Adventure movies are often associated with lazy Sunday afternoons and family-friendly food. That said, there can be some hairy moments in the great classics of the genre. Who hasn’t wanted to run through a jungle with a hat and a golden statue chased by natives with darts after seeing Raiders? Or go exploring strange caves with your best friends like in the Goonies? Here are ten of the best adventure movies …
10. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2010)
A surprise hit when it hit theaters, How To Train Your Dragon had the perfect blend of action, adventure, comedy, and thrill to make it a genre classic. A young Viking boy makes an unlikely friend in a dragon named Toothless and forms a deep bond with him. However, this goes against Viking lore which states that they must kill and defeat every dragon they encounter in battle. The boy’s father, Stoik the Vast (Gerard Butler), is the chief of his village and tries to set an example for his son. However, as the son learns, ignorance does not change easily. Critical and commercial success, the sequel was equally well received.
9. THE ENDLESS STORY (1984)
It’s a plot that’s been recycled more than once – a marginalized young boy is sucked into a fantasy world where he finds himself embroiled in a quest to rid him of an evil that threatens the world. Chronicles of Narnia, The Pagemaster, Jumanji – they all worked on a similar plan. However, what made The Never-ending Story so special was that it wasn’t strength or courage, but imagination that made the world a better place. Also, who hasn’t screamed when the horse falls into the swamp? Or did you want to be friends with Falkor to fly?
8. LABYRINTH (1986)
Aside from the David Bowie trash on display, Labyrinth was a pretty dark movie with very grown-up themes. You had authority figures stealing from kids, a clearly much older Bowie trying to seduce a prepubescent Jennifer Connolly, and a lot of violence for a supposedly family movie. Even by today’s standards, it’s still a bit of a watch. Jim Henson, mastermind of the Muppets, would later say that his poor critical reception demoralized him from making other films. His son, Brian Henson, took over the reins of the company and Jim sadly passed away four years later in 1990.
7. THE LION KING (1994)
The Lion King is closer to a Shakespearean drama than an adventure than anything else. A young prince is supplanted by his villainous uncle in order to take control of a kingdom. Seems familiar? That aside, The Lion King is one of the crown jewels in Disney’s animation catalog. A powerful story with a solid cast, paired with one of the best soundtracks in recent memory and you have a modern classic.
6. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
It did nothing to save the fate of the DeLorean Motor Company, but it sure made everyone want one. Of course, it wasn’t always a DeLorean. Director Robert Zemeckis first came up with the idea that it was a refrigerator. However, studio executives warned him that children could try to copy it by locking themselves in refrigerators after watching the film. Launching the career of Michael J. Fox and giving the world Huey Lewis & The News, Back to the Future’s easy charm and endless lines make it the perfect adventure film. Also, crazy props to Robert Zemeckis for recently saying there would be a remake of this on his corpse. Respect, man. The respect.
5. BROTHER, WHERE ARE YOU? (2000)
People may be more familiar with O Brother’s soundtrack, but it’s based on the oldest adventure of all – Homer’s Odyssey. Three men escape a chain of gangs and set off across the southern United States during the Great Depression in an attempt to make their fortune. Along the way, they meet a guitarist who has sold his soul to the devil, river sirens and a “cyclops” – all to bluegrass and country tunes. Realized with the greatest care and thought by the Coen, O Brother is one of their finest achievements.
4. THE GOONIES (1985)
It’s hard to imagine a movie like The Goonies in today’s culture. On the one hand, this number of children left out without a phone or adult supervision seems unlikely. Nonetheless, Richard Donner’s Children’s Adventure brings back fond memories to anyone who saw it and wanted to find pirate treasure. A group of young people, led by a brave young man who would later embark on another adventure involving a ring (Sean Astin), set out in search of a sunken ship that would help them save their home. However, a criminal family led by one of the most terrifying villains of our childhood wants to get there first. Goonies never say die!
3. CAST AWAY (2000)
A FedEx employee, famous for his productivity and timing, finds himself on an island with an abundance of the one thing he saved: time. The movie lives or dies on the central performance of Tom Hanks, but besides, you really believe he’s all on his own. His physical transformation aside, it’s amazing to see Hanks disappear into the role. Whether it’s mumbling at a volleyball or his first-time fire-making ecstasy, you’re with him for the ride.
2. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001)
Regardless of what you may think of The Hobbit, the original trilogy of JRR Tolkien’s work is immense in scope, tone, allegory, and length all at the same time. An ancient ring, endowed with powers beyond reasoning, falls into the hands of a hapless young Hobbit who must travel to a distant land to destroy it. Along the way, he will fight the Orcs, Urak-Hai, his own conscience and the dominant evil of his time. Epic in the classic sense, The Lord of the Rings reinvigorated the Hollywood concept of adventure and fantasy, sparking a new interest in the genre that spawned many more.
1. ADVENTURES OF THE LOST ARK (1984)
We vividly remember watching the opening of the Ark of the Covenant and seeing the heads of the Nazis melt cleanly on RTE before the 5pm turn. How no one caught him is amazing, but he stuck with us. Not just for that, be careful. Harrison Ford’s square-jawed performance as a gravedigger archaeologist fueled a generation of would-be stuntmen and made us one of cinema’s greatest heroes. Spielberg’s direction was perfect, moving the story forward with ease. Don’t mention the crystal skull.