Adventure movies are the ultimate escape. Seriously! They’re literally about leaving your old life behind and escaping to someplace else. Here are the best adventure movies to watch when you too are itching to get out and about.
You know how Belle stands on a hill in Beauty and the Beast and sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell!” — then ends up stuck in a big house for 80 percent of the rest of the movie? The characters in these movies actually get the life Belle dreamed of having. They actually get to go on adventures. Call me Captain Obvious but that’s just something I think about a lot.
A good adventure movie has multiple locations, maybe even a map (treasure or otherwise) to tell those locations apart, some kind of quest, and so much hope that it makes your heart burst with anticipation for what the heroes will find on their journey. They can also be action movies, or fantasy adventures, or science fiction—and often they are! Check it out.
The Lost City of Z (2016)
In one of the most classic types of adventure story, Charlie Hunnam stars as a real-life explorer who went looking for an ancient civilization in the Amazon jungle over and over again.
The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Just hearing that iconic theme music makes me want to run away from home and go on a high seas adventure. There is literal swash-buckling in this movie, y’all; it doesn’t get much better than this.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
I mean, all of the LOTR movies are adventure movies, but nothing captures the spirit of the first one. When Sam talks about every step being the furthest he’s taken from home? That’s what it’s all about!
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
Disney’s most recent animated feature totally deserves to join the other great adventure films. It’s about a girl named Raya, voiced by the incomparable Kelly Marie Tran, who finds herself in a position to save her kingdom and unite its neighbors. She goes on a quest to do so that becomes quite the adventure.
Call it recency bias, but Tenet is way more fun than Inception when it comes to Christopher Nolan’s action adventure movies. Who cares that you may or may not have to look at some diagrams to make it make sense? Tenet vibes only.
Furious 7 (2015)
Okay okay okay, there are a lot of action adventure franchises and it’s hard to pick just one film to represent each of these cinematic universes. Most people regard Fast Five as the best in the family, but we gotta pay tribute to Paul Walker’s final outing of the franchise and the legend that is “See You Again.”
Back To The Future (1985)
Marty McFly unintentionally travels to the past and immediately starts screwing things up for the future. He’s got to figure out how to get home and how to make sure home is the same when he gets there. Sometimes accidents make for the best adventures.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Gonna try not to list too many DC movies here, no disrespect to Aquamanbut how can you deny the power of the first Wonder Woman? Diana comes from the type of place you’d usually expect to adventure to. Her adventure is to our world, for better and for worse.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Charlize Theron has emerged as one of our most important action stars. In this, she frees a group of formerly captive women and they lead a chase across an apocalyptic landscape with non-stop action and adventure.
Black Panther (2018)
The audience is the one going on the adventure in Black Panther as we journey to the magical world of Wakanda for the first time. The journey that T’Challa goes on, rather, is more of an internal one as he decides what kind of king he wants to be.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)
In the world of Twilightmarriage is the biggest adventure of all. Also, that Volturi fight. Need I say more? No offense but the avengers, the Justice Leagueand The X-Men simplywish they could go that hard.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
This Disney animated adventure is very underrated, and Milo Thatch is very hot. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
The Old Guard (2020)
This might be considered a “hidden gem” on Netflix now but can we all pinky promise to make it trend, like, all the time? The Old Guard is not only another Charlize Theron vehicle, but it freakin’ rules. It’s about immortal rulers who basically work as freelance heroes, and they’re very burnt out. It’s oddly relatable?
Pacific Rim (2013)
Don’t be fooled by the big monsters and big robots in this movie, it’s actually about feelings. Charlie Hunnam (or, as I like to call him, Charlie Nom Nom) and Mako Mori play two pilots who literally need to form an emotional connection in order to power the technology to save the world. Pacific Rim‘s big heart could rival Ted Lassobut they’d probably hug it out instead.
Stand By Me (1986)
This is controversial but when it comes to kid ventures I think Stand By Me is better than The Goonies. Sorry! They’re both classics, but if I had to pick just one, I’m going with the emotional highs and lows of this one.
There’s nothing magical or epic about the adventure Reese Witherspoon’s character goes on in this movie, but it’s an adventure nonetheless.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Team Kissing Books! The quest to rescue Princess Buttercup (played by Robin Wright, who is also a bad*ss warrior in Wonder Woman) is one of the funniest adventures put to film.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)
Tag yourself, I’m Magneto lifting up an entire stadium and flying off with it just to be dramatic. It’s another time travel adventure, but this is the best X-Men movie. Don’t fight me on this!
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
This movie kind of slide under the radar, but IMO that was a mistake. It’s so weird and funny, and action packed. Give it another chance. Dane DeHaan’s himbo performance is well worth the price of admission.
Men in Black (1997)
Another iconic science fiction action adventure comedy (you can never have too many genres) that we don’t talk about nearly enough.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Some may argue over which Bourne film is the best, but the best representation of what these movies is about is the one that started them all. He’s an assassin with amnesia on a journey to find himself.
Jurassic Park (1993)
what makes Jurassic Park a good movie is that not a single second feels extraneous. The geek girl loves hacking computers and she uses those skills to help save the day later! It’s also like… the kind of adventure you really wish you could go on until you really, really don’t.
Romancing The Stone (1984)
A romance writer ends up on a real-life romantic adventure to rescue her captive sister? Ooh la la. There’s a treasure map and everything.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tom Cruise has been in a billion action movies, but he’s usually so calm and cool and collected that it is a genuine delight to see him flustered by the time loop adventure he finds himself in in Edge of Tomorrow.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones’ nerdy glasses-wearing professor day job and swashbuckling fedora-wearing side gig definitely make him the ultimate “get you a man who can do both,” right?
The Matrix (1999)
It feels like forever ago, but The Matrix defined a generation of action and science fiction adventure fans. BRB, dusting off my Agent Smith impression before the next sequel drops.
Rogue One (2016)
In what may be the hottest take on this list, if you’re looking for a Star Wars to scratch your adventure movie list, make it this one. It’s a self-contained story with a single goal and an ensemble of memorable characters who, for the most part, aren’t named Skywalker. It’s kind of perfect.
The Mummy (1999)
Has anyone else noticed how nuts people have been going recently about Brendan Fraser in this movie? They’re not wrong but…
National Treasure (2004)
map! Secret tunnels! Secret lairs! Secret stairs! You’d think that “the one where Nic Cage steals the Declaration of Independence” wouldn’t be such a huge adventure, but it really is.
Leah Marilla Thomas is an entertainment writer, UNC alum, and former Hasbro Toy Tester (yes, that’s a real thing) who loves The Good Place and Love Island equally.
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