The adventure is one of the hardest kinds of movie to define, but like certain other genres: “You know it when you see it.” Adventures are grand, exciting, and often epic tales, usually focused on people on a mission, whose purposes include fame, fortune, and glory. The best adventure movies can run on the thrill of exploration and discovery, treading deep into jungles, stalking across arid deserts, or sailing across open oceans. The casts of characters feature rambunctious pirates, lordly counts, mercenaries and bounty hunters, big whales, and even bigger apes. And adventure movies can invite their other genre buddies along for the ride, too, including fantasy and science-fiction.
Now we’re embarking on our own journey, plundering gem after gem for a guide to what we’re calling the essential adventure movies if you love the genre. Listing these best adventure movies in chronological order, we begin a century in the past, when the adventure genre was defined by the swashbucklers of Captain Blood and The Three Musketeers. At the same time, the fantastical elements introduced in King Kong and Wizard of Oz marked adventure movies as the spot to introduce the latest in dazzling special effects.
After World War II, the adventure genre entered its prestige era, with historical epics like Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Would Be King, and tales of derring-do in The African Queen and The Great Escape. Here it should be said there is a certain Western-centric viewpoint that cannot be denied as inherent to many adventure movies, one that ‘others’ different countries and cultures. And hopefully what elevates these movies above that are their swaggering sense of playful optimism and lighthearted fun.
That’s certainly evident in Raiders of the Lost Ark, whose retro serial action and intrigue established the adventure formula for a new generation, which marched on through Indiana Jones’ sequels, Romancing the Stone, National Treasure, and The Mummy. During the same ’80s Indy decade, the adventure genre opened itself back up to sci-fi and fantasy, along with spotlighting younger protagonists, leading to The Goonies, The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, and more.
Around the turn of the century, the adventure movie successfully aided the resurrection of other genres that common Hollywood wisdom had deemed box office poison: swashbucklers (The Mask of Zorro), high fantasy (The Lord of the Rings), and even the pirate movie (Pirates of the Caribbean), which had been sent to Davy Jones’ Locker after Cutthroat Island sank Carolco Pictures.
And since 2012’s Life of Pi, there’s been another adventure resurgence with The Jungle Book and more Kong and Jumanji movies.
Now, continue on and discover the 60 best adventure movies to watch now!
(Photo by Fox Searchlight / courtesy Everett Collection)
When director Taika Waititi isn’t busy making Thor the funniest character in the MCU, he takes the time to stay true to his quirky indie roots, releasing movies like Jojo Rabbit. It’s about a young Nazi boy with an imaginary Hitler friend, whose mother is hiding a Jewish teenaged girl in their home. It’s also up for Best Picture in this year’s Oscars race.
It’s a high-wire act mining jokes out of World War II, and when the film came out there were immediate and mostly favorable comparisons to Jojo‘s forebears like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, To Be or Not to Be, Life Is Beautiful, and the original The Producers. And speaking of Mel Brooks, he lends his wisdom for documentary The Last Laugh, which explores the boundaries of humor in the face of human horror and catastrophe. Meanwhile, Train of Life is just as funny as any of the movies mentioned so far, and remains criminally underseen.
Using a child’s perspective to explore the origins and horrors of World War II is an evocative yet risky technique. If successful, it creates empathy in the viewer. When it fails, critics and audiences will deem it exploitative. Come and See is arguably the most memorable of this type of film, but be warned it is not a comedy and will mess you up. It’s also a masterpiece. Forbidden Games and Au Revoir Les Enfants are gentler classics, and just about as affecting and powerful. If you’re not a blubbering mess by the end of those and want even more World War II movies from kids’ point of views, try The Tin Drum, The Diary of Anne Frank, or The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.
Beyond World War II, there have been a lot of great films as seen through the eyes of youth that unearth truths for people across all ages. Peter Brook’s adaptation of The Lord of the Flies explores how authoritarian tendencies develop organically when left unchecked. Pan’s Labyrinth uses fantasy to help a young girl engage with and escape the darkness of reality. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Florida Project all use the power of imagination to create better worlds for their young heroes.
And if you’re just looking for a rousing adventure of young lovers on the run (and also in scouting uniforms), see Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. Waititi shares the same comedic sensibility and timing as Anderson, as seen in Jojo Rabbit and his earlier efforts, Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Spike Jonze‘s eagerly-anticipated adaptation of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are was initially supposed to use entirely practical effects, but the director soon realised he’d need more sophisticated computer trickery to bring the seven ’emotionally complex’ (read: grumpy) Wild Things to life. That’s where London’s Framestore came in, the effects house needing to seamlessly animate all the monsters without compromising Spike Jonze’s naturalistic vision for the project. RT went to visit them this week at their Soho headquarters, where Animation Director Michael Eames and Director of VFX Tim Webber told us how they did it, and shared some exclusive behind-the-scenes shots.
