Point Break, The ‘Ultimate Ride’, Is 30 Years Old Today

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20th Century Studios

Point Break was unleashed 30 years ago today. ‘If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.’

It had been one week since James Cameron released Terminator 2: Judgement Day, one of the best action movies of all time, a film which captured and moulded the zeitgeist in a way we’ve never really seen since.


His then-wife, future Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow didn’t hesitate. T2 didn’t back her down an inch. She left the summer season with profitable returns, positive reviews and three decades later, a beloved cult classic. Call it a 30-year storm.

Point Break. (20th Century Studios) 20th Century Studios

Our hero is Johnny Utah, a fresh-faced, blue-flame ‘F.B.I. AGENT’ played by Keanu Reeves. Deployed to the ‘bank robbery capital of the world’, he’s tasked with tracking down The Ex-Presidents, a group of criminals who never miss their mark, never shoot and never get caught. They’re like ‘ghosts’, Gary Busey’s cantankerous vet says.

Then again, he has a theory: the robbers are a gang of surfers. So, Utah tries to infiltrate some of the wave-riding locals, starting with Tyler (Lori Petty) and later finding a spiritual kinship with Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze at his Swayziest outside of Road House.


Penned by W. Peter Iliff, this is A-class cheesy action without the excess of its preceding decade. Bullets aren’t peppered, they’re a last resort; scenes are packed to the brim with testosterone, but there’s something deeper, funnier and self-serious in a way that isn’t just risible and enjoyed ironically.

It really comes down to Bigelow, delivering pulse-pounding, physical action with a tasteful female gaze – seriously, watching a saltwater, sandy-haired Swayze beat up some beachside goons is a pleasure for anyone.

Then there’s the chase between Utah and Bodhi, barrelling through the streets, homes and ending in a gun being shot in the air while Reeves yells ‘Ahh!’, bursting with brotherly/homoerotic tension. Top Gun had volleyball, but Point Break has football, surfing and, in its most audacious scenes, skydiving, which Swayze insisted he did himself – including the iconic ‘Adios, amigo’ scene near the climax.


‘I had to battle insurance companies to get to do the skydiving in the movie and never came close to dying once… but they never said one word about me getting my brains pounded in by the biggest surf on this planet,’ the late actor previously recalled.

The 1990s, and including The Abyss from 1989, were great for making movies in/under water: Titanic, Waterworld (yes, it’s good), Deep Blue Sea, Crimson Tide and Point Break.

Point Break. (20th Century Studios)20th Century Studios

The opening scene tells you everything you need to know about Bigelow’s direction, cutting between Reeves’ clinical shooting range chops and Bodhi’s majestic navigation of crashing, twilight waves. There are moments throughout that cut through the corny machismo and are genuinely awe-inspiring, like our fateful duo staring at the behemoth of all rides at the end of the line.


But there’s something key to Point Break, and it isn’t just a lovable Reeves, hunky Swayze or Bigelow’s direction; it’s the distinctly 1970s free spirit, both in its music and thrill-chasing philosophy. One critic says it ‘makes those of us who don’t spend our lives searching for the ultimate physical rush feel like second-class citizens’ – yes, it does, and we should.

Point Break is available to stream on Amazon Prime now. 

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Topics: Featured, Features, Film and TV, Keanu Reeves, Now

Cameron Frew
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