6. The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Zorro is a character that many people are familiar with, mostly thanks to Martin Campbell’s films, specifically The Mark of Zorro. The masked swordsman is like a Spanish version of Robin Hood, even though the character comes from American hands originally created by Johnston McCulley in 1919. Since then he has been the star of many American movies, but the character was also quickly adopted in Mexico, Spain, and Italy.
In the 1940 adaptation, Tyrone Power portrays Don Diego Vega and his alter-ego Zorro. Coming back home to the USA from his educational trip to his native Spain, he finds his homeland is under dictatorship. He’s horrified at the sight of the oppressed common people and decides to take up the disguise of Zorro to stand up for them, fighting for justice.
As all Zorro films, The Mark of Zorro is filled with adventure, but there’s something about this rendition that makes it stand out from the bunch. The adventure combined with a classic romance story is such a distinct 40’s Hollywood story that makes you wish films like these were still being made.
7. Knightriders (1981)
We’re not talking David Hasselhoff and KITT here, we’re talking Ed Harris and his kick-ass bike. It’s one of the two non-horror films of the master of zombies himself: George A. Romero. Romero shows his more personal, intimate side with this drastic change of pace.
Knightriders follows a troupe of traveling jousters; reenacting medieval times on their motorcycles. They travel from place to place performing for an increasingly big audience and even get the attention from the media. They also attract attention from local cops, who threaten to come in the way of their lifestyle. The troupe is like a family, that follows a strange set of medieval rules. Their leader, played by Ed Harris, slowly becomes delusional, believing his purpose to be bigger than life.
Romero proves himself not only to be a master of zombies, but a master of cinema. It’s almost a shame he focused on a career of horror films, since more adventure stories like these are always welcomed. Then again: We also should be glad that he gave us films like the Death trilogy, Martin, Creepshow, and The Crazies.
8. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
This entry marks another adventure film directed by a highly influential director and after this one there are two more to come. For now, let’s talk about one of two of Robert Aldrich’s adventure masterpieces; the other one of course being ‘The Dirty Dozen’.
When a cargo plane encounters into a sandstorm it crashes into the Sahara dessert. The survivors are hundreds of miles away from rescue and no-one knows where they are. One of the survivors, a German airplane designer, comes up with the idea of building a new working aircraft out of the scraps from the wreckage.
The Flight of the Phoenix is a brutal tale of survival which constantly reminds the viewer of the stakes involved as a graveyard built for the victims of the crash slowly grows throughout the story. Fresh of World War II, the aspect of having a German engineer raises stakes other than just surviving as well; trust and working together is a necessity in these cruel circumstances. A fantastic effort from Aldrich that’s highly underrated.
9. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Robert Redford plays the manliest man in alive in Jeremiah Johnson. Fighting a bear isn’t even the manliest thing he does. No, it’s building a log cabin from scratch.
Jeremiah Johnson is a lone wolf, out for a life of solitude in the peaceful and quiet mountains. He finds himself a piece of land, an Indian wife and a kid he adopts as his own and just lives his life. It’s the adventure of living. Things take a turn though, when Jeremiah pisses of some Indians, but until then it’s the most peaceful adventure that could be.
This is the only adventure film Sydney Pollack has made and a highly underrated one with it. Pollack’s filmography is filled with underrated gems for that matter, maybe only Tootsie being the exception. Films like ‘Jeremiah Johnson’, ‘The Yakuza’ and ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ are brilliant efforts that almost feel like they got lost in time. Whenever you find a film theater screening a Pollack retrospective, don’t hesitate and go, as you will not be disappointed.
10. A Passage to India (1984)
David Lean arguably made the best adventure film ever made: Lawrence of Arabia. But the last film he made, one with 2 Oscar wins and 9 more nominations, is one that almost seems forgotten.
In the 1920’s Adele Quested travels from England to India, to visit her fiancé. She brings his mother, Mrs. Moore, as her traveling companion. Together they want to see the country and meet local Indians everywhere they go, but they quickly realize that the British community located in India is not keen on maintaining social relationships with Indians. To their joy, they eventually do meet an Indian doctor, a well-respected, kind-hearted man, who takes them out for a day of traveling to local attractions. Here something happens that threatens to break all relations between the Indians and the British.
A Passage to India is a lengthy film that only introduces its conflict well into the second hour. This doesn’t mean it’s a bore until that point though, since the sheer magnitude of every scene pulls you in and makes you watch in awe of the production. It might not be Lawrence of Arabia, but David Lean went out with a bang with this one.