The 25 Best Classic Adventure Movies You've Never Seen

by akkhtimakt | created - 13 Apr 2013 | updated - 8 months ago | Public

The object here is to list classic adventure flicks which are generally forgotten by many these days, but are worth the effort of hunting down. Thus, you will not see obvious examples like 'Jaws' or 'The African Queen'. 'Classic' is a vague, and somewhat loaded term, but for this list it is used to denote movies that are pre-1980's.

If you find this list helpful, please check out my list of obscure war 'classics' -

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1. Blood Alley (1955)

Approved | 110 min | Action, Adventure

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

His ship seized by the Chinese Communists, American Merchant Captain Tom Wilder languishes in prison but Chinese villagers help him escape to sail them to Hong-Kong.

Directors: William A. Wellman, John Wayne | Stars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Paul Fix, Joy Kim

Votes: 2,345

This was an intriguing concept and, unlike many Hollywood flicks set in far away places that failed to ever visually escape their LA backlot sets, this one at least looked like they'd filmed it in the Far East. Wayne is not his usual over-confident, overbearing self - in fact, he is a bit unbalanced (he continually talks to his dead girlfriend), but that only adds to his appeal. The one brutal misstep is the casting of ex-wrestler and screen heavy Mike Mazurki as Chinese. Ouch.

2. Rogues' Regiment (1948)

Passed | 86 min | Action, Adventure, Film-Noir

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A post World War 2, US Army agent is assigned to join the Foreign Legion in search of high ranking Nazi war criminal who may have also enlisted.

Director: Robert Florey | Stars: Dick Powell, Märta Torén, Vincent Price, Stephen McNally

Votes: 95

3. Murphy's War (1971)

PG-13 | 107 min | Drama, War

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A lone survivor from a British naval ship is obsessed with getting revenge on a German U-boat crew that massacred his shipmates in the water.

Director: Peter Yates | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Siân Phillips, Philippe Noiret, Horst Janson

Votes: 2,556

This is a gritty film, with a protagonist who, while not an anti-hero, is more believable than likable. O'Toole, as brilliant as ever, plays a working class Irish merchant sailor who takes on a German submarine sheltering in a South American lagoon single-handed, out of pure, unadulterated, bull-headed spite, and drawing several innocent bystanders along for the ride. His war is a personal one, not fought for patriotic ideals, but because the Nazi buggers dared to hurt him and his mates. In general concept, it is reminiscent of 'African Queen', but lacks that film's underlying nobility. Murphy brings war down to the level of primitive instinct, and in so doing, reveals its folly and futility.

4. Valley of the Kings (1954)

Approved | 86 min | Adventure

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

In 1900, in Egypt, archaeologist Mark Brandon is asked by Ann Mercedes to find the tomb of Ra-Hotep but their quest is marred by intrigue, betrayal, murder and danger.

Director: Robert Pirosh | Stars: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, Carlos Thompson, Kurt Kasznar

Votes: 998

5. China (1943)

Approved | 79 min | Drama, War

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

During the Japanese invasion of China, a cynical, macho profiteer meets a compassionate, beautiful schoolteacher.

Director: John Farrow | Stars: Loretta Young, Alan Ladd, William Bendix, Philip Ahn

Votes: 252

6. Jivaro (1954)

Approved | 92 min | Adventure, Romance, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A gorgeous American arrives in Brazilian headhunter country, seeking her scape-grace fiancé.

Director: Edward Ludwig | Stars: Fernando Lamas, Rhonda Fleming, Brian Keith, Lon Chaney Jr.

Votes: 188

7. Soldier of Fortune (1955)

Approved | 96 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

When Jane Hoyt's journalist husband disappears in the 1950s China she arrives in Hong Kong determined to find him but meets shady shipping magnate Hank Lee.

Director: Edward Dmytryk | Stars: Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie, Gene Barry

Votes: 876

8. Emperor of the North (1973)

PG | 118 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In 1933, during the Depression, Shack the brutal conductor of the number 19 train has a personal vendetta against the best train hopping hobo tramp in the Northwest, A No. 1.

