1. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
Indiana Jones is a predictable choice for this list, I know. But when I think of a movie with an explorer and an adventure, it’s hard not to think of this archaeologist-adventurer and his glorious hat. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the first film in Jones’ exciting series of adventures, is a thrilling, action-packed, tense thrill-ride; all of which is worth watching.
2. “Up” (2009)
Quite the unusual duo of explorers – a stubborn old man and a boy scout – embark on a series of adventures involving a floating house, a giant bird, a talking dog, a crazed adventurer, a gigantic blimp, dog-manned planes and more. This is one of the more original films I’ve ever seen, and it’s a ton of fun, if you can make it past the introduction. This is definitely the best collaboration from Disney and Pixar thus far.
3. “Castle in the Sky” (1986)
A mostly-forgotten but great-fun Miyazaki film that has a lot to offer in its journey: chases, escapes, air pirates, magic crystals, giant robots and floating islands. It’s ingenious, exciting and a truly fine animated action-adventure. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Hayao Miyazaki. The less you know about the story of this film before watching it the more you might become invested in it.
4. “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986)
The crew of the USS Enterprise goes back in time to the year 1986 to explore San Francisco and find some humpback whales to help save the world. The best films about explorers are those where the characters find themselves in strange situations. What stranger situation for these people to get into than busy city streets, public buses and pre-21st-century technology companies?
5. “Explorers” (1985)
This 1980s sci-fi family film may have a silly premise – three kids build a spaceship to communicate with outward life – but thanks to the direction of Joe Dante and convincing characterization of the kids, this is actually an entertaining film that manages to tell its story in a surprisingly plausible way. The only problem is when the kids meet the actual aliens who are a silly payoff to a setup that was being taken seriously.