Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? From swash-buckling pirate adventures to gritty war dramas, these films are all about the long and risky journeys people take find to riches.
Here are our picks for the best treasure hunting adventure movies worth watching, perfect for when you’re looking for a little cinematic escapism—whether by sea, jungle, or desert!
10. Gold (2016)
Gold isn’t the first time Matthew McConaughey tracked down treasure—he did something similar in 2005’s Sahara and 2008’s Fool’s Gold. But whereas those two films weren’t particularly successful, Gold was proof that the third time’s a charm for McConaughey.
Directed by Stephen Gaghan, Gold follows McConaughey through the jungle on a quest to find—you guessed it—gold.
The crime-drama is loosely based on the Bre-X mining scandal in 1993, where the gold samples discovered by Bre-X Minerals Ltd. in Indonesia turned out to be a fraud. When Kenny (McConaughey) loses the family business, he treks out to the Asian jungle in search of a way out.
9. Armour of God (1986)
Jackie Chan and Eric Tsang’s Armour of God is deemed a cult classic nowadays, featuring some of Chan’s early stunts and battle heroics.
Chan stars as “Asian Hawk,” a former musician-turned-treasure-hunter. The highest-grossing film in Hong Kong at the time, Armour of God tracks Asian Hawk and his buddy Alan (Alan Tam) as they set out to save a kidnapped woman.
The kidnapping cultists are after pieces of a legendary armor that was written about in the Bible. Think Indiana Jones meets kung fu. Chan is known for his amazing stunt work, and Armour of God is reportedly the closest he’s ever come to death from doing them!
8. Romancing the Stone (1984)
Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) spends her whole life writing whimsical fantasy novels, lost in a world of adventure and romance. Although successful, being an author leaves her pretty lonely—that is, until she’s hurled into her own wild exploits.
Joan’s recently murdered brother-in-law leaves her a letter and a map, leading her to the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena. There, she meets the rugged American hunter Jack T. Colton, played by Michael Douglas.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Romancing the Stone was followed by an equally successful sequel called The Jewel of the Nile in 1985.
7. The Mummy (1999)
A three-part franchise that began in 1999, The Mummy features your typical tanned American adventurer riding through the sands in search of treasure. Brendan Fraser stars as said-hero Rick O’Connell, who served as captain in the French Foreign Legion.
Set in 1925, Rick guides aspiring Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her brother across the Sahara desert to the ancient lost city Hamunaptra. En route, however, the gang accidently sets free the reincarnation of a 3,000-year-old vengeful Egyptian priest. Good one guys.
Stephen Sommers directs the first (and best) installment, as well as the second before Rob Cohen took over in 2008.
6. National Treasure (2004)
Jon Turteltaub’s two-part Disney adventure is a bit of a guilty pleasure. While the kids will enjoy the action-packed trail of clues and boobytraps, adults can tune into the dry sarcastic humor and… well… Nicolas Cage.
Cage stars as Benjamin Franklin Gates: cryptographer, historian, and modern-day treasure hunter. His tech-savvy sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha) helps him to decipher the secret that “lies with Charlotte.”
The duo hope Charlotte will lead to the legendary treasure hidden by the Knights Templar, Founding Fathers, and Freemasons. Sean Bean stars as the main antagonist in the first movie, followed by Ed Harris in the second. Rumors of a third installment are currently in circulation.
5. The Goonies (1985)
Who doesn’t love The Goonies? Before Sean Astin was voyaging out barefoot to help Frodo destroy the One Ring, he was trying to uncover treasure with his three best friends.
Mikey (Astin), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), and Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) have all grown up together, but are forced to say goodbye when their town undergoes foreclosure.
The gang decides to spend their last weekend treasure-hunting, following the discovery of a treasure map in Mikey’s attic. This fun-but-dangerous mission gets them into a whole bunch of trouble, not just from deadly booby-traps but also the involvement of the Fratelli crime family.
4. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
When you see The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, you immediately think of it as a spaghetti Western—which, of course, is true. But it’s also a treasure-hunting adventure! The Italian epic was directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood in his prime cowboy days.
Blondie (Eastwood) is a mysterious and talented bounty hunter, who teams up with a Mexican outlaw to uncover $20,000 that a soldier buried in the desert. It might not be a pirate’s chest of jewels, but it still counts as treasure nonetheless.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly spawned many of the famous Western film trademarks we love today, such as the long shot and eye close-up.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
We can all agree that Pirates of the Caribbean should stop with the sequels now, which haven’t been particularly great since Jack sailed to the edge of the world.
But the first three movies (directed by Gore Verbinski) are swash-buckling classics that deserve to come third place on this list.
Johnny Depp stars as the iconic drunken English pirate, Jack Sparrow. He cares about nothing but himself, his treasure, and his rum, which lands Jack in many dodgy situations.
Whether it’s dealing with the immortal dead or a crew made of murderous fish-people, Jack’s always one step away from death thanks to always having a witty, slurred remark at hand.
2. Blood Diamond (2006)
Blood Diamond is a treasure-hunting tale from a different angle, taking place in a war-ravaged Sierra Leone of 1999. The not-so-family-friendly film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer, a Rhodesian smuggler and mercenary who sets out to find a rare pink diamond.
But he’s not the only one who wants it…
Directed by Edward Zwick, Blood Diamond is a gritty political thriller that doesn’t shy away from the guts and gore of war. Though DiCaprio’s South African accent has its holes, his performance is spot on alongside Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly.
Ah, the adventure flick to end all adventure flicks.
The 80s dream team of Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg brought us Raiders of the Lost Ark, where archaeologist Indiana Jones seeks out the Ark of the Covenant to defeat the Nazis in 1936. This film was followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984.
The Indiana Jones series is perfect for all audiences: families, nerds, film scholars… anyone with a TV screen and sense of adventure! This is another franchise that should probably stop while it’s ahead, but alas, a fifth movie is set to release in summer 2023.