Director: Robert Aldrich | Stars: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine, Charles Tyner

Votes: 4,770

Pure camp - and yet pure gold. The screen presence of both Borgnine and Marvin manage to pull off a rather silly concept. While some of the dialogue (especially Carrradine's) is laughable, there are some truly memorable moments, and watching how the two antagonist's go about outwitting each other is thoroughly enjoyable. The level of hate between two men who have never met is a bit of a stretch, but acts like a magnet to keep you glued to their private war.

9. Lord Jim (1965)

Not Rated | 154 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

After being discredited as a coward, a 19th century seaman (Peter O'Toole) lives for only one purpose: to redeem himself. Based on Joseph Conrad's novel written in 1900.

Director: Richard Brooks | Stars: Peter O'Toole, James Mason, Curd Jürgens, Eli Wallach

Votes: 3,016

10. North West Frontier (1959)

Not Rated | 129 min | Adventure, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

In British India, a young prince must be taken to safey across rebel-held territory, and an old train is the only way to do it.

Director: J. Lee Thompson | Stars: Kenneth More, Lauren Bacall, Herbert Lom, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Votes: 1,750

aka 'Flame Over India'

11. Northern Pursuit (1943)

Approved | 93 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A Canadian Mountie of German descent feigns disaffection with his homeland in hopes of infiltrating and thwarting a Nazi sabotage plot.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: Errol Flynn, Julie Bishop, Helmut Dantine, John Ridgely

Votes: 914

12. Mara Maru (1952)

98 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

An American salvage diver plunges into dangerous intrigue around a sunken treasure in the Philippines.

Director: Gordon Douglas | Stars: Errol Flynn, Ruth Roman, Raymond Burr, Paul Picerni

Votes: 335

13. City Beneath the Sea (1953)

Passed | 87 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

Two American divers are distracted by fair ladies and skulduggery while trying to salvage a gold ship off Jamaica.

Director: Budd Boetticher | Stars: Robert Ryan, Mala Powers, Anthony Quinn, Suzan Ball

Votes: 330

14. China Seas (1935)

Passed | 87 min | Action, Drama, Adventure

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

When earthy Dolly Portland is rejected by Captain Gaskell in favor of a socialite, she aids Jamesy McCardle, in league with Malay pirates, in his plot to seize his ship.

Director: Tay Garnett | Stars: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone

Votes: 1,847

15. The Naked Jungle (1954)

Approved | 95 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The Leiningen South American cocoa plantation is threatened by a 2-mile-wide, 20-mile-long column of army ants.

Director: Byron Haskin | Stars: Charlton Heston, Eleanor Parker, Abraham Sofaer, William Conrad

Votes: 3,014

Based on the famous short story 'Leiningen vs the Ants, a staple of grade school reading lists, and a favorite of radio drama producers. Heston is his usual guts-n-grit wooden self, but as always, hugely enjoyable, and Parker is simply gorgeous. William Conrad, who also appeared in radio versions, appears all too briefly.

16. Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

Approved | 119 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

After a small aircraft crashes in the Kalahari Desert, one of the seven passengers decides that his survival chances would increase if he would eliminate the other men in the group.

Director: Cy Endfield | Stars: Stanley Baker, Stuart Whitman, Susannah York, Harry Andrews

Votes: 967

17. The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Not Rated | 63 min | Adventure, Horror, Mystery

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An insane hunter arranges for a ship to be wrecked on an island where he can indulge in some sort of hunting and killing of the passengers.

Directors: Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack | Stars: Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong

Votes: 8,052

Another adaptation of a classic short story, produced several times for radio (very successfully) and as many for film (usually very poorly). The characters are ludicrously pulpish, but the whole concept still manages to draw you in, perhaps because it strips naked aspects of human nature that many of us would prefer not to acknowledge.

18. Dark of the Sun (1968)

Approved | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A band of mercenaries led by Captain Curry travel through war-torn Congo across deadly terrain, battling rival armies, to steal $50 million in uncut diamonds. But infighting, sadistic rebels and a time lock jeopardize everything.

