It will highlight the importance of knowing the basic law implemented in the country that you’re going to. 

It is one of the best movies about Norway to watch before your trip because culture shock is real. The best thing you can do is be prepared for it because something common in your culture can result in the involvement of law enforcement elsewhere if you’re not careful.

Contributed by Marya at The BeauTraveler

Norwegian World War 2 Movies 

The Heroes of Telemark (1965)

Based on a true story from the second world war, most of the film is true to fact. However, this Norwegian World War Two movie has been given the Hollywood treatment through adding a few elements to make it more dramatic.

The story is about a group of resistance fighters trying to sabotage a plant manufacturing heavy water which is used in atomic bombs.

The film starts with two Norwegian resistance fighters traveling to Britain where a raid against the plant is planned together with British intelligence. Unfortunately the plane carrying the English officers to Norway is shot down. To ensure the Germans don’t get access to the heavy water the Norwegian resistance fighters decide to undertake the operation on their own.

Much of the film is shot in Telemark and shows what Norwegian winters can be like. Although it showcases Norway’s mountain scenery, that is not the main reason to watch the film.

Watching the film before traveling to Norway will give you some understanding of Norwegian history. Norway is a relatively young country and therefore acts of bravery like this are viewed as important historic events. Being Norwegian myself I used to watch this film at school. I have watched it several times, as have most Norwegians.

Contributed by Kristin at Scotland Less Explored

War Sailor (Krigsseileren) (2022)

War Sailor is a gripping WWII series that tells the tale of Norwegian sailors fighting for their country’s freedom. The show brilliantly intertwines factual events with a rich narrative, revealing the undying spirit of the Norwegians during a tumultuous time. Its breathtaking cinematography paints a vivid picture of the scenic beauty of Norway, particularly the picturesque city of Bergen.

Visiting Norway after watching this series will give travelers a unique perspective. The streets of Bergen, portrayed with so much historical significance in the show, will come alive as you walk them. The series introduces viewers to the country’s wartime past and deepens their appreciation for its enduring beauty and resilient spirit despite the difficulties of their lives.

In essence, War Sailor is more than just a historical drama; it’s a bridge to Norway’s past. Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of well-crafted stories, or someone planning a trip to Bergen, this series offers a moving and immersive experience. It’ll linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll, making your connection to Norway even more profound.

Contributed by Odo at

The King’s Choice (Kongens Nei) (2016)

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The King’s Choice is a multi-award winning historical drama that offers insight into a crucial chapter of Norway’s past. Directed by the renowned Norwegian director, Erik Poppe, the film portrays the events of April 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded Norway. 

It primarily revolves around the difficult choices faced by King Haakon VII (grandfather of Harald V, the current king of Norway). The king is played by Jesper Christensen, and he grapples with the decision to resist the German occupation or surrender to avoid bloodshed. The film is based on real-life events but takes some creative liberties in the telling of the story. 

There is a focus on the king’s personal and political struggles instead of a heavy emphasis on action and battle scenes. Set against the backdrop of Norway’s scenic landscapes and historic sites, The King’s Choice beautifully captures the country’s rich history and its role during World War II. 

It is one of the best movies about Norway to watch before your trip because it will enhance your understanding of the country’s resilience and its people’s commitment to their sovereignty. It provides a poignant perspective on the challenges faced during a tumultuous period in Norwegian history. History enthusiasts and those interested in the human aspects of wartime decisions will find The King’s Choice an engaging and thought-provoking film.

Atlantic Crossing  (2020)

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Atlantic Crossing is a different interpretation of the same events that inspired the previous recommendation, The King’s Choice. Eight episodes tell a longer version of the complex story of diplomacy, espionage, and the impact of World War II on Norway and the United States. Created by Alexander Eik, the show is recognized as a more fictional account  but still offers a riveting look at a lesser-known chapter of history and the personal lives intertwined with the fates of nations.

At the center of the series is the relationship between Norwegian Crown Princess Märtha and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their connection is framed by the backdrop of global conflict. Cinematic liberties showcase the personal sacrifices and political maneuvering that shaped the course of history.

To delve deeper into Norway’s World War II history, travelers can explore sites like the Norwegian Resistance Museum in Oslo, the War Museum in Narvik, and the Norsk Krigsleiemuseum in Narvik, where exhibits and artifacts offer a tangible connection to the era depicted in “Atlantic Crossing.”

Atlantic Crossing is a captivating portrayal of a little-known facet of history. This series not only provides viewers with a dramatic narrative but also deepens our understanding of Norway’s unique role during World War II. It’s a must-watch for history enthusiasts and travelers seeking to uncover the intricate relationships and events that shaped Norway’s past and its place on the global stage.

