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Total Film
Total Film
Total Film

The 10 best adventure couples in movies, ranked

Raiders of the Lost Arc/The Mummy.

High stakes breed high emotions, right? Well, that's certainly the case for the best adventure couples in movies. Whether they're battling an undead, immortal mummy or trying to survive a dinosaur theme park, they always find time for romance. It might just be a declaration of love after one of them saves the other or a stolen kiss after surviving certain death, but they all have one thing in common: they're achingly romantic.

Total Film

This feature first ran in the July 2021 edition of Total Film magazine, and was voted for by readers. Subscribe here!

So what better way to mark Valentine's Day than sitting down with your loved one to escape into a world of peril? To help you on your way, we've broken down the best adventure couples in film history below to mark this romantic holiday. And our list spans the genres and periods so you'll be able to find a story whatever you're after. 

Once you've read this list too, check out our guides to the best action movies of all time and the best anti-Valentine's Day movies to stream now.

10. Elizabeth Swann & Will Turner, Pirates of the Caribbean

(Image credit: Disney)

Director: Gore Verbinski
Released: 2003

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith’s apprentice with a gift for making swords – and fighting with them too. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is a governor’s daughter. Together they become embroiled in a hearty adventure involving Aztec gold, a curse, and drunken pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)… and become star-crossed lovers along the way. While Bloom here added to the success of his Legolas in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Knightley made a huge leap after turning heads in Bend It Like Beckham. Her Elizabeth is spirited and intelligent and proves herself a natural at sea(wo)manship, leadership, and battle strategy as the franchise progresses. Will and Elizabeth marry and have a son in At World’s End.

Read our Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl review.

9. Alan Grant & Ellie Sattler, Jurassic Park

(Image credit: Universal)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Released: 1993

We all love Sam Neill and Laura Dern as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant and palaeobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler, partners who are invited to Jurassic Park by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). But William Hurt and Harrison Ford first turned down Spielberg, as did Robin Wright. Their loss turned out to be our gain, for Neill and Dern are as responsible for making the action believable as Stan Winston’s animatronics and ILM’s dazzling VFX. Grant and Sattler returned for Jurassic Park 3, though they were no longer a couple – Ellie is married with children – before they reunited once again in Jurassic World Dominion

Read our Jurassic Park review.

8. Charlie Allnut & Rose Sayer, The African Queen

(Image credit: Horizon Pictures)

Director: John Huston
Released: 1951

You could hardly find a more mismatched couple, a hard-drinking steamboat captain and a prim spinster missionary. Over the course of John Huston’s exhilarating World War 1 adventure though these polar opposites learn to see past their differences and find a common cause – the sinking of a German gunboat. Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie and Katharine Hepburn’s Rose find something else, too: hidden reserves of courage, surprising strength of character, and of course a love Kate was certain would endure. "Did they stay in Africa? I always thought they must have," she writes in her 1987 book about the film.

7. Robin Hood & Maid Marian, The Adventures of Robin Hood

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Released: 1938

Lady Marian (Olivia de Havilland) is less than impressed with Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), rebuffing his genial pleasantries during their first chilly encounter. "I hope my lady had a pleasant journey from London?" "What you hope can hardly be important!" It is only a matter of time though before she warms to his charms and soon she is joining forces with his Merrie Men to free him from prison. In reality, de Havilland was just as enamoured of her leading man, although both insisted their romance was never consummated. "We did fall in love, and I believe this was evident in the screen chemistry between us," the legendary leading lady would later reveal. "But his circumstances at the time prevented the relationship from going further. Cantankerous fate kept us together in films and apart in real life."

6. Diana Prince & Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman

(Image credit: DC)

Director: Patty Jenkins
Released: 2017

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s sparky chemistry elevated Wonder Woman above its comic-book stablemates. Natural, funny, sparkling – their pairing brought life to Patty Jenkins’ blending of superhero WW2 and fantasy tropes into a refreshing yet old-school confection. It helps that both get the chance to be fish out of water in each other’s stomping grounds, but there’s no formula for great, simpatico casting. Eschewing pre-casting screen testing, Jenkins knew Pine was right for Steve. "I knew that Chris has exactly the energy," Jenkins told TF at the time. "He’s plenty confident. He’s plenty handsome. He’s plenty ‘leading man’ on his own, but he’s got a great sense of humor and he loves women and he respects women. So I knew he had exactly the right kind of vibe from the moment that I met him."

