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Good Adventure Movies (1995-00): Sharing the Journey
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Good Adventure Movies (1995-00): Sharing the Journey

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Joseph Carro itcherThe best adventure films are the ones that give us a sense of fulfillment. Over our lifetimes, there’s no doubt that we’ve been on many adventures with the protagonists of our favorite films and that we’ve shared in their respective journeys – for better or for worse. From the years 1995-2000, I’m going to highlight some of the most memorable adventure movie journeys you can embark on, definitely for the better. Trust me, you won’t regret it! ~ Joseph Carro

Hello to a New Adventure

The ‘Adventure’ genre is actually more than just a film genre. The reason for this is because it traverses several other different genres and takes aspects of each of them to incorporate into its stories.

On the one hand, you can watch an adventure film which is family-friendly and features a talking dog. On the other hand, you can watch an adventure film which features a war-weary soldier and the horrors of conflict that they had to face. In each case, to be a true adventure film – the movie in question must contain the spirit of adventure.

From 1995 to 2000, there were several great films which contained this golden spirit. Most of them are real easy to find and remember, but there are some which have been forgotten by many people.

Luckily, I’m going to remind you about some of these rare gems so that you can appreciate them for what they are!

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Fantastic Adventure Movie Recommendations

‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ (Stephen Hopkins, 1996)

What better job in all the world than build a bridge? Bring land over water. Bring worlds together…

Based loosely on the real events during a railroad-building expedition in Africa, 1898, this film follows the exploits of Irish military engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) as he tries to put a stop to a pair of lions killing and eating crew members.

When the lions prove to be too wily and dangerous for just Patterson to handle, he is joined by renowned hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) and a determined band of Maasai warriors. Together, they must try to put a stop to the man-eating lions which have killed a total of 35 people over a nine-month period.

At times, this film feels almost more like horror than it does adventure. But the focus on building the railroad across the wilds of Africa definitely evokes that old adventure spirit, and you realize that John Henry Patterson is just a regular guy trying to do his job, which puts us all in his shoes.

Plus, this movie has a slightly subversive anti-colonial tone to it, which is really nice in comparison to other films of its ilk, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for. Adventure lovers will enjoy the almost-literal cat and mouse exchange between the Patterson/Remington team and the lions. It gets pretty darn intense.

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‘True Heart’ (Catherine Cyran, 1997)

Why would he try saving you if he was part of it? Why would he be helping us at all?

Bonnie (Kirsten Dunst) and Sam (Zachery Ty Bryan) are siblings who crash land in the Canadian wilderness. When a native man named Khonanesta (August Schellenberg) rescues them from the plane wreckage, he tells them about a group of poachers in the area.

With Khonanesta’s help, and the help of his bear, the siblings must escape the notice of the illegal poachers and make it to safety while simultaneously skirting the many dangers to be found in the wild.

Most of us know Kirsten Dunst by this point, but it’s nice to see her in an early film where her talents weren’t quite polished. Still, she wasn’t bad – and the film has a lot of heart. This is a family-friendly adventure, and you won’t find a lot of gritty realism present. Instead, you get to see a pair of plucky kids overcome what amounts to a modern-day morality tale, centering on the subject of illegal poaching.

The courage the characters display will keep you involved in the fun for the duration.

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‘The Mask of Zorro’ (Martin Campbell, 1998)

There is a saying, a very old saying: when the pupil is ready the master will appear…

Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) is a young thief who, in his childhood, was rescued by the masked adventurer, Zorro (Anthony Hopkins). Fast forward twenty years, and Zorro has been outed and imprisoned, and his daughter Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) kidnapped and raised by the evil governor, Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson).

A chance meeting brings the alcoholic and self-abusive Alejandro into contact with Zorro once more, and the aged hero trains the young thief to be his replacement.

To be honest, you’ll find no finer adventure film in this half-decade than ‘The Mask of Zorro’. It’s got it all: pretty damsels, sword fighting, funny quips, derring-do, and horse-riding. The movie is very kinetic and high-energy and everyone turns in really great performances all around. It’s the perfect swashbuckling adventure, and kind of helped to make Catherine Zeta-Jones’ career. (Y’know, aside from her much-talked about scene in ‘Entrapment’ opposite Sean Connery, who was actually supposed to play the older Zorro in this film before Anthony Hopkins was cast in his stead.)

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‘Three Kings’ (David O. Russell, 1999)

Hold on, we can help these people first, and then we can be on our way…

Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) are three American soldiers who have endured the Gulf War and are intent on returning home rich. They’ve hatched a plan to steal back some stolen gold from Kuwait but become embroiled in the area politics following the war effort.

Though this is a war film – technically – the soldiers and their hunt for gold bring us straight into war-adventure territory. While, at times, a damning critique of United States’ foreign policy, and the after-effects of war in the Middle East, the heart and the involvement of the characters in the film are enough to make it a must-see modern adventure tale.

At times dark, at times funny, ‘Three Kings’ manages to hit just the right notes to not be outrightly depressing, but to have a very satirical voice worthy of hearing and viewing.

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‘The Beach’ (Danny Boyle, 2000)

It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever…

Based on the novel of the same name by Alex Garland, ‘The Beach’ follows the adventures of twenty-something Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he finds himself in Thailand, and in possession of a mysterious map to what is supposed to be a veritable paradise on earth. However, not everything is as it seems on the island, and Richard must cautiously move in dangerous circles or else be undone by death or worse.

Though critics panned this film for the most part, I don’t think it was given much of a chance as a stand-alone film. Movies based on novels are sometimes held to the most criticism, and ‘The Beach’ is no different in this regard.

Leonardo DiCaprio turns in a great performance, while the talented Danny Boyle directs with great skill. This movie reminds me of a blending of ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ – in my opinion, that’s a good thing. Plus, the chemistry between Richard and his love interest, Francoise, is really dynamic and worth seeing on screen.

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Let’s Be Adventurers

Adventure films combine the best elements of some of our favorite genres. Whether you’re watching a swashbuckling adventure featuring rapiers and rapier-wit, or a family-friendly adventure which tackles rough topics like illegal poaching, we can all agree that adventure films hold a dear place in our collective hearts.

These films are only a small portion of the available adventure titles existing out there, but these movies are some of the best from 1995-2000. And don’t worry… there are lots more where these came from.

In the meantime, check out these gems I’ve discussed with you, and let us know how you feel about them in the comments.

Onward to the next adventure!

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