Behind-The-Scenes Stories From Treasure Hunt Movies

Help shape these rankings by voting on this list of Behind-The-Scenes Stories From Treasure Hunt Movies
Voting Rules

Vote up the stories worth their weight in gold.

Action-adventure movies have been a Hollywood staple since the advent of cinema. A specific slice of adventure that has always appealed to an audience is a treasure hunt. With the promise of riches, magic, or mythical artifacts waiting to be plundered, viewers love to watch the dashing heroes evade traps and enemies to find the prize at the end.

Oftentimes, great adventures happen behind the scenes as well. Many of the greatest treasure hunt movies have interesting tales behind them just like the pitfalls that the characters navigate within the movies themselves. Check out these unexpected tidbits from the planning and production of classic treasure hunt films that are worth their weight in gold.

  • It must be quite an honor for a Brit to get the opportunity to dine at Buckingham Palace with the Queen of England. For Dame Helen Mirren, it would be extra special since she won an Academy Award for her performance as the queen in the 2006 biopic The Queen

    Unfortunately for Mirren, when Elizabeth II called, she already had a prior work engagement. She was filming National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the 2007 sequel to the first National Treasure film, which added Mirren as the mother of Nic Cage's character, Ben Gates. 

    Mirren gave a polite message explaining why she had to decline:

    I was honoured to be invited to dinner at the Palace. This was a gracious gesture and very appreciated by me. It was therefore hard to have to decline. I was contracted on that date to be working in South Dakota, in a situation which was impossible to change. I would have made every effort to attend if it had been humanly possible. I explained this to the Palace officials, and I believe they understood. I would never have the hubris or the rudeness to insult anyone who had the kindness to invite me to dinner.

    The film's production company released the following statement:

    The National Treasure: Book of Secrets production company regrets that it was unable to release Ms. Mirren from her shooting schedule in order to accept the honor of dining with Queen Elizabeth last week. All attempts were made to accommodate Her Majesty's request but a very challenging and uncompromising production schedule in South Dakota, complicated further by poor weather conditions and locked-in locations, made this impossible.

    It brings a new level of appreciation for Mirren's role in the movie when considering she could've been dining with the Queen instead.

    11 votes

    Available On:


  • 2
    26 VOTES

    The Kids On 'The Goonies' Were Full Of Pranks, But Spielberg Got The Last Laugh

    There is a lot of downtime between takes on a movie set. The young cast 1985 coming-of-age treasure hunt flick The Goonies liked to use that time to pull off pranks. 

    During the final week of production, director Richard Donner could not figure out why the young actors were ignoring him. He revealed:

    I said to my wife... 'I hate kids. And I hate these kids.' Because they’ve become the professionals I never thought they were, and she said, 'You gotta live with it. Maybe that’s it. Who knows?' In any event, even at the wrap party they kind of ignored me. That was it, I said goodbye to everybody.

    Turns out producer Steven Spielberg was behind the prank: he told the cast to ignore Donner. As a reward, he would pay for them and their families to go on vacation to Hawaii, where Donner has a house. 

    The cast turned up one day to surprise Donner. He added:

    So, for one week they had to do the best acting they ever did. They had to pretend I wasn’t there. And they did and I loved them. Their deal was they could only stay five hours and then go to another island, but I kept them. We had a great BBQ and everybody came. But it was them. That’s the first time they ever had to act because up until then they were themselves.

    In the end, the pranks were a sign of how close the cast and crew were. Their bond comes through on screen in a heartwarming story that makes it clear the real treasure is the group adventure.

    26 votes
  • Richard Donner's 1985 adventure film The Goonies featured a talented young cast that included Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and future Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan. The group sets out on the adventure of a lifetime to find pirate One-Eyed Willy's ship and lost treasure in hopes of protecting their neighborhood from foreclosure.

    According to Brolin, the cast was not allowed to see Willy's pirate ship until the cameras rolled because Donner wanted a genuine reaction from his young actors. He wrote in an Instagram post:

    We haven't yet seen the boat. We are backed into the water that the stage is filled with. We are told to submerge in unison and when we come up turn around and react naturally. They roll cameras, we go under, we hear a muffled "Action!" and when we surface and turn around there's silence. All of us. Then the first word spoken is mine. It's loud. "F*ck!!". And the take is ruined. I don't care. The ship is 150 feet long and it has treasure hanging from all sides. It's every kid's dream come true. F*ck seems, even now, totally appropriate.

