Hey there, beach babes! Grab your popcorn and coziest loungewear because we are counting down the top 12 most iconic swimsuit moments in cinematic history. While it is impossible to truly rank these, we can confidently say that these scenes are burned into millions of people's memories (and perhaps the old-school TV screens).
Without further ado, enjoy our carefully selected list of absolutely iconic swimsuit movie moments. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view!
Joan Blackman and Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii (1961)
In the sun-soaked cinematic paradise of Blue Hawaii, sizzling moments between Blackman and Presley epitomize the carefree, innocent sexiness of nostalgic 1960s beach movies. Practically a genre all their own, beach movies of the 1960s featured fun plot lines, ample beach babes, and,\ you guessed it, plenty of iconic swimsuit scenes!
With the uber-famous Elvis in his short white trunks and Joan in her chic, now-retro flower print two-piece (both a little scandalous at the time), the movie’s swimsuit scenes capture the essence of a bygone era. Weirdly, both of their swimsuits could be worn in the year 2024 and would somehow still be in style!
Ursula Andress in Dr. No (1962)
Just imagine: it’s 1962, Sean Connery is James Bond (the best Bond, in our opinion), and Ursula Andress emerges from the Caribbean waters in a signature belted white bikini. Playing the character of Honey Ryder, Andress set the stage for not only a smoking hot bathing suit moment and catapulted Andress to fame but also set the bar for Bond Babedom in the decades to come.
Few can forget the image of Honey Ryder, with her sea-swept hair and now legendary white bathing suit. In fact, the impact of this scene goes beyond its visual appeal.
It marked a significant change in the portrayal of women in action movies. The “Bond Girl” was so much more than just a babe in a bikini: She was a strong, independent, dynamic, resourceful character.
Honey Ryder wasn’t just another love interest. She could hold her own in the dangerous world of espionage and martinis shaken, not stirred, of course.
Carrie Fisher in Star Wars (1977)
Okay, so this one might be the opposite of a sect beach scene, but it is iconic nonetheless. Few can forget the Star Wars scene in which Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, is clad in a futuristic metal/leather bikini after being captured by the hideous blob creature known as Jabba the Hut.
The juxtaposition of Fisher chained up and sprawled out in front of Jabba’s grotesque fat rolls created some very strange fantasies for Star Wars nerds when the movie came out and cemented her as a sex icon, whether she wanted the role or not.
Known for her feminist beliefs, Fisher lamented the gratuitous outfit but posited, “What redeems it is that I get to kill [Jabba]...I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed him with. I really relish that 'cause I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn't wait to kill him."
We’re here for it, girl.
Bo Derek in 10 (1979)
Ah, 10: A movie that could 100%, never, in a million years be made in the present day. It revolves around a middle-aged man named George, in the throes of a midlife crisis, who becomes obsessed with a gorgeous blonde woman (Derek). He basically stalks her, following her all the way to Mexico and often spying on her with a telescope.
Most people don’t remember that, however. What they do remember is the image of Bo Derek running down the beach in a revealing, beige, one-piece bathing suit. She’s wearing cornrows in her hair, her skin is perfectly tanned, and she becomes every teenage boy’s dream and poster girl in the blink of an eye.
Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon (1980)
In The Blue Lagoon, famous actress Brooke Shields rose to fame, donning a makeshift white bikini that became the iconic symbol of the film’s tropical paradise setting. In the movie, two shipwrecked children, Emmeline and Richard, are forced to grow up and come of age on a remote island. Your classic Bildungsroman, right? Well, not exactly.
One of the things that made this movie and its bikini scenes iconic is the level of controversy that surrounded the film. It was met with a heated level of criticism for its handling of sensitive topics, such as puberty, sex, and two cousins falling in love and eventually procreating.
Yeah, this one you can probably skip rewatching, but honestly, the improvised bikini is pretty cute and innovative. And there’s certainly a degree of symbolism in a white bathing suit to represent the innocence and purity of the young Brooke Shields.
Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1986)
The immortal Linda Barrett, played by Phoebe Cates, lives on in the fantasies of many young men and women who came of age in the 80s. For those unfamiliar, FTARH is the ultimate teen slacker movie and follows the antics of a group of Southern California high schoolers just trying to make it to graduation.
The infamous bathing suit scene features Cates donning a gorgeous bright red bikini, which was actually pretty controversial. One of the characters in the movie is fantasizing about his sister’s friend and imagines her removing her bikini top.
Since the scene really had no impact whatsoever on the plot of the movie, many thought it was vulgar and gratuitous. Despite this, it was one of the most paused scenes in movie history, with many a cinephile trying to freeze the moment in time. The classic red bikini never looked so good!
Marley Shelton: Wendy Peffercorn in The Sandlot (1993)
Fast forward to a different type of red bathing suit: The lifeguard uniform. Let’s face it: in the 1990s, lifeguards were really having their moment.
