The movies go where we can’t, which makes them particularly suited for stories of discovery. But first there is a search, which is pure adventure. Setting out to solve a mystery, or simply to see for oneself what lies beyond, is the stuff of great entertainment. Whether one seeks or finds, the thirst for knowledge and understanding is the key driver of the human story. And we are thrilled to be along for the ride.
Here's our look at movies that take on discovery, whether intended or accidental.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Searching or Finding? Searching. The voyage of the HMS Bounty is one of the most famous ship journeys of all time, as the British Empire send its formidable fleet to the South Pacific, looking for botanical samples. Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton) is one of history’s great tyrants, and Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) his legendary moral opponent.
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Northwest Passage (1940)
Searching or Finding? Searching. Out of the North American French and Indian Wars of the 1700s came the opportunity- indeed the imperative- to go in search of the fabled “Northwest Passage,” the key to trading across what is now Canada. Adventurer and expedition leader Major Rogers (Spencer Tracy) survives battles with the French to lead a band of fellow explorers into the wilderness to find the elusive way west.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
Searching or Finding? Finding. Victorian-era British army officers, Peachy Carnahan (Michael Caine) and Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) decide that India is too small for them, and travel to a remote kingdom in Afghanistan with the intention of becoming rulers and enriching themselves. They manage to do this at first, but there are risks and dangers looming in front of them.
The China Syndrome (1979)
Searching or Finding? Finding. Television reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman, Richard Adams (Michael Douglas), stumble onto a cover-up at a nuclear power plant that comes perilously close to full meltdown. The tension builds as technician Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) and the reporters team up to expose flaws in the plant’s safety regulations. This is the power of the accidental discovery that becomes a quest for the truth.
The Right Stuff (1983)
Searching or Finding? Finding. In the early days of the space program, the race is on to discover whether a man really can be sent safely into space. Thanks to the risky quest by test pilot Chuck Yeager to “push the envelope,” NASA found that we could go into outer space, beyond known limits, to discover more about our universe.
Mountains of the Moon (1990)
Searching or Finding? Searching. In 1857, British explorers Richard Burton (Patrick Bergin) and John Speke (Iain Glen) journey to central Africa in search of the source of the Nile. The expedition reveals as much about the relationship between these two famous men as it does about the African continent.
Into the Wild (2007)
Searching or Finding? Searching. Seeking a purity of living, away from the greed and troubles of society, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) travels further and further away from his home and friends, ending up deep in the Alaskan wilderness. In a sense, he finds what he is looking for, answers that may have been with him all along. Yet the lessons come at a great price.
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