Pick Six: Six Best Films About Treasure

Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunting flick? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m sure they exist somewhere out there, probably in the same land of exiles and pariahs as those heathen folk who don’t like the Blues Brothers or the Princess Bride (*cough*). I’m sure they burn books, dance naked and wear warpaint mixed from the blood of kittens. Terrible, terrible things. But on a serious note, treasure is awesome. Who doesn’t want to uncover a map, covered in dust, that will take them on a grand adventure, likely concluding in romance, magic and gold? That’s right, no one, not even me. So here’s a list of my six favorite films about treasure hunting. Take that, Bembridge Scholars!

The Goonies (1985)

So this had to be on here. I love this movie. I barely remember it, but I love it. I was recently on a Lord of the Rings marathon, and my lovely partner through Middle Earth pointed out to me that the general of the orcs in the Battle of Pelennor looks just like Sloth in The Goonies. One of those movies that informs us when we’re children, conjuring up our imaginations and setting the bar for adventure movies to come, The Goonies is one of those movies that everyone knows and loves. Filmed in lovely locations, Yes, even people like me. See? I do have a soul. (P.S. Sean Astin is in The Goonies. Yes, Rudy. I mean Samwise Gamgee. Tadaa! Lord of the Rings connections galore!)

Three Kings (1999)

This film, as well as being a really cool flick about three American soldiers trying to locate a stock-hold of Kuwaiti gold, is an underrated masterpiece. I say masterpiece loosely, because it’s not really a masterpiece, but this is a damn good movie that nigh upon nobody has actually seen. Directed by the hard-to-peg David O. Russell and starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, this action/war/treasure hunting film has amazing times written all over it, infused with a healthy dose of gravitas. Hysterically funny, tragic and constantly interesting, Three Kings is a wonderful and fascinating look at what happens when a war film finds its humor and a stack of shiny bullion.

Aladdin (1992)

Okay, so I sort of cheated. This isn’t really a treasure hunting movie, but it’s close enough, since no where in the rules does it say that the treasure couldn’t be found first thing in the film. “Enter the cave of wonders!” a giant sand-tiger roars, eyes glowing bright with starlight. Deep in its bowels are mountains of gold, magic carpets and a giant ruby that tempts foolish mortals to their deaths at the hands (hands?) of lava. Oh, and there’s a brass lamp that has a genie inside it voiced by Robin Williams. Arguably one of the three best Disney films ever made (and certainly one of the famous ones from the Disney renaissance in the 90’s), Aladdin earns its place on this list by being a movie that every kid should see. That, and the other “cheat” movie I had on my list was Angels and Demons. Yeah. We’ll go with Aladdin.

Sahara (2005)

Like Three Kings, Sahara falls into the sad and maligned category of a film that nobody has seen. I wish more people bit the bullet and gave a chance to this swaggering film that should have started a franchise, but it just didn’t happen that way. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, Sahara is the live screen adaptation of a Clive Cussler’s adventurer Dirk Pitt novel. The treasure in this flick is an old Civil War ship that disappeared across the ocean, supposedly ending up in the middle of the African desert by mysterious means. Though completely ridiculous on multiple occasions and an uneven movie overall, Sahara is worth a look on any lazy Saturday night when you want to crack a beer, pop some popcorn and go off on an adventure with good looking people in exotic locations.

The Mummy (1999)

Okay. Let me just say it up front. This movie rocks. It would be number one on my list except that number one is sort of irreplaceable and will suffer no contest. The Mummy is one of the few times a remake is better than an original, and by a long shot. You probably know the storyline – adventurers (Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz) in turn of the century Egypt uncover an ancient monster while on a quest for a lost city, and lots of cool (and occasionally creepy) stuff ensues. What you may not know, if you haven’t seen The Mummy, is just how fun an adventure movie still has the potential to be. The effects, while slightly dated, are still clever, and the tone is always pitch perfect. Rousing, exciting, mysterious, enthralling and utterly fun, The Mummy is one of my favorite adventure/treasure hunting films of all time. It’s a movie that I can watch any night of the week, and want to go traveling as soon as its done.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Was there really any question? Raiders of the Lost Ark is the treasure hunting adventure movie by which all other treasure hunting adventure movies are compared. The first film to introduce the Man in the Hat, Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a gem of cinema. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones – we see him and see the man in the fedora (though some of us see him as a space smuggler) and that’s for a reason. Cocky, brilliant, sexy and tough, Indiana Jones is the man’s man that cinema has moved away from in recent years in lieu of the Orlando Bloom’s of the world. Here, Jones races the Nazi’s across the globe in pursuit of the greatest treasure of them all – the Ark of the Covenant, a biblical artifact supposedly imbued with the power to level mountains. Mysterious, fun, full of exotic locations and awesome back story, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the film that got me hooked on film. See it, if you haven’t. You won’t regret it.

Honorable Mentions:

National Treasure (2004)
Angels and Demons (2009) (NOT the Da Vinci Code)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
DuckTales: The Movie – The Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990)

Written By Ries

Ries is a writer, blogger, amateur explorer and full time United States Marine. He graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and is busy putting that degree to work writing elite movie reviews for sites like CineKatz. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, movie watching, talking to himself in the mirror and working on novels that may or may not ever be finished. Of all the things he misses about being a civilian, he misses his beard the most.


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  • Shane

    Perfect list. Absolutely brilliant. My first thought was Goonies, and there it was. I also always really enjoyed Sahara. Then, of course, Mummy and Raiders are both great.

  • rich

    i’m ashamed i haven’t seen “three kings” yet. time to look it up on netflix. raiders is in one of my movie posts as my second-favorite movie ever. well done.

  • fernandorafaelquinterocastaeda

    Great list, Ries! 🙂

  • Vivek Subramanyam

    Nice picks, buddy! I agree; “National Treasure” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, as good as those movies are, should not be more than honorable mentions. “Aladdin” is my favorite Disney movie of all time and “The Mummy” is still an awesome movie. Too bad Stephen Sommers couldn’t make G.I. Joe anything good. 🙁

  • Ries

    I know, what was wrong with Sommers with GI Joe? Aladdin is the name of the game and The Mummy just never gets old. Thanks for reading and commenting, V!

  • Ries

    Thanks, Fernando!

  • Ries

    Three Kings is a great experience. Raiders is probably my favorite film of all time. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rich!

  • Ries

    Outstanding! I had a blast compiling this list. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • 70srichard

    Clearly you are unfamiliar with Jacqueline Bisset and her t-shirt.

  • Ries

    …clearly. lol (I looked her up. I’m a little lost, I’m afraid.)

  • Tom

    I’m so glad that Three Kings made the list. That movie rules, but barely anyone I know has seen it! Also, Raiders is one of the best movies of all time period.

  • Ries

    Ab-so-lutely. Thanks for commenting.

  • 70srichard

    The Deep, Treasure Hunting and Bisset in a wet tee shirt trumps Sahara and the Mummy easily.

    http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2010/07/deep-1977-movie-day-day-59.html

  • Ries

    Huh. You know, I had no idea about any of this. (I read your article.) Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to check it out.

  • Amanda

    I’m very pleased with this list, especially since it starts with The Goonies–filmed at the beach where I grew up in the best state of the fifty (OREGON). I have not yet seen Three Kings, but I was happy to see some favorites on this list. I recently watched The Mummy for the first time, and thought it was great–I was always fascinated with mummies. I also thought Sahara was a nice film, though many people avoid Matthew McConaughey these days. Indiana Jones was absolutely necessary. Great job! 🙂