With Wild Things, I think they started shooting hoping they would be able to make it with these very heavy animatronic masks – mechanisms attached to heads. But Spike realised that it was impractical, and that he couldn’t get anything like the levels of performance that they wanted. So he talked to a few people about the approaches and this seemed the best way of getting what he wanted.
This project is a great amalgamation of three different techniques. First of all, the voice actors, they physically acted the scenes, on a set. Tapes were then made of the performances. Spike then used these to rehearse with the suit performers on the set to recreate the actors’ work. Then having got those we came in with the animation, and the results that we managed to get were so much for having those stages done before.
Framestore got involved pretty late on in the film, considering how long the movie has been in development. We begun work on it for the last out of five years of development. It was terrifying, because it was so much work! The animation technique we used should logically take less time but it isn’t really the case.
The process is the ‘re-projection’ technique. You take the thing that’s photographed in camera on set – in this case the creatures – and you effectively warp an image in 2D to create the facial expression, even though its 3D. Then you re-project it back onto what you’ve shot. This — in simple terms — means that because you’re working with real footage the amount of distortion you can create is very limited. So the difficulty was in getting the extremity of emotion in the performances. For example one of the characters — Carol — has a scene where’s he’s crying and is incredibly upset, there’s a limitation to how much facial expression we can animate.
Personally I’ve always thought that the best approach is to do a mix of different kinds of effects – and this movie is a great example of this. The guy in the suit is a practical thing, and we’re doing the face – it’s using each bit for what it’s best at.
I’m quite a believer in — even when we’re doing CG — giving it qualities that make it real, rather than creating creatures who don’t obey the laws of physics and can just fly around. With this technology, you can do anything with your camera and your creature, but you don’t want to because then it wouldn’t look real. As soon as you do something that doesn’t feel possible the audience knows it’s computer generated and then becomes uninterested. I think it’s important to stay on the physical borders of what is real.
It was totally important that the animation we did looked as much like practical effects as possible. That’s what Spike was after, he made it perfectly clear. One of the difficulties for example were the characters of Carol and K.W.; both had very large mouths which is difficult because characters with big mouths look like Muppets. Spike didn’t want that, he wanted humanistic, subtle emotion. Our starting point with them was the eyes – we hoped to distract viewers away from the mouths and focus on the eyes.
The single most unique challenge was the depth and level of the animation that was required. Most visual FX stuff is either creatures, or its cartoony animation, but with this — the intensity of the emotion that Spike was after was unique. He wanted audiences to be able to be able to feel the emotion and on a fairly human and subtle level, however unhuman the characters were. That was the hard bit — to get those thought processes on screen.
Spike would say things like: “That character is sounding quite confident here, but I want you to show in the eyes that they’re not quite as confident as they’re sounding.” There were layers of emotion and feeling going on he wanted to capture. I guess it’s also unusual for animated characters to have the sort of dialogue that the Wild Things have. It’s much more natural, and therefore they absolutely have to have that level of natural animation.
He was really great to work with, and that’s not just the standard thing that everyone says in interviews. He was very exacting, he’d worked on this film for 5 years and he really, really knew what he wanted, and so that was quite a difficult target to hit. The thing with Spike is that everything he does is a little bit different, but actually he understood the process really well. It’s also pretty rare to work that closely with directors in visual effects. For a start you’re not normally creating 7 of the lead characters of a movie. This was a bit different in that sense; we needed that close interaction.
Where the Wild Things Are is out now.
It has taken Being John Malkovich and Adaptation director Spike Jonze more than five years to bring Where the Wild Things Are to the big screen. Maurice Sendak, the writer and illustrator of the best-selling children’s book (which has sold upward of 20 million copies), identified Jonze as the only man he trusted enough to render his story on film. That story focuses on Max, the boisterous boy in wolf pyjamas who, when sent to his room for bad behaviour, journeys in his imagination and travels to the realm of the Wild Things, a gaggle of hairy monsters who proclaim him king. The book contains only a few hundred words, and yet Jonze has created a full feature film, as wild as the source and as dark and brooding as any ancient fairy tale. The director joins Maurice Sendak and some of his key collaborators to explain exclusively to RT how they shaped the world of Where the Wild Things Are on the big screen.
