The modern tiki trend is a revival of the early to mid-20th century American obsession with Hawaii and all things tropical. Music, movies, décor, and fashion from the south pacific were adopted and adapted by mainland Americans as early as the 1920s. The trend hit its height in the 1960s, with tiki bars in both major hotel chains and countless backyards. Searching for your own South Seas style inspiration? Vintage movies are a great way to explore and expand your retro aesthetic. We previous shared our top 5 movies for Mod style inspiration. Here are our 5 best Tiki movies – enjoy these 20 years of Polynesian-inspired fashion in American film.
Ship Ahoy (1942) Opening with drummer Buddy Rich and the rest of the Tommy Dorsey Band playing “Hawaiian War Chant,” this movie has loads of amazing music (keep your blue eyes open for a very young Frank Sinatra in the band), and Eleanor Powell’s incredible tap dancing. Her gorgeous costumes range from leis and cellophane skirts to nautical pinup looks. The wartime plot won’t win any awards, but the sounds and sights are more than worthwhile.
Pagan Love Song (1950) Whether or not you buy Esther Williams as half Tahitian, there are loads of stylish sarongs, bamboo décor, and hair flower inspiration. Underwater sequences, songs, and the scenery of a more rustic Kauai make it an enjoyable escape. Pin up icon Esther Williams was actually pregnant while filming this difficult movie!
South Pacific (1958) James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the role of World War II in Polynesian pop. The myth of Bali Hai is just one aspect of tiki culture that came from Michener. This 1950s movie was an adaptation of the musical that was based on the novel. Filmed in both Kauai and Ibiza, the movie features all of the songs from the musical production.
Blue Hawaii (1961) One of three movies Elvis shot in Hawaii, he also recorded the popular soundtrack in Hawaii. Famous Oahu sights like Waikiki Beach and Diamond head appear, though much of the movie was shot on Kauai. A fun exploration of post-war Hawaii and American dreams, and a good example of the 1960s “beach party” movie genre that helped to expose many people to surfing and surf music.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) Marlon Brando leads the rebellion against a ship’s cruel captain – based on a true story that occurred in the 1700s. The 1960s film version of this South Seas story was filmed on location in Tahiti, with gorgeous tropical colors. Despite long and expensive shooting and production, it was nominated for many awards. Whether you are packing up for the Hukilau, Tiki Oasis, Tiki Caliente, or just hosting a killer luau at home, Heart of Haute has the aloha wear you need. Take a look at our new Hula Honeys and Tahiti items, and the bold Ukulele tapa print Tiki Serenade. Our modern fits and 100% high quality cotton fabric will keep you looking amazing and feeling comfortable from the Mai Kai to the Bali Hai.