Adventure Movies

Best Adventure Movies That Aren’t Indiana Jones

May 25, 20237 Mins Read

The adventure genre is one of the world’s oldest and most beloved storytelling frameworks. Far-flung stories of peril and excitement in far-off locales have always pleased audiences. Over the years, the films in the genre have continued apace, with new and exciting stories added to the world.

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For many, the Indiana Jones movies remain the gold standard for adventure movies. They’re Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ love letter to the genre, encapsulating all of its best tropes, from stunning scenery to hair-raising action sequences. However, the ardent fandom and hype surrounding the upcoming film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, overshadow plenty of films that don’t feature Harrison Ford’s iconic archaeologist.

10 The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is a loving send-up of swashbuckler adventure movies that happens to be better than almost every movie it sends up. The movie has gone down in history for its storytelling, action, heart, characters, dialogue, and more. There is nothing about the film that audiences and critics don’t love.

The Princess Bride has one of the most acclaimed action sequences ever in the sword duel between Inigo Montoya and Westley. It also lands every joke and knows when to let quiet and emotional moments take the forefront. It’s been preserved in the United States Library of Congress due to its sheer cultural impact.

9 The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

All three of The Lord of the Rings movies emphasize adventure in their storytelling. However, The Two Towers ups the ante in almost every way. Merry and Pippin find themselves trying to survive in Isengard. Sam and Frodo attempt to reach Mordor. Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf rally Rohan’s defenders to take the fight to Sauron.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers tops many fans’ lists as the best film in the trilogy. It has beloved moments like the return of Gandalf, Gollum’s machinations, and the epic Battle of Helm’s Deep. Although The Fellowship of the Ring leans more heavily on adventure movie tropes, The Two Towers is a more beloved film overall.

8 Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

The Shrek films all lean heavily on the adventure genre, alongside their lampooning of fairy tale plots and pop culture. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has been an unexpected recent triumph for the series. As the sequel to a mediocrely-received spin-off, most audiences weren’t expecting much. However, it became one of 2023’s earliest cinema successes.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows the titular adventuring cat as he tackles mortality on the last of his nine lives. Puss and several companions travel to strange locales like the Dark Forest in search of the Wishing Star. The film has received praise for its plot, surprising maturity, and excellent action.

7 Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Dungeons & Dragons has drawn from adventure fiction for decades. Most games feature travel, traps, and treasure in abundance. Fittingly, the best-received D&D movie gives back to the genre. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves eschews epic battles between good and evil in favor of a motley crew of misfits journeying through peril to save the day.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves features travels up and down the Sword Coast, even down into the lethal and otherworldly Underdark. Its characters survive by the skin of their teeth thanks to last-minute plans cooked up on the fly. It’s been praised as a fun time for all audiences that feels like a throwback to the best classic adventure films.

6 Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has flirted with countless genres over its many films. Thor: Ragnarok draws on classic sci-fi stories that, in turn, transplant adventure storytelling into space. It finally takes the action away from Earth, instead having Thor and his allies explore worlds like Sakaar as they battle Hela.

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Thor: Ragnarok is undeniably a superhero action movie, but adventure films have also had a clear impact on it. It’s also one of the most beloved outings in the MCU’s acclaimed Phase Three. Its settings, characters, and humor are widely considered to be among the MCU’s best.

5 Moana

Many Disney animated movies revel in the adventure genre. However, few embrace it as wholeheartedly as Moana. The film features the titular character setting out on a voyage across the ocean to return Te Fiti’s heart to her. Moana, later joined by the demigod Maui, has to brave unknown dangers across the sea in her quest.

Moana has been praised as one of the best and most fresh films in Disney’s animated catalog. Some are disappointed with its adventure plot that primarily consists of bypassing obstacles, but others have applauded how its simple storytelling lets it focus on character instead. Its songs are also considered some of Disney’s best in recent years.

4 Willow

Willow is a warm-hearted pastiche of the fantasy adventure genre. It stars Warwick Davis as the title character, a member of the dwarf Nelwyn people, and a magician. In Willow, Davis’ Willow attempts to protect a human child from the villainous Queen Bavmorda and return them to their own people.

Willow‘s greatest asset is its charm. It manages to be light-hearted and avoid taking itself too seriously without making the fantasy genre or real-life little people the butt of the joke. Davis’ performance and the film’s heartwarming plot result in a delightful film for all audiences.

3 Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Swashbuckling films are a sub-genre of adventure movies that have fallen out of favor in recent decades. However, one modern revival remains iconic to modern audiences. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl revels in swashbuckling tropes with a classic tale of pirates battling over cursed treasure.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl introduces audiences to iconic characters like Hector Barbossa, Commodore James Norrington, and Captain Jack Sparrow himself. Its witty performances and sea-faring action have made the film, and its many sequels, a fan-favorite franchise.

2 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Star Wars is best known as the world’s most iconic sci-fi franchise. However, it draws on many other genres. These include Westerns, samurai films, and adventure movies, particularly in A New Hope. Luke Skywalker starts the movie a farm boy, only to spend the rest traveling the galaxy and battling the evil Empire.

A New Hope explores locales like Tatooine’s Dune Sea, Mos Eisley, the Death Star, and more. Its characters echo popular adventure film archetypes, such as a humble boy dragged along for adventures, an experienced and amoral gunslinger, a capable princess, and a wise mentor figure. It’s so beloved by audiences that it’s the first film in one of the most profitable franchises ever.

1 The Goonies

The Goonies is a teen-friendly take on the adventure genre. A group of adolescent misfits called The Goonies explore the caves beneath their own to search for the treasure of pirate One-Eyed Willy – all the while, the criminal Fratelli family is in hot pursuit. The Goonies leans on adventuring tropes and cliches, such as treasure maps and pirates, milking them for all they’re worth.

The Goonies is immensely nostalgic for many audiences, but it’s an excellent film in its own right. Steven Spielberg’s direction and the performances of its young cast are held up as particular highlights. In addition, it’s a film rightfully chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation.

NEXT: 10 Best Treasure Hunt Movies

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