Point Break

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For other uses, see Point Break (disambiguation).
Point Break
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Produced by Peter Abrams
Robert L. Levy
Screenplay by W. Peter Iliff
Story by Rick King
W. Peter Iliff
Starring Patrick Swayze
Keanu Reeves
Gary Busey
Lori Petty
John C. McGinley
James LeGros
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Donald Peterman
Edited by Howard L. Smith
Largo Entertainment
JVC Entertainment Networks
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 12, 1991 (1991-07-12)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $24 million
Box office $83,531,958

Point Break is a 1991 American action crime film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey. The title refers to the surfing term point break, where a wave breaks as it hits a point of land jutting out from the coastline. Reeves stars as rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, who is investigating a string of bank robberies possibly being committed by surfers. Johnny goes undercover to infiltrate the surfing community and develops a complex friendship with Bodhi (Swayze), the charismatic leader of a gang of surfers.

The film was a box office success upon its release, with an $83.5 M gross and a budget of $24 M and it has since gathered a worldwide cult following in VHS and later DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Plot summary[edit]

Johnny Utah is a former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback and rookie FBI Agent. He and his veteran partner, Angelo Pappas, are investigating a string of bank robberies by the "Ex-Presidents", a gang of robbers that use masks of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter to disguise their true identities. They only raid the cash drawers in the banks they rob—never going for the vault—and are out in 90 seconds. Pursuing Pappas' theory that the criminals are surfers, Johnny goes undercover to infiltrate the surfing community. Knowing nothing of the sport/lifestyle, he persuades orphan surfer girl Tyler Endicott to teach him to surf. In the process, Johnny develops a complex friendship with Bodhi, the charismatic leader of a gang of surfers, Roach, Grommet, and Nathaniel, who accept Johnny when they realize he is a former college football star. As he masters the art of surfing, Johnny finds himself increasingly drawn to the surfers' adrenaline-charged lifestyle, Bodhi's philosophies, and Tyler. Following a clue retrieved by analyzing toxins found in the hair of one of the bank robbers, Johnny and Pappas lead an FBI raid on another gang of surfers. Despite their criminal records, these surfers are not the Ex-Presidents and the raid inadvertently ruins a DEA undercover operation.

Watching Bodhi's group surfing, Johnny suspects they are the "Ex-Presidents," noting how close a group they are and the way one of them moons everyone in the same manner one of the robbers does when leaving a bank. He tails Bodhi and his suspicions are confirmed when he sees Bodhi and Roach casing a bank. Johnny and Pappas stake out the bank and the Ex-Presidents appear. Bodhi, wearing a Reagan mask, leads Johnny in a furious foot chase through the neighborhood, culminating in Johnny jumping into an aqueduct and causing an old football injury in his knee to flare up again. Despite having a clear shot at Bodhi (locking eyes with him), Johnny cannot bring himself to shoot and Bodhi escapes.

At a campfire that night, it is confirmed that Bodhi and his gang are the Ex-Presidents. Their motivation is not profit, but rebelling against the system. Knowing Johnny's true identity, most of the gang want out but Bodhi refuses to fold. The next morning, Bodhi aggressively recruits Johnny into going skydiving with him and his friends. Johnny, still without proof of Bodhi's bank robbing, tags along. After the jump, Bodhi reveals that he knows Johnny is FBI and has arranged for his friend Rosie, a non-surfing thug, to hold Tyler hostage. Johnny is forced to go with the Ex-Presidents in their last bank robbery of the summer, but Bodhi breaks his own rule by going for the vault, taking too much time. Then Grommet, along with an off-duty police officer and a security guard who try to stop the robbery, are killed. Angered by Grommet's death and by having to kill the cop, Bodhi knocks Johnny out and leaves him at the scene.

Defying their boss, Pappas and Johnny head to the airport where Bodhi, Roach, and Nathaniel are about to leave for Mexico, where Rosie awaits them with Tyler. During a shootout, Pappas and Nathaniel are killed, while Roach is seriously wounded. The pilot reveals their destination within Johnny's earshot as San Felipe, jeopardizing their escape plans. With Roach aboard, Bodhi forces Johnny onto the plane at gunpoint. Once airborne and over their intended drop zone, Bodhi and Roach put on their parachutes and jump from the plane, leaving Johnny to take the blame again. With no other parachutes available, Johnny jumps from the plane with Bodhi's gun, managing to intercept him before he lands, but Bodhi forces him to drop the gun so he can open their parachute and land safely. Upon impact, Johnny's knee gives out again, allowing Bodhi to escape Johnny's grasp. Bodhi meets with Rosie and releases Tyler. Roach dies of his wounds and Bodhi and Rosie leave with the money.

