Beautiful Wave

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Beautiful Wave Movie Poster Image
Pensive coming-of-age surfer tale has a few iffy scenes.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Beautiful Wave offers positive messages about seeking out one's heritage, the comfort of family, sticking by your friends, making good choices away from parents, and respecting boundaries people set, even if you don't agree with them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beautiful Wave offers some well-drawn characters: a thoughtful teenage girl trying to establish her identity, a loving grandmother who has a troubled past of her own, and additional characters who are caring and protective.


Teenagers are shot at but not harmed by poachers in Mexico. There's some menace when a group of guys surrounds a van with a girl alone in it and rock it intimidatingly, which leads to a group brawl. In another scene, two men briefly brawl. A third scene features some gore when animals are shown poached on a beach.


There's some implied sexual behavior when a guy asks a girl not to disturb a guy, where he's off in the van with a girl. In another scene, a guy, visibly drunk, approaches a sleeping girl with the implied intent to come on to her. Elsewhere, a guy and girl are depicted as tentative romantic interests, and later kiss briefly.


In one scene, a girl is called a "lesbo bitch" and in another, a character says, "f--k." Otherwise, language is mostly mild, with the occasional "dammit."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's some illegal and legal drug use with no consequences: A guy smokes a joint; later, he asks a guy to roll him a joint from a "fat sack." Later, he hides a bag of weed to escape detection from the Mexican government. In another scene, two guys are visibly drunk off tequila and brawl. Additionally, they drink freely in a crowded bar in Mexico. Drunk guys surround a van and start rocking it intimidatingly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beautiful Wave features some peril, illegal drug use, mild violence, mild profanity, and some implied sexual situations, in spite of being an overwhelming sweet, thoughtful, coming-of-age film about discovering your own identity and heritage. The premise involves a deceased father, and a recurring nightmare about drowning.

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What's the story?

Dropped off for the summer at her estranged grandmother's (Patricia Richardson), Nicole (Aimee Teegarden) inherits the antique surf van of the grandfather she never knew -- Jimmy (Lance Henriksen) -- and heads off on a road trip down the California coast, surfing along the way, to find out more about her father, who drowned when she was 12. Along the way, with some new friends in tow, she discovers more about her heritage, herself, and life in the process.

Is it any good?

BEAUTIFUL WAVE is a road movie, a surf movie, and a coming-of-age story wrapped in one, whose payoffs are unexpected. There isn't much in the way of action, no earth-shattering plot points, and you can feel the resolution edging closer in a predictable pattern. But it offers something less common: a nice mix of thoughtful, better-developed characters, and a realistic story about teenage soul-searching -- framed through the experience of an introverted teenage girl -- set against the backdrop of beautiful California and Mexico coastline.

Teens with an affection for philosophy, big questions, surfing, and nature and who have a patience for the journey will appreciate this pensive look at lost love and new discoveries. Parents will want to address the joint-smoking, drinking, and teens on an unsupervised road trip, but will appreciate the nuance of those depictions and how they are handled, not to mention the good choices of the teen girl at the center of them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about illegal drug use. How are drugs portrayed here? Are there any consequences?

  • Have you looked into your heritage? What steps have you taken to find out more about your family roots?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thoughtful movies and road trips

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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