Love & war: 20 notable action-adventure rom-coms
Paramount

Love & war: 20 notable action-adventure rom-coms

There are action-adventure films, and there are romantic comedies. Sometimes, those worlds combine. The idea of an action-adventure romantic comedy is a mouthful of genres, but they exist. Some land more on the “action,” while others highlight the “adventure.” For this list of notable films of this ilk, we considered any romantic comedy with either an action or an adventure element to it. A whirlwind chase around the globe? Gunfights and car chases? Either way, you were in the running.

 
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'Romancing the Stone' (1984)

'Romancing the Stone' (1984)
20th Century Fox

Probably the quintessential example of this subgenre to this day. It was huge for the careers of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, the stars, and director Robert Zemeckis, who is now a massive success but at the time taking a work-for-hire gig looking for his first hit. Douglas and Turner play an “opposite attract” pairing in over their heads on an adventure neither of them anticipated.

 
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'The Jewel of the Nile' (1985)

'The Jewel of the Nile' (1985)
20th Century Fox

They had to run it back. After the success of Romancing the Stone, they effectively rushed a sequel into production with the same main cast, including a larger role for DeVito. While it could help but feel like a rehashing of the hit original, The Jewel of the Nile has some strong moments and proved to be another big hit.

 
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'The Princess Bride' (1987)

'The Princess Bride' (1987)
MGM

A meta fairytale, and not in the Shrek way, The Princess Bride is a favorite of many children of the ‘80s. Few movies dish action, adventure, romance, and comedy with the gusto of this movie. There’s a reason why it’s a favorite of many to this day.

 
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'Road to Morocco' (1942)

'Road to Morocco' (1942)
Paramount

Bob Hope, Bing Crosby (and usually Dorothy Lamour) made several “Road to…” movies. They all involved going to an exotic location, where adventure and comedy ensue. Perhaps the romance isn’t always as strong but it tends to be there. They made several action-adventure comedies, so it makes sense to include one from this series, and many consider the Morocco excursion the best of the bunch.

 
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'Sahara' (2005)

'Sahara' (2005)
Paramount

The budget on this Matthew McConaughey film got overblown, leading to it being (technically) a box-office flop, but it’s one of those films that works a lot better as something you accidentally stumble on some weekend afternoon. Steven Zahn brings the comedic relief, Penelope Cruz brings the romance, and the story and locations bring the adventure.

 
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'Fool’s Gold' (2008)

'Fool’s Gold' (2008)
Warner Bros.

For a few years there, McConaughey was the face of the romantic adventure comedy. Fool’s Gold reunited the actor with Kate Hudson, his costar in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Despite mediocre reviews, this movie was a modest hit, but it is at least better than that romantic comedy.

 
7 of 20

'Get Smart' (2008)

'Get Smart' (2008)
Warner Bros.

Steve Carell was a fine choice to play Maxwell Smart in this big-screen adaptation of the classic sitcom. Anne Hathaway was a solid option for Agent 99, given that she is basically game for anything. Perhaps the issue is that this action comedy leaned a little too much into the romance between Max and 99, though the movie is still a fairly fun watch with an impressive cast.

 
8 of 20

'Big Top Pee-wee' (1988)

'Big Top Pee-wee' (1988)
Paramount

In Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Pee-wee Herman is notably essentially uninterested in romance. That’s not the case in Big Top Pee-wee, a circus-centric adventure comedy with a hefty dose of romance. In this somewhat forgotten sequel, Pee-wee romances trapeze artist Gina Piccolapupula.

 
9 of 20

'The Great Race' (1965)

'The Great Race' (1965)
Warner Bros.

Ah, the days when they would make epic, big-budget comedies. This is a “race around the world” film heavy in slapstick and physical comedy. It was directed by Blake Edwards, of Pink Panther fame, and starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood. While the romance isn’t necessarily the focal point of this adventure, the movie does end with Curtis and Wood’s characters being newly married.

