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Summertime Crime Movies: Crime at the Beach


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Ahoy there. As I write this, I am sitting in my apartment, with the AC cranked up all the way. It is a sweltering, blindingly-sunny day in New York City. After taking my dog outside for the most unpleasantly hot dog walk we’ve had in a while, I find myself I keep gazing out my window squinting to look at the sliver of some apartment complex’s pool (yes, a pool) visible in the distance. Is it a mirage? I’m not quite sure. IS THAT A BEACH UMBRELLA I SEE BEFORE ME? O, to have a swimming pool in New York City. Or, really, to be somewhere else other than New York City where swimming is more easily accomplished—in a pool, on the beach, wherever. The South of France! Tuscany! The Caribbean! ANYWHERE. It’s so hot in New York that, at this point, I would honestly settle for Amity Island and take my chances.

If going for a swim isn’t in your future (or even if it it is; maybe you’re planning on hitting the beach this weekend but you’re still at work right NOW), might I recommend rubbing ice cubes on yourself while watching one of these movies, all crime movies, set along the beach?

Here is our second installment of our Summertime Crime Movies series. Last week, we recommended crimey road trips, this week we’re recommending crimey beach tales.

The rules: all of these beach movies have to be CRIME-RELATED (see title of website), which excludes many excellent films. I apologize. Also, once again, Y Tu Mamá También does not qualify. Sadly.

Point Break (1991)

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Point Break is the platonic ideal of the “summertime beach crime movie” so it’s going first on this list (not in a ranking, just to set the tone). Deftly directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this is the timeless story about FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) who goes undercover with a gang of surfers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze)—surfers whom are believed to be the masterminds behind a string of flawless bank robberies. But as he spends more time with them—catching waves, jumping out of planes—he forms a deep connection with Bodhi. Loyalties are tested! Bonds will break! Critically under-appreciated during its time, it has since gained cult status thanks in part to the Keanu stans out there doing the Lord’s work. Also, this is unrelated but I am SHOCKED that Patrick Swayze was THIRTY NINE when he made this movie. He looks a decade younger, at LEAST.

Jaws (1975)

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Possibly my favorite film of all time, Jaws is the best summertime movie ever made, and you bet it counts as “beach crime” because the police department’s unfortunate mishandling the death of Chrissie Watkins sets in motion all the major events to come. I watch it every year on the Fourth of July, often with my dad.

Casino Royale (2006)

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This is one of the most coastal James Bond films. Lots of shots of the sparkling, crystal Caribbean sea, and the hyper-believable shot of a woman in a bikini riding a while horse thorough the waves on a public beach.

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

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Even without seeing it, you definitely know the most famous aspect of the Weekend at Bernie‘s mise-en-scene (sticking a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap on a dead guy and attempting to prop him up). But a less-famous element is the setting, which is in the Hamptons.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

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Not only does The Talented Mr. Ripley have the beach… it has Italian beaches. It’s a multi-seasonal film, but it’s summertime scenes are unforgettable. It’s agony not to be able to lounge on a beach all day in Tuscany… which, yeah, is kind of the point.

Cape Fear (1962)

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Idk, I kind of think the original Cape Fear is scarier than the new one. But anyway, Gregory Peck is a lawyer who takes his wife and teenage daughter on a beach vacation. But a criminal he once put away (the ever-threatening Robert Mitchem) stalks him and his family for revenge.

La Piscine (1969)

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Two vacationing lovers (the real life ex-couple Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) are hanging out at a villa along the French Riviera when the arrival of Maurice Ronet and his daughter Jane Birkin cause passions to flare and tensions to rise… with disastrous consequences.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

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Mildred Pierce has it all: sunny beaches, roadside diners, people standing on a piers wistfully gazing out at the surf, and MURDER!

To Catch a Thief (1955)

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Watching To Catch a Thief in the summer is like Grace Kelly bringing chicken to a picnic: it’s all about vibes. It’s maybe the MOST fun and very flirty Hitchcock movie. Former jewel thief Cary Grant is enjoying his retirement on the French Riviera, until he is suspected to be up to his old tricks when some wealthy tourists’ valuables go missing. And he meets the (ahem, much younger) Grace Kelly who totally lusts over him, planning her capture of him just as methodically as she plans how to help clear his name. Thank VistaVision and Technicolor for the incredible shots of the sparkling blue water.

Purple Noon (1960)

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René Clément’s breathtaking 1960 adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley stars Alain Delon as Ripley and Maurice Ronet as Dickie Greenleaf. And boy, are they GOOD.

