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Island in the Sun: 11 Movies About Islands

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Lists | December 11, 2012 |

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Lists | December 11, 2012 |

I’m in the Caribbean. I know. It’s for work, I’m writing a series of articles on traveling and being alone. (“Alone. Alone, alone, alone. Alone. Alone.” - Renee Zellweger, Jerry Maguire) No, I know. I was on various planes for nine hours in order to get here. I’m only half complaining, mostly because it’s my natural state. In the dark of the red eye flight from Los Angeles I woke up to the sound of myself loudly saying “No!” to a quiet and sleeping plane. I didn’t shout, but I felt hysterical in that moment. As corny as it sounds, as we finally lifted down through the clouds to St. Maarten, the cold grip of stress began to relax and slip slowly away, my fears subsiding for a moment, worries looped forward for another day.

I’m surprised how warm it is here, the sands are white, the water is turquoise, the mountainsides green and resplendent. We’re on a nervous first date, the island and I. “You look a lot like your picture,” I stammer, taking in the scenery and nervously downing a cocktail. The waves roar gently in response. Later on as the sounds of a reggae cover band and wild tourists dancing the night away ooze into my room I get demanding, petulant. I tell the island, “Listen, I don’t know how you can stand those people. Yes, those people. You’re too good for them.” It begins raining gently, the island cries at my disapproval and the crowds dissipate, seeking refuge at the bars.

I’m laying in bed at the Oyster Bay Resort on St. Maarten, fantasizing about finishing Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom later. I keep imagining Connie Britton in the role of Patty and maybe like a young Al Brooks as Walter, and I think Bill Callahan or a much older Geoffrey Arend as Richard. All the younger people in the book are a wash to me, their faces continually changing, but the older people in the book are so clear, so defined, it’s hard not to see them.

The ocean outside is roiling, I’ve left the sliding glass door on the balcony open, trusting that no errant bird or debris knocked loose by the winds will filter in. The waves sing a little song, you-are-free-you-are-free-you-are-free.

Cast Away

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Tom Hanks stars as a FedEx employee who is caught up in a horrible plane crash and stranded on a deserted island for years. As we flew away from Puerto Rico straight into the sunny skies towards St. Maarten, I started to panic, looking at all that water. Too much water. Water everywhere as far as the eye can see. Reminded me of the difficulties faced by Tom Hanks in attempting to escape with his trusty volleyball, Wilson. Then I got caught up on thinking about Cloud Atlas and the true true, so Cloud Atlas is a subsection in this paragraph on Tom Hanks and island movies.

Swiss Family Robinson

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The ultimate tree house of all time ever. Every kid I knew (I didn’t know many, I guess, because musing back on this that seems sort of a rare thing) really loved Swiss Family Robinson and the wondrous tree house they lived in, and the animal races, and really every lovely little thing about this ’60s Disney film. If you haven’t seen it, you must! Yes, it’s dated. Who cares, it’s magical.

The Island


How come nobody likes this movie? Starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett “The Former Mrs. Ryan Reynolds” Johansson, this film follows an entire world of worker bees who are fed on promises of “The Island,” a mythical place they’ll get to go to eventually if they fall in line and work quietly. Actually, I was surprised that “Cloud Atlas” stole this trick too. Though the Sonmi storyline is the strongest, this felt so blatantly rehashed it was boring.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall


This movie is worth a watch for several reasons, including the mind blowing puppet opera at the end. While the raunchy comedy isn’t for everyone, there’s plenty of laughs and Jason Segel and Russell Brand nail it.

Blue Lagoon


This movie is diiiiiiirty. Even as a young teen this film struck me as sort of prurient in its eroticism. If you’re gonna make a movie about banging, make a movie about banging, you know? This shocker follows two young kids who are shipwrecked and grow up alone on an island paradise, fending for themselves and falling in love without realizing it. Tremendously sad in a way (no friends! no community!), idyllic and dreamy in others (no credit cards! no people!).

The Beach


I can’t remember what this movie is about other than Leonardo DiCaprio is on a beach, and there’s a map and he goes there with some other people, and everything is not what it seems. I remember the beach being in Thailand? Near Thailand? So beautiful.



One of the most overpowering scores in all of film, the camera lingers obsessively over, and endlessly worships the shapely form of Brigitte Bardot, who plays wife to a screen writer sent to spruce up a classic telling of Odysseus. Love and marriage all gone wrong in the space of a few hours.

Jurassic Park


Uh, the ultimate island movie! Dinosaurs! On an island! Trapped with the dinosaurs! Dinosaurs gone wild! Dinosaurs gone wild on an island you can’t get out ha ha ha! Also can we talk about how Jeff Goldblum is at a very specific stage of ripeness in this film? Put that in a brown paper bag, it’ll be ready for your lunch tomorrow. I was watching this trailer before Skyfall a while ago and thought bitterly to myself that if they made it today Megan Fox would definitely be in it.

Shutter Island


One man’s journey to uncover the truth about a mysterious island where a prisoner has made his daring escape leads to fear and neurosis and Mark Ruffalo absolutely killing it in a detective’s hat. Wouldn’t you pay like, at least 5 dollars to watch a video of Ruffalo trying on different period costumes and hats? I want to Kickstart the crap out of that, who do we call?

Muppet Treasure Island


Not the best Muppets, but this goofy take on Treasure Island is pretty funny. I haven’t seen it since it came out, so I guess take that with a grain of sand.

The Pirates Movies


Yar. Filmed on every bloody island from here to Timbuktu. Which isn’t an island, actually but a town in the nation of Mali. There, you learned something. You already know everything you need to know about the pirates movies, right now.

There’s a bunch of other island themed beauties, like Cool Runnings. Also a few duds, like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Weezer’s album Island in the Sun, and then there’s a bunch of movies that I can’t stand, like 50 First Dates, Just Go With It and Couple’s Retreat, that all are filmed on islands. Yes, I get it, but c’mon. Blech.