For those of us hoping to cling onto the last vestiges of theatrical movie going, any movie that isn’t about a superhero or an entry in a franchise doing well is a win, even if the film is far from the greatest thing ever made. This past weekend saw a totally solid $30.5 million opening for The Lost Citythe new romantic adventure comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. In a lot of ways, this was an old-school success story. Two big-name movie stars headlining a solid genre picture that hangs on their crackling chemistry. This used to be a tried and true formula for box office success but has become increasingly rare.
The Lost City is far from the best example of this kind of movie in history. While the chemistry is there, the laughs aren’t particularly hearty and the thrills not so thrilling. However, the film does scratch an itch that has been festering for some time, as movies like this are so rare. If you are looking to satiate that need even further because you had not realized how much you had missed that classic romantic adventure story, here are seven films to quench that thirst after seeing The Lost City on the big screen.
The African Queen (1951)
Every cinematic subgenre has its blueprint, and for the romantic adventure, it is the classic 1951 riverboat trek through World War I era East Africa with The African Queen. From director John Hustonthis Technicolor quest puts alcoholic skipper Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) and missionary wife Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) on the titular boat heading down the treacherous waters of the Ulanga River on a mission to destroy a German gunboat impeding their escape from the war. It features all the tropes: raging rapids, leeches, flooding, and boiling romantic tension. Bogart earned his only Academy Award for his performance in The African Queen, and it could not be more deserved, showing a light and jovial side to himself he rarely got to put on film. Legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff captures the environment in bold, eye-popping Technicolor that makes the film feel gigantic. The African Queen is the romantic adventure every other tries to catch and few rarely match it.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
While James Bond films are filled with a lot of sex, very few of them feature straight-up romance. you have Daniel Craig‘s first out with Casino Royale in his relationship with Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd, but considering so much of that movie takes place in a hotel and at a poker table, calling it an adventure film would be a bit of a stretch. However, a true-blue romance happened nearly 40 years earlier in the franchise with the sole outing of George Lazenby axis 007. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has become a favorite among many Bond aficionados precisely because of the love story between Lazenby’s Bond and Tracy di Vicenzo, played by the luminous Diana Riggo. Their courtship over this Bond adventure makes it stand out from the pack as a Bond entry with real stakes and emotion, leading to truly tragic final moments. The score by John Barry alone makes you believe in love. It’s so potent that playing it in No Time to Die fills in a lot of blanks in the relationship with Lea Seydoux‘s Madeleine Swann. It may have been dismissed at the time, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best James Bond movies out there.
Romance the Stone (1984)
when we say The Lost City is an original film, that isn’t entirely accurate. Frankly, it’s a quasi remake of Romancing the Stone from director Robert Zemeckis. Here, we have an author of romance novels, wonderfully portrayed by Kathleen Turner, caught in a plot for some treasure in Colombia. while The Lost City pairs her with a man even more hapless than she is, Romancing the Stone is basically if Sandra Bullock had been paired with Brad Pitt‘s character for the rest of the movie. Turner’s novelist hires the help of Michael DouglasJack Colton, a bird smuggler, to help make her way through the jungle. Zemeckis made this at a time when he just needed a hit to keep making movies he wanted to make, so Romancing the Stone works like absolute clockwork. It isn’t the most remarkable entry into the genre, but it is still a rip-roaring good time. Plus, we get a fun role for Danny DeVito. Who’s not in favor of that?
The Princess Bride (1987)
Each and every one of us has seen The Princess Bride a thousand times, but what is wrong with one thousand and one? The love story at its core between Robin Wright‘s Buttercup and Cary Elwes‘ farm boy turned swashbuckling rogue may not be the most developed romance ever put to film, but their archetypal figures make for a perfect central couple for this spin on the classic tale of rescuing a damsel from the clutches of kidnapers and a forthcoming marriage she does not want. what Rob Reiner‘s swashbuckling romantic comedy is most concerned with is the comedy, and it continues to be a seminal picture because people can recite nearly every line of dialogue from it. Lines from “As you wish” to “Have fun storming the castle,” almost every second of The Princess Bride has seen into the popular consciousness thanks to so many people constantly renting this from video stores or watching it on television as a kid. The way you know it’s a marvelous film is even after all this time, you still laugh at every joke. At some point, the laughs should dry up, and they never do. Every time I see Peter Falk burst into little Fred Savage‘s bedroom, I know I am in for a good time. Maybe it’s been a couple of years since you have seen The Princess Bride. Throw it on!
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
We have another swashbuckler here, though not as outwardly comedic as The Princess Bride. But it’s a whole lot sexier. The Mask of Zorro wisely puts Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones together and just lets them absolutely burn up the screen. Their chemistry in Martin Campbell‘s rendering of the classic folk hero tale helps make The Mask of Zorro one of the most exciting action-adventure films of the 1990s. Everything is turned up for maximum impact, be it the swordplay or just the sex smoldering between the two leads. The movie’s high point comes in the mixing of the two, creating a sword fight that basically plays like a sex scene. The Mask of Zorro is a hoot and a half and should have a higher cultural reputation than it does.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Now we have the great evolution of The Mask of Zorro. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a seismic event when it debuted in July 2003. Everyone assumed a movie based on a theme park attraction would be a disaster, yet it became a phenomenon. A well-deserved phenomenon at that. Most of the attention was on Johnny Depp‘s Captain Jack Sparrow, but the real heart of this movie and the two (incredibly underrated) sequels by Gore Verbinskic is the love story between Keira Knightley‘s Elizabeth Swann and Orlando Bloom‘s Will Turner. The giant finale of the third film even features their wedding as they fight off enemies on every side. But it is The Curse of the Black Pearl that sets the stage for their love and drives everything they do. the pirates series played itself out, but those first three films are still utter gems, especially the first one.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This drifts far away from what you would consider a classic adventure story. Not much in the way of danger, action, or swashbuckling in Moonrise Kingdom, but we are talking about kids here. Adventure films with kids often play with fantasies they would have whilst playing games with friends on the playground, but Moonrise Kingdom lets them have an adventure that is believable. Wes Anderson‘s tale about two kids in love running off together to start their own life is easily the director’s sweetest film. Shot on Super 16mm, it is a warm, lovely film where the love feels more real than almost every other film on this list. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are an utter delight together, supported by a phenomenal cast of adults that features Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Edward Nortonas well as Bruce Willis (who I wish could have done much more with the filmmaker). Moonrise Kingdom may be seen as sleight for many Wes Anderson fans, but for me, it is my favorite.