Adventure Movies

10 Underrated Adventure Movies That Bombed At The Box Office

November 15, 20238 Mins Read


  • Many adventure movies that flop at the box office are still worth watching, with strong performances and unique visual language.
  • For example,
    Treasure Planet
    , while Disney’s most expensive failure, delivers strong character development and a moving plot.
    Strange World
    was anohter undeserving flop from the studio.
  • A Wrinkle in Time
    , despite being box office flops, are also wonderful films with stellar casts and relevant themes.

The adventure movie genre is full of expensive productions, and many great or underrated examples wind up being box office failures as a result. A typical adventure movie requires tremendous set pieces, action sequences, and visual effects, or they utilize large animation teams. For these films to get their production budget back, let alone make a profit, a lot of people need to see them in theaters, as they have to gross more than twice what they cost to cover marketing, distribution, and exhibition fees.

Just because a movie flopped at the box office doesn’t mean it’s bad, however, or that it isn’t worth seeing. Many adventure movies that bombed theatrically are still worthwhile for those looking for a thrill, a swashbuckling romp, or a good time in general. Strong performances and unique visual language are hallmarks of many of the adventure movies that have undeservedly underperformed at the box office, as is their focus on untold stories.


10 Obscure (But Awesome) Adventure Movies You Can Stream On Netflix Today

There’s something innately thrilling about the adventure film. While obscure, these adventure films on Netflix are worth a watch.

10 Treasure Planet (2002)

Budget: $140 Million | Box Office: $109.6 Million

Close up on Jim Hawkins smiling while sailing in Disney's Treasure Planet.

Treasure Planet

Release Date
November 27, 2002

John Musker


Treasure Planet is an animated feature loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island that follows young Jim on a steampunk pirate adventure. The movie’s mix of traditional and computer animation was new technology at the time, creating an interesting look that differed from other features of its kind. However, the budget for this style of animation meant Treasure Planet was Disney’s most expensive failure.

Treasure Planet still delivers some strong character development and emotional payoff. The plot is moving, as Jim searches for a father figure in Long John Silver and is devastated to learn that he is a pirate. While Jim redeems himself in the end, it is still a mature and touching facet of the film. There was a Treasure Planet II in the works that might have expanded upon this, but it never entered production due to the first film’s disappointing box office numbers.

9 Peter Pan (2003)

Budget: $100 Million | Box Office: $122 Million

This live-action adaptation of Peter Pan stars Jeremy Sumpter and Jason Isaacs, the latter known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. Some of its special effects look a little outdated and campy by today’s standards, but the heart of the film still holds up and does an excellent job capturing the spirit of the story and its titular character. The child actors in the film deliver serious performances, and the adults work just as hard to match them. More Peter Pan movies have updated the story for modern audiences, but the stunning color palette of this version is unforgettable.

8 The Rundown (2003)

Budget: $85 Million | Box Office: $81 Million

Dwayne Johnson as Beck with a torn shirt with smoke and flames in the background in The Rundown

Dwayne Johnson plays the hired muscle Beck in The Rundown, an action-adventure movie that spends most of its time in the Brazilian jungle. This is the first of many jungle adventure movies starring Dwayne Johnson and is a great addition to his filmography. The stellar action sequences are the real stars of the film, with chases and a treasure hunt serving as the backdrop for the plot. Additionally, Johnson gives a strong performance and provides an anchoring presence for the story.

7 Robin Hood (2018)

Budget: $100 Million | Box Office: $86.5 Million

Taron Egerton as Robin helps Eve Hewson's Marian with a bow and arrow in Robin Hood 2018
Eve Hewson and Taron Egerton in Robin Hood

Robin Hood

Release Date
November 21, 2018

Otto Barthurst

Paul Anderson , Tim Minchin , Taron Egerton , Eve Hewson , Josh Herdman , Ben Mendelsohn , Jamie Dornan , Jamie Foxx , Ian Peck , Björn Bengtsson

1h 56m

Taron Egerton’s take on the character Robin Hood is endearing because of his performance and the ability to bring the legend to modern audiences. The 2018 Robin Hood veers away from the traditional narrative, and goes for sleeker action on a grander scale. Reviews for the 2018 Robin Hood name Egerton as the best part of the film and applaud the attempt to give the old story the update it needed. Reminiscent of a superhero origin story, this Robin Hood quickens the pace of the narrative and involves impressive set pieces and battles to turn the story into an epic.