Nine months later, a long-haired Johnny, still surfing, tracks down Bodhi at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia, where a record storm is producing lethal waves. This is an event Bodhi had talked about experiencing, calling it the "50-Year Storm". During a brawl in the surf, Johnny manages to handcuff himself and Bodhi together. Bodhi begs Johnny to release him so he can ride the once-in-a-lifetime wave. Knowing he will not come back alive, Johnny releases him, bids him farewell, and watches, with the authorities, as Bodhi surfs to his death. Johnny walks away, throwing his FBI badge into the ocean.



Originally, Matthew Broderick, Johnny Depp, Val Kilmer and Charlie Sheen were all considered to star in Point Break playing the character Johnny Utah with Ridley Scott directing.[1][2]

After acquiring the screenplay, the producers of Point Break began looking for a director. At the time, executive producer James Cameron was married to director Kathryn Bigelow, who had just completed Blue Steel and was looking for her next project.[1]

Point Break was originally called Johnny Utah when Keanu Reeves was cast in the title role.[1] The studio felt that this title said very little about surfing and by the time Patrick Swayze was cast, the film had been renamed Riders on the Storm after the famous rock song by The Doors. However, Jim Morrison's lyrics had nothing to do with the film and so that title was also rejected. It was not until halfway through filming that Point Break became the film's title because of its relevance to surfing.[1] This is Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze's second movie together, they had appeared together before in 1986's Youngblood.

Reeves liked the name of his character as it reminded him of star athletes like Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana.[3] He described his character as a "total control freak and the ocean beats him up and challenges him. After a while everything becomes a game...He becomes as amoral as any criminal. He loses the difference between right and wrong."[1] Swayze felt that Bodhi was a lot like him and that they both shared "that wild-man edge."[1]

Two months before filming, Lori Petty, Reeves, and Swayze trained with former world class professional surfer Dennis Jarvis on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.[1] Jarvis remembers, "Patrick said he'd been on a board a couple of times, Keanu definitely had not surfed before, and Lori had never been in the ocean in her life."[4] Shooting the surfing sequences proved to be challenging for both actors with Swayze cracking four of his ribs. For many of the surfing scenes he refused to use a stunt double as he never had one for fight scenes or car chases. He also did the skydiving scenes himself and the film's aerial jump instructor Jim Wallace found that the actor was a natural and took to it right away.[1] The actor ended up making 55 jumps for the film.[5] Swayze actually based aspects of his character after one of his stunt doubles, Darrick Doerner, a top big wave surfer.[6] After learning to surf for the film, Reeves took a liking to it and took it up as a hobby. [7]

Although the final scene of the film is set at Bells Beach, the scene was not filmed there. Bells Beach is a straight stretch and the beach in the film is a cove with spruce trees atop a hill. The actual location of the film was a beach called Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA.


Box office[edit]

Point Break was released on July 12, 1991 in 1,615 theaters, grossing $8.5 million on its opening weekend, behind Terminator 2: Judgment Day '​s (directed by Bigelow's then husband, James Cameron) second weekend and the openings of the re-issue of 101 Dalmatians and Boyz n the Hood. With a budget of $24 million, the film went on to make $43.2 million in North America and $40.3 million internationally for a worldwide total of $83.5 million.[8]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote "Bigelow is an interesting director for this material. She is interested in the ways her characters live dangerously for philosophical reasons. They aren't men of action, but men of thought who choose action as a way of expressing their beliefs."[9] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Reeves' performance: "A lot of the snap comes, surprisingly, from Mr. Reeves, who displays considerable discipline and range. He moves easily between the buttoned-down demeanor that suits a police procedural story and the loose-jointed manner of his comic roles."[10] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote "Point Break makes those of us who don't spend our lives searching for the ultimate physical rush feel like second-class citizens. The film turns reckless athletic valor into a new form of aristocracy."[11]

In his review for The Washington Post, Hal Hinson wrote "A lot of what Bigelow puts up on the screen bypasses the brain altogether, plugging directly into our viscera, our gut. The surfing scenes in particular are majestically powerful, even awe-inspiring. Bigelow's picture is a feast for the eyes, but we watch movies with more than our eyes. She seduces us, then asks us to be bimbos."[12] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "Bigelow can't keep the film from drowning in a sea of surf-speak. But without her, Point Break would be no more than an excuse to ogle pretty boys in wet suits."[13]

USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and Mike Clark wrote "Its purely visceral material (surf sounds, skydiving stunt work, a tough indoor shootout midway through) are first-rate. As for the tangibles that matter even more (script, acting, directorial control, credible relationships between characters), Break defies belief. Dramatically, it rivals the lowest surf yet this year."[14] Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "So how do you rate a stunningly made film whose plot buys so blithely into macho mysticism that it threatens to turn into an endless bummer? Looks 10, Brains 3."[15]

Some critics argue that the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious is a copy of Point Break, swapping surfing for illegal street car racing.[16]

In 2006, a special edition was released on DVD. Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B" rating and wrote, "The making-of docs (at their best discussing Swayze's extracurricular skydiving—that really is him doing the Adios, amigo fall) will leave you hanging."[17] It was first released on Blu-ray as a special "Pure Adrenaline Edition" on July 1, 2008, but that was later discontinued. Point Break was re-released on Blu-ray by Warner Home Video on June 14, 2011.


