Adventure Movies

10 Must-Watch Fantasy Adventure Films, Ranked

August 12, 20238 Mins Read

Regardless of the time or trends, adventure stories are always in demand. They represent the best escapist media by transporting audiences to faraway places with promises of great discovery. With their timeless themes and long-lasting appeal, they are ideal for cinematic translation.

Adventure films set in fantasy worlds tend to be the best at demonstrating this translation. With the power of movie magic to literally build fantastic set-pieces and bring to life terrifying monsters, they ensure that around every corner are new thrills and wonders for audiences to partake in.

10 ‘The Secret of NIMH’ (1982)

Jeremy flying with Mrs. Brisby on his back

Recently widowed field mouse Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) learns that her son Timothy (Ina Fried) has pneumonia, so he won’t be able to leave the house before the farmer plows his field. Desperate for help, she ventures into the lair of the Great Owl (John Carradine), who tells her to go to the rats who live in the farmer’s rosebush. They agree to help her and also inform her of their connection to her deceased husband.

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Having a mother mouse as the protagonist of The Secret of NIMH makes the story much grander in scope. The lair of an owl feels like descending into the house of an ancient dragon, and the impressive technology of the rats mimics magic. Meanwhile, Mrs. Brisby is constantly fighting against her own fears in order to ensure her family’s future, making her a terrific female character.

9 ‘The Dark Crystal’ (1982)


On the alien world of Thra, evil vulture-like beings called the Skeksis rule by draining the life force of the energy through a dark crystal. To stop them, the leader of the wise, turtle-like Mystics tells a Gelfling named Jen (Stephen Garlick) to retrieve a shard of the crystal from the secret keeper, Mother Augra (Billie Whitelaw). With it, he will be able to restore the crystal and bring balance back to Thra, but the Skeksis will stop at nothing to prevent this.

The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson‘s first film not to focus on The Muppets, instead transporting audiences to a dark, alien planet. This is further sold by the lack of any human characters. Everything down to the plants and rocks is portrayed through groundbreaking puppetry.

8 ‘The Neverending Story’ (1984)

Image via Warner Bros.

While fleeing from bullies, Bastian Bux (Barret Oliver) goes into a bookstore and pilfers a book called The Neverending Story. It tells of a fantasy world called Fantasia that is slowly being eroded by The Nothing, so a hero named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) is chosen to find a solution. The more Bastian reads, the more references he finds to himself in the text.

The Neverending Story is one of the most creative fantasy films of the 1980s. It takes full advantage of its fantasy world to include creative creatures from a giant all-knowing turtle, a giant who eats rocks, and a Luck Dragon named Falkor (Alan Oppenheimer). Atreyu’s quest takes him through many mystical locations, which thematically represent the battle between hope and despair.

7 ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ (2005)

Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Image via Buena Vista Pictures

To escape the Blitz, the Pevensie children are sent to live with Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent) in the countryside. While playing hide and seek, the youngest sibling, Lucy (Georgie Henley), hides in a wardrobe that transports her to a magical land called Narnia. This leads to her and her siblings learning of a prophecy that they will be the ones to overthrow the evil White Witch, Jadis (Tilda Swinton).

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The filmmakers do a wonderful job of making Narnia feel like a living, breathing fantasy world in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The costume designs and CGI do a great job of bringing to life fantasy species like dwarves, minotaurs, and centaurs, especially in the action sequences. There’s also plenty of wonder to be found, from a random lamppost in the middle of a forest to meeting Father Christmas (James Cosmo).

6 ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (2022)

puss in boots the last wish
Image via DreamWorks

After saving a village from a giant, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) learns that he has used up eight of his nine lives, meaning his next death will be his last. When a wolf (Wagner Moura) nearly kills him in a fight, he decides to give up his heroic lifestyle and live as a housecat. That is until he learns that Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney) has a map to a wishing star.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish embraces its fairytale aesthetic to create a wonderful and ever-changing landscape. The map to the wishing star changes based on who holds it, which in turn changes the way to the star based on the holder’s insecurities. All of this is brought to life with gorgeous animation done in a way that evokes the look and feel of living paintings.

5 ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ (1958)

the 7th voyage of sinbad movie
Image via Columbia Pictures

On the mystical island of Colossus, Sinbad the Sailor (Kerwin Mathews) rescues a magician named Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) from a cyclops, though he refuses to help get his magic lamp back. Enraged, Sokurah uses magic to shrink Sinbad’s betrothed, Parisa (Kathryn Grant), Princess of Chandra. The only way to restore her is with the shell of a Roc egg, which can be found on Colossus.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was the first and best of three Sinbad films made with the involvement of legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. His creatures steal the show thanks to their creative designs and amazing action sequences. The best has to be when Sokurah summons a skeletal warrior to battle Sinbad, which inspired the iconic skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts.

4 ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In 1944’s Spain, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) goes to live with her new stepfather, the ruthless Captain Vidal (Sergi López) who is hunting down Masquis rebels. One night, Ofelia follows a fairy into a labyrinth and meets a Faun (Doug Jones and Pablo Adán). He tells Ofelia that she is the reincarnation of the princess of the Underworld and that she must pass three challenges to regain her throne.

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Guillermo del Toro‘s magnum opus, Pan’s Labyrinth is a timeless story of sacrifice and the brutality of human nature. Ofelia’s quest offers her some repose from the harsh Spanish Civil War by taking her to a place of magic with the promise of a better future. Yet even here, things are colored in shades of gray that reflect and reference her surrounding horrors.

3 ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean- The Curse of the Black Pearl’ (1)

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a young boy named Will Turner (Dylan Smith and Orlando Bloom) is fished out of the wreck of a ship and his pirate medallion is taken by Elizabeth Swan (Lucinda Dryzek and Keira Knightley) during a crossing from England to Port Royal. Years later, Elizabeth is abducted by pirates from the Black Pearl, who need the medallion to break their undead curse. To rescue her, Will enlists the help of pirate captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Based on the popular Disney ride, this film blew all expectations thanks to its lovable characters and excellent sense of adventure. The undead curse is a simple but effective reason to kickstart the plot and adds a dash of the unknown to high-seas shenanigans and epic ship-to-ship combat. This is only highlighted by Hanz Zimmer‘s phenomenal score.

2 ‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)

Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Fezzik (André the Giant) The Princess Bride
Image Via 20th Century Studios

When a young boy (Fred Savage) falls ill, his grandfather (Peter Falk) comes over to read him a story. It is about a farm girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who is betrothed to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) after the disappearance of her lover, Westley (Cary Elwes). She is kidnapped by a trio of brigands hoping to start a war, but they are pursued by a mysterious man in black.

The Princess Bride has something for everyone: action, adventure, sword fights, romance, and witty dialogue. It knows what kind of film it is and never takes itself too seriously, encouraging audiences to come along for the ride. Its dialogue is also some of the most quoted in any film, especially those from Spanish fencer Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin)

1 ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy (2001 – 2003)

The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (1)
Image via New Line

In the land of the Hobbits, called the Shire, the One Ring forged by the dark lord, Sauron (Alan Howard), has been found. Should he reclaim it, he will have enough power to conquer the free people of Middle Earth. To stop him, the Hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) agrees to take the ring to the one place it can be destroyed, and a fellowship is assembled to go with him.

Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy does an excellent job of honoring the legacy of J. R. R. Tolkien. Through breathtaking landscape shots of New Zealand and a mixture of CGI and fantastically crafted sets, every corner of Middle Earth comes to life. The story is one of the strongest demonstrations of the power of hope and comradery in overcoming impossible odds.

NEXT: The Best Fantasy Movies of All Time, Ranked

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