Read our Wonder Woman review.

5. Alejandro 'Zorro' Murrieta & Elena Montero, The Mask of Zorro

(Image credit: Sony)

Director: Martin Campbell
Released: 1998

When The Mask of Zorro hit cinemas, it was out on its own. The swashbuckling character made famous by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in a 1920 silent movie had long fallen out of favour, with the last portrayal by George Hamilton in the 1981 pastiche Zorro, The Gay Blade. So when Antonio Banderas, then hot off Desperado, swung into action, he cut a very dashing figure. Still, every hero needs a heroine, and Elena, elegantly played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, is more than a match for the masked swordsman. "It’s the old story of the rough diamond meets upper-class aristocracy," says director Martin Campbell, who arrived on the project – his first movie since 1995’s GoldenEye – after Robert Rodriguez ducked out.

Read our The Mask of Zorro review.

4. Jack T. Colton & Joan Wilder, Romancing The Stone

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Released: 1984

He’s a gruff-but-hunky bird-smuggler who has been living in the wilds of Colombia. She’s a romance novelist on an insane jaunt to find her kidnapped sister. This mismatched pair – expertly played by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner – make for the most beguiling screen couple this side of Indy and Marion. Following her sizzling turn in Body Heat, Turner still had a job to convince everyone she could play Joan. "It’s like, 'Yeah okay, she’s sexy and she’s funny, but can she be insecure and demure?' So, then you go in with cut-offs, baggy clothes and no make-up and prove to them that you can be." Yet she and Douglas nailed it. While it’s a boys-own adventure, characterized by mudslides, alligators, treasure maps and the titular precious emerald, the 'romancing' is never far away. From the fireworks-kiss to the sailboat-on-the-street ending, it’s a glorious love story that comes to the boil at just the right moment.

3. Buttercup & Westley, The Princess Bride

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Director: Rob Reiner
Released: 1987

As you wish! With those famous words, farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes) obeys the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) – and in true fairytale style will do anything for his beloved. Likewise, when he’s supposedly killed by pirates, she vows never to love another man. Yet while it’s a film about the perils of undying love, The Princess Bride is never sappy. "It was adventure and romance, but it was also funny and satirical," remarks Rob Reiner, who read William Goldman’s 1973 novel after his father gifted it to him. Although Elwes was cast swiftly, it took an age to find their Buttercup. A week before shooting, the shy Wright turned up at the door – looking resplendent and sun-dappled. "I loved that it was about true love and that she would never give up and nor would Westley," she says. "You always dream about it as a little girl, but I never stopped dreaming about that." Aww… 

2. Rick O'Connell & Evelyn Carnahan, The Mummy

(Image credit: Universal)

Director: Stephen Sommers
Released: 1999

There are several reasons why Stephen Sommers’ Mummy reinvention worked, a big one being that it was so unexpected – to take a slow, insidiously creepy horror-melodrama starring a bandaged Boris Karloff and fashion it into a rollicking romp swathed in CGI. But perhaps the main reason was Brendan Fraser's and Rachel Weisz’s chemistry. "I don’t really think about chemistry," says Sommers. "The audience has to tell you that. But what I could tell was that they got along great. When people genuinely like each other, and enjoy working with each other… I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be fun.'"

1. Indiana Jones & Marion Ravenwood, Raiders of the Lost Ark

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Released: 1981

Indy and Marion already have history by the time they hook up in Raiders, the pair having had a fling 10 years earlier when he was her father’s student. Small wonder there is some tension as they swap Nepal for Cairo, with Indy only softening after she is apparently killed in a fiery truck explosion. Marion isn’t dead, of course – and she’s mightily pissed at him when they are reunited again in a snake-infested Well of Souls. But nobody can stay mad at Indy for long, and a romantic recoupling beckons after they find themselves sharing a cabin on a tramp steamer bound for Europe. 

Well, it would, were not Indy so exhausted that he promptly falls asleep. "We never seem to get a break, do we?" sighs Marion, unaware that more adventures await them before they can finally have a breather back in Washington DC. "The first time we were together, we didn’t know each other," said Karen Allen of Harrison Ford in 2017. "It took time to find our rhythm, but I had an awfully good time working with him."

Read our Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark review.

For more, here's our guide to the best Netflix action movies available right now.

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