When I started working on the book back in 1960, I didn’t really know why I’d written it. I think the inspiration came from a lot of our family’s relatives who used to come from the old country to visit, and they were really unkempt, they didn’t speak English, their teeth were horrifying, their hair all crazy and they’d pick you up and hug you and kiss you and would say ‘Arrghhh, we could eat you up.’ And my brother and sister and I knew that these people really would eat anything, so I decided to render them as Wild Things.
I had gotten to know Maurice about 15 years ago. We worked on a movie that didn’t happen and through that became friends. One day he talked to me about doing Where The Wild Things Are. I was excited by it but also really nervous about it because the book is so short but I didn’t want to add some storyline or some plot. I’d look at it and say, ‘How could you add to this?’ And anything I felt like adding would just sound cheesy. But over the years, as I started thinking more about the book, I suddenly thought that the Wild Things could be wild emotions. Suddenly out of that everything tumbled and it felt like I could build from inside the book.
Spike wanted to make sure that what he remembered feeling through his childhood corresponded with what kids think today. He interviewed lots of kids of Max’s age, and it really confirmed that they all deal with very deep emotions. So with the screenplay, the Wild Things embody those emotions. The film really is about childhood. It’s about what it’s like to be eight or nine years old and trying to figure out the world, the people around you, and emotions that are sometimes unpredictable or confusing.
We never set any rules about whether it would be a movie for kids or for adults. Maurice Sendak didn’t consider himself a children’s author; he wrote about what it felt like to be a kid. So it was really important that we got the main character right. For Max I wanted a real kid, not necessarily an actor that was going to give a typical ‘movie-kid’ performance. I wanted someone who was going to give a real, emotional performance, and after a very long search I found Max Records. He really is the heart of the movie, and he has such depth to him as a person. It doesn’t feel as though he’s acting at all. It’s such a natural performance.
One of my favourite scenes is the dirt clod scene, where the Wild Things and Max are chucking all this dirt at each other. I had a scene where I had to run through the forest and it was like a minefield with all these dirt clods exploding everywhere. That was maybe my favourite scene. My favourite moment was sliming Spike. There’s a scene where I get licked by a Wild Thing and covered in all this goo. So I got our revenge by covering Spike with goo, too!
Obviously Max and I didn’t know each other when we arrived on set, and I had to show him that he could trust me. I tried to play quite hard with Max, and encouraged him to really let loose. It’s funny, I have a young son who was on set and he asked me why Spike didn’t live with his mum and dad. I said it was because he was an adult, but that says a lot about Spike.
Spike is very much in touch with the child within. In fact, even more so than the man without! No, seriously, we had a wild time on this movie. We improvised with this wonderful dialogue everyday and had such terrific fun. We’d do a lot of childish things and go really nuts. Which was just what Spike wanted.
The Wild Things are such a strange invention of Maurice’s and it’s weird to think that at some point they did not exist in the world. For me, since I knew it as a kid I knew thes designs, I knew these characters, and it is as though they always existed in this strange surreal dream-like way. Maurice had tapped into some primal thing when he created them. They are furry and cuddly but giants with teeth and nails, and they’re dangerous. But then they have the proportions. Their heads are half the size of their body so they are baby-like in that way. And they’re hairy. They have really captured something. It is creativity at its best. They are as close as you can get to creating something that really is magic.
We didn’t get inside the suits — they had other actors for that — but we did the voices and Spike captured our facial expressions to layer onto the body suits, to get the facial expressions and so forth. Once, he even interviewed us as characters, to build a little back-story for us, so we could get a better handle on who were and how we viewed our universe.
When we first screened the movie to the studio they were a bit freaked out. They thought it was too scary for kids. But we didn’t make this movie just for kids. This is a movie about childhood; for everyone. Thankfully, though, they learned to love our movie. The kids weren’t scared, it was just the executives that were scared. I think kids are just like us. They see something that’s honest and they are attracted to it. Kids are attracted to things that are funny but I think all of us are also attracted to things that are true.
No one could have guessed that when I created the Wild Things they’d have such a hold over people, even today. Lots have people have wanted to make the movie, but I only wanted Spike to make it. He’s crazy and whacked out and wild, but he’s so gifted, creatively and dramatically. I think he’s done a wonderful job bringing my book the screen. I’m so pleased that I pursued him.
Where the Wild Things Are is out in the UK this weekend.
It’s one of 2009’s most anticipated films — director Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s kids’ classic, Where the Wild Things Are — and it’s almost, at long last, about to arrive in cinemas.