Cape Fear (1991)

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In this twisted remake of the Gregory Peck-Robert Mitchem original, Robert de Niro plays a rapist who, newly out of prison, stalks the family of the lawyer who defended him.

Inherent Vice (2014)

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This dreamy, three-hour-long deep cut from Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon, tells of “Doc” Sportello, a beachside LA PI who winds up investigating a land developer at the behest of his former girlfriend… and then has to investigate her disappearance, not long after.

Ghost Writer (2010)

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Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan are the leads in this political thriller, but the real star is its setting: a stormy, gloomy Martha’s Vineyard.

Dr. No (1962)

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The original Bond film is also its most beachiest. Basically the whole thing takes place in Jamaica and it’s really gorgeous. This film also might give us one of the coolest beachiest LOOKS on this list, which is obviously Ursula Andress wearing the white, belted bikini with its own knife holster.

Spring Breakers (2012)

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James Franco is suitably disgusting in this Florida-set crime movie about a bunch of college girls who wind up making terrifying decisions while partying on vacation.

Kiss Me Deadly (1950)

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Calling Kiss Me Deadly a “beach” movie is like calling Jaws a movie about a fishing trip. It’s not inaccurate, but its relevant criteria is waaaaaay more intense than the categorization suggests.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

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I don’t remember a lot about this Charlie’s Angels sequel, except that it has an amazing cast full of cameos (including Carrie Fisher as a nun) and that it often takes place at the beach.

The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming (1966)

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The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming, Norman Jewison and William Rose’s fantastic Cold War satire, panic sweeping a small, quaint New England island after a Russian military submarine accidentally runs aground on the beach, on the last weekend of summer. As the sailors (led by Alan Arkin) try to find a boat to pull the sub of the sandbar, they wind up enlisting the very reluctant help of Carl Reiner, an exasperated New York City musical comedy writer who’s taken his family up there for a vacation. And inadvertently almost causing a panic that starts WWIII. But yeah, lots of gorgeous beach scenes.

 Darker than Amber (1970)

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Rod Taylor plays Travis McGee, John D. MacDonald’s famous detective protagonist in this adaptation of his novel, concerning an investigation into the attempted murder of a young woman who is thrown off a bridge where McGee happens to be fishing in his Florida hometown.

Die Another Day (2002)

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Brosnan’s final turn as James Bond takes place in many countries, but also in Cuba, where he meets NSA Agent Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) who is wearing the orange version of Ursula Andress’s Dr. No swimsuit.

Gomorrah (2008)

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This Italian crime film is an adaptation adaptation of the undercover journalist Roberto Saviano’s best-selling exposé of the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia. Surprisingly, a lot of it takes place on beautiful-but-gray seashore.

Miami Blues (1990)

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There’s not as much beach as you want in this adaptation of Charles Willeford’s novel, about a psychopath (Alex Baldwin) impersonating a cop, living it up and committing crimes (but also kind of catching bad guys) in Florida after his release. But there’s enough beach.

Married to the Mob (1988)

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This actually-very-cute Jonathan Demme comedy stars a curly Michelle Pfeiffer as a mob widow longing to separate herself from her husband’s dangerous former life. It takes place in Miami! Dean Stockwell is the bad guy. And, Mercedes Ruehl is hysterical.

Scarface (1983)

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Obviously.

Under the Sand (2000)

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Charlotte Rampling stars in this triste François Ozon film about a professor coping with her husband’s disappearance along the beach.

Swimming Pool (2003)

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Charlotte Rampling stars in this other François Ozon film about a British mystery author who takes a vacation to her publisher’s house in the South of France, but develops a complicated relationship with the publisher’s daughter.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

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The Man with the Golden Gun isn’t the greatest Bond film, but it does take place on the gorgeous beaches of Khao Phing Kan in Thailand.

The Tamarind Seed (1974)

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Julie Andres is a British civil servant who finds herself falling in love with Russian agent Omar Sharif along a Caribbean Beach. Wouldn’t you?

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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Remember that part of the very NYC-focused The Thomas Crown Affairwhere Pierce Brosnan spirits Rene Russo away to his Caribbean hideaway on Martinique?

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

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We need more comedies on this list! I first watched this adorable Doris Day movie, about a PR-employee at NASA’s aerospace research facility who also acts as a mermaid for her father’s glass-bottom-boat business WHO is accidentally mistaken to be a Russian spy, WHILE staying at Doris Day’s bed-and-breakfast in Carmel, California. This is actually the perfect movie to watch WHILE on vacation. It’s so random and cute and it’s the perfect thing to put on at night after a day of swimming. Plus the great comic genius Paul Lynde is in it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

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I mean… think about it.

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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