At the 1992 MTV Movie Awards, Point Break was nominated for three awards including "Most Desirable Male" (Keanu Reeves), "Most Desirable Male" (Patrick Swayze), and "Best Action Sequence" for the second jump from the plane. In it, Agent Utah jumps out of a plane without a parachute to catch Bodhi and rescue Tyler. Utah catches up with Bodhi and holds a gun to his head. However, Bodhi refuses to pull the rip cord and Utah must decide between dropping his gun (so he can hold on and pull the rip cord) or letting the two fall to the ground. The film ultimately won "Most Desirable Male" for Keanu Reeves.


Point Break was listed in the VH1 series I Love the 90s on the episode "1991". Many celebrities, including Dominic Monaghan, Mo Rocca, Michael Ian Black, Hal Sparks, and Chris Pontius commented about the movie and why it deserved to be included in the episode. Entertainment Weekly ranked Point Break as having one of the "10 Best Surfing Scenes" in cinema.[18]

The film inspired a piece of cult theater, Point Break Live!, in which the role of Johnny Utah is played by an audience member chosen by popular acclamation after a brief audition. The new "Keanu" reads all of his (or her) lines from cue-cards for the duration of the show, "to capture the rawness of a Keanu Reeves performance even from those who generally think themselves incapable of acting."[19]

Point Break was parodied and paid tribute to in Hot Fuzz, where it served as the basis for numerous comedic scenes and inspiration for the two lead characters (a pair of cops).

The scene in which Utah jumps after Bodhi without a parachute was ranked seventh in Empire magazine's Top 10 Crazy Action Sequences. The scene was also tested by the Discovery Channel series MythBusters. It was determined that Utah and Bodhi would not have been able to free-fall for 90 seconds (as in the film), nor would they have been able to hold a conversation in mid-air. However, it was determined that, by streamlining his body, Utah could have conceivably caught up with Bodhi after jumping from the plane.[20]


Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. are developing a remake of the film, written by Kurt Wimmer,[21] and directed by Ericson Core.[22] The film stars are Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone, and Edgar Ramirez.[23][24][25][26] The film is set for an August 7, 2015 release.


Score album[edit]

On February 7, 2008, a score release for Point Break was released by La-La Land Records, featuring composer Mark Isham's score. This edition was limited to 2,000 units and features 65 minutes of score with liner notes by Dan Goldwasser that incorporate comments from both Bigelow and Isham. It is now out of print.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Point Break DVD Liner Notes". Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition (20th Century Fox). 2006. 
  2. ^ Cinefile Klady, Leonard. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 Aug 1988: K32.
  3. ^ Strauss, Bob (July 12, 1991). "I'd like to do a lot of different things". The Globe and Mail. 
  4. ^ "Board Certified". Entertainment Weekly. July 26, 1991. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Karen (July 12, 1991). "Swayze's latest step". USA Today. 
  6. ^ Willistein, Paul (July 17, 1991). "Swayze enjoys bad-guy role in Point Break". Toronto Star. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102685/trivia?tab=tr&item=tr0780544
  8. ^ "Point Break (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 12, 1991). "Point Break". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 12, 1991). "Surf's Up For F.B.I. In Bigelow's Point Break". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  11. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 26, 1991). "Point Break". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  12. ^ Hinson, Hal (July 12, 1991). "Point Break". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (April 11, 2001). "Point Break". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  14. ^ Clark, Mike (July 12, 1991). "Point Break is a dramatic wipeout". USA Today. 
  15. ^ Corliss, Richard (July 22, 1991). "Cinema". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  16. ^ "Junkfood Cinema: The Fast and the Furious". Film School Rejects. 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 
  17. ^ Bierly, Mandi (September 29, 2006). "DVD Review: Point Break". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  18. ^ "10 Best Surfing Scenes". Entertainment Weekly. August 8, 2002. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  19. ^ "Point Break LIVE!". May 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  20. ^ See MythBusters (2007 season)#Point Break Trilogy
  21. ^ "‘Point Break’ Redo For Alcon Entertainment". Deadline. 
  22. ^ 'Invincible' director Ericson Core to helm 'Point Break' remake
  23. ^ "Ray Winstone takes Gary Busey's Point Break role". DenofGeek. 
  24. ^ "Edgar Ramirez In Talks For ‘Point Break’; Pic Set For Summer 2015 Release". deadline.com. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  25. ^ "Gerard Butler Catches Wave In ‘Point Break’". Deadline. 
  26. ^ "Luke Bracey Set For ‘Point Break’ Remake Opposite Gerard Butler". Deadline. 
  27. ^ "LA LA LAND RECORDS, Point Break". Lalalandrecords.com. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 

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