Norwegian Dramas

Thelma (2017) 

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Thelma is a fascinating and thought-provoking Norwegian drama that expertly blends psychological drama and supernatural mysteries. Through fiction, this film skillfully mixes the supernatural with a struggle for identity. It causes the audience to question the boundaries between the real and the imaginary. 

The movie is directed by Joachim Trier and is about a college student who starts experiencing extreme seizures while she is studying at a university in Oslo. It follows the journey of her violent episodes and how they are a symptom of dangerous supernatural elements.

This Norwegian film stars Eili Harboe as the main character. She gives a fascinating and subtle performance that perfectly captures the core of Thelma’s internal problems and emotional agony. 

It provides viewers with a breathtaking visual depiction of the captivating natural landscapes of Norway in Europe. It focuses on the charm of Oslo and its surrounding areas in particular. 

The film portrays Norway’s stunning beauty and explores Norwegian culture and society. It is an excellent introduction to the country’s rich legacy and mesmerising landscapes. 

It provides a unique opportunity for travellers considering a trip to Norway to immerse themselves in the country’s fascinating ambience and develop a greater appreciation for its cultural intricacies and picturesque places.

Contributed by Lavina D’souza at Continent Hop

Varg Veum (2007 – 2012)

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Varg Veum is a wonderful Norwegian crime television series by Lumiere. It’s the perfect series to watch if you are a fan of “Nordic Noir” or if you are interested in watching crime series in general. Not only the suspense of this show is great but it also intrigues with an authentic portrayal of Norwegian culture and scenery. 

The television series centers on Varg Veum, a private detective based in Bergen, the second-largest city in Norway. Set against the backdrop of Bergen’s iconic wooden houses and surrounding fjords, Detective Veum tackles a range of crime cases, often delving into the darker sides of Norwegian society. Throughout the series, you get a genuine taste of Bergen’s atmosphere and a glimpse into the complexities of its inhabitants.

The storylines of the series are based on the novels of Norwegian writer Gunnar Staalesen and are, however, completely fictional. 

Several talented Norwegian actors have brought the characters of Varg Veum to life on screen but most notable is Trond Espen Seim who stars as detective Varg Veum. The series has had multiple directors, each bringing their unique style to the episodes.

The series is predominantly set in Bergen, one of Norway’s most historic and beautiful cities. As a traveler, you will surely visit this city as a part of your itinerary. Through the series, you will already be familiar with its streets, squares, and landmarks and feel a sense of connection when you actually visit. 

The series also provides useful insights into Norwegian culture giving travelers a more in-depth understanding of the country’s people, their way of life, values, and the challenges they face. Lastly, the series also boasts various off-the-beaten-path locations in and around Bergen that you can visit on your trip!

Contributed by Annelies from Travelers & Dreamers

Norwegian Action Movies

Troll (2022)

This is an action-filled Norwegian movie that integrates modern life with traditional Norwegian folklore. The trolls are deeply integrated into Norway’s folklore, and in this movie, the legendary giants come to life as they wake up from a deep sleep. They walk from the mountainous areas and into modern cities in Norway destroying everything that comes in their way, while a team of local experts are set to stop them.

The stories and legends about the trolls that are told throughout the movie are all tales that every Norwegian kid has grown up with for centuries, so it definitely gives you a sense of Norwegian roots.

It is directed by Roar Uthaug and stars Ine Marie Wilmann, Kim Falck, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Gard B. Eidsvold, Pål Richard Lunderby, and Eric Vorenholt.

It is not recommended for kids under 13 years of age, but is a great film to see for families with older kids, especially action lovers mixed with the mystery of old folklore. The movie also shows incredible nature which will spark an interest for anyone wanting to go hiking in Norway on their upcoming trip.

Contributed by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers

The Wave (Bølgen) – 2015

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The Wave was the first of several popular Norwegian disaster movies. It depicts the catastrophic consequences of what would happen when a large piece of the mountain collapses into the narrow Geirangerfjord below. It creates a tsunami flooding through the fjord and towards the village at the end of it.

There are several mountain sections like this in Norway, that are in danger of collapsing and creating such a wave (although not as dramatic). This is what inspired the movie. We follow a geologist, played by Kristoffer Joner, as he races to save his family before the wave hits the village of Geiranger.

Anyone planning a trip to Norway will enjoy this movie, especially if you are visiting the western fjords. Geiranger is a popular tourist destination, and The Wave showcases the Geirangerfjord (one of the #1 attractions in the area) in a new light.

It also introduces travellers to the potential natural disasters threatening Norway; mainly landslides and avalanches. In Norway we live next to these mountains that threaten us in a way that is imilar to how in certain US states people can experience (and are prepared for) hurricanes and tornadoes.