Baywatch was one of the most popular television shows, and everyone wanted to be running in slow motion down the beach or watching beautiful women running in slow motion down the beach.
The character of Wendy Peffercorn became enigmatic in every little boy’s creepy older-babysitter-type fantasy. The main character, Michael “Squints” Palledorous, is obsessed with Wendy, who is the lifeguard at their local public pool.
The Sandlot is known for its nostalgic narration and wholesome coming-of-age themes but also for the scene in which Wendy sits in her lifeguard chair, applying sunscreen while being ogled by a group of pre-pubescent young boys.
Somehow, even that scene manages to feel nostalgic and wholesome. If we’re being real, though, little Ms. Peffercorn was a babe back then, and actress Marley Shelton still is now! And she is still most well-known for this role.
Virginie Ledoyen in The Beach (2000)
A far cry from your typical beach movie, the cult classic The Beach, which came out in 2000, features bikini-clad women and men in swim trunks, almost exclusively. As the name would suggest, the movie is filmed primarily on a beautiful beach in Thailand.
Though the movie’s subject matter (greed, drug manufacturing, corruption, moral questions) is patently unsexy, one of the film’s main characters, Francoise, is in a skimpy string bikini almost 24/7.
She is the typical girl who is sexy without trying to be, who knows she is beautiful but isn’t obnoxious about it, and whose French accent bumps it all up a notch.
One of the sexiest scenes in the movie is when Francoise and her love interest, Richard (played by the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio), dive underwater and start making out amongst a sea of glow-in-the-dark krill. Okay, it doesn’t sound that sexy, but watch the scene, and you’ll get it.
Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider (2001)
Doubtlessly one of the most famous sex symbols of the early 2000s and beyond, Angelina Jolie embodied the video game character Lara Croft in the 2001 film adaptation of Tomb Raider. In the film, Jolie plays the most badass character possible, who is on a mission to uncover the secret behind her father’s disappearance.
Again, it's not the sexiest plotline.
However, Lara Croft, even as a CGI character, is well-known as a sexy figure. She wears all black all the time, including when she dons a simple, sporty black bikini. It’s gotta be sporty and practical because she is, after all, raiding tombs. Also, driving wave runners, shooting people, and evading bad guys around every corner.
Halle Berry in Die Another Day (2002)
Another Bond babe, Jinx, played by Halle Berry, is the perfect blend of sexy, smart, and complicated. Her famous swimsuit scene is a clever throwback to the aforementioned Honey Rider but with a 2000s twist.
Berry appears in one scene in the movie wearing a bright orange, triangle top string bikini that leaves little to the imagination. It was this scene that cemented Berry as a die-hard sex symbol in the minds of America. (Arguably, she already was one, but this certainly didn’t hurt!).
Sasha Baron Cohen in Borat (2006)
Few people know this movie by its whole name: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. However, if you utter the name “Borat,” people instantly know what you’re talking about.
More specifically, many people will immediately picture the lime green “mankini” that actor Sasha Baron Cohen bravely struts around in for key scenes in the film. While this imagery is markedly less sexy than some of the other movies on this list, we just couldn’t leave it out!
The swimsuit that the character Borat believes to be a cultural norm is very skimpy by any standards and reveals his hairy chest and, well, almost everything else. There’s no image that people remember from the movie more than Borat, with a huge grin plastered to his face, two thumbs enthusiastically up, and his lime green mankini putting almost everything on full display.
Margot Robie in Barbie (2023)
In arguably the most iconic, memorable movie of 2023, Margot Robie became a human Barbie. Without giving too many spoilers, in the movie, her character basically suffers an existential crisis and begins questioning her life, her purpose, and who she really is. She wakes up the next day feeling imperfect in myriad ways.
There are so many fantastic scenes from the film, but one of the funniest and most relatable is when Barbie realizes that she has feet, and her feet are flat. This happens when she goes to the beach, takes off her shoes, and immediately falls down.
But can we talk about her absolutely adorable bathing suit? We know this movie is fairly new, but we are confident this will go down in history as a mega swimsuit movie moment.
The Barbie character is wearing a sailor-inspired sky blue and white bathing suit, complete with a white collar, buttons, and classic white high-waisted bottoms. The whole movie is amazing from both a feminist and fashion perspective, but we especially love that beach scene. Barbie has come a long way!
There’s no doubt about it: swimsuits are so much more than just a garment to be worn. Still, these incredible movie scenes aren’t just about swimwear — they’re momentary snapshots of culture, style, and the timelessness of a perfectly placed swimsuit.
Whether for a hint of sex appeal, for comic relief, or for the plot, a good swimsuit scene is a make-or-break moment! Hopefully, we put a few flicks on your watch list and some future bathing suit shopping inspo. Stay fabulous, and keep making waves, friends!