Prior to the early '90s classic, Reeves hadn't really ventured into action movies and was best known for playing a pretty boy, high school stoner in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989). "Point Break" would change all that. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), the movie paired Reeves with an established star and co-heartthrob, Patrick Swayze, fresh off hits like "Road House" (1989) and "Ghost" (1990). Together, they would create a surfing bromance too good to be true.
Set against the backdrop of the coastal Los Angeles area, "Point Break" captured the surfing culture of the region, while simultaneously depicting the criminal underbelly of the city. Los Angeles had long been the bank robbery capital of the world, but things took a turn for the worst in the '90s.
With that in mind, let's break down why "Point Break" is 1991's perfect movie.
Let's face it: 1991 was the year of Keanu. He starred in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," "Point Break," and "My Own Private Idaho" -- all hitting theaters in a span of three months, yet all very different movies. Despite being released only one week after "Bill & Ted" debuted, "Point Break" allowed Reeves to shed his time-traveling stoner character in an instant and transition into the second stage of his career: Keanu "I'm an action star" Reeves.
"My Own Private Idaho" demonstrated the actor's indie sensibilities and expanded his repertoire, but action movies ultimately proved to be his bread and butter. By the end of the decade, Reeves would star in two of the biggest action movies of the past 20 years, "Speed" and the influential smash hit "The Matrix."
After "Dirty Dancing," "Road House," "Ghost," (and this amazing SNL moment), Swayze was at the height of his starpower in 1991. "Point Break" finally gave him a platform to be more than just a macho and cheesy heartthrob, though, and he shines as Bodhi -- a bank robber equal parts spiritual and radical. He also gives newcomer Reeves a lesson in ass-kicking, using some of the moves he learned as Dalton from "Road House," no doubt.
After "Point Break," Swayze wasn't able to match his previous success, making 1991 the zenith of the actor's career before heading into a decline.
Thanks to Bigelow's direction, the film feels fresh and devoid of the '80s. It doesn't attempt to be an outright action movie, with huge explosions and a high body count, like "RoboCop," or even the first "Terminator." "Point Break" is filled with humor, without looking for laughs, and that's ultimately what makes it so memorable. It's a unique brand of action flick: a soul-searching surfer movie and a detective FBI thriller.
Bigelow's "Point Break" shook off the '80s to deliver a well-paced action movie that somehow combines surfing and bank robbing. Add Keanu Reeves, an emerging star, and Patrick Swayze, a mainstay of the '80s, and you have the ingredients for something truly one-of-a-kind. A perfect transition into the '90s.
Just a few years prior, skateboarding emerged from the underground and became mainstream thanks to Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, and their Bones Brigade skate videos. On the flip side, surfing had been a mainstay for decades and had already pushed its way into pop culture thanks to The Beach Boys, and even Jeff Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but this newfound interest in California's counterculture gave the sport a bit of a renaissance. "Point Break" was also perfectly wedged between surfing's hotdogging era of the 1980s and the new wave of professionals that were about to dominate the sport. Kelly Slater would break onto the scene a year later, winning his first of 11 ASP World Tour Championships.
Los Angeles had been called the Bank Robbery Capital of the World since the 1960s, but it seemed bandits really took the name to heart in the early '90s. In 1992, there were more than 2,600 robberies in the seven-county territory; that's 2,600 robberies in 365 days with as many as 28 banks robbed in a single day. Needless to say, bank robberies were a main priority for the FBI in Los Angeles during the early '90s, and "Point Break" captured perfectly the criminal underbelly present in the coastal paradise. How does that stack up to robberies today? Only 200 or so robberies were reported in 2013.
Kathryn Bigelow & James Cameron
In 1991, Oscar-winning directors Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron were married -- yes, married to each other -- and each had successful films in theaters in July. Besides "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Cameron also had a hand in his wife's movie as an executive producer. By the end of the year, however, the Hollywood power couple had called it quits. The former husband and wife found themselves face-to-face, though, at the 2010 Oscars, battling it out for the Best Director trophy. Who took home the honor? Bigelow, for "The Hurt Locker."
1991 was a strong year at the box office. But no movie truly capture the year's culture the way "Point Break" did. "Terminator 2" is an incredible bit of filmmaking, but is more a testament to visual storytelling than a pop culture time capsule. "The Fisher King" and "Hook," both starring the late Robin Williams, could also fall into the "timeless" category, with stories that transcend the year in which it was released. "Silence of the Lambs," the year's Best Picture winner, is just as terrifying today as it was in 1991. These movies could have been made any other year and been equally as engrossing; "Point Break" is like stepping back in time to a bygone era of LA cool.
Just two months before the Red Hot Chili Peppers' breakout album "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" was released, Kiedis could be seen as a gun-toting rebel surfer in "Point Break." That was the last time Kiedis would remain relatively anonymous, allowing the rockstar to blend in as Tone, the mohawk-sporting criminal -- complete with a couple of ridiculous braids. Today, Kiedis has no chance of blending in, and the film is almost better for it. Who doesn't want to see their favorite rocker picking a fight with Keanu "Pretty Boy" Reeves by the beach showers? Coincidentally, Reeves co-starred with the RHCP's bassist, Flea, in "My Own Private Idaho," released only a few months later. The two even lived in director Gus Van Sant's house together (with River Phoenix) and would jam out at night.
Lastly, some words from Johnny Utah himself:
Happy Birthday Keanu! And thank you for the greatest quote of all-time: "I didn't appreciate the color yellow until my early twenties." Surf's Up!