The fabled lost city of Atlantis is one of the most frequently revisited bits of ancient lore that has fascinated humans for centuries. The idea of a city that could exist under the depths of the ocean is thrilling to imagine, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood filmmakers have returned to it for inspiration time and time again.
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The city buried in water has made its way into plenty of movies throughout cinema history, including some very recognizable properties. But some of these films are better than others at taking the viewer on a magnificent underwater journey to the lost city.
10. ATLANTIS: MILO’S RETURN (RATING: 5.1)
The direct-to-video sequel to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, released in 2001, was a disappointment to fans of the original, like many Disney movie sequels. Several of the original cast members did not return for the second film, and the city of Atlantis was not featured as reverently as it was in the first original movie.
The film took the form of three separate segments loosely connected into a full-length movie, originally intended to be three early episodes of an Atlantis television series that never made it to air. Overall, the film made very little impact, being mostly forgotten by movie fans.
9. WARLORDS OF THE DEEP (RATING: 5.6)
The British film Warlords of the Deep premiered in 1978 and followed the adventures of a professor and his son as they try to prove the existence of Atlantis. However, when they finally begin to find clues to its existence, they are attacked by sea monsters and betrayed by their crew. Eventually, the protagonists do reach the fabled city.
There is not much about this film that has remained in the public eye since its release. However, it is notable for including a pre-Cheers John Ratzenberger in its cast as one of the mutineers. In addition to Cheers, Razenberg is known for making a cameo in every single Pixar movie to date. His appearance in Warlords of the Deep remains one of the few things of note about this almost forgotten film.
8. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (RATING: 5.8)
The sequel to the 2008 reboot of Journey to the Center of the Earth saw Dwayne Johnson step into Brendan Fraser’s shoes as the lead of the franchise. Joined by Vanessa Anne Hudgens and Josh Hutcherson, Johnson’s character sought out the land of Atlantis as it emerged from the ocean for the first time in 70 years.
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Despite middling to negative reviews, Journey 2 proved to be a financial success and was even planned to have two sequels, the first of which would see the main characters journey to the moon. However, years have passed, and nothing else from the franchise has materialized.
7. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (RATING: 6.3)
The third installment in the Hotel Transylvania franchise saw the monsters, led by Adam Sandler’s Drac, go on a cruise to the city of Atlantis, which is apparently a monster vacation destination. Their arrival there reveals that the city has been turned into a casino, a startlingly different take on the legend than other depictions.
While the movie was met with mostly lukewarm reviews, it earned enough money to get a fourth film approved by Sony Pictures Animation, which is set to mark the end of the franchise. Perhaps the Atlantis casino will make yet another appearance in the sequel movies.
6. ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (RATING: 6.5)
The fourth Ice Age film saw Manny and the gang embark on a journey to reunite with their loved ones after the titular geological event separates them. However, this edition of the franchise’s signature B-story featuring Scrat the Squirrel is where Atlantis comes into play.
In the world of Ice Age, Atlantis is called “Scratlantis,” a land filled with millions of the acorns that Scrat so desperately seeks. The prehistoric squirrel’s greed gets the better of him, though, and he ends up accidentally causing the city to sink below the ocean in his haste to gather up his quarry, leaving him empty-handed as always.
5. COCOON (RATING: 6.7)
The Ron Howard-directed Cocoon is a science-fiction film released in 1985. The dramedy depicts the city of Atlantis as an alien outpost that was abandoned after it sank under the ocean. The film follows the aliens left behind in their desperate bid to get home, while also exploring the concept of ageism in society.
Cocoon won two Academy Awards for the year of its release, one of which was best visual effects for a team that included Ralph McQuarrie, the man who is responsible for much of the Star Wars franchise’s aesthetic. The film tested highly with critics and fans alike, and even got a sequel three years later, making the ’80s movie a great candidate for a reboot.
4. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (RATING: 6.9)
Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one of the company’s less acclaimed animated adventures but one that is beloved by its devotees. It depicts an expedition to uncover the lost empire of Atlantis, which many people believe was never real. However, when the crew finally does happen upon this land, some of them get too greedy for their own good and attempt to exploit the city’s power for themselves.
This 2001 film had an impressive cast, with Michael J. Fox in the lead role as Professor Milo James Thatch, John Mahony of Frasier fame and Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock from Star Trek, rounding out the voice talent. The film was not as successful as Disney’s other ventures, but still remains one of the all-time best cinematic depictions of the lost city of Atlantis.
3. AQUAMAN (RATING: 6.9)
Aquaman follows the titular superhero, played by Jason Momoa, as he reluctantly struggles to win the throne of Atlantis from his half-brother, Orm. In this film, Atlantis is depicted as a thriving metropolis filled with humanoid citizens who are able to breathe underwater, as well as some sentient (and some drum-playing) undersea creatures.
Aquaman was a surprise to many superhero fans in 2018. After the box-office disappointment of Justice League the previous year, few expected the previously less popular Aquaman to fare much better in his first solo DCEU film. However, the movie earned beyond expectations, becoming DC’s highest-grossing film to date, and it’s considered to be one of Jason Momoa’s best films ever.
2. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (RATING: 7.0)
The version of Journey to the Center of the Earth released in 1959 is a stellar adaptation of the original Jules Verne novel, sparking remakes for the rest of the century, and even into the next. Starring stars such as James Mason, Pat Boone, Diane Baker and more, the film set a standard for Verne adaptations.
In a twist on the original legend, the variant of the lost city of Atlantis depicted in this film is found at the very center of the earth (as per the name of the movie). The main group of adventurers assembles in and around this sunken city for the third act of the film, wherein they must survive the attack of a giant lizard, a thrilling conclusion to a classic movie.
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1. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (RATING: 7.2)
Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film released in 1954 is also an adaptation of a Jules Verne novel. Starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Paul Lukas, the film depicts adventures under the waves of the ocean, just one of which is encountering the city of Atlantis.
The movie was a major success in its time, praised for its special effects, cast, and faithful adaptation of the source material. It remains in the public eye even to this day, with a spinoff origin series revolving around Captain Nemo currently in production.