    It's understandable how Brolin and the other actors would've felt stunned upon seeing the intricate custom-built pirate ship, which took two and a half months to complete.

    26 votes

    Available On:



  • 4
    17 VOTES

    The Boulder In 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Really Could’ve Injured Harrison Ford

    Before there was CGI, movies used practical effects - including real, massive boulders. The riveting opening sequence of 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark features Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finding the coveted Golden Idol only to get double-crossed and left to die. In order to survive, he rushes to escape the Peruvian temple with its booby traps that include a terrifying boulder rolling down the halls, ready to crush Indy if he slows at all.

    Despite the danger, Steven Spielberg asked his heroic star to do the boulder race without a stunt double ten different times. Spielberg explained:

    The 12-foot rock which chases Harrison Ford in the cave sequence would have killed whoever it ran over - if it ever had. We went to great lengths to make a 12-foot rock out of fiberglass and wood and plaster precisely so that it wouldn't weigh as much as a real 12-foot boulder. So whether it weighed 300 pounds, which it did, or whether it weighed 80 tons, as it would have, it could still have done bodily harm to anyone falling beneath it - and Harrison was not doubled in those scenes. Not only that, but the sequence was shot in the second week of principal photography in London. I mean, the absolute worst time to eliminate your leading man is in the second week, but because the rock was more effective chasing Harrison with Harrison running toward camera, it just didn't work as well having him doubled. A double would have cheated his head down, so Harrison volunteered to do it himself. He succeeded. There were five shots of the rock from five different angles - each one done separately, each one done twice - so Harrison had to race the rock ten times. He won ten times - and beat the odds. He was lucky - and I was an idiot for letting him try it.

    17 votes
  • Director Breck Eisner's 2005 action-adventure Sahara tells the tale of explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) setting out to find a Civil War battleship which was lost when the river it was on dried up, leaving it hidden somewhere in the Sahara Desert. Pitt isn't the only one after it, though, since the ship is loaded with gold. 

    The film was shot mostly in Morocco and had its share of production issues, especially surrounding several complex stunts. One of the most dangerous stunts had its lead actors (McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, and Steve Zahn) jumping off of running camels onto a movie train. Eisner explained:

    For us, one of the things we wanted to do with Sahara is go back to old school filmmaking, and not use wire rigs for the fights and not have stunt men doing all the sequences. Instead we tried to have all of the actors do as much of the stunt work as possible. Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz did many of their own stunts. They were really physical and trained very hard for it. Matthew McConaughey in particular came out two weeks before just to get military training in and work with firearms.

    All three actors trained through out the course of the movie on camels. To gallop a camel is a really difficult thing to do. Unlike a horse, camels don't want to run. With a horse, you kick it, you get it going, and it keeps running. A camel, hates to run. So you have to kick it and whip it, and slap it to keep it moving. What we did first is we trained these camels to run along side a train, so that they weren't scared of the train. Simultaneously to that we were training the actors on how to get a camel to run. By the time we got to the train sequence, which was about three-quarters into the schedule, all three actors were done with their training on the camels, and the camels were trained with the train. For the sequence itself, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz are all galloping at forty miles an hour right next to that train and are getting ready to make their moves to jump onboard.

    Fortunately, the hard work was worth it, producing an amazing stunt.

    29 votes

    Available On:


  • In 2004's action adventure heist movie National Treasure, historian and treasure seeker Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nic Cage) sets out to steal the Declaration of Independence, after uncovering clues that tell him the historical document has a treasure map on the back. 

    In the film, the clock on the back of a $100 bill serves as a clue to help Gates on his treasure hunt; he famously notes that the clock reads 2:22. There is, indeed, a clock pictured in the design of a $100 bill, on the front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall. A representative from the US Treasury confirmed that the clock actually reads 4:10 - Gates (or the filmmakers) may have mixed up the hour and minute hands to come away with the alternate time. The representative added that no one knows if there is a significance to the time shown on the bill design, leaving a mystery yet to be unraveled in real life.

    20 votes

    Available On: