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Throughout its 50-year film career, Kauai has played any number of roles with panache. It has been romantic (“The Thorn Birds”), adventurous (“Six Days/Seven Nights”) and larger than life (“King Kong”). It has welcomed such stars as Elvis Presley (“Blue Hawaii”), John Wayne (“Donovan’s Reef”) and Dustin Hoffman (“Outbreak”). With more than 100 films and television shows to its credit, it’s hard to pick just five favorites, but here goes:
Sailors singing on the beach in Hanalei, Kauai, during the filming of the movie South Pacific. // (c) 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) Even after all these years, it’s hard to forget the jaw-dropping opening sequence of this rollicking hit flick. Remember when Harrison Ford escaped a horde of angry natives by fleeing to a seaplane waiting for him in what was supposed to be a South American jungle? In reality, the scene was filmed by the Huleia River, a National Wildlife Refuge near Kauai’s main city of Lihue.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” (1991) Rich bad guy James Caan tries to steal Sarah Jessica Parker away from her husband, Nicolas Cage, by taking her for a weekend to his exotic vacation home at Anini Beach. Who can blame her for saying “yes” to such a dreamy island paradise? The movie features other Kauai locales, among them Lihue Airport, where Cage screams into a pay phone, “Is it Kapaa or Kapaa-a?”
“Jurassic Park” (1993) Steven Spielberg chose Kauai for the outdoor scenes of this blockbuster fantasy. His images of the island’s real-life natural splendors are spectacular enough to rival the scariest of animated dinosaurs. In an obscure upland forest, the film crew erected the famous Jurassic Park gates and paved a road, then deconstructed it all as soon as the scene was completed.
“Tropic Thunder” (2008) The makers of this outrageous black comedy turned a bit of Kauai into South Vietnam. Filmed largely on private and conservation lands in the central and southern regions, it boasts an all-star cast including Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte, not to mention 500 island residents who portray villagers.