The Best Adventure Movies of All Time

lord of the rings film
The Best Adventure Movies of All TimeNew Line Cinema
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It's no secret that movies are the perfect—and maybe even the best—way to escape from reality. Had a bad day? Watch a movie. Need a laugh? Watch a movie. Feeling heartbroken? Watch. A. Movie. It works like a charm. That’s the magic of cinema, people.

There are plenty of genres to choose from, but next to the humble comedy, adventure films are the easiest to stomach when you need a break from the real world. Below, you’ll find 29 exciting journeys to take whenever you please. Climb aboard a shipwreck in Life of Pi, or take a trip to a coastal English town in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. If dry land is more your speed, join Indiana Jones for an archeological quest, or help a crew of scientists ward off dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (though they should have never messed with pre-historic creatures in the first place). Hell, you can go to space if you want.

Your adventure awaits. All that’s left to do is pick a route.

Stand by Me

Rob Reiner’s iconic adaptation of Stephen King’s The Body serves as an all-but-ordinary coming of age story, set in 1959. River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell star as a group of young boys determined to uncover the missing body of a local boy for a cash reward. The film is a blend of hilariously crude adolescent humor, saturated scenes of nostalgia, and meditations on innocence, maturity, and friendship.

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Life of Pi

Few voyages at sea begin with the shipwreck, but such is the case for Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee and starring the late Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma, the film weaves a spectacular tale of spiritual discovery as a shipwrecked young man navigates the Pacific Ocean while stranded on a lifeboat. (Think Cast Away, but swap the volleyball for a Bengal tiger.)

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The first installment of Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic epic novels, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring introduces us to the fictional appendix that is all of Middle Earth and its inhabitants. Viewers join the earnest quest of young hobbit Frodo and his caravan of companions, with performances by Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, and Orlando Bloom.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Nothing says adventure like two twelve-year-olds falling in love and running away together to an island off the coast of New England. This whimsical and peculiar comedy is as Wes Anderson as Wes Anderson can get: peak aesthetic pleasure in its set and costume design, obsessively precise cinematography and writing, and, of course an overwhelmingly stacked cast of celebrities.

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The Hidden Fortress

From the beloved Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, The Hidden Fortress follows two peasants who find themselves on an unexpected quest to escort a man and woman across enemy lines in the midst of a war. The shared journey finds some comical and dramatic speedbumps though when it is revealed that the two men are actually escorting a war general and princess.

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Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

In the first installment of the famed Indiana Jones franchise, Harrison Ford stars as the titular archaeologist on his quest to prevent a group of Nazis from stealing the precious religious relic, the Ark of the Covenant. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this epic is a classic Hollywood archetype of the hero’s journey, with its Jones donning a signature whip and, of course, an achilles heel for snakes.

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2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s adaptation of Clarke’s, “The Sentinel,” 2001: A Space Odyssey is something of a monolith in itself within film history, still serving as a subject of analysis for us today. The enigmatic sci-fi thriller, amidst its exciting ingenuity in filmmaking, serves as an ominous meditation on man vs. machine that will make you feel like you’re staring straight into the beady red monitor of your own existence.

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Cast Away

Tom Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a FedEx engineer who ends up stranded on a deserted island while on a work assignment. In a true case of man versus wild, Noland’s chalk-tallied days spent with his volleyball companion become more than a test of will. They become a test of humanity and the world as he knows it.

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Jurassic Park

Another larger-than-life blockbuster from Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park follows the aftermath of what one might expect if a billionaire had come up with a way to recreate dinosaurs for a theme park. Shockingly, even movie billionaires don’t think through the ethics of their latest ventures. What some of the movie characters lack in technological savviness, the filmmaking itself makes up for with special effects and animatronics that made the standards of its time seem prehistoric.

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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The prototypical adventure movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a western-tinged story of two outlaws who encounter a veteran prospector, then travel together into Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains to strike gold. Though they find treasure, they become quickly beleaguered by bandits and internal strife. Directed by the inimitable John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the film that kickstarted the genre.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

In the film that catapulted Ang Lee to directorial superstardom, Lee sets the scene in nineteenth century China, where a warrior entrusts his fabled sword to his beloved, only for the sword to fall into the wrong hands. Come for the adventure through a bygone era in Chinese history, but stay for the breathtaking martial arts sequences, which remain unparalleled even two decades later.

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Annihilation

In this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s acclaimed climate fiction novel, five female scientists journey into Area X, a sinister and unexplained ecological phenomenon consuming Florida’s coastline. Featuring an all-star cast including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac, the journey into the unknown pushes these scientists to the limits of their bodies and their sanity.

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Thor: Ragnarok

Nothing says “adventure” quite like an intergalactic romp through trash-covered planets, right? The third film in Marvel’s Thor sequence is the series’ loosest, centering on a madcap adventure through outer space, which leaves a powerless Thor stranded on a wacky planet ruled by a sadistic Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Taika Waititi, Ragnarok remains a one-of-a-kind standout in Marvel’s filmology.

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Spy

Not all adventures have to be serious. Melissa McCarthy makes a feast of her juiciest role yet in this underappreciated gem from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, featuring an uproarious cast that also stars Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Allison Janney, Jason Statham, and 50 Cent. McCarthy stars as a timid CIA desk jockey catapulted into the field by the sudden death of her partner, sending her on a wild journey for vengeance and self-discovery from the slums of Paris to the casinos of Rome.

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The Wizard Of Oz

One of the essential early cinematic adventures, seeing the land of Oz revealed in gorgeous technicolor will still capture your imagination to this day.

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Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s space epic truly lived up to the hype, with mind-boggling direction and special effects that capture the strange new galaxy the space crew find themselves in.

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Mad God

Mad God is a truly unsettling stop-motion experimental horror film by Phil Tippett, a director and animator known for gorgeous visual effects, who has also worked on some iconic creatures for Star Wars and Jurassic Park.

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Apollo 13

Ron Howard’s historical docudrama adapts the real harrowing tale of NASA’s aborted 13th lunar mission with previously unparalleled technical accuracy. While there were a few narrative and historical quibbles in the end, the filmmakers consulted closely with NASA experts to keep the film somewhat grounded, and filmed space scenes on actual zero-gravity flights to accurately show weightlessness.

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This Coen Brothers dramedy turns rural Mississippi in the 1930s into a gorgeous backdrop for a more modern retelling of The Odyssey, but with way more country and bluegrass music than before.

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Inception

Some may classify Inception as just as a sci-fi action thriller, but our cast of dream thieves jets all around the world, even before they sink down into several levels of subconscious to pull off a mind-bending memory implantation process. With so many richly-realized worlds on display throughout the film, it’s hard to argue that the characters haven’t been on an adventure after they’ve woken up.

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Thelma and Louise

I mean, talk about iconic ending shots. Thelma and Louise showcases the American southwest absolutely beautifully, but is also backed up by a lively script—and of course, the lead performances by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

This post-apocalyptic animated fantasy film is Hayao Miyazaki’s second feature film ever. He imagined a gorgeous world beset by stampeding armored bugs called Ohm, which emerged in response to a massive war between kingdoms of the Valley of the Wind.

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Almost Famous

Almost Famous strikes the perfect balance of being profound, fun as hell, and just a super well-crafted movie. You really feel like a fly on the wall for Stillwater’s big tour, even though Stillwater doesn’t actually exist!

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Captain Fantastic

An underrated gem from 2016, Captain Fantastic is a beautifully grounded and meditative journey. The film follows Viggo Mortenson as an isolationist homesteader who has to take his huge family back into society when his wife dies. This film also goes heavily against the “don’t film with kids” mantra, casting not one, not two but six excellent young actors as the huge Cash family.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Basically the best and most messed-up road trip movie ever, Mad Max: Fury Road has some of the best car chase scenes ever filmed—along with career-great leading performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.

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The Revenant

Every moment of The Revenant is visceral, immersive, and unlike practically anything you’ve seen before. The cinematography, along with Leonardo DiCaprio’s uncompromising performance make Hugh Glass’s epic frontier journey feels all the more grueling.

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Nebraska

Nebraska is a bizarre, but beautifully simple and focused film about an older man who keeps trying to walk from Montana to Nebraska to collect a sweepstakes prize he believes he won. The core cast of Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb are a fantastically believable movie family.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi’s comedy adventure set in the jungles of New Zealand is still visually striking, hilarious, and heartfelt all these years.

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20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

This steampunk adventure from 1954 still is one of the coolest underwater journeys captured on film. It features a cache of massive stars, with Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas Peter Lorre and James Mason all in major roles. Sorry, Jake Sully, you’re no Captain Nemo.

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