Movies Like National Treasure That Are Definitely Worth Watching

"National Treasure" is one of the most unique film franchises of the 21st Century. The throwback to classical adventure movies combined elements of treasure hunting, international espionage, mystery, buddy comedy, suspense, and familial drama into an entertaining thrill ride.

The 2004 film followed Nicolas Cage as treasure hunter Benjamin Gates, who looks for a mysterious buried civilization that's left from the times of the Freemasons. Gates' entire family has been searching for this treasure for centuries, and they're treated as bizarre conspiracy theorists by the rest of the investigative community. Gates knows that the clues are real, and he and his partner Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) find themselves in a race against time to follow a path laid out by the Founding Fathers when their partner Ian Howe (Sean Bean) betrays them.

The 2007 sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" picks up with Gates as he searches for an ancient South American civilization and combats the black market profiteer Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris). The adventure forces Gates to kidnap the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood), and it was particularly entertaining to see Gates bring along his elderly parents (Jon Voight and Helen Mirren) on his latest mission.

Fans have been waiting for news on a third installment for over a decade, and a new prequel series is being developed for Disney+. If you're a "National Treasure" fan, then these movies are worth catching up with.

The Lost City of Z

One of the hallmarks of the "National Treasure" series is Gates' complete obsession with solving mysteries and following clues. His dedication forces many to question his sanity, and Gates' personal relationships suffer as a result. Gates has a tormented relationship with his father, who gave up a majority of his own life in the search for the Masons' treasure. Although Cage gives Gates some eccentric qualities, both films find their most emotional moments when Gates gets to talk about his passion for history.

The 2017 historical epic "The Lost City of Z" is a similar adventure film centered around a treasure hunter whose life becomes dominated by an obsession. Based on a true story, the film follows the British geographer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) as he ventures throughout the Amazon jungle and across Brazil in search of a mythic lost city that's never been discovered. Percy returns to the jungle several times across the course of his life with his accomplice Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson). Percy and Henry have a similar relationship to Gates and Riley in the "National Treasure" films; Henry shares Percy's interests, but questions his methods.

Similar to Gates, Percy's family life grows more complicated as a result of his treasure hunting. Percy is forced to put some of his planned endeavors behind in order to stay home and help his wife, Nina (Sienna Miller), raise their son, Jack (Tom Holland). Once Jack grows up, he joins his father's quest.

Sherlock Holmes

The fun, buddy-cop relationship between Gates and Riley helped make their mystery-solving adventure more entertaining. Gates is the singular genius behind the operation, and while Riley is similarly talented, he also helps ground his partner in reality. Riley solves the clues at the same pace that the audience does, and it's fun to see the two banter, argue, and ultimately show genuine affection for each other. Their fun, back-and-forth relationship is reminiscent of the classic dynamic between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic stories.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most frequently adapted characters in cinematic history, having appeared in over 200 films. However, Guy Ritchie's 2009 film "Sherlock Holmes" and its 2011 sequel, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," focused more heavily on the buddy comedy relationship between the two than any other adaptations. Robert Downey Jr. embodied the classical detective's idiosyncratic nature, and Jude Law finds a pragmatism within Watson's desires to live a normal life amidst their frequently dangerous exploits.

In the first film, Holmes and Watson are called in to track down the notorious serial killer Lord Henry Blackwood (Mark Strong), who has managed to convince authorities that he has supernatural abilities. Holmes, of course, believes in logic alone, and agrees to hunt down this similarly brilliant mind. Rachel McAdams appears as the iconic Holmes character Irene Adler, a fun femme fatale accomplice for Downey Jr. to deal with.

Angels & Demons

Dan Brown's novel series following the Robert Langdon character were immensely popular among treasure hunting enthusiasts, as the adventures focused on searching for historical clues in ancient sites from history, mythology, and religion, similar to the "National Treasure" films. Ron Howard developed the series into an exciting film franchise beginning with 2006's "The Da Vinci Code," which followed the literary professor Langdon (Tom Hanks) as he searches for the holy grail.

While "The Da Vinci Code" had some tonal issues and wasn't as focused as its subject material, the 2009 sequel "Angels & Demons" was a significant improvement. Shortly after the death of the Pope, Langdon is called into Rome by Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) after the Church uncovers mysterious threats tracing to the Illuminati. Vetra's partner Father Silvano Bentivoglio (Carmen Argenziano) was murdered during CERN's development of antimatter canisters, and several are stolen. Vetra fears that the Illuminati will use the canisters to begin a terrorist attack during the election of the next Pope, and she suspects that Pope Pius XVI was murdered.

Langdon helps Vetra track down the Illuminati as they attempt to protect Father Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) from assassins. McKenna helps give the Vatican resources to Langdon during his search for clues, and the mystery grows more intense as he is floated as a potential candidate for Pope. While the first film took a slower approach, "Angels & Demons" is much more action centric and features exciting car chases in the Vatican City.

