18 Underrated Action-Adventure Movies

Over 7.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 18 Underrated Action-Adventure Movies
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Vote up the action-adventure movies that deserve more love.

If you're looking for a good action-adventure movie to watch but have already seen all the usual entries a million times, help is on the way. Sure, it's always fun to revisit Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Marvel pictures, and The Mummy. They're totally rewatchable. Sometimes, though, you're in the mood for something new. That's when having some recommendations comes in handy.

What makes these films underrated? In many cases, they came out during slower months at the box office, or were released on the same weekend as a blockbuster that sucked all the air out of the room. A couple were simply ahead of their time, while a few more were initially popular but faded from the public's memory over the years. Whatever the reason, these movies often contain A-list stars and/or come from name directors. They may not have achieved the classic status several of their counterparts did, but they're plenty good for viewers looking to kick back, relax, and watch something fun for two hours.

  • Big Trouble in Little China has a devoted cult audience, yet has never been fully embraced by the mainstream. That needs to change. Kurt Russell stars in this John Carpenter-directed adventure. He plays Jack Burton, a tough-guy truck driver who becomes embroiled in the search for his best friend's girlfriend after she's captured by an evil figure named Lo Pan. He has a scheme to become immortal, but he needs the woman to break an ancient curse first.

    One of the things that made Big Trouble in Little China a tough sell is that it's hard to define. The story has action and adventure, yet it's all done with a tongue-in-cheek comedic style. Action scenes are an unusual combination of the traditional gunplay and martial arts. There's even a sci-fi element to the film. In short, it's one big jumble of cinematic "stuff." That makes it incredibly fun to watch for open-minded viewers who want their action-adventure movies as off-the-wall as possible.

    5,698 votes

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  • 2
    5,605 VOTES

    Willow was supposed to be one of the big blockbusters of the summer of 1988. That didn't happen. Felled in part by negative reviews, it stalled out at just $57 million domestically, despite being directed by Ron Howard and produced by George Lucas. Since that time, the movie has undergone a reassessment by adventure fans. It now has a cult audience that deeply appreciates it, and that makes Willow worth checking out. 

    Warwick Davis gives a winning performance as the title character, a farmer chosen to protect a baby from the clutches of an evil queen. Val Kilmer co-stars as a warrior who helps him in this mission. Willow is filled with appealing pre-CGI visual effects, amusingly unusual creatures, and some genuinely inventive action sequences. Although it makes use of age-old sword-and-sorcery tropes, Howard and Lucas attempt to breathe new life into them. Anyone with an interest in this sort of fantasy should give the film a chance, if only to appreciate the imagination on display.

    5,605 votes

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  • Romancing the Stone was a huge hit when it was released in 1984. Somehow, though, it hasn't taken on the status of beloved classic that other movies from that year - like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and The Karate Kid - have. This Robert Zemeckis-directed film deserves a serious re-appreciation.

    Michael Douglas plays a wisecracking bird hunter helping romance novelist Kathleen Turner search the Colombian jungle for a rare gem. Everyone knows the old trope about two people who bicker incessantly at one another, despite the fact they're clearly falling in love. Rarely is that dynamic pulled off as well as it is here. Douglas and Turner have magnificent chemistry, the screenplay is filled with sharp dialogue, and the action scenes are thrilling. You even get Danny DeVito in a hilarious supporting role as a wacky antiquities smuggler.

    4,709 votes

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  • 4
    4,867 VOTES

    Like its predecessor, The Mummy Returns was a blockbuster. That said, because it was a sequel, it also suffered from people going in with their expectations pretty high. Whereas the first Mummy is still recognized with respect, this one tends to get minimized or ignored.

    Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz reprise their roles as archaeologist Rick O'Connell and his now-wife, Evelyn. This time, they attempt to save the world after the corpse of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is resurrected. The Mummy Returns delivers more of the same fast-paced, nail-biting mayhem of the original, including a cave escape and a chase on a double-decker bus. There's barely a moment of downtime because the action is continuous. As an added bonus, you get Dwayne Johnson in his first film role, playing the Scorpion King. From this debut performance, it was clear Johnson had the right stuff to become the superstar we now know him to be.

    4,867 votes

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  • 5
    3,426 VOTES

    In Hidalgo, Viggo Mortensen plays Frank Hopkins, a pony express courier who also does some trick riding in a traveling sideshow. He's invited to take part in the Ocean of Fire, a treacherous 3,000-mile horse race through the Saudi desert. To say the race is punishing would be an understatement. It pushes both Frank and his horse to their limits.

    Sequences like the one showing them attempting to navigate during a sandstorm are intense. Hidalgo really gives you a sense of how arduous the trek is. Beyond that, they also must contend with traps set out for them by a rival, including being pushed into a pit and having to face tigers. Adding a level of entertainment value to the film is the appearance of Omar Sharif as the sheikh who invites Frank to participate. The veteran actor obviously knows a thing or two about acting in the desert, having co-starred in the classic Lawrence of Arabia. His appearance here gives the whole picture a boost.

    3,426 votes

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  • 6
    4,331 VOTES

    In 1998, a bunch of fine actors gathered together with GoldenEye director Martin Campbell for a dose of throwback fun. The Mask of Zorro brought the legendary swashbuckler back to the big screen. Anthony Hopkins plays Zorro - also known as Don Diego de la Vega - and he's training young protege Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) to become his successor. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Don Diego's daughter, who of course is beautiful and catches Alejandro's eye. Together, the trio attempts to stop an old nemesis from snatching a fortune in gold.

    The character of Zorro dates all the way back to 1919. The Mask of Zorro stays true to the basic premise, giving us exciting sword fights and action sequences. At the same time, Campbell uses modern filmmaking techniques to energize them. Seeing Hopkins, Banderas, and Zeta-Jones in an old-school adventure is a blast, too. They prove there's still a lot of life left in the type of characters audiences thrilled to in yesteryear.

    4,331 votes

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