The director Whit Stillman, whose film "Metropolitan" (1990) concludes with an evocative sequence by the seashore, was kind enough to share with Cinemania an insider's glimpse into the importance of beach scenes for filmmakers. He writes: "I like beach scenes because the sea is a great motion picture talent, always interesting & never needing (or taking) direction."
Here are some readers' choices that might help illustrate that insight.
Nothing spoils a day at the beach more than coming across a monolith buried in the sand that adds a perverse new twist to the adage "there's no place like home." After escaping the apes, Charlton Heston's marooned astronaut discovers that his problems are just beginning. The visual equivalent of Heston's oft-quoted "It's a madhouse! A madhouse!"
Like the above scene in "Planet of the Apes," this became an iconic '60s image. In the first 007 movie Ursula Andress's Honey Ryder sets a high standard for future Bond girls as she emerges, Venus-like, from the surf, wearing a dagger sheathed on her waist, and not much else.
As with the "Dr. No" scene above, a generation of adolescent male fantasies sprang into being with the sight of Daryl Hannah's mermaid, naked and in bipedal form, sprinting along the beach to the sea, but stopping on her way to give Tom Hanks's saved-from-drowning sad sack a kiss.
One of the sexiest scenes in Hollywood history takes place on a secluded beach on Oahu, where Burt Lancaster's virile Army sergeant rolls in the waves with his commanding officer's wife (Deborah Kerr). Then the Japanese had to come bomb Pearl Harbor and ruin everything.
This enigmatic finale to Federico Fellini's dark fable about modern-day Roman decadence features what would be the biggest, ugliest fish to hit the beach in a movie until "Jaws" (1975). But this beast is an object more of pathos than horror. As Marcello Mastroianni's disillusioned journalist gazes into its eyes, it seems he has found the most sympathetic creature in the film.
Lots of movies have twist endings, but some have twist beginnings — opening sequences that are themselves mini masterpieces. What are your favorites? And for Aug. 18, dystopias have darkened many a movie, including "Elysium," which opens Aug. 9. Which do you think are the best (or worst)?
Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.