 
10 of 20

'Six Days, Seven Nights' (1988)

'Six Days, Seven Nights' (1988)
Tocuhstone

Harrison Ford in a romantic comedy? Hey, never forget that he was in Working Girl . Plus, he leans into his gruff persona as a pilot whose plane crashes on a deserted island with Anne Heche. They bicker, they quibble, they try to survive, and, of course, find romance together in the end.

 
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'Some Like It Hot' (1959)

'Some Like It Hot' (1959)
United Artists

Hey, this movie has gunplay, follows a touring band, and is certainly high on comedy and romance. AFI once named Some Like It Hot as the best comedy film ever. It does actually hold up, owing to some excellent performances and Billy Wilder’s deft acting. There is a smidge of action and adventure in the mix, so why wouldn’t we include an iconic comedy?

 
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'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' (2005)

'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' (2005)
20th Century Fox

You want action and romance? Mr. and Mrs. Smith delivers. The movie stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a married couple who discover the other one is secretly a professional assassin. Like in many romantic comedies, the main couple fight, but in this case, they fight under a barrage of bullets.

 
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'Thor: Love and Thunder' (2022)

'Thor: Love and Thunder' (2022)
Disney

We’ll likely never get a full-on romantic comedy from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Love and Thunder is probably as close as we will get. Taika Waititi was openly inspired by romantic comedies, and there is plenty of fodder on that front with the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. Of course, this being an MCU movie, there is also plenty of action and adventure. They travel through space on a boat, after all.

 
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'Wall-E' (2008)

'Wall-E' (2008)
Disney

Robots can also star in a romantic comedy. Wall-E, a garbage robot, is alone until he meets Eve. This bold film from Pixar has plenty of space travel and science fiction, giving it a feeling of adventure to go with the romance. And, of course, most Pixar movies are comedy-heavy.

 
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'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (2010)

'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (2010)
Universal

Based on a comic book and heavily indebted to an assortment of pop culture, Edgar Wright’s movie is effectively a series of set pieces. Scott is fighting a series of Ramona Flowers’ exes, throwing a ton of action into the mix. While the film was a commercial disappointment, it quickly became a cult classic.

 
16 of 20

'Bird on a Wire' (1990)

'Bird on a Wire' (1990)
Universal

This movie was effectively promoted as, “Hey, want to watch Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn bicker and run around on an adventure?” At the time, that was enough to sell a movie. Bird on a Wire is about two ex-hippies, Gibson and Hawn, who were engaged until Gibson disappeared, secretly going into witness protection. Fifteen years later, they cross paths, get into scrapes, and Bird on a Wire was a hit.

 
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'Date Night' (2010)

'Date Night' (2010)
20th Century Fox

If you liked NBC sitcoms at the time, a movie starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey probably sounded exciting. Then, Date Night turned out…fine. A little generic and a little sweaty, but it has fun moments. Carell and Fey play a married couple who go out on a rare date night. To get a table, they say they were another couple who had a reservation. Unfortunately for them, that couple is involved in a fraught situation.

 
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'Palm Springs' (2020)

'Palm Springs' (2020)
Hulu

This is an adventure through time (or spacetime). Palm Springs is a very Groundhog Day film with more action and adventure. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti play two strangers at a wedding who, separately, find themselves stuck in a time loop living the same day over and over.

 
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'The Lost City' (2022)

'The Lost City' (2022)
Paramount

Even from the first trailer for The Lost City, people were commenting on its Romancing the Stone vibes. Indeed, the film owes much of its essence to that movie, though it is also its own thing. Like Romancing the Stone , Sandra Bullock plays a weary romance novelist, but in this one, she is kidnapped. Her longtime cover model, played by Channing Tatum, attempts to save her.

 
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'Shotgun Wedding' (2023)

'Shotgun Wedding' (2023)
Amazon

Here’s a new addition to the list, a film that was released internationally in 2022 but arrived on Amazon Prime in America in January 2023. Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel star as a couple whose destination wedding is complicated when their wedding party is taken hostage, and the couple has to work together to save them. This film and The Lost City in back-to-back years? Maybe the action-adventure rom-com is back on the rise!

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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