Contributed by Lisa Stentvedt at Fjords & Beaches


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The television series Vikings is a multi-award winning historical drama that immerses viewers in the tumultuous world of Norse warriors and their legendary explorations. It was a global sensation and reignited interest in Viking history. Created by Michael Hirst, Vikings offers six seasons of exciting television viewing to explore the rich history of the Viking age.

At the heart of Vikings is the enigmatic figure of Ragnar Lothbrok, a powerful character from Norse legends. His quest for exploration and conquest takes audiences on a thrilling journey to distant lands that later became places like England and France.

The series is loosely based on history, in part because of how much is unknown about Viking culture, religious traditions, and ceremonies.  Instead, the striking visual storytelling inspires viewers to do their own research after many episodes. The series also interweaves elements of Norse mythology, portraying gods like Odin and Freyja into the story.

The story is set in the fictional town of Kattegat in Norway. Most of the filming was done in Ireland, but there are many scenes filmed in Norway. Especially as the seasons unfold, filming was done in many other countries. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Scandinavia’s fjords, forests, and coastlines, the show achieves stunning scenic realism. 

For travelers eager to experience the Viking world in person, Norway offers a wealth of opportunities. Visitors can explore historical sites like the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, the Lofotr Viking Museum in the Lofoten Islands, and many Viking living history centers around the country. These locations provide a tangible connection to the Viking legacy portrayed in Vikings, allowing enthusiasts to step back in time and immerse themselves in the history, culture, and heritage of these seafaring warriors.

Norwegian Comedies

Home for Christmas (2019-2020)

This modern Norwegian TV show aired on Netflix and took the world by storm despite being entirely in the Norwegian language (with English subtitles), thanks to its relatable characters and classic Christmas rom-com storyline. 

Filmed in Oslo and the adorable small Norwegian town of Røros, this hilarious series follows the perpetually single Johanne (played by Ida Elise Broch) who is looking for a new boyfriend to bring home for Christmas, purely to divert from the usual family harassment surrounding her single status. Any females in their 20’s or 30’s who have faced similar questions throughout their lives can relate to this great plot line! 

While this Norwegian comedy is complete fiction, the traditions, customs, and societal situations are very true to life in Norway and give you a great insight into the country’s culture in everyday life. Whether you’re dating a Norwegian or visiting during the holiday season, this two season show will absolutely prepare you for what to expect at the Julebord (Christmas table).

Contributed by Kate Fletcher at Bags-Always-Packed


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Some Norwegian humor can be very entertaining. This is what you will see when watching Netflix’s Norwegian comedy Norsemen. This series combines the pre-medieval Viking culture and lifestyle with modern humor in the character’s day-to-day lives. 

The setting is a fictional village where the Viking characters live and interact with each other. It comedically deals with the issues and problems of that time including slavery, religion, family, sexual orientation, societal expectations, and modernization. With the locations being shot in parts of Southern Norway you get to see part of the landscape beauty of this country. 

If you decide to watch this before going to Norway, it may pique your interest in learning more about the history of the Vikings and their impact on the rest of the world. Learn about their ships, weapons, religion, games, and royalty. Even if it does not make any changes to your perception of Norway, it is always fun to see the different types of comedy from around the world. You may find you enjoy it more than your own.

Submitted by Nick of The World Overload

Norwegian Family Movies

Frozen (2013)

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With an amazing story and soundtrack, Disney’s Frozen is one of the most successful and beautifully animated musical films ever produced. Set in the fictional Kingdom of Arendelle, it draws inspiration from many Norwegian locations including Arendal and Bergen.

The film follows Princess Anna on an epic adventure as she travels across the Kingdom with her friend Kristof and his reindeer Sven on a mission to end the perpetual winter accidentally brought on by her sister, Queen Elsa.

Idina Mensel and Kristen Bell bring Anna and Elsa’s voices to life with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee skillfully navigating the film to its emotional conclusion.

Children and adults will love this movie’s mix of catch sing-along songs and its divergence from traditional fairy tale conventions. Visitors to Norway will love looking out for the many architectural and scenic similarities that run through the film. From stunning fjords to traditional stave churches, after watching the film you’ll feel like you have stepped into the world’s largest movie set!

Contributed by Tom and Katie at

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

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What makes How to Train Your Dragon a great movie to watch is its universal appeal to both kids and adults. This animated gem, directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, combines exciting visuals, a heartwarming story, and a lovable dragon named Toothless. It’s set in the fictional island of Berk, which draws inspiration from the rugged landscapes of the west coast of Norway. While the film is a work of fiction, its landscapes echo the majestic fjords and coastal beauty that Norway is known for.

In this film, a young Viking named Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, learns about acceptance and friendship as he befriends Toothless, a Night Fury dragon. Together, they strive to change their community’s perception of dragons. 

