Beach Party Movies: From 'Gidget' to 'Muscle Beach Party' and More - Rolling Stone
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Eight Classic Beach Party Movies

This silly genre had a long history before ‘Teen Beach Movie’

Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon and Linda Evans in Beach Blanket BingoAnnette Funicello, Frankie Avalon and Linda Evans in Beach Blanket Bingo

Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon and Linda Evans in 'Beach Blanket Bingo'

FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Teen Beach Movie, Disney Channel’s new musical, is a not-so-fresh take on a film phenomenon from the 1960s, when musicians like the Animals and Stevie Wonder kept PG-parties hopping long into the night. The stories went like this: A boy (Frankie Avalon) and a girl (Annette Funicello) go on an adventure, with someone (eventually) breaking into a song. Here are Avalon and Funicello’s top five scenes, plus three more that define the genre.

Best Summer Songs of All Time


Release Date: April 10th, 1959
, which tells the story of a California teen who falls for two surfer boys, was “a frothy hit for Columbia Pictures” says Encyclopedia of Surfing author Matt Warshaw. Such a hit, in fact, that in spawned two sequels, two novelizations and two television spin-offs. In the clip above, Sally Field, in her first performance, appears as Gidget in the 1965 sitcom of the same name. It’s a far-cry from Lincoln and Places in the Heart, but hey – if you gotta start somewhere, it might as well be Malibu.

Beach Party

Release Date: August 7th, 1963
An anthropologist studies wild teen behavior. Enough to carry a 101-minute movie? When surf rocker Dick Dale soundtracks the party, why not? Dale ranks 74th on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, and he scores this scene with the Del Tones’ “Swingin’ and A-Surfin’.” Watch closely near the one minute mark and you’ll witness Frankie Avalon pass what appears to be a joint to a fellow partyer.

Muscle Beach Party

Release Date: March 25th, 1964
The slapstick hits hard in this Beach Party sequel, which marks the screen debut of “Little” Stevie Wonder, who released his debut The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder in late 1962.

Ride the Wild Surf

Release Date: August 5th, 1964
California surf-rebel Mickey Dora was hired as a stunt double for this picture; watch him charge with style and you’ll understand why Men’s Journal listed this as one of the 15 Best Surf Movies of All Time. Street-cred aside, any movie with a twilight dance party – and characters named Steamer and Auggie – sounds like (beach) business as usual to us.

Beach Blanket Bingo

Release Date: April 14, 1965
Bingo has it all: parachuting, a kidnapped teen idol, and (believe it) a mermaid. Plus, with Paul Lynde sneering at everyone and Don Rickles insulting, well, everyone, it’s no wonder Leonard Maltin called this “the ultimate wallow in ’60s surfing nostalgia.”

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

Release Date: July 14th, 1965
Because sometimes, on a cloudy day, the best slapstick is a motorcycle race over the river and through the woods.

Back to the Beach

Release Date: August 7th, 1987
It took six writers, Pee-wee Herman and a young Lori Loughlin (still a year away from her Full House debut) to lure back Frankie and Annette. The highlight: Fishbone’s performance of “Jamaica Ska,” which the band agreed to do in support of their first full-length album, In Your Face.

Psycho Beach Party
Release Date: August 4th, 2000
When early-60s values collide with a slasher-film, you get Psycho Beach Party, which was adapted from the 1987 off-Broadway hit of the same name. Yes, that’s a 26-year old Amy Adams dancing the night away. Did she get it worse than Sally Field in Gidget? Let us know in the comments section below.


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