Best Adventure Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best adventure movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ (1972) – Ronald Neame

Gene Hackman led a star-studded cast in a “disaster at sea” flick that laid the blueprint for “Titanic” and “The Perfect Storm.”

29. ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984) – Robert Zemeckis

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner’s jungle adventure was so successful that it inspired the sequel “Jewel of the Nile.”

28. ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ (1960) – Ken Annakin

John Mills and Dorothy McGuire lead Walt Disney’s live-action adventure about a loving family stranded on an island with fun for the entire family.

27. ‘Old Yeller’ (1957) – Robert Stevenson

A yellow lab becomes the “best dog-gone dog in the west,” bringing joyful adventure to a Texas homestead, but pack tissues for the heartbreaking finale.

26. ‘The Goonies’ (1985) – Richard Donner

“Hey you guys!” A young Sean Astin and Josh Brolin led an entire generation on a treasure hunt filled with “booty” traps.

25. ‘Tarzan: The Ape Man’ (1932) – W.S. Van Dyke

Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan deliver the first screen version of Tarzan and Jane by swinging from vines and wrestling with animals.

24. ‘The Mark of Zorro’ (1940) – Rouben Mamoulian

Tyrone Power gave birth to a cinematic icon as Zorro dueled with Basil Rathbone, wooed Linda Darnell and inspired the likes of Antonio Banderas.

23. ‘The Sea Hawk’ (1940) – Michael Curtiz

After “Captain Blood,” Errol Flynn played a swashbuckling pirate amid the Spanish Armada set to a sweeping score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

22. ‘Road to Morocco’ (1942) – David Butler

A catchy title song and a talking camel make this the most charming of the seven Bob Hope and Bing Crosby pictures.

21. ‘Gunga Din’ (1939) – George Stevens

Set in 19th-century India, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. pioneered adventure flicks for Hollywood’s Golden Age with a sacrificial act by Sam Jaffe’s title character.

20. ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1975) – John Huston

Sean Connery and Michael Caine embark on a journey to become kings of Kafiristan, as recounted to Christopher Plummer as Rudyard Kipling.

19. ‘Aguirre, Wrath of God’ (1972) – Werner Herzog

Klaus Kinski delivers a portrait of madness as a Spanish explorer searching for the mythical El Dorodo.

18. ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1992) – Michael Mann

Daniel Day-Lewis is unforgettable as trapper Hawkeye protecting a British colonel’s daughters amid the French and Indian War.

17. ‘Fitzcarraldo’ (1982) – Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog hauled a friggin’ steam ship over the jungles of Peru (check out the making-of documentary “Burden of Dreams”).

16. ‘Cast Away’ (2000) – Robert Zemeckis

Only Tom Hanks could make us believe that he’s best friends with a shipwrecked volleyball and have us tear up as he shouts, “Wilson!”

15. ‘Life of Pi’ (2012) – Ang Lee

Ang Lee caught a tiger by the tail, winning the Best Director Oscar for showing us the possibilities of 3D graphics.

14. ‘Gravity’ (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron

Alfonso Cuaron won a Best Director Oscar for this 90-minute panic attack as Sandra Bullock’s 3D astronaut fought to get home to Earth.

13. ‘L’Atalante’ (1934) – Jean Vigo

This tale of a newlyweds on a river barge showed the tragic potential of Jean Vigo, who died at the young age of 29.

12. ‘The African Queen’ (1951) – John Huston

Humphrey Bogart won his long overdue Oscar by braving the African rapids on a river vessel with Katharine Hepburn.

11. ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ (1935) – Frank Lloyd

Charles Laughton’s Captain Bligh called Clark Gable a “mutinous dog” in this Best Picture winner on the high seas.

10. ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ (2003) – Gore Verbinski

Johnny Depp gave his most iconic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in this swashbuckling Disney blockbuster.

9. ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938) – Michael Curtiz

Before “The Sea Hawk,” Errol Flynn was “in like Flynn” romancing Maid Marion and battling Prince John in the Technicolor splendor of Sherwood Forest.

8. ‘The Princess Bride’ (1987) – Rob Reiner

This swashbuckling adventure plays as Ben Savage’s bedtime story about Princess Buttercup, Westley, Miracle Max and Inigo Montoya.

7. ‘The Wages of Fear’ (1953) – Henri-Georges Clouzot

Clouzot made us hold our breaths as a pair of trucks loaded with nitroglycerine drove over bumpy dirt roads waiting to go boom.

6. ‘Godzilla’ (1954) – Ishiro Honda

“Godzilla” became a box office monster that sprang from concerns over the disastrous effects of atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

5. ‘King Kong’ (1933) – Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack

What’s more groundbreaking? Max Steiner composing the first feature film score ever? Or King Kong roaring to life with soulful stop-motion animation?

4. ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993) – Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg delivered a blockbuster 65 million years in the making by showing us the wonder — and terror — of dino DNA.

3. ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ (1948) – John Huston

Humphrey Bogart didn’t need any “stinkin’ badges” in his darkest role, while Walter Huston danced as a joyful gold prospector.

2. ‘North By Northwest’ (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock

Cary Grant dodged crop dusters and scaled Mount Rushmore in a cross-country adventure that inspired South By Southwest.

1. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981-1989) – Steven Spielberg

Indiana Jones became cinema’s best hero by cracking his whip, outrunning boulders, overcoming snakes, killing Nazis and collecting biblical artifacts.

Check out the other genres below!

Action | Adventure | Animation | Biopic | Comedy | Coming of Age | Courtroom | Crime | Documentary | Drama | Epic | Family Comedy | Family Drama | Fantasy | Film Noir | Gangster | Horror | Musical | Mystery | Politics & Media | Prison | Romance | Romantic Comedy | Science Fiction | Showbiz | Silent | Sports | Thriller | War | Western

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up