Director: Jack Cardiff | Stars: Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Peter Carsten, Jim Brown

Votes: 2,107

aka 'Dark of the Sun'

19. Appointment in Honduras (1953)

Approved | 79 min | Adventure, Crime, Thriller

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

A wealthy American couple are hostages on an arduous jungle journey.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Glenn Ford, Ann Sheridan, Zachary Scott, Rodolfo Acosta

Votes: 392 | Gross: $1.15M

20. Secret of the Incas (1954)

Approved | 100 min | Adventure

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

An adventurer searchers for hidden treasure in the Peruvian jungles.

Director: Jerry Hopper | Stars: Charlton Heston, Robert Young, Nicole Maurey, Thomas Mitchell

Votes: 920 | Gross: $1.40M

Heston's Harry Steele is the inspiration (or at least one of the inspirations) for Indiana Jones, right down to Indy's iconic hat. (the costume designer for Raiders openly admits this). He is a pilot, not an archaeologist, but nevertheless finds himself caught up in a struggle over the location of a precious Inca artifact that, in the right hands, will unite a decimated people, and in the wrong ones, perhaps spark a bloody uprising. Despite the IMDB description, this is not a jungle adventure - the land of the Incas is high and dry, upland plateaus and mountains, not sweltering jungles.

21. Journey Into Fear (1942)

Approved | 68 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An American ballistics expert in Turkey finds himself targeted by Nazi agents. Safe passage home by ship is arranged for him, but he soon discovers that his pursuers are also on board.

Directors: Norman Foster, Orson Welles | Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Rio, Ruth Warrick

Votes: 3,109

22. The Sea Chase (1955)

Approved | 117 min | Action, Drama, War

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

As World War II begins, German freighter Captain Karl Ehrlich tries to get his ship back to Germany through a gauntlet of Allied warships.

Director: John Farrow | Stars: John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger

Votes: 2,344

I've amended the list to include this film, because it better fits with the rest than does its predecessor, 'The Bedford Incident', which is perhaps too well-known to be included. 'The Sea Chase' is a bizarre novelty, to say the least, in that John Wayne's uber-American hero image is turned on its heel. Here he plays a German ship's captain in WW II. (wtf???) That quirk alone makes the movie worth seeing. Actually, it isn't quite as uncanny as it sounds - he is no Nazi; he is a German who loves his country and wants to get home at the outbreak of war. Unfortunately, he is not only on the wrong side in the war, but on the wrong side of the Pacific as well. He must elude the British fleet to get there. The conflict goes beyond an exercise in nautical tactics, when his first mate, an eager Nazi, commits atrocities which enrage the pursuing British, led by a former colleague of Wayne's. Oh, yeah, and then there's the ubiquitous love story thrown in. Sort of one, anyway, which only slows the movie down.

23. The Journey (1959)

Approved | 126 min | Drama, History, Romance

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A British woman trying to escape Hungary with her freedom fighter lover finds herself the obsession of a Communist officer.

Director: Anatole Litvak | Stars: Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Jason Robards, Robert Morley

Votes: 1,191

A new amendment to the list that is more worthy of inclusion than its predecessor, 'The Steel Lady'. Though at times pushing the envelope of credibility, taut performances and tense, engaging dialogue provide some knife-edge scenes. Yul commands the screen as only Yul could.

24. Cornered (1945)

Approved | 102 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Canadian flyer Laurence Gerard finds that his wife has been murdered by a French collaborator. His quest for justice leads him to Switzerland and Argentina.

Director: Edward Dmytryk | Stars: Dick Powell, Walter Slezak, Micheline Cheirel, Nina Vale

Votes: 1,478

Dick Powell, in typical fashion, delivers a rather one-note character -his emotions range from sour to angry - but is nonetheless enjoyable. The film lacks any sense of locale, but makes up for it in somewhat ham-fisted performances and its ability to keep you guessing.

25. The One That Got Away (1957)

Not Rated | 106 min | Adventure, Drama, War

Rate this
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A cocky German flight officer is shot down over England and makes numerous attempts to escape to fight again.

Director: Roy Ward Baker | Stars: Hardy Krüger, Colin Gordon, Michael Goodliffe, Terence Alexander

Votes: 1,512