Subgenres of adventure films include swashbuckler films, survival films, and pirate films. Main plot elements include quests for lost continents and exotic setting; the creation of empires, characters embarking on treasure and heroic journeys, travels, explorations, quests and searches for the unknown usually also having to overcome an adversary. Adventure films are often set in a period background and may include adapted stories of historical or fictional adventure heroes within the historical context. Kings, battles, rebellion or piracy are commonly seen. Adventure films may also be combined with other movie genres such as action, animation, comedy, drama, fantasy, science fiction, family, horror or war.
Adventure film popularity peaked in the 1930s and 1940s, when films such as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro were regularly made with major stars, notably Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, who were closely associated with the genre. Saturday morning serials used many of the same thematic elements as high-budget adventure films.
In the early days of adventure films, the characters were mainly male. These heroes were courageous, often fighting suppression and facing tyrants. Recent adventure films have featured heroines, such as Lara Croft, as protagonists.
Adventure films can contain stock characters and stereotypes. In some cases, this has been accused of going as far as implicit racism; claimed examples of this are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, First Blood and James Bond "kicking third-world people around" in Dr. No.[page needed]
Stereotypes abound in the adventure genre. Examples range from the mad scientist in Dr. No to the mindless thugs in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The racism implicit in the latter film and films such as First Blood are by-products of the stereotyping rampant in the adventure genre.
Modern readers will be, at least, put off by an unacceptable level of racist, sexist and proto-Fascist talk throughout this story [written in the 1950s]. I wish I could say that this is only Pig Bodine's voice, but, sad to say, it was also my own at the time. The best I can say for it now is that, for its time, it is probably authentic enough. John Kennedy's role model James Bond was about to make his name by kicking third-world people around, another extension of the boy's adventure tales a lot of us grew