The original Point Break came out in 1991 and has since developed into a bit of a cult classic. It’s got everything you’d want in a cheesy ‘90s action movie, and it’s all the more interesting when you find out that it was directed by eventual Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow.
The film is built upon a ridiculous premise: a young FBI agent is tasked with going undercover as a surfer in L.A. to find a gang of bank robbers suspected to be surfers themselves. It’s the kind of description you’d give to your friends if you didn’t want them to watch it with you. However, the movie is an incredibly entertaining thrill ride and holds a special place in the hearts of many. OK, maybe not many, but some, myself included. After all, I did name my dog “Bodhi” in tribute to Patrick Swayze’s character.
Here are 10 reasons that I think the original Point Break (not the compromised 2015 remake) is the best surfing movie ever (Warning: Spoilers abound for the uninitiated.):
1. Keanu Reeves.
Say what you want about Keanu Reeves’s patented mannequin acting style, but it’s really entertaining in the right setting. Hearing his character, Johnny Utah (a blatant rip-off of Joe Montana), proclaim “I am an F-B-I agent” in monotone before helping the bad guys rob a bank is classic Keanu. It’s definitely foreshadowing for the Matrix classic: “I know kung fu.”
2. Keanu jumps out of an airplane without a parachute.
There is a plethora of ridiculous action scenes in this movie, but this one takes the cake. Swayze’s character, Bodhi, makes his escape from Johnny Utah by skydiving out of an airplane into Mexico, but Utah has one last trick up his sleeve. He decides to jump out of the airplane himself despite not having a chute. Thanks to an implied mastery of aerodynamics, Utah catches up to Bodhi (aka a blatant stunt double for Swayze) and is able to grab and hold onto him for the remainder of the ride. Mind you, Swayze hasn’t even pulled the cord on his chute when Utah catches up to him. There are so many physics problems to address here that I’m just going to move on.
3. Swayze really did jump out of a plane during filming.
I feel compelled to follow up the burn about Swayze’s stunt double with credit to Swayze himself. He actually jumps out of an airplane in the aforementioned scene, accompanied by an “Adios, amigo.” The guy is skydiving into Mexico, after all. If you’ve watched the special features on the DVD like any reasonable Point Break fan, you know that Swayze was skydiving constantly during the filming period and decided to do it on screen despite the studio’s protest. Swayze said he once responded to someone doubting the scene’s validity with, “Show me the cut.” Pretty badass.
4. There is an Endless Summer reference by Gary Busey.
You’ve got to love it when a real-life maniac is playing a scripted maniac that references the most revered surf doc in history after chugging Jack Daniels and jumping onto a table. This is done in the FBI office, mind you, though after hours.
5. Dr. Cox’s walk and talk.
Anyone familiar with the TV show Scrubs will recognize John C. McGinley, aka Dr. Cox, as the hard-ass FBI Director Harp in Point Break. He’s got some great lines like, “In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, then that would be something, but you don’t.” Move over Aristotle. But his best scene comes shortly after his introduction in the form of a walk-and-talk briefing with Utah that is done in one continuous shot. It’s not the club entrance scene from Goodfellas, but it’s still damn impressive.
6. Utah gets cracked in the face for dropping in.
Johnny’s surf lesson early in the movie obviously did not cover surfing etiquette, because later we see Agent Utah dropping in on scary-looking dudes with names like Bunker and War Child at Latigo Beach. Bunker finally has had enough after Utah dings his board and socks the FBI agent right in the kisser. He then uses a knife to cut Utah’s leash and sends his board careening toward shore. Utah exacts his revenge with the help of Bodhi later, but it’s clear Johnny needs a serious lesson on surfing’s dos and don’ts.
7. The ease of night surfing.
Despite the fact that FBI agent and surfing novice Johnny Utah has like two sessions under his belt, he’s convinced to paddle out on a performance shortboard in the dark after drinking beer and tequila. Thus is the power of surf guru Bodhi. Yet somehow this is when Utah’s surfing finally clicks in and we’re treated to him yelling, “I’m fuckin’ surfing!” What a natural.
The seminal moment when Utah realizes he’s in deeper than he ever could have imagined. He has the opportunity to shoot Bodhi as their chase scene climaxes, but all he can do is fire his weapon into the air and scream in agony because of his affinity for his friend. The FBI did NOT train him for this!
9. The meatball sandwiches!
Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “Utah, get me two!” and not understand what the hell they were talking about? Well, then you need to watch Point Break. It’s from an odd scene where Gary Busey unexpectedly becomes obsessed with the idea of eating two meatball sandwiches at 10:30 in the morning while staking out a bank. He’s so worried that Utah is going to only get him one sandwich that he immediately reminds him, “Utah, get me two!” These meatballs are actually the cause of the two FBI agents missing most of the bank robbery they were supposed to be staking out. Fuckin’ meatballs, man.
10. The movie ends at Bells Beach.
Bells Beach is home to one of the most famous surf contests in the world, and it just happens that the final scene in Point Break takes place there (though it was actually filmed in Oregon). There Johnny finally captures Bodhi after months of chasing him around the globe, only to end up letting him paddle into the massive swell of a “50-year storm” out of respect. Bodhi promptly wipes out on a huge wave never to be seen again as a now-long-haired Johnny tosses his FBI badge into the ocean. Fin. The. Perfect. Movie.