To celebrate, Rotten Tomatoes and Roadshow Films are giving one lucky reader the chance to own a one-of-a-kind prize: a Where the Wild Things Are poster (like the one at left), signed by Spike Jonze, star Max Records, Forest Whitaker, Catherine Keener and Paul Dano.
To win, simply tell us in 25 words or less why you want this poster hanging on your wall. The best answer will win. Easy, no? Send your reply, along with your mailing address, to: Where the Wild Things Are Poster Giveaway.
Entries close Friday, December 4. The winner will be notified by mail. Please note that the contest is open to Australian residents only.
Where the Wild Things Are is released nationally on December 3.
Moviegoers poured into multiplexes to see a wide range of appealing films powering the box office to the biggest October weekend in history. Leading the way was the new adventure pic Where the Wild Things Are which bowed at number one followed by an exceptionally strong debut for the action entry Law Abiding Citizen in second. The most impressive performance came in third with the national expansion of the indie thriller Paranormal Activity which delivered the best average of any film. The four new wide releases kicked in a stunning $86M powering the Top 20 to $135M, a new record high for the month.
Audiences rushed out to see Where the Wild Things Are making the adaptation of the popular kids book the top film with an estimated $32.5M in ticket sales. Averaging a ferocious $8,693 from 3,735 theaters, the PG-rated pic scored the eighth biggest October opening ever and the third highest for a kidpic during the month trailing only Shark Tale ($47.6M in 2004) and High School Musical 3 ($42M in 2008). It was also the second widest launch during the month after Shark Tale‘s bow in 4,016 locations.
While the opening weekend was undoubtedly powerful, the long-term outlook is not as clear. Friday began with a potent $12.1M debut but Saturday inched up only 2% to $12.3M. Family-oriented films during the school year typically see large Saturday jumps in sales thanks to the target audience being more available. In recent weeks, Friday-to-Saturday increases on opening weekend for kidpics Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the Toy Story double feature were 62% and 69%, respectively. Wild Things seems to be playing more to an adult audience appealing to those who read the book as a kid and to hipsters who enjoy director Spike Jonze’s unique style of filmmaking.
Jonze took a nine-sentence book, stretched it into a 100-minute movie, and added plenty of new material including names and backstories for all the Wild Things and a deeper look into the home life of the nine-year-old boy at the center of the story. Reviews have been mixed with critics having a wide range of feelings for the film. Warner Bros. invested heavily into the marketing of Wild Things hoping to appeal to the broadest possible audience since the movie is not the typical family film that Hollywood churns out. The $75M production unspooled in 145 IMAX locations which accounted for $3.1M, or nearly 10% of the weekend tally.
Liam Neeson isn’t the only actor from across the pond to hit it big with a revenge thriller this year. Gerard Butler enjoyed a surprisingly potent bow for the action drama Law Abiding Citizen, also starring Jamie Foxx, which grossed an estimated $21.3M from 2,890 theaters for a stellar $7,353 average. The R-rated story of a man that plots a series of assassinations from jail to get back at those responsible for the killings of his wife and daughter played to a broad audience with males slightly outnumbering females. Neeson’s kidnapping thriller Taken was an unlikely blockbuster last winter when it bowed to $24.7M over Super Bowl weekend on its way to a $145M final.
Butler and Foxx are certainly no guarantees at the box office. The former’s action pic Gamer opened to just $9.2M last month while the latter’s The Soloist debuted to a weak $9.7M in April. But the actor combo, the appealing storyline, and an aggressive marketing push helped to make it the biggest opening ever in Overture’s short history easily beating the $16.3M of last fall’s cop drama Righteous Kill with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Citizen should have no problem beating Kill‘s $40.1M total to become the distributor’s top grosser too.
Paramount expanded its micro-budgeted horror hit Paranormal Activity nationwide this weekend following three weeks of limited play and saw sales nearly triple to an estimated $20.2M. Freaking out moviegoers in 760 theaters, up from 160 last weekend, the R-rated spookfest averaged a sensational $26,530 per location matching almost to the dollar the $26,528 average of The Blair Witch Project when it went nationwide during the summer of 1999. That indie overachiever shot up to number two on the charts in its third weekend when it expanded from 31 to 1,101 theaters grossing $29.2M.
In its first day of wide release on Friday, Paranormal took in $6.7M, then rose 15% to $7.7M on Saturday. The studio is projecting a slim 25% dip on Sunday to $5.8M. The total now stands at $33.7M with another expansion set for this Friday as it goes head-to-head with the opening of the latest installment of the horror industry’s top franchise Saw VI which attacks 3,000 theaters. Still, with the much-talked-about ghost story continuing to add theaters, and Halloween two weeks away, Paranormal Activity has the potential to finish with at least $75M.