The Saint

The "National Treasure" films were fun because of their varied locations, with the characters solving mysteries across many famous historical sites. It was interesting to watch Gates and Riley venture across the globe to see how each of the clues intersected, and it gave Gates the chance to reference moments from history that he was familiar with. The diversity of locations also made the action sequences more exciting, and the films got surprisingly intense — despite the fact that they are rated PG.

The classic adventure series "The Saint" featured international heists and capers starring the iconic master thief Simon Templar (Roger Moore). The premise of the series was adapted again in 1997 with a reboot starring Val Kilmer, and Phillip Noyce's origin story offered more insight into Templar's background. A rebellious orphan who grew to despise his Catholic upbringing, Templar is a master of disguise who embodies several different personalities as he enters various locations. Templar's adventures introduce him to Dr. Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue), who he sees as a potential partner and love interest. Like Gates and Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) in the "National Treasure" series, it's fun to see the two characters romantically spar as they piece together clues.

Like Gates, Templar is an intelligent hero who uses his advanced problem-solving skills. Both characters are noble heroes who don't seek personal fame and fortune; Gates believes everyone deserves the chance to share history, and Templar donates his winnings to charity.

Knight and Day

The romance between Gates and Abigail in the first "National Treasure" film is entertaining because of the uncertain nature of the adventure. Abigail is an archivist at the National Archives, and while she's fascinated by history and American politics, she's unaccustomed to the world of espionage that Gates introduces her to. The audience gets to experience the unpredictable nature of Gates' obsession through an outside point of view, and the romance develops naturally between them.

The 2010 action-comedy "Knight and Day" also follows an unpredictable romance within an adventure premise, and director James Mangold finds similarly clever ways to explore exposition. While at an airport, June Havens (Cameron Diaz) meets the mysterious stranger Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), who is secretly an international secret agent escaping the C.I.A. June gets roped into his mission to prevent a deadly weapon from falling into the hands of a terrorist organization. Cruise and Diaz have great comedic banter.


There's an element of childhood innocence to Gates that makes him an entertaining protagonist, as he's followed his dream of finding a buried treasure since he was a young child. Discovering the Masons' treasure wouldn't only mean bringing respect to his family after the years they've spent being clowned on by the scholarly community, but it would mean fulfilling his childlike wonderment. The universal quality of Gates' goal made the "National Treasure" films entertaining for both children and adults.

Brad Bird's adventure film "Tomorrowland" focused on similar themes of childhood wish fulfillment through its multigenerational protagonists. The film follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a teenage scientist who is also an activist against the destruction of the NASA program. During her outreach efforts, Casey encounters the older inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney). As a child, Walker discovered a mysterious sci-fi community called "Tomorrowland" that was led by the world's most brilliant minds. However, Frank was kicked out of the secluded society, and is now disillusioned by its prospects.

Casey now must get Frank to re-engage in his dreams and once again discover his childhood love of discovery and invention, similar to how Gates must convince his father to pick up the pursuit of the family treasure that he abandoned in his youthful years.

The Brothers Bloom

There's a caper element to both "National Treasure" films that sets them apart from other films about treasure hunting and the search for lost archeological objects. The landmark historical sites and documents that Gates visits are usually highly protected and secretive, and he's tasked with getting access to information that is highly secretive for a reason. In the first film, he must uncover information from the back of the Declaration of Independence and steal it from the National Archive, and in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," he must gain a private audience with the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood).

The comically challenging nature of Gates' heists make his adventures more entertaining, and there is a great sense of humor as he interacts with Riley and Abigail. Rian Johnson's subversive 2008 heist adventure film "The Brothers Bloom" had a similar comic touch with its clever protagonists. The film follows the con artist brothers Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), who must convince the wealthy heiress Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz) to give up her fortune. Like Gates, Stephen is an unpredictable character who often does not reveal the details of his plan until the very last moment. Bloom is similar to Riley, in that while he's engaged in the mystery, he's also an audience surrogate who is often experiencing the chaotic world for the first time.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

One of the most entertaining aspects of the "National Treasure" franchise is the relationship between Gates and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight). Patrick, once a treasure hunter like his son, followed his family lineage and picked up the search for the Masons' treasure and the meaning of the phrase "the secret lies with Charlotte." However, he became disillusioned by the prospects of the families' mission in his later years, and doesn't want his son to follow a similar path. Frank is now embarrassed by his son and reluctant to join him in another adventure, but he steadily becomes re-engaged in his youthful passion when he discovers the treasure is real. The father and son duo come to an understanding: They share a similar love of history, they just express it in different ways.