6 Sahara (2005)

Budget: $160 Million | Box Office: $119.2 Million

The Sahara cast (Penelope Cruz, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn) standing proudly and looking at the camera from the poster of the movie.

Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz star in Sahara, a film based on the novels by Clive Cussler. The rag-tag team of adventurers seek out a Civil War-era battleship in the Sahara desert, and an increasingly improbable domino of plot points ensues. Sahara is one of the most fun adventure movies out there. McConaughey and Cruz have great chemistry, and the story is relevant to today. Watching McConaughey and Cruz battling bad guys through multiple chase scenes makes it worth watching.

5 The Road To El Dorado (2000)

Budget: $95 Million | Box Office: $76.4 Million

The Road to El Dorado

Release Date
March 31, 2000

Don Paul , Bibo Bergeron

1hr 29m

The Road to El Dorado is one of the most underrated DreamWorks Animation movies. The film has beautifully composed and animated musical numbers, thanks to songs written by Elton John. With a surprisingly mature edge, the film can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. The Road to El Dorado is beloved now despite bombing in 2000 due to its availability on the internet, and the clever use of animation as a tool for comedy. With strong voice acting performances by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh as the two leads, it’s much more than a buddy comedy, and incorporates themes of morality and good vs. evil.

4 King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (2017)

Budget: $175 Million | Box Office: $149.2 Million

Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur walks over rought terrain in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Release Date
May 12, 2017

Annabelle Wallis , Katie McGrath , Eric Bana , Tom Wu , Djimon Hounsou , eline powell , Aidan Gillen , Charlie Hunnam , Jude Law , Astrid Bergès-Frisbey

2h 6m

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword updates the title figure’s story for modern audiences. Starring Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, this telling of the legend follows a Hamlet-like plot with Arthur fighting against his uncle (Jude Law) who wrongfully takes the throne. This means that Arthur is thrown into a new adventure that differs from the ancient legends. Lots of things went wrong with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but it has strong points as well. The struggle between Arthur and his uncle is at the forefront, giving depth to the characters. Additionally, the sets and landscapes used for locations ground the film in reality and make the story tangible.


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3 Hugo (2011)

Budget: $150-170 Million | Box Office: $185.8 Million

Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret and Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle sitting in a movie theater in Hugo


Release Date
November 22, 2011

126 minutes

If it hadn’t been for the enormous budget it took to make Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, it could have been a huge success. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret written by Brian Selznick, the film was a critical success. In a departure from his typical work, Scorsese knocked it out of the park with his younger-skewing movie, making it a great option for introducing the next generation to the filmmaker. The visuals are wonderful, but the story of a young boy trying to solve an enchanting mystery is the real star. The young Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Mortez carry the film with heart and touching performances.

2 A Wrinkle In Time (2018)

Budget: $100-130 Million | Box Office: $132.7 Million

A Wrinkle In Time

Release Date
March 8, 2018

Ava DuVernay

109 minutes

A Wrinkle in Time, based on the adored children’s novel of the same name, has Ava DuVernay directing and Storm Reid starring. It’s a wonderful film for anyone, even if they haven’t read the book, and it can introduce a new generation to the story. With a stellar cast and gorgeous set design, it didn’t deserve to be a box office flop. A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of the book through the lens of 2018, and deals withtopics more relevant to the current time than the book did originally. When critics and moviegoers look back on A Wrinkle in Time, they’ll realize they judged it too harshly.

1 Strange World (2022)

Budget: $135-180 Million | Box Office: $73.6 Million

The core Strange World characters on top of a vehicle

Strange World

Release Date
November 23, 2022

Don Hall

Jake Gyllenhaal , Dennis Quaid , Jaboukie Young-White , Gabrielle Union , Lucy Liu , Alan Tudyk

102 minutes

Strange World pairs great voice acting and engaging visuals with an accessible allegory about climate change, but not enough people saw it. Disney suffered its biggest 2022 box office flop with Strange World, which is a shame, since the film doesn’t deserve half of the hate it got. The film has excellent actors voicing its main characters, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union and newcomer Jaboukie Young-White. The film also features diverse storytelling practices, and beautiful animation in a fantastical world. It will surely come to be known as an underrated Disney feature that shouldn’t have failed at the box office.

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