Continuing to use out-of-the-box marketing tactics to generate excitement (and sales), the studio has launched a contest that will reward the first ten theaters that sell out their midnight shows this Thursday night with a special party. This promotion is just the latest technique that keeps fans involved with the film’s release as it further infiltrates pop culture. To date, the marketing and distribution campaign has been executed with military precision.
Last weekend’s top choice Couples Retreat suffered a rocky second outing dropping 48% to an estimated $17.9M despite not having any new comedies enter the marketplace. With a solid $63.3M taken in over ten days, Universal should find its way to a final domestic tally of $100-110M making it only the second film of the year to join the century club for the troubled studio. Fast & Furious grossed $155.1M last spring. Vince Vaughn’s 2006 Universal relationship trouble flick The Break-Up, which like Retreat he also produced, witnessed an identical 48% plunge in its sophomore frame.
Sony’s latest horror film The Stepfather had a lukewarm $12.3M debut in fifth place, according to estimates. The PG-13 thriller averaged a decent $4,499 from 2,734 locations and skewed towards young women. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was female and 55% was under 21 for the $19M production. Sony usually does better with its mid-October fright films. Last year, Quarantine bowed to $14.2M, 30 Days of Night debuted to $16M in 2007, and The Grudge 2 opened to $20.8M in 2006. The added competition from Paranormal Activity made an impact.
The animated comedy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs broke the $100M mark on Thursday in its 28th day of release and added an estimated $8.1M to its total over the weekend. That gave the Sony hit a slender 30% decline and a new total of $108.3M which is remarkable for a fall pic. Meatballs is only the fourth September release of this entire decade to cross the century mark joining Remember the Titans ($115.6M in 2000), Sweet Home Alabama ($127.2M in 2002), and Eagle Eye ($101.4M in 2008).
The studio claimed the next spot too with the horror-comedy Zombieland with an estimated $7.8M, down 47%, resulting in a cume of $60.8M. Disney extended the limited run of its double feature Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (3D) beyond its planned two-week period and grossed an estimated $3M in its third round. Tumbling 61%, the dynamic duo raised the sum to $28.6M in 17 days.
Rounding out the top ten were Buena Vista’s Surrogates and the Warner Bros. pic
The Invention of Lying with an estimated $1.9M each. The Bruce Willis actioner dropped 55% and has grossed $36.3M to date while the Ricky Gervais comedy fell 43% lifting the cume to $15.5M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $126.9M which was up a stunning 59% from last year when Max Payne opened in the top spot with $17.6M; and up a staggering 75% from 2007 when 30 Days of Night debuted at number one with $16M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru
This week, we’ve got a wild rumpus (Where the Wild Things Are, starring Max Records and Catherine Keener), a legal skirmish (Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler), and unconventional parenting (The Stepfather, starring Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward). What do the critics have to say?
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most beloved classics of modern children’s literature, but the brief text doesn’t necessarily lend itself to feature-length cinematic treatment. Critics have largely praised Spike Jonze for maintaining the spirit of the book while adding some visually daring touches to bring it to life; however, some feel the narrative is a little thin. Max (Max Records) is a troubled youngster who disappears into a fantasy world of his own making, populated by fluffy monsters who symbolize the various facets of his personality. The pundits say Wild Things may be a little too creepy for the wee ones, and it lacks a strong plot. However, the images Jonze crafts are so wondrous that older kids — and adults — will find the film to be a fascinating, poignant dreamscape.
Nobody says that a thriller needs to be completely plausible to be watchable. However, staying somewhere within the bounds of believability is generally required, and on this count, and several others, critics say Law Abiding Citizen fails. Gerard Butler stars as a man whose family has been murdered; he becomes enraged when the prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) makes a plea deal with the killer, and goes about exacting revenge. The pundits say Law Abiding Citizen isn’t just outrageously contrived; worse, it lingers a little too long over some gruesome violence under the guise of making a political statement about the judicial system. (Check out our interview with director F. Gary Gray, who shared his Five Favorite Films with RT.).
It appears the folks behind The Stepfather are being a little too strict with their baby, as it wasn’t screened for critics prior to release. A remake of the 1987 cult classic of the same name, the movie stars Dylan Walsh as a man who’s so perfect for Sela Ward that he must be hiding a dark secret. Kids, guess that Tomatometer!.
Also opening this week in limited release: