Point Break

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Point Break
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKathryn Bigelow
Screenplay byW. Peter Iliff
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyDonald Peterman
Edited byHoward Smith
Music byMark Isham
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release dates
  • July 10, 1991 (1991-07-10) (Westwood)
  • July 12, 1991 (1991-07-12) (United States)
Running time
122 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million
Box office$83.5 million[3]

Point Break is a 1991 American crime action film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by W. Peter Iliff.

It stars Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey. The film's title refers to the surfing term "point break", where a wave breaks as it hits a point of land jutting out from the coastline. The film features Reeves as an undercover FBI agent who is tasked with investigating the identities of a group of bank robbers while he develops a complex relationship with the group's leader (Swayze).

Development of Point Break began in 1986, when Iliff wrote an initial treatment for the film. Bigelow soon developed the script with husband James Cameron, and filming took place four years later. It was shot across the western coast of the continental United States and was officially budgeted at $24 million, before being released on July 12, 1991.

Point Break opened to generally positive reviews, with critics praising the chemistry between Reeves and Swayze. During its theatrical run, the film grossed over $83.5 million, and has since gained a cult following.[4][5] Following the film's success, it spawned a remake that was released in 2015.


Former Ohio State quarterback and rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah assists Agent Angelo Pappas in investigating a string of bank robberies by the "Ex-Presidents": robbers who wear rubber masks of former presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Rather than robbing the vault, they only demand the cash the tellers have in their drawers and are gone within ninety seconds.

Pursuing Pappas's theory that the criminals are surfers, Utah infiltrates the surfing community. He fabricates a family tragedy to persuade orphaned surfer and restaurant waitress Tyler to teach him to surf, after she saves him from drowning during his first attempt. Through her, he meets Bodhi, the leader of a gang of surfers consisting of Roach, Grommet, and Nathaniel. The group is wary of Utah, but they accept him when Bodhi recognizes him as a former college football star who quit due to a knee injury. As he masters surfing, Utah finds himself 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, Utah and Pappas lead an FBI raid on another gang of surfers, resulting in the deaths of two of them. The raid inadvertently ruins a DEA undercover operation, as those surfers were wanted for separate charges regarding drug dealing, and they are determined not to be the Ex-Presidents.

Watching Bodhi's group surfing, Utah begins to suspect that they are the Ex-Presidents, noting how close a group they are and the way one of them moons other surfers in the same manner one of the robbers does. Utah and Pappas stake out a bank, and the Ex-Presidents appear. While wearing a Reagan mask, Bodhi leads Utah on a foot chase through the neighborhood, which ends when Utah's old knee injury flares up after jumping into a flood control channel. Despite having a clear shot, the injured Utah allows Bodhi to escape.

At a campfire that night, it is confirmed that Bodhi and his gang are the Ex-Presidents. Tyler discovers Utah's FBI badge and angrily terminates their relationship. Shortly afterward, Bodhi coerces Utah into skydiving with the group. After the jump, Bodhi reveals that he knows Utah is an FBI agent and has arranged for his friend Rosie, a non-surfing thug, to hold Tyler hostage. Utah is blackmailed into participating in the Ex-Presidents' last bank robbery of the summer. Grommet is killed, along with an off-duty police officer, and a bank security guard who attempt to foil the robbery. Outraged by Grommet's death, Bodhi knocks out Utah and leaves the scene.

Defying their superior Ben Harp, who arrests Utah, Pappas and Utah head to the airport where Bodhi, Roach, and Nathaniel are about to leave for Mexico. During a shootout, Pappas and Nathaniel are killed, and Roach is seriously wounded. With Roach aboard, Bodhi forces Utah 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 Utah to take the blame. With no other parachutes available, Utah jumps from the plane with Bodhi's gun and intercepts him. After landing safely, Utah's knee gives out again, allowing Bodhi to escape Utah'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, Utah tracks Bodhi to Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia, where a record-breaking storm is producing lethal waves. This is an event Bodhi had talked about experiencing, calling it the "50-Year Storm". Utah attempts to bring Bodhi into custody, but Bodhi refuses. During a brawl in the surf, Utah handcuffs himself to Bodhi, who begs Utah to release him so he can ride the once-in-a-lifetime wave. Knowing Bodhi will not come back alive, Utah releases him and bids him farewell. While the authorities watch Bodhi surf to his death, Utah walks away, throwing his FBI badge into the ocean.



The film came close to production in 1986, with Matthew Broderick, Johnny Depp, Val Kilmer, and Charlie Sheen all being considered to play the Johnny Utah character, with Ridley Scott directing.[6][7] However production fell through.[8]

Four years later, 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.[6] Only W. Peter Iliff is credited for the screenplay, but Cameron has said that he did a considerable amount of writing with Bigelow for the final film, helping to establish a better plot flow.[9][10] Cameron was also instrumental in the creation of the iconic Ex-Presidents.[11]

Point Break was originally called Johnny Utah when Keanu Reeves was cast in the title role.[6] 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 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.[6]

Reeves liked the name of his character, as it reminded him of star athletes like Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana.[12] 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."[6] Swayze felt that Bodhi was a lot like him and that they both shared "that wild-man edge."[6]

Two months before filming, Lori Petty, Reeves and Swayze trained with former world-class professional surfer Dennis Jarvis on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.[6] 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."[13] Shooting the surfing sequences proved to be challenging for all three 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 he was a natural and took to it right away.[6] Swayze ended up making 55 jumps for the film.[14] Swayze actually based aspects of his character after one of his stunt doubles, Darrick Doerner, a top big wave surfer.[15] After learning to surf for the film, Reeves took a liking to it and took it up as a hobby.[16]

Parts of the film were shot at Lake Powell in Utah, Wheeler and Ecola State Park in Oregon, and Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Venice, and Fox Hills Mall in California.[17] Although the final scene of the film is set at Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia, the scene was filmed at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon.[18]


Score album

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.[19]


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.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 70% based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Absurd, over-the-top, and often wildly entertaining, Point Break is here to show you that the human spirit is still alive."[20] Metacritic reports a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[22]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times 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."[23] 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."[24] 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."[25]

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."[26] 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."[27]

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."[28] 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."[29]

Critics have commented on the central 'buddy' relationship of Bodhi and Johnny,[30] and on the unusually equal dynamic in the romantic relationship of Tyler and Johnny (which Bigelow changed Peter Iliff's original script to create); Tyler is a "muscled, brash waitress with an androgynous name (Tyler) and physical features", and Johnny's "feminine edges nudge in nicely to her masculine ones. In nearly every scene they share, they are portrayed by the camera as equals."[31]

In 2006, a special edition was released on DVD (In DVD was released on May 22, 2001). 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."[32]


The Daily Telegraph wrote that the film "certainly qualified as a cult favourite."[8] Furthermore, Rolling Stone called Point Break "the greatest female-gaze action movie ever," citing the bodily condition of Reeves and Swayze, calling it a "wet Western."[31]

The 2001 film The Fast and the Furious was developed by Rob Cohen and Neal H. Moritz as a re-imagined version of Point Break following Paul Walker as an undercover cop tasked with infiltrating the world of underground street racers instead of surfers,[33] officially inspired by the 1998 Vibe magazine article "Racer X" by Ken Li.[34]

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 film 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.[35]

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 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."[36]

Point Break was referenced in Hot Fuzz, where the scene of Utah emptying his magazine into the sky in frustration is watched by the lead characters and later re-enacted by Nick Frost's character.[37][38]

Seattle-based Georgetown Brewing Company brews a "Bodhizafa" IPA, a "Johnny Utah" pale ale, and a "War Child" IPA.[39][40][41]

Between 2016 and 2020, indie musician, JAWNY, went by the stage name "Johnny Utah" in reference to the Point Break character.[42]

In The Avengers, Tony Stark dismissively calls Thor "Point Break," presumably a comparison of Thor's hair to Swayze's in that film.[43] In Thor: Ragnarok, after several attempts Thor correctly guesses that "Point Break" is the activation code that Stark had set up for him in the Quinjet.[44]

Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. released a remake of the film in 2015 titled Point Break, which received mostly negative reviews.[45] James LeGros and BoJesse Christopher, two of the actors who played Ex-Presidents in the 1991 film, were cast as FBI directors.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Point Break (1991)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  2. ^ "POINT BREAK (15) (CUT)". British Board of Film Classification. August 7, 1991. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Point Break (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 24, 2008.
  4. ^ "With the Point Break remake, I've reached a breaking point". The Globe and Mail. December 23, 2015 – via www.theglobeandmail.com.
  5. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (October 29, 2015). "'Point Break' remake looks to make a cult classic new, and serious". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Point Break DVD Liner Notes". Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition. 20th Century Fox. 2006.
  7. ^ "Cinefile Klady, Leonard". Los Angeles Times. August 14, 1988. p. K32.
  8. ^ a b Robbie Collin (February 2, 2016). "Tough guys have feelings too: the power of Point Break". Telegraph. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  9. ^ Raymond, Adam K. (December 25, 2015). "25 Bodacious Facts About the Original 'Point Break'". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  10. ^ "Point Break". JamesCameronOnline.com. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  11. ^ Eric Pierce (March 29, 2023). "Malibu Surfer-Thieves and James Cameron: The Origin of Point Break's Ex-Presidents". All the Fanfare. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  12. ^ Strauss, Bob (July 12, 1991). "I'd like to do a lot of different things". The Globe and Mail.
  13. ^ "Board Certified". Entertainment Weekly. July 26, 1991. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  14. ^ Thomas, Karen (July 12, 1991). "Swayze's latest step". USA Today.
  15. ^ Willistein, Paul (July 17, 1991). "Swayze enjoys bad-guy role in Point Break". Toronto Star.
  16. ^ "Point Break". July 12, 1991 – via IMDb.
  17. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  18. ^ Sarah Le (July 29, 2014). "Three Movies You Might Not Know Were Filmed At Cannon Beach". Locations Hub. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  19. ^ "LA LA LAND RECORDS, Point Break". Lalalandrecords.com. Archived from the original on May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  20. ^ "Point Break (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 26, 2023.
  21. ^ "Point Break reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  22. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 12, 1991). "Point Break". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  24. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 12, 1991). "Surf's Up For F.B.I. In Bigelow's 'Point Break'". The New York Times (National ed.). p. C00012. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  25. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 26, 1991). "Point Break". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  26. ^ Hinson, Hal (July 12, 1991). "Point Break". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  27. ^ Travers, Peter (April 11, 2001). "Point Break". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  28. ^ Clark, Mike (July 12, 1991). "Point Break is a dramatic wipeout". USA Today.
  29. ^ Corliss, Richard (July 22, 1991). "Cinema". Time. Archived from the original on November 22, 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  30. ^ "Tough guys have feelings too: the power of Point Break". The Telegraph. February 2, 2016. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved March 23, 2020. In a promotional interview, Swayze described the film as being miles from "slap-ass, macho, jokey crap…I wanted to play it like a love story between two men.
  31. ^ a b Wolfe, April (August 31, 2018). "Revisiting Hours: 'Point Break'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  32. ^ Bierly, Mandi (September 29, 2006). "DVD Review: Point Break". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  33. ^ Saavedra, Larry (June 27, 2001). "Enthusiasts React Coolly to Film on Street Racing". Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ Kaufman, Amy (April 6, 2015). "How Paul Walker nearly quit the 'Furious' franchise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  35. ^ "10 Best Surfing Scenes". Entertainment Weekly. August 8, 2002. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  36. ^ "Point Break LIVE!". May 12, 2009. Archived from the original on April 18, 2009. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
  37. ^ "Pegg, Wright and Frost's Best Movie References, From 'Spaced' to 'Hot Fuzz'". BBC America.
  38. ^ "Point Break movie re-make: Filming underway on 90s classic". September 12, 2014.
  39. ^ "Georgetown Brewing Company | Darn Tasty Beer". georgetownbeer.com.
  40. ^ "Georgetown Brewing Company | Darn Tasty Beer". georgetownbeer.com.
  41. ^ "Georgetown Brewing Company | Darn Tasty Beer". georgetownbeer.com.
  42. ^ Ginsberg, Gab (February 14, 2020). "New Interscope Signee Jawny on Why He Won't Just Be Another 'Viral' Moment". Billboard. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  43. ^ "The Avengers (2012) – IMDb". IMDb.
  44. ^ "Ragnarok: Why Iron Man's Nickname for Thor is "Point Break"". Screen Rant. September 5, 2020.
  45. ^ Point Break (2015), retrieved December 19, 2020
  46. ^ "'Point Break' Remake Pays Tribute to Old Cast". ABC News. Archived from the original on April 27, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2020.

External links[edit]