Watching How to Train Your Dragon can enhance your trip to Norway by sparking a sense of wonder for the country’s natural beauty and curiosity about its past. Families can explore the coastal regions of Norway, and children may imagine themselves on their own dragon-riding adventures amidst Norway’s enchanting scenery. It can also spark conversations and deeper dives into learning more about Viking history and Norse Mythology, where dragons played an important role.

The author and her family hiking Jostedal Glacier in Norway

Movies About Norway to Add to Your Watchlist

I hope you found some wonderful movies about Norway to add to your watchlist in this article! Let they joy of your trip extend far beyond your time in Norway by learning and enjoying as much as you can before you arrive. Trip Scholars is dedicated to helping you make the most of learning through travel so take some time to explore our site and see how we can enhance your travels.

Tell us about your plans for Norway in the comments or your favorite Norwegian films. We’d love to hear from you!

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Best Movies About Hawaii to Watch Before Your Trip

Best Movies About Hawaii to Watch Before Your Trip

Isaac Hale Beach, Big Island, Hawai’i

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Whether you are planning a trip or dreaming of the islands, enjoy this collection of the best movies about Hawaii! The Aloha state is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world, in fact over 100 feature films have been shot here. It is also one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world, allowing directors to utilize an extraordinary range of dramatic natural scenery. Grab your popcorn and expect a visual delight!

Our family lived in Hawaii, and we love to bring the beauty, culture, and history of the islands into our lives on the mainland, often through film. I’ve also asked travel writers to share the Hawaii movies they recommend to people planning their own trips.

We start with some fantastic films made by Hawaiians and other residents of the Hawaii. They will help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the islands, inspiring you be a more thoughtful traveler. You will also appreciate the exquisite natural beauty of the islands and find inspiration for caring for it while you visit.

You can extend the joy of your travels and understand the country much more deeply by spending the months (or years!) preceding your trip by learning about Hawaii. At Trip Scholars, we offer many resources and ideas to help you dive deep into understanding your travel destinations before you arrive. 

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Table of Contents

Movies in the Hawaiian Language


2020 | NR

This evocative and memorable animated film is one you will want to watch before your trip to Hawaii. It tells the legend of the mahu deities (deities of the third gender, embodying both male and female) who came from Tahiti to Hawaii to share their healing powers. Their healing gifts remain in four Stones of Life, or Nā Pōhaku Ola, on the beach in Waikiki today. 

The eight minute short has won numerous international awards and is narrated completely in Hawaiian with English subtitles. You will be captivated by the animation style and transported with the soundtrack. The story is a haunting reminder of the suppressed history of Native Hawaiians and encourages us to learn more. This same interpretation is also available as a book.

Both adults and children can enjoy this film from home and then visit the stones in Waikiki. You can find the location here to add a visit to the Stones of Life to your itinerary. 

Movies About Hawaiian Culture

The Haumana

2013 | NR

This multi award winning film was written and produced by the Hawaiian actor, director, and hula master Keo Woolford. It is a top movie recommendation because of the realistic portrayal of local Hawaiian culture, engaging acting, and captivating hula scenes.

Haumana is Hawaiian for disciple or student, and this highly enjoyable film allows us to learn and be inspired alongside the main character, Johnny Kealoha. Kealoha hosts a highly commercialized Polynesian show for tourists in Waikiki but is asked by his Kumu Hulu (master hula teacher) to teach the high school boys hula class. As he grows as their instructor, he also expands his own understanding of hula, his culture, and ultimately himself. 

The movie is filmed on Oahu and the cast has many local Hawaiians. We are given an intimate window into learning traditional hula, with a gorgeous soundtrack including contributions from top Hawaiian musicians like Robert Cazimero. The characters navigate blending ancient Hawaiian traditions with being teenagers on modern day Oahu. Add it to your queue today, you will be glad you did!

Documentaries on Hawaii: Culture

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

2012 |NR

Hawaiian music is certain to be a highlight of any trip to the islands and this documentary will give you a much deeper understanding of its influence and importance. Plus, it is an absolute joy to watch and listen to Jake Shimabukuro! The virtuoso is a world famous ukulele player who has shown global audiences what an exceptionally talented and creative player can do with this beautiful instrument. 

The documentary follows Shimabukuro through a season of performing, but also looks back on his childhood and forward to his future dreams. His humility, curiosity, and generous spirit are easily highlighted throughout the film. It is uplifting, not just because of his musical performances, but also because of his inspiring life story.

Start a playlist of Hawaiian music while still at home and include both Shimabukuro’s solo work and his recordings from his earlier band, Pure Heart.  While you are in the Islands, be sure to find some live local music! There are often free performances in shopping centers, parks, and local events.

If you are inspired, I also recommend trying the ukulele yourself. I love to play and have two ukuleles, this is my favorite. It is very forgiving and a great choice for beginners on a stringed instrument, so you can be playing a simple tune your first afternoon.  But, as you have seen in this documentary, the ukulele can play transformative music in the hands of a master.

