Top Ten Adventure Films – What is this friggin genre?
What is this genre? Is it Indiana Jones? Is it Star Wars? Is it Citizen Kane? WHO KNOWS. Directors combine Action with Adventure for a reason, I think. The genre is as illusive as someone’s opinion about how to cook a good burger. I think of adventure movies as the classic kind, with as much traveling around as colorful environments. Color, travel, a quest, and heroism are the core elements of an adventure.
10. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Sneaking in at number ten is the most classic swashbuckling adventure ever made. It is an Errol Flynn classic for a reason and he probably defined adventure for years. Robin Hood is on a quest, he travels around and fights a good fight, and this movie is a study in color, from costumes to sets. All the elements are there. I’d also note that Zorro or the Lone Ranger could easily take this spot too, as they have the same story and tone.
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – This is probably the most adventurous of the Indiana Jones adventures. It is steeped with lore and that’s what makes it work. The action makes it unique and catches your attention, making you watch more to see what happens. It is based on the old 20s and 30s serials in this way.
8. Ben-Hur (1959) – This is probably one of the best big-budget studio adventure movies. The story has drama and sprinkles in action to hold our attention. Raiders of the Lost Ark does the opposite, but works in the same way. Ben-Hur also has a classic build and a classic climax.
7. Wizard of Oz (1939) – This one is one of the best four-color movies ever made. It is timeless and fantastical.
6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – This movie is on television every time a channel wants to prove they are deeply committed to art. It certainly is dramatic and set in a foreign location to be even more dramatic.
5. Lord of the Rings – Any of the Peter Jackson films could take this position, but it’s probably either the first one or the last one that is most adventurous. Probably the last one, Return of the King. It has the climax and everything you liked in the first two to go along with it. There is something to be said for the first film though, as it seems a little smaller, and foreshadows the ambition to come.
4. Up (2009) – This movie is probably going to be remembered later on as a timeless movie. It has all the elements you could want in an adventure and some touching moments too. It’s for everyone, unlike some of these films.
3. North by Northwest (1959) – I guess this is either adventure or a thriller or some combination. It has a lot more travel than most of the movies on this list and is constantly on the go. I’m not sure every adventure needs action, but even this one has some action: gunshooting, driving, and scaling Mount Rushmore.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) – If you haven’t seen this Kirk Douglas movie or if you haven’t seen this movie with your kids, what are you waiting for? I saw this movie as a rental and explored the deep oceans of imagination as only movies can provide for a kid. It is simple and true to the four-color nature of early Disney. Is it better than the other movies before it? Not really, but I have a soft spot for this one.
1. Star Wars – Did you think any different? The hero quest is perhaps the best adventure of them all. Luke the farmer growing into a fighter pilot and savior of the galaxy is quite a fantastical story, probably better than Zorro or Robin Hood at least. This movie has sci-fi elements, but is not fully committed to sci-fi. You could argue that Star Wars contains more adventure archetypes than any movie on this list.
Did you expect Jason and the Argonauts on this list? Come on. How about Tarzan? Flash Gordon? King Kong? Okay okay, I’ll tack those on at the end of the list. How about Yojimbo? Is that adventure? Yikes, I may never figure out what this genre is.