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Hawaii is the stuff of legends, ancient and modern, against a backdrop of pre-made blockbuster scenery. It’s no wonder Hollywood moviemakers and best-selling writers turn to these islands for inspiration. Here’s just a few creative landmarks on the vast canvas.

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Hawaii by James Michener (1959)

Like ‘South Pacific’ (set in Vanuatu, but filmed in Hawaii) Michener’s masterful, dramatic novel is firmly grounded in real events. From the earliest Polynesian settlers to Hawaii’s graduation to US statehood, the characters tell the real story of Hawaii.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (2004)

Based on real events, the primary character, a seven-year-old Hawaiian girl named Rachel Kalama, finds herself in the leper colony on Moloka’i in the 1890s. Her triumph over adversity in this paradise/hell is a critically acclaimed, dramatic account of true life.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings (2007)

Made into a film in 2011 which subsequently won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, both versions draw on the almost-forgotten ancestral land titles of the former Hawaiian monarchy and contrasts the dysfunctional family with the beauty of Hawaii through visuals and soundtrack.

The Islands by Di Morrissey (2008)

For those looking for a romantic Australian connection, Di Morrissey’s tale of seduction, love and double take on the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands could be the page-turner to prepare you for your aloha vacation - or carry you through it.

Lost Kingdom by Julia Flynn Siler (2013)

For those with a taste for history, this work subtitled ‘Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Venture’ will fill in all your blanks about how the independent monarchy of Hawaii became a US territory in less than honourable circumstances. 

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From Here to Eternity (1953)

Few films had the enduring legacy of the famous scene where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr roll in amorous embrace in the surf at Halona Cove on Oahu. Even today, the moment is still re-lived by adoring couples to this day.

Blue Hawaii (1961)

Made at the Coco Palms Resort on the garden island of Kauai starring Elvis Presley, any fan will recall the scene where he and Joan Blackman paddle down the lagoon with Presley crooning the Hawaiian Wedding Song along the way. 

Tora, Tora, Tora (1970)

The dramatic events of December 7, 1941, have been captured on film for both cinema and television, with the most acclaimed version being 1970’s ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’, an historically accurate US-Japanese co-production, as opposed to the highly fictionalised 2001 version. 

50 First Dates (2004)

Okay, it’s a bit soppy and goofy as Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore reunite for this off-beat rom-com but, oh lordy, is it packed with Hawaii! The many fans of Sandler, mostly female, are quick to cite this as their most memorable cinematic connection with Hawaii. While on the rom-com tip, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) deserves an honorable mention too. 

Hawai’i Five-O (1968–1980, remade 2010)

The longest running TV cop show until Law & Order in 2003, the rapid-fire, adrenalin rush opening scene embedded all the key Honolulu sights in a breathtaking sixity second deluge that created an instant ‘tick list’ for millions of viewers drawn to Hawaii's shores. 

 

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