The Endless Summer

1966 | 11+

Endless Summer is very much what the title says, a trip around the world by two surfers in search of the world’s best surfing and endless sun. Naturally, Hawaii fits them perfectly, being famous for its huge waves for surfing and sunny weather.

Although the movie is not entirely about Hawaii, the segment about it shows the surf scene in Hawaii during the 1960s, which was partially instrumental in the surge of tourism that followed afterwards. Indeed, much of the appeal of visiting Hawaii came about from the images of a relaxed beach vibe and epic waves that purveyed in the surf scene there.

The surfing culture in Hawaii is the most famous in the world due to its ancient surfing traditions among the inhabitants of the area that surfed the waves on longboards going back 1500 years, long before ‘westerners’ discovered it.

The Endless Summer is one of the best travel movies that you can watch, especially if you have an interest in surf, sun, and adventure. Great for watching before any trip to Hawaii.

Contributed by Johnny at Backpackingman

Wayfinders: A Pacific Odessey

1999 | NR

If you have always wondered how the early Polyneisians discovered Hawaii in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, this documentary is for you! It is a PBS special revealing the rare art of wayfinding, the art of navigating the sea using only nature as one’s guide: the stars, sun, weather, sea, and animals. Historically many anthropologists and historians did not think early Polyneisians could have intentionally navigated the massive Pacific to populate the many islands throughout the ocean. However, work by The Polynesian Voyaging Society, Maiden Voyage Productions (who created the film), and many others has proven that wayfinding was an important skill throughout ancient Polynesia.

In the film we are introduced to one of the few remaining wayfinders in the world, Mau Pialug from the island of Satawal. He teaches Nainoa Thompson, a Native Hawaiian navigator, and in turn, a whole new generation of nature based navigators. Herb Kane designed the famous Hawaian sailing vessel, Hokule’a, after a lifetime of studying ancient Hawaiian canoes. It was eventually built in a mostly traditional way, in large part by volunteers in Hawaii. 

We follow along as a new generation from many islands around Polynesia learn wayfinding skills and boat building techniques, while also coming to a greater understanding of their cultural heritage. Patrick Stewart narrates the role of Captain Cook, the famous British navigator and cartographer. The nearly extinct art of wayfinding is put to the test as these modern sailors set out on a 2000 mile journey, with nature, their knowledge, and their history to guide them.

Hawaiian Islands | Filmed in 1906

1906 | NR

This unique footage is a fascinating window into life in Hawaii in 1906. The inventor Thomas Edison also had a film studio and he sent Robert Bonine in the early 1900’s to gather footage of the islands. There are over 30 clips, all of them silent. A few of them include what is thought to be the oldest film clips of surfing in the world. 

This is not your typical documentary, but it is a rare and unique view of many places and cultural touchstones. The youtube description includes the titles of each clip so you can watch just the places you plan to visit– but you will likely be hooked and want to watch a lot more!

Hawaii Documentaries: Nature

Witness the Volcanoes of Hawai'i | National Geographic

Kīlauea Volcano

When we are on the islands we are constantly aware that we are actually on volcanoes: active, dormant, or extinct. Each island arose from the bottom of the ocean floor as it was formed over the hotspot that is currently under the Big Island. Weather erodes them and plate tectonics carry the volcanoes northwest. These exposed peaks form the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain, the youngest of which are the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Curious travelers can experience the vastness of geologic forces in real time by visiting an older island, like Kawaii, and comparing the island to what they see on the youngest, the Big Island. 

The Big Island is a dream destination for anyone fascinated by volcanoes and geology. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will likely make you a lifelong admirer. Much of the park, and over half of the island, is on the volcano Mauna Loa. The rest of HVNP includes the youngest above-water Hawaiian volcano, Kilauea. 

These two documentaries bring the viewer up close to learn about the incredible power and beauty of the volcanoes and they are valuable viewing before a trip to the islands. Even if you are not planning to visit the Big Island on your next trip, understanding more about how the islands are formed will enhance your time anywhere in the state. They were both made before the most recent eruptions so that information isn’t included. The films incorporate a lot of interviews with, and footage of, scientists at work in the park. They also include a strong focus on learning from Native Hawaiians about the geologic history held in songs and legends.

Another fascinating Hawaii documentary is Sharks of Hawaii.

Hawaiian History Movies

Princess Kaiulani

2009 | PG

The drama-based movie Princess Kaiulani documents the events that led up to the dissolution of the Hawaiian monarchy. It’s a history lesson for some, a painful event for others. While the movie gained mixed reviews because of its original title of ‘Barbarian Princess,’ it adds excellent incite into the Hawaiian royal family.

