National Treasure

Ask the Mary Sues: We’re Hunting for Buried Treasure!

It's pronounced "traysure".

Few tropes are as endearing, as universally adored as a treasure hunt, and it’s easy to see why. After all, who hasn’t spent their childhood dreaming of discovering buried treasure, of hidden maps and clues to uncover something lost for so long? Treasure hunts tap into our innate curiosity, our sense for adventure which finds magic hidden in the mundane. It’s an irresistible fantasy that captivates young and old alike. Treasure hunts have been reliable pop culture staples, from novels like Treasure Island to the Indiana Jones franchise to the Tomb Raider games. This spring sees two treasure hunting action adventures hitting screens, Tom Holland’s Uncharted and the Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum adventure romance The Lost City.

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Naturally, this got us thinking about our own favorite treasure hunt stories. So grab your map, your ancient artifacts, and your widest brim hat: we’re hunting for treasure!

Briana Lawrence:

Legends of the Hidden Temple was the first time I saw something in an adventure setting that I actually wanted to go out and do – even if I knew I’d probably fail out of the pure anxiety that is attempting to get through the Shrine of the Silver Monkey. I don’t exactly work well under pressure, so I’m sure I would’ve screwed it up for my team, but I still imagined going on the show and giving it a try. Much like Double Dare, when I look back on the show I feel bad for the contestants who are THIS CLOSE to succeeding, but mess up at the last second. Couldn’t they have just given them the trip to Disney World anyway?

Rachel Leishman:

The Goonies takes us on a journey to find a treasure that will keep the Goonies’ friend group together. When their lives are threatened to be turned upside down by a neighborhood foreclosure, a group of kids escapes into the world of the unknown to find the treasure of legendary pirate One-Eyed Willy. It’s a movie that will have you laughing and wanting to search for treasure with your friends. It also reminds us why we love stories that throw us into the world of the unknown, in search for something more.

Princess Weekes:

The Mummy. What more could you ask for? Sexy couple, epic fight scenes, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz being, well, themselves? The first two films in this franchise are the perfect early 90s/2000s archeology films that have a lot of fun going on and are honestly, maybe a bit too scary for you to have watched them as a child.

Kaila Hale-Stern:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third movie in the franchise, is also the best. So I have declared, and so has the rest of the Mary Sue staff concurred (sorry, Raiders). The 1989 Spielberg action-adventure, which makes the genius move of bringing on Sean Connery as Harrison Ford’s father, has everything you’d expect of an Indiana Jones movie: punching Nazis, killing Nazis, incredible sets, and some of the most daring treasure-hunting captured on screen. (We also get a young River Phoenix as young Indy in the movie’s opener; it is perfect.) But what imprinted on me at an early age is the movie’s thrilling last act, when Indiana Jones must pass an escalation of absolutely nutballs tests and obstacles in order to recover, you guessed it, the elusive Holy Grail. The whole sequence is now cinematic history, but at the time, it was the most wide-eyed I’d ever been while watching a movie. If you don’t find yourself absent-mindedly muttering “Cup of a carpenter, cup of a carpenter,” sometimes, we can’t be friends. 

Leah Marilla Thomas:

The first television show that had me obsessed, theorizing, and hanging on the edge of every cliffhanger was the educational PBS mini-series The Second Voyage of the Mimi that my fifth grade social studies teacher had us watch for a unit on Mayan civilization and history. Seriously. I distinctly remember having a meltdown on the bus because we were running late and I didn’t want to miss what happened to the Mimi next. I have a hunch that the 1988 series is a little dated and problematic, were I to go back and view it through a 2022 lens, but at the time I was hooked. The Mimi is a ship, and since her crew’s mission was to find Mayan ruins and make sure artifacts weren’t stolen from ancient sites, it was kind of a treasure hunt. They cracked codes (translated ancient writing) and stumbled into tombs just like any other explorers.  If this series, or The Voyage of the Mimi that preceded it, was not part of your educational experience, you may have heard of it because it stars a young Ben Affleck. Everybody say thank you, Boston!

Brittany Knupper:

Ok, so technically this is a hybrid of superheroes and adventure/treasure hunting, but as a child I was obsessed with The Phantom (1996) starring Billy Zane. Zane plays Kit Williams, a man whose alter ego is The Phantom, a superhero legacy passed down from father to son for 400 years. The Phantom’s goal is to thwart pirates and protect a magical jungle island. There’s a big hunt for powerful magical skulls, and Catherine Zeta Jones is the captain of a squad of all female air pirates. It is super campy and pulpy and it also involves Billy Zane running around in a purple spandex fetish suit.

Chelsea Steiner:

I like my treasure hunts with a dash of romance, so naturally I have to go with the 1984 classic Romancing the Stone. The film is smart, hilarious, and the chemistry between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas remains unparalleled. All that, plus you get a classic Danny Devito scumbag performance. Honestly, what’s not to love? Oh right, the abysmal sequel The Jewel of the Nile.

Also, while the Tomb Raider movies are mostly unwatchable hot messes, I must give an honorable mention to the opening action sequence of Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. In a film filled with bonkers moments, the sequence where Angelina Jolie punches a shark in the face and rides him to safety never fails to make me laugh. Is punching the shark the new jumping the shark?

What are your favorite treasure hunt stories? Let us know in the comments!

(image: Disney)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.