The classic treasure hunting film is something of a lost genre. Reaching their peak in the 20th century, treasure films began to fade away from their immediately recognizable roots. But the Uncharted gaming franchise, filled with classic conventions, only grew more popular with its iterations.
Paying homage to the cultures at the heart of hidden treasures whilst still retaining a sense of epic scale, these games are one of the most valuable contributions to the genre. With the upcoming Uncharted movie finally releasing after landing a stable director, it’s a great tie to revisit the films that the iconic gaming franchise lives amongst.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) – Stream On Disney+
This animated Disney film feels like a wonderful homage to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, with some slightly controversial “influences” from a Japanese anime called Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water that led to some legal problems, as mentioned by CBR.
A true ragtag group of adventurers makes up the cast of this epic, and it did a fantastic job of re-introducing a generation to Jules Verne’s visions of adventure, no surprise then that people are asking if it’s time for Disney to make a live-action remake of Atlantis. Lost cities are something of a Nathan Drake specialty, and both the stylings and story of Atlantis in this film have some creeping similarities to the magical Shambhala featured in Uncharted 2.
King Kong (1933) – Stream On HBO Max
Possibly the first treasure-hunting movie, King Kong originally debuted in 1933 and shook audiences with the “interesting” perspective that appropriating foreign property for entertainment could have severely negative consequences.
The film sees its cast enthralled by a faraway land, never stopping to analyze the consequences of their impact. The horrors they ultimately unleash in their theft of Kong from his natural habitat is a lesson that countless future treasure hunters would learn across their escapades, making this an important film to watch in understanding the pivotal message at the heart of most treasure hunting films – some things are best left be.
The Goonies (1985) – Stream on HBO Max
At first glance of its plot, The Goonies seems like a fairy-tale fit for the whole family, but one of the most striking things about the movie is the realism of its young character’s banter, with scarcely anything left off the table.
The Goonies is a true treasure hunting movie, with booby traps and villains lurking around every corner. Ultimately, the remarkable thing about it is it marries the sense of childhood wonder with a larger, less temporary sense of discovery. Seeing Nathan Drake as a child in Uncharted 3, it’s easy to draw parallels between him and The Goonies’ protagonist, Mikey. Realistically, Nathan Drake would have made the perfect Goonie, even as an adult, he can’t hide that boyish excitement in his voice every time he finds a new clue.
The Road To El Dorado (2000) – Rent From Amazon Video
Possibly the politest portrayal of the Spanish ravaging of the Americas, The Road to El Dorado actually bombed upon release. Now, it’s appreciated as a surprisingly charming story of the wonderful ancient colonies of the Maya in Central/South America.
The central treasure is El Dorado, a lost city of gold, which actually appears in the first Uncharted game – albeit in a very different form. For fans that mourned the missed sight of seeing Nathan Drake in a veritable city of gold, this film can scratch that itch with this film’s fantastic environment design.
Da 5 Bloods (2020) – Stream On Netflix
Something of a retrospective treasure hunting film, Da 5 Bloods was a Spike Lee film to emerge in 2020. Casting four all-star Black actors and almost including stars like Samuel Jackson and Denzel Washington, the film made for a fantastic reversal of the stereotypical white protagonist that traditionally led these types of capers.
A harrowing film interspersed with comedic beats, this film takes treasure hunting motifs to their absolute extremes, mocking the traditional tidy narratives of the genre and instead showcasing believable characters pushed against one another as they confront the horrors of their past. A treasure-hunting film that places current socio-political matters at the heart of its plot and subtext, Da 5 Bloods demonstrates the potential that treasure hunting movies like Uncharted have to confront serious cultural matters.
Jumanji (1995) – Stream On Netflix
In this comedic spin of classic treasure hunting films, Jumanji places the treasure at the front and center of its narrative. In this case, that treasure is a board game that turns its jungle theme real at the roll of a dice.
Whilst the movie breaks a huge treasure hunting convention by largely staying in one location, it compensates through the elaborate, comical and deadly traps thrust upon the players. With Robin Williams playing a very different kind of adventurer at the heart of this story, it’s a heart-warming tale that can remind audiences why having a humourous protagonist, like the one in Uncharted, is so essential in breaking up the intense action sequences often found in treasure hunting movies.
Holes (2003) – Stream on Disney+
Holes, adapted from the Louis Sachar novel of the same name, was a strange blend of a Western and a treasure hunting film, placing a cast of teens at its center. Though seeming like a conflicting mix, the story of teens at a juvenile detention camp endlessly digging holes is a surprising thrill ride.
The idea of familial legacy runs deeply through the American folklore of Holes, and it’s something significant to the characters of Uncharted too, with Nathan Drake decreeing himself to be Francis Drake’s own descendent after his family abandoned him. His creed, “Greatness From Small Beginnings,” could very well work as the tagline to Holes too.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) – Stream On Fubo TV
One of the all-time best-selling books, the Da Vinci Code is a classic enigma story that delves into the mysteries and cover-ups of the Catholic church. Adapted into a film in 2006, Tom Hanks starred alongside Sir Ian McKellen, Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno.
The treasure lying at the heart of this film is the Holy Grail, but it’s the truth behind it that truly drives the actions of the heroes and villains of this story. The idea of a Catholic conspiracy is quite alive in Uncharted too, and many of the puzzles present in the franchise have likely taken inspiration from the enigmas drawn up in The Da Vinci Code. Realistically, any fan of puzzles, whether they have moving parts or are hidden in a sentence, will get a lot out of a read, or watch of this tale.
Blood Diamond (2006) – Rent From Apple TV
It’s no surprise to see a treasure hunting film set within a warring nation, especially with Sierra Leone being one of Earth’s genuine “treasure troves” thanks to its diamond mines. With diamonds being the treasure so often coveted in day-to-day life, Blood Diamond did a fantastic job at drawing attention to the horrors that go into their acquisition.
A gigantic pink diamond is what everyone is after, and the methods and lengths Danny Archer especially (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) will go to retrieve it is outlandish. Mercenaries, warlords and the general power-mad make up the antagonists of this film, and the levels to which these characters are explored are considerable. As the antagonists of Uncharted entries usually have a similar background, this film can be a good way to further understand the motivations of a typical Uncharted baddie.
The Deep (1977) – Rent From Apple TV
We see Nathan Drake working as a diver throughout the Uncharted franchise, which makes this 1977 film possibly the most accurate to his everyday life, the life he occupies in between his cross-continental exploding excursions.
In this film, a roster of villains, indigenous animals and black magic get in the way of an amateur diving couple’s first treasure hunt – the excavation of a lost Spanish wreck. If the plot of The Deep doesn’t sound eerily familiar, then now might be the perfect time to play through the Uncharted franchise.
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