If you love films and adventures then this list of best adventure movies is perfect for you.
What makes a great adventure movie?
We need characters you want to follow. Arcs that ring true and say something about the human experience. The kind of mind-blowing scenery that makes your feet itch. And a few lessons and tribulations along the way.
More than any of the above though, we need to be inspired.
A great adventure tells us that the first step outside your cosy Hobbit hole was worth taking. It’s a way to buffet the sails of human endeavour, revealing to all of us that no matter the risk, or cost, it is always more worthwhile being the one in the arena – better that than the naysayer in the stands.
Best Adventure Movies
So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at our favourite picks for the 10 Best Adventure Movies (in no particular order):
10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople // Directed by Taika Waititi (2016)
Set in the New Zealand outback, this comedy adventure comes with a lot of heart and a whole bunch of quotable lines – ‘it was a relaxing song, and a relaxing sausage’.
Waititi is now well known for his hand in reshaping the Marvel universe and taking the edge of some of the more serious caped characters.
Based on Barry Crump’s book, Wild Pork and Watercress, this offering is surely one of Waititi’s best. It has just the right balance of pathos and humour.
Every second with Uncle Hector and Ricky Baker, living the Skux Life out in the New Zealand bush, is a total pleasure.
Throw in some memorable music and a Thelma & Louise style final car chase and you’ve got an adventure classic for the ages.
9. Kon-Tiki // Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (2012)
The 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition returned to the public consciousness again in the last decade. It’s no wonder the story has been revived – a historical tale of a group of Norwegians, riding a balsawood raft across the Pacific Ocean.
These countrymen travelled together from South America to reach the Polynesian islands and thereby prove that settlers once made this journey. They were led by explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl, who also wrote the book.
There was also an Academy Award-winning documentary released in 1950, with footage shot on their adventure. We’ve gone with the dramatised feature though, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.
The film seems to capture the visceral range of emotions these men must have felt out there – deprived of all modern equipment, crossing paths with enormous whale sharks and the raw force of the far-out elements.
8. Into The Wild // Directed by Sean Penn (2007)
One for hitchhikers and explorers the world over. The detailed book by journalist and mountaineer, Jon Krakauer, came first.
Then Christopher McCandless was introduced to a wider audience, when Emile Hirsch played him in Sean Penn’s 2007 movie adaptation.
The story is captivating, told in an authentic way, with very little of it feeling too forced or overly romanticised.
Endless arguments usually grate about the virtues of what McCandless did. Was he reckless? Naive? Whatever side you fall on, you can’t help but feel a little awe for someone so willing to redefine the trajectory of his own life.
The great revelation too, that ‘happiness is only real when shared’ – written by our 24-year-old adventurer, before he died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness – is undeniably powerful.
7. The Beach // Directed by Danny Boyle (2000)
One of the UK’s most original and influential directors, Danny Boyle, brought us this psychedelic reimagining of Alex Garland’s novel and smashed our dream of idyllic South East Asian paradises into little pieces.
There are many unforgettable adventure sequences in this film – a certain waterfall jump always springs to mind. It’s very bold too and was initially divisive among critics. Also, who can fault DiCaprio’s portrayal of the travelling everyman – or, a story that treads so heavily (and cleverly) on our dreams?
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring // Directed by Peter Jackson (2001)
This epic fantasy adventure did for New Zealand what no tourist board ever could.
For many of us, we didn’t doubt for a second that we were out among the Misty Mountains and rolling plains and glacial fjords of Middle Earth. Imagine our luck when we learnt how few of those journey scenes were smothered in CGI!
Not only did Peter Jackson show he had a career in subject matter outside of brain-eating aliens and zombies – he firmly scrawled his signature under the question: who, if anyone, would be worthy of handling J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece?
5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park // Directed by Steven Spielberg (1997)
“Don’t go into the long grass!” Okay, we’ll admit it’s our favourite of the Jurassic Park adventures over the years.
The second instalment in the franchise, based loosely on Michael Crichton’s 1995 novel, served up a hearty batch of hapless military-types as a buffet for the reptilian denizens of Isla Sorna.
Spielberg brought in a strong cast, including Pete Postlethwaite, Julianne Moore and everyone’s favourite open-shirted chaos theorist, played by Jeff Goldblum. He also mastered a healthy mix of animatronics and CGI to give us that unique sensation of stumbling into the jaws of a T-Rex (or two).
4. Best Adventure Movies – Interstellar // Directed by Christopher Nolan (2014)
Something a little different, taking you way out of familiar viewing realms. Interstellar was similar in scope to 2001: A Space Odyssey, propelled by that powerful imaginative thruster between the shoulders of Christopher Nolan.
We’re thrown into a dusty dystopian future, faced with the final decades of human habitation on Earth. Who do we turn to? Matthew McConaughey, of course – him and his galivanting astronaut cronies.
Their journey takes us into the maw of a wormhole near Saturn. Then gut-wrenching moments abound as we head off on a jaunt to find a new resting ground for homeless humankind.
3. Best Adventure Movies – The Revenant // Directed by Alejandro Iñárritu (2015)
Widely remembered as the movie that finally earned DiCaprio his long-anticipated golden statue, this incredible adventure movie is raw, powerful and, at times, haunting.
It was birthed through the innovation of Spanish director, Alejandro Iñárritu, and it is epic in every sense of the word!
The whole thing could’ve ended after the first ten minutes – a sweeping single shot, during a native Arikara ambush – and we’d all still be talking about it for years to come.
2. Best Adventure Movies – Touching the Void // Directed by Kevin Macdonald (2003)
Movies based on true events are intoxicating to modern audiences, especially when those events strike such a harrowing note. What’s more, Touching the Void poses a very challenging question as we follow Joe Simpson and Simon Yates up the unclimbed West Face of the Peruvian Siula Grande.
After an awkward descent, and a fall from an ice cliff, Simpson is left on a crevasse ridge, with a broken leg.
What really troubles audiences is the fact Yates was previously forced to cut Simpson’s rope, having lowered him for some 300 feet, using a series of dangerous repeat manoeuvres.
This is truly a survival story that sticks with you and one that gives testimony to the sheer grit of a withered human spirit.
1. Grizzly Man // Directed by Werner Herzog (2005)
While we’re on the subject of harrowing adventure stories – Herzog is always going to give you an emotional liver punch, and this 2005 documentary is no different.
We join an extreme bear enthusiast, Timothy Treadwell, invited in by his own footage of incredible interactions with wild brown bears.
Very few had been able to obtain such intimate footage with these animals before.
Then, after years of successful documentation in an Alaskan reserve, Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were tragically killed during a bear attack. An audio recording of the attack was preserved on Treadwell’s camera and his mesmerising last hours of footage remain in the movie.