The template for their relationship can be traced back to Steven Spielberg's 1989 classic "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." The archeologist adventure hero Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is essentially the template for Gates — he's a smart, intelligent hero with a childlike fascination with history, science, and mythology, and his pursuits are entirely noble. Indeed, Jones' sentiment that "it belongs in a museum" is something Gates would probably agree with. The third film in the legendary franchise follows Indy as he brings alongside his father, the historian Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery) in a quest for the Holy Grail.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The search for a buried treasure can be a taxing one that forces characters to reach their physical and emotional limits, and in both "National Treasure" films Gates must deal with characters who are less than noble in their intentions. In the first film, he is betrayed by his longtime accomplice Ian Howe, who is willing to destroy historical documents and engage in violence, which Gates is uncomfortable with. The two have to go their separate ways in searching for the treasure, and each bears the consequences. Due to his genuine interest in history, Gates is granted government leniency for the laws he's broken, while Ian is imprisoned.

John Huston's 1948 adventure classic "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" explored similar themes of morality and the consequences of actions within the search for a buried treasure. The film centers on two treasure hunters, Fred Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), who join an older prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) in a search for buried gold with the Mexican valley. While they are initially all on the same page and united in their approach, Curtin ultimately betrays the group when his actions become more greedy. Consumed by the personal wealth and glory he could gain from single-handedly uncovering the gold, Curtin betrays his colleagues. He ultimately aligns himself with bandits who double-cross him in the same way.

The Mummy

The "National Treasure" films were interesting among other films centered around buried treasure and ancient riddles because they incorporated actual elements of history. The films focused on moments from American's storied past and how they could be related to buried clues; the first film focuses on many key moments from the Revolutionary War, and the second film incorporates the American Civil War. Audience members may learn a thing or two about history as a result of watching these films.

"The Mummy" franchise did a similar thing for Egyptian history, as the early films featuring mummy tombs were released during a time where there were many groundbreaking discoveries at Egyptian archeological sites. There are many iconic films involving the titular corpse, including 1932's "The Mummy" (which introduced the character to the Universal Monsters brand) and the modern films starring Brendan Fraser (which landed their own cult audience). However, the 1959 Hammer horror film "The Mummy" is the version of the story that focuses heaviest on the historical and archeological elements.

Swiss Family Robinson

There is an element of familial bonding to the "National Treasure" films as Gates and his family grow closer as a result of their shared heritage. Gates's father Patrick struggles to connect with his son initially because of their disagreements about the family's legacy, but eventually they mend their fences and learn to have greater respect for each other. The sequel, "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," increased this complexity by introducing Gates' mother (Helen Mirren) and giving Patrick a chance to mend his own marriage.

Seeing the family work out their differences throughout an action-packed adventure was very entertaining, but it was hardly the first time that Disney utilized this approach with its live action-adventure films. The 1960 classic "Swiss Family Robinson," for instance, follows the titular family when they become stranded on a desert island following a shipwreck and are forced to survive. An older couple (John Mills and Dorothy McGuire) work with their three sons Fritz (James MacArthur), Arnst (Tommy Kirk), and Francis (Kevin Corcoran) to defend their new home from a band of villainous pirates.

The Goonies

Gates is an entertaining protagonist in the "National Treasure" franchise because he is constantly innovating and finding new ways to uncover new mysteries. Gates is not an inherently wealthy man, as his family has certainly seen no great financial gains as a result of their treasure hunting, but he develops his own gadgets to break into the National Archives. This innovative spirit made him a more relatable hero.

Richard Donner's 1985 adventure comedy epic "The Goonies" captures the same spirit of innovation and creativity, and the young heroes Mikey (Sean Astin), Chuck (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), and Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) are similarly relatable protagonists. Like Gates, they have much interest in buried treasures and mysteries, and search for a mythic pirate ship descended from a pirate by the name of "One-Eyed Willy." "The Goonies" combines the same mix of comedic banter and fun set pieces that made the "National Treasure" films so entertaining, as the characters are constantly bantering.


Part of what makes Gates an interesting protagonist in "National Treasure" is his defiance of authority. Unlike other treasure hunters that seek fame and fortune, Gates is only looking to restore his family's reputation and share the discoveries that the Masons uncovered with the world. His missions frequently put him up against governmental forces and mercenary groups, and as a result he's often isolated and given sparse resources.

Although he can rely upon his best friend Riley, his love interest Abigail, and his extended family, Gates is often on his own. The 2003 children's adventure film "Holes" features similarly isolated young protagonists who must contend with oppressive adults as they search for a mysterious artifact. The young Stanley (Shia Labeouf) is sentenced to 18 months at the juvenile Camp Green Lake, where he and the other prisoners Zero (Khleo Thomas), Zig-Zag (Max Kasch), Armpit (Byron Cotton), Squid (Jake M. Smith), X-Ray (Brenden Jefferson), and Magnet (Miguel Castro) are forced to excavate a treasure site.