Adventure stories are probably as old as mankind itself. The Gilgamesh Epic is about various heroic deeds of a king. The epic is about 5000 thousand years old. Homes Odyssey depicts the homeward journey of King Ulysses after the Trojan War. The Odyssey is about 3000 years old. Presumably, people at all times told each other exciting stories about people who made a difficult journey and experienced and suffered a lot in the process.

Adventure stories do not only touch the knight’s novel in their narrative history, also travelogues belong to the genre, as well as seafaring stories. In the centre it is always about a person or a group moving from point A to B. If you take this premise as a basis for adventure stories, you can see that this narrative form intersects with many genres. There are journeys in westerns, fantasy and science fiction stories, in war and anti-war narratives, as well as in road movies and space narratives.

Almost all adventure stories play with the leitmotif of the struggle for survival in a hostile environment. It is important that a main character (a “hero”) overcomes various obstacles and defeats a strong opponent.

Adventure stories also thrive on contrast and the struggle of good against evil. The hero always tries to reach a certain goal on his adventure journey. The opponent tries to thwart this goal.

By the way, the reader or viewer feels the atmosphere of the foreign country in which the adventure story takes place. Adventures therefore live strongly from descriptions, experiences and from the special features of a foreign country.

If you want to write an adventure story, its hero should pass several tests. Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949) coined the term “Hero’s Journey” and created a model for it. Christopher Vogler (The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers, 2007) transferred Campbell’s model to the film and developed a screenplay theory. In my opinion, however, the Heroes’ Journey is not transferable to all genres and every story. But if you want to write an adventure story, you should take a closer look at Campbell and Vogler.

The Genre

The genre “adventure” is ideally suited for the medium of film. Film shows movement. Adventure stories show how companions or individual figures move from point A to point B. The camera must inevitably move with them. It shows pictures of driving, riding or walking and can capture grandiose landscapes and images. Due to the frequent change of stations, there is a lot of variety in the plot. But this means the great challenge for the author to find and invent original places and stories.

Almost everyone knows adventure movies like “The Lord of the Rings” (2001-2003), “The Hobbit” (2012-2014) or “Indiana Jones” (1981-2008). These are classic and typical adventure stories. But there are also stories from other genres, which­ have the narrative content­ and structure of adventure stories. Narrative content means the journey from point A to point B. And structure means a journey with various obstacles.

So if you define adventure films in such a way that a person or a group wants to get from point A to point B and has to overcome several obstacles in the process, then many films and novels from the most diverse genres have aspects and narrative content of the adventure story. 

A journey from point A to B under the management of obstacles is the theme of many disaster films, for example, such as “Dante’s Peak” (1997), “The Day after Tomorrow” (2004), “2012” (2009), “Daylight” (1996) or “War of the Worlds” (2005).

Many Westerns have a journey in their narrative center: “Red River” (1948), “Stagecoach” (1939), “Silverado” (1985) or “3:10 to Yuma” (2007) are some examples.

Many fantasy and science fiction films also clearly belong to the group of adventure stories according to the definition of the travel and obstacle scheme, such as “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park”.

Likewise, many seafaring stories have essential contents of the adventure journey: “Moby Dick” (1956), “Pirates of the Caribbean” (2003-2017), “Master and Commander” (2003) and “The perfect Storm” (2000) are just a few examples.

But that’s not all: many war and anti-war films, such as “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Predator” (1987) and “The Expendables” (2010) have a journey at their narrative centre.

Even road movies are constructed according to the definition of adventure story. The film examples “A Perfect World” (1993), “Thelma & Luise” (1991), “Rain Man” (1988) or “Paul” (2011) should make this clear to you.

Even space movies like “Interstellar” (2014), “Space Cowboys” (2000) and “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) have just as much essential content of an adventure.

And of course there are still many children’s films that are based on the theme of the journey: “Pinocchio” (1940), “Ice Age” (2002-2016), “Up” (2009), “Finding Nemo” (2003) or “Shrek” (2001) are just a few examples of many.

The examples show that there are stories in a wide variety of genres that are narratively very close to adventure stories, even if they are perhaps not immediately recognisable as such.

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