The adventure genre is one of the oldest and most universal types of stories. At its core, an adventure involves the protagonists leaving the world they know for a new one, be it a newly discovered island or just stepping outside their hometown. they usually meet colorful new faces, face dangers from both beast and man, and discover something about themselves.
Adventure stories are usually simplistic in their structure, which allows them to be enjoyed by any generation of consumers. This can easily be seen in the film world, where some of the best adventure movies hold up decades after their release.
10 ‘King Kong’ (1933)
Aspiring actress Anne Darrow (Fay Wray) is given a chance to star in the next movie by eccentric film director, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong). Boarding the SS Venture, she develops a relationship with first mate Jack Driscol (Bruce Cabot). However, when they arrive at Denham’s chosen island, they discover a lost world ruled by a gigantic gorilla named Kong.
While there have been many remakes and re-imaginings over the years, the original King Kong reigns supreme. While dated by today’s standards, the effects were groundbreaking for the time and included many different techniques that today would just be done with computers. The story also remains one of the strongest displays of the dangers of a man trying to tame nature rather than respect it.
9 ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938)
When King Richard () is taken captive, his brother, Prince John () uses the opportunity to place himself on the throne. His first act is to raise the taxes on the Saxon people of England and hoard the money for himself. When Sir Robin of Locksly (Errol Flynn) calls him out, John seizes his land and names him an outlaw.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is the classic tale of the noble hero against an oppressive tyrant. Along with its bright colors and daring sword fight, what makes this the definitive telling of Robin Hood are the performances. Flynn in particular stands out with his iconic take on Robin Hood, which is as charming and witty as it is noble.
8 ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’ (1954)
French Professor Pierre Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant Conseil (Peter Lorre) are hired by the United States Navy to investigate reports of a sea monster. Their ship is sunk by the creature, which turns out to be an advanced submarine piloted by the mysterious Captain Nemo (James Mason). He saves the two men and master harpooner Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) but declares they cannot return to civilization.
20000 Leagues Under the Sea explores the mystery of the world’s oceans and man’s place in the world. It uses the underwater tranquility as a backdrop for important conversations about civilization vs exile and man’s responsibility to technology. The cast all deliver stellar performances, though Mason shill as the steals but morally troubled Captain Nemo.
7 ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ (1958)
After making a stop on the isle of Colossus, Sinbad the Sailor (Kerwin Matthews) rescues a magician named Sokurah (Richard Ayer) from a cyclops but refuses to go back for the magician’s magic lamp. This leads to Sokurah cursing Sinbad’s fiancé, princess Parisa (Kathryn Crosby), by shrinking her. To break the spell, Sokurah needs the eggshell of a Roc, which nests on Colossus.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is a brilliant example of how some of the best adventure stories can have simple stories. None of its characters break out of their archetypes, but the actors have the right amount of charisma and the writers are able to come up with creative ways for all of them to shine. The real stars are the impressive stop-motion monsters by legendary Ray Harryhausen.
6 ‘Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)
After losing a golden idol to his rival, Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is told by the American government that his mentor, Dr. Ravenwood, is being targeted by Nazi Germany. Jones finds his daughter, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and helps her protect a medallion from the Nazis. Realizing they are looking for the mythical Ark of the Covenant, the two team up to find it first.
While expectations were low due to several bad years for cinema, Raiders of the Lost Ark blew all kinds of records and is now regarded as one of cinema’s greatest films. It’s a non-stop ride of action, adventure, and excitement, bouncing seamlessly from one action scene to another. It also captures the mystery of discovering long-lost secrets and questions if it’s better to leave them well enough alone.
5 ‘The Goonies’ (1985)
With their homes facing foreclosure, friends Mikey (Sean Astin), Data (Ke Huy Quan), Mouth (Corey Feldman), and Chunk (Jeff Cohen) gather for one last time before moving away. While exploring Mikey’s attic, they find the treasure map of One-Eye Willy, a pirate who stored his treasure in the area. As they follow the map, they face many dangers, including self- doubt, ancient traps, and a ruthless mob family.
The Goonies was popular on release, but subsequent years have given it cult status thanks to the sheer talent and creativity found within. It’s a story about controversy between outcasts and how the power of belief can achieve the seemingly impossible. , and their dialogue and delivery are some of the most realistic in all cinema.
4 ‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)
As a young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed, his grandfather (Peter Falk) reads him a story about Buttercup (Robin Wright) who is chosen to marry Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon). She is soon captured by a trio of bandits who want to use her to start a war, but are thwarted by a man in black. He turns out to be Buttercup’s lost love, Westley (Cary Elwes).
The Princess Bride has everything you could want in a classic adventure film. Between the sword-fighting iconic dialogue, the film tells a good love story and makes good use of its fairytale aesthetic. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and never forgets to have fun, which ties into another theme about enjoying fantasy stories.
3 ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993)
Paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Elliot) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are hired to endorse the park of millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) alongside chaotician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). They are shocked to discover that the park’s main attractions are dinosaurs and go on a tour. As a storm hits them, a disgruntled employee hacks the park to steal dinosaur embryos, which releases the dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park mixes the classic adventure trope of visiting the island of an eccentric person with modern talks of the dangers of advancing science. The jungle atmosphere helps to accentuate how out of their element the humans are and builds suspense about when the dinosaurs will emerge. It remains one of Steven Spielberg’s best movies thanks to its iconic characters, impressive use of early CGI, and amazing animatronics.
2 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)
After Bilbo Baggins (Sir Ian Holm) departs the Shire, his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) inherits his things, including a gold ring. This is the One Ring forged by the Dark Lord, Sauron, which he can use to dominate Middle Earth. With some unlikely companions, Frodo leaves to destroy the ring in the fires of Mt. Doom .
The Lord of the Rings is the cornerstone of modern fantasy and Peter Jackson’s trilogy proved just as influential to film. They tell JRR Tolkien’s The tale of unity, triumph against impossible odds, and the strength of friendship on a massive scale that combined new CGI with amazing practical effects. Fellowship of the Ring in particular stands out because it’s the first step of the journey and does a wonderful job establishing the characters and the world they’re fighting to protect.
1 ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ (2003)
When The Black Pearl attacks Port Royal, the crew makes off with Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), the governor’s daughter. Desperate to save her, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) recruits the help of notorious pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile, Elizabeth learns that the crew of the Pearl are victims of an Aztec curse of undeath.
This film spawned a lucrative franchise and re-invigorate people’s love of high-seas adventures. It’s no surprise why: the film boasts impressive action sequences, fun sword fights, and some of the best music from legendary composer Hans Zimmer. Jack Sparrow has become one of Depp’s most iconic characters and the audience’s definitive example of a pirate.
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