Iolani Palace in Oahu sets the stage for the opening of the film. Electricity has arrived in Hawaii, but the upheaval from the King’s advisors has overshadowed the momentous event. With uncertainty in the homeland, Princess Kaiulani, who’s in line for the throne, travels to Scotland for an education and to avoid the tensions.

During her absence, the King’s death and Queen Liliuokalani’s imprisonment bring her back to her homeland to fight for the monarchy. ‘Princess Kaiulani’ allows the watcher to delve into the lives of the people that made Hawaii so special. While the film may be part fiction, it embodies the spirit of her Polynesian heritage. Before traveling to Hawaii, visitors will better understand the history of royal residences such as Iolani Palace and Queen Emma Summer Palace on Oahu, and Hulihe’e Palace on Hawaii.

Contributed by Karen of Forever Karen

Pearl Harbor

2001 | PG-13

Pearl Harbor is a great movie because it takes a moment in American history and brings it to life with intense dramatic performances.  

 Directed by Michael Bay, and starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsdale, Pearl Harbor is a beautiful love story set during World War II. 

 Pearl Harbor is a fantastic movie to watch before your first trip to Hawaii beause it humanizes an important moment in Hawaii’s history. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, has been immortalized by the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu. Watching this movie, in addition to visiting the famous memorial, will add a level of relatability for the real people who died and fought on that day for anyone visiting Hawaii. 

Submitted by Katie from

Hawaiian history movies about the missionary moment to add to your queue are Hawaii and Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.

Hawaii Family Movies

Finding Ohana

2021 | PG

One of the newest kids movies filmed in Hawaii is Netflix’s Finding Ohana. It’s filmed on Oahu with a lot of the adventurous scenes at Kualoa Ranch. The story is all about a mom moving back home to Hawaii from Brooklyn with her teenage kids. The main character is a girl named Pili (played by Kea Peahu) who finds an old journal that takes her on a real-life treasure hunt. 

The movie has a lot of the same vibes as the kids adventure movies from the 90s, so both parents and kids will enjoy watching it. Plus, the soundtrack is pretty fabulous.

What sets this movie apart from other kids movies filmed in Hawaii is that they focus a lot on Hawaiian culture, especially the elusive Night Marchers. This is a really cool part of Hawaiian culture that most people don’t know about before their trip. Finally, you can even do a Hawaii movie tour to see exactly where they filmed at Kualoa Ranch!

Contributed by Marcie Cheung of Hawaii Travel with Kids


1991 | PG

Peter Pan is a classic movie and often a childhood favorite. Hook is what happens after the story of Peter Pan when Peter grows up. It is fun to learn more of the Peter Pan story, and an important lesson about growing up and changing.

Hook doesn’t take place entirely in Hawaii, but the Neverland scenes were filmed in Kuaui, Hawaii. Neverland is a magical place, and of course, Hawaii is a perfect choice for imagining Neverland. We know that Neverland is close to the ocean, as that is where Captain Hook lives. Peter lives on land but visits the mermaids under the sea and flies onto Hook’s pirate ship.

Directed by Steven Speilberg, Hook is filled with well-known actors. Robin Williams played the grown-up version Peter and his sidekick Tinkerbell is played by Julia Roberts. Dustin Hoffman played the role of Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook.

Hook is a great opportunity to discover that there is always more to the story. Plus, it’s fun to learn more about the characters we know and love. Hook is a kid’s movie that adults might enjoy even more than kids.

Who doesn’t want to go to Neverland, at least for a while? If we can’t get to Neverland, at least for now, we can imagine Neverland from the beautiful Kuaui, Hawaii.

Contributed by Lanie van der Horst at Make More Adventures

Hawaii Disney Movies

Lilo & Stitch

2002 | PG

Lilo & Stitch is a funny & unique Disney animated film based in Hawaii. The story is about a young girl who picks up a “dog” at a local pound – only to find out the animal is actually a scientific experiment called 626. Follow along as the girl learns the truth about 626 (Stitch), forms a friendship with him, and works together to avoid his capture by the Galactic Federation.  

The film itself is based in Hawaii. You’ll notice many iconic themes from Hawaiian tradition included in the movie like surfing, hula dancing, ukeles, and more! Writers used the town of Hanapee on the island of Kauai as inspiration. This town is often referred to as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town” as it is truly only made up of a few streets!

You’ll recognize scenes from the animated movie that mimic the town’s vibe with charming plantation-style buildings. You can walk in and out of many stores and restaurants here in town along the main street. You’ll even find a few murals that locals have painted in honor of the adorable animated film! Missing this small town would be one of the biggest mistakes to make when visiting Hawaii as it truly transports you into the movie Lilo & Stitch! 

