2023 Oscar Adventure Films

An overview of 2023’s Oscar-nominated Adventure Films, including a look back to last year’s.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
2023 Oscar Fantasy

Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*)

Avatar: The Way of Water (4*)

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (4*)

The Sea Beast (3.5*)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2.5*)

Turning Red (2*)

Adventure films overlap a lot with Animated, Family, Fantasy, Action and Science Fiction films, and it doesn’t take a lot of thought to see why.  But there are some small differences that separate Adventure films out.  They always involve some kind of quest, usually a physical journey to unknown places. 

My favorite film in this category, and also the Best Picture Oscar Winner, was Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*). The journey in this movie, though is definitely not a physical one, but spans the unknown dimensions of the multiverse.  Made on a shoestring budget, it still managed to attract top actors like Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis.  The story is as wacky as you can get, and yet it invokes deep concepts like the multiverse and nihilism.  This film won’t work for everyone, but if you want a short trip that gets you thinking about your own sanity, this movie is for you.

And who can’t love the David Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water (4*). It is filled with terrific computer animation (especially some amazing underwater scenes), rich deep characters, imaginative and fantastic creatures, and a plot that digs at environmental economics.  The journey in Avatar is physical but involves going to a different part of a very different world from ours. Although burdened with setting up complex plot lines for future sequels, the film is a visual and family-story delight.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (4*) was another favorite this year.  Rich in computer animation from Dreamworks, this is the second in the Shrek spin-off series based on the now-famous cat.  In this one, Puss takes a journey that deals with critical issues of mortality, that many of us face, as he is on his ninth life.  During his pursuit of immortality, he restarts a relationship with a past flame, and makes a new friend too.  The story also plumbs meaning from several old nursery tales.  Just plain fun for everyone.

Finally, the computer animation in The Sea Beast (3.5*) is rich in colors and the details regarding the ocean and sailing are, seemingly, very accurate.  I also have to believe there are multiple political metaphors woven into this film to interest the older members of the family.

The other two films in this genre, I can’t recommend.  Although I really wanted to like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2.5*), the film was burdened with too many extraneous goals – including setting things up for future Marvel movies, paying homage to Chadwick Boseman, and connecting to the earlier film – that it ended up being unsatisfying on its own.  And Turning Red (2.0*) had some great intentions and terrific Pixar computer animation, but it wasn’t clear whether the filmmakers really knew who their audience was supposed to be.

I recommend five films from last year in this genre.  I unexpectedly enjoyed Spider-Man: No Way Home (4*) because it seems to run very different from most superhero films by focusing on characters and relationships. Spider-man’s adventure involves multiple universes. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (3.5*) had a lot of intriguing family dynamics along with an outrageous adventure.  No Time to Die (3.5*) wasn’t my favorite Bond film, but it still takes the audience along for quite a ride. The two Emmas, Stone and Thompson, have absolutely delightful chemistry in their adventure in Cruella (4*).  And, finally, one of my favorite films from the 2022 Oscar season was the epic Dune (5*) which is only the first part of an ongoing adventure.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

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