Contributed by Lisa Shehan at wanderlustwithlisa


2016 | PG

Moana is set on a fictional island in Ancient Polynesia. The fictional story is based loosely on several stories from Polynesian mythology. The catchy music and powerful female lead in Moana make it a favorite. It comes complete with funny characters and jokes that Disney animated films are known for. In the movie, Moana is the daughter of the chief on a Polynesian island. Her people are struggling and she learns that Maui the demi-god has stolen the heart of Te Fiti. She takes off on open water to find Maui, restore the ocean, and heal her island. 

Moana is a great movie to watch with kids to kick start a conversation about Polynesian culture and history before your trip. Hawai’i marks one corner of the Polynesian triangle and the story of Maui is a common one in all of the Polynesian Islands. The demi-god is known for being mischievous and for using his powers to help humans. As in Moana, Maui is known for his magic fish hook in Hawaii but in other parts of Polynesia, he is known differently. The story in the movie is fictional but with some quick research you can find the different cultures associated with each story about Maui mentioned in the song “You’re Welcome”.  The Polynesian Islands share many parts of their culture but are each unique as well. Watching the fictional story in Moana can open a conversation about Polynesia. The Hawaiians make a great effort to revive, maintain, and showcase their culture; Use Moana to start the conversation before you leave. 

Contributed by Jami at Celiac Travel Pack

Adventure Movies in Hawaii

Kong: Skull Island

2017 | PG:13 

The movie ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a fun action / monster movie in the newly rebooted King Kong series, starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and others. In the movie, a group of soldiers and explorers has to go on an expedition to Skull Island to find the giant King Kong and other mysterious creatures.

The movie was filmed in Vietnam and Hawaii, and places where they did filming in Oahu include Kualoa Ranch, Honolulu’s Chinatown, and the Waikane Valley. A visit to Kualoa Ranch in particular is one of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii since so many movies have been filmed there — more than 80 movies in total!

Even though the plot of Kong may not win any big awards, it’s still a great movie to watch before your trip to Hawaii. It’s loaded with nice tropical scenery and intense action sequences to pump you up for your travels, and if you’re lucky you may get to visit some of the filming locations while you’re in Oahu!

 Contributed by David & Intan at The World Travel Guy

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

2017 | PG-13

For an exciting adventure film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, watch “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” A sequel to the 1995 film “Jumanji,” this reboot is a great comedy-action film that showcases some stunning Hawaiian scenery.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle tells the story of four high school students getting sucked into a video game set in the jungle. To return home, they have to beat the video game by returning a magical jewel to its shrine.

This is a great family-friendly film with tons of action, humor, and character-growth. A lot of the movie scenes were shot on the island of Oahu, and in particular, the Kualoa Ranch. And while there are many incredible Oahu waterfalls, the set of falls shown in the film are located in Papaikou on the Big Island.

Needless to say, watching “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” before a trip to Hawai’i would greatly enhance your vacation! Filled with spectacular tropical landscapes, lush jungles, and soaring hills, watching the film will truly get you pumped to visit Hawai’i. It’ll also provide you with some incredible ideas on what to do in Hawai’i, from touring the Kualoa Ranch to admiring Kawainui Falls.

Contributed by Mia at Walk a While with Me

Another classic Adventure movie to include in your watchlist is Jurassic Park.

Comedy Movies About Hawaii

The Descendants

2011 | R

Starring George Clooney, The Descendants follows Matt King, whose life is turned upside down when his wife is left in a coma after a tragic accident. Not only is Matt struggling with the consequences of the accident, but he’s also been named the trustee of an enormous plot of untouched land in Kauai and is being pressured by his family to sell this incredibly valuable asset to developers. While grappling with these issues, Matt, a busy attorney in Honolulu, attempts to figure out how to be more present for his two daughters while they navigate their mom’s possible death. 

The film is visually stunning and highlights some of Hawaii’s most beautiful landscapes, from the beaches of Oahu to the lush greenery of Kauai. But visitors should watch The Descendants for more than just its imagery- the film highlights the commoditization of Hawaiian land and the pressures locals face to exploit its natural beauty for tourism and other development. The United States’ complex- and often problematic- treatment of Hawaiian land and resources is important context for any visitor to the islands to understand and perhaps Matt’s struggles relating to his duty to protect his ancestors’ land will offer you a unique perspective before your trip.

Contributed by Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler


Forgetting Sarah Marshall

2008 | R

One of the funniest comedies of the 2000s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a great movie to watch before a trip to Oahu, especially if your trip involves the North Shore! 

The movie features Jason Segel as the forlorn, newly-dumped boyfriend of a famous TV actress, Sarah Marshall. He goes to Oahu to try to find himself and relax — but ends up finding out that she and her new boyfriend, played by Russell Brand, are staying at the same resort he is! Luckily, he unexpectedly makes friends with a bunch of workers at the resort, and they help to save his trip.

The movie is filmed mostly at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, and it has scenes from different places along the North Shore, including the famous ‘cliff jumping’ scene which takes place at Laie Point, and the surfing scenes filmed on the beaches near Haleiwa. The beautiful shots of these North Shore locales will have you adding it to your Oahu itinerary!

This funny movie is also poignant, and it’ll be especially resonant for solo travelers or people who are taking a trip in order to forget or get over a recent bad event like a breakup or loss. The movie addresses how we can feel lost and look to travel to try to save us, but ultimately, our connections with the people we meet while traveling are what impact our experience the most. For travelers feeling a bit lost, this is a really powerful message to take with you both on your travels to Hawaii and when you return home. 

Contributed by Allison Green of Eternal Arrival

50 First Dates

2004 | PG13

The film, 50 First Dates takes place on the mesmerizing island of Oahu and is charming because of it’s message of true love despite the odds. The movie follows the daily interactions between the main character, Henry who is set on winning over Lucy, a joyful woman who unfortunately forgets what happens every day due to short-term memory loss. 

Fifty First Dates follows the interactions and budding love Henry develops for Lucy as he continues his battle every day to win her over, while also trying to convince her close friends and family that he can make her happy. In the movie, you taste Hawaiian culture in the attire as well as the cuisine, like at Hukilau cafe, where Lucy eats every morning. 

You also get to see some popular historic locations in the movie, like where Lucy and Henry kiss at the famous Makapuu lighthouse, which is a popular hiking destination in Oahu. Lucy lives on the ranch at Kualoa Ranch, a substantial 4000-acre private nature reserve. Another famous Hawaiian location, as seen in the movie, is where Henry works, the real-life Sea Life Park. This renowned park allows visitors to meet the animals up close but still works towards preserving nature and conserving wildlife. The concept of the preservation and conservation of nature is an important focus in Hawaii. All in all, 50 First Dates is not only a cute and funny movie but shows us a glimpse of Hawaii and it’s culture. 

Contributed by Sierra and Yesenia, The Sisters Who Voyage

Hawaii Surfing Movies

Soul Surfer

2011 | PG

The movie Soul Surfer is set on the island of Kaui and follows the story of Bethany Hamilton, an upcoming teenage surfing star who was attacked by a shark one day on the water. The shark bit off her arm but luckily, Bethany survived the attack. The movie focuses on her journey to figure out how to cope with the loss of her arm and also how she overcame that setback in her surfing career. 

It’s a heartwarming and incredibly inspiring film that is perfect for families and anyone who loves a movie about overcoming the odds. Sean McNamara was the director, and Anna Sophia Robb starred in the film. 

The movie showcases the beauty of Hawaiian water and beaches and the strength of the local communities. There are also many scenes of surfing competitions and surfing practice in Hawaii, which is an aspect of a Hawaiian vacation that many visitors are interested in. 

Contributed by Stephanie Rytting of The Unknown Enthusiast

Gidget Goes Hawaiian

1961 | NR

One of the cutest movies that is set in Hawaii is a 1960’s surfer chick-flick called Gidget Goes Hawaiian. The Gidget series follows the story of a small, teenage girl named Francine. Francine longs for a life that is more than just sitting at home, and finds her passion in the waves. In the first Gidget movie, Francine learns how to surf with the help of Moondoggie and his surfer bros. She receives the nickname “Gidget” from them – girl + midget. She falls in love with Moondoggie and surfing and the rest is history.

In Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Francine has the opportunity to go to Hawaii and surf some pretty big waves. Just before the adventure, she and Moondoggie break up, making her Hawaiian adventure now fueled with “post-breakup” vibes. This movie is super cute and shows off multiple Hawaiian hotels and beaches. It will make you want to go to Hawaii, learn to surf, and fall in love. From the beautiful beaches to the cute Luaus, Gidget Goes Hawaiian is the perfect movie to watch before going to Hawaii because it will inspire you to get out there and enjoy everything the Hawaiian islands have to offer.

Contributed by Shannon at Adventuring With Shannon

Other surfing movies to enjoy are the documentaries Endless Summer and Hawaii 1906 shared earlier in this article.

Films About Hawaii

Watching films from this collection is sure to give you a deeper understanding of Hawaii: it’s natural beauty, fascinating culture, and rich history. Hopefully you’ve found some great Hawaii movies to add to your queue!

What are your favorites? Did we miss anything you would recommend? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!



Hi, I’m Erica and I created Trip Scholars for curious travelers like you! I'm an award winning travel education specialist, best selling author, certified travel coach, and travel advisor dedicated to helping you learn through travel. Through my blog, workshops, and coaching, I help people bring more meaning, connection, and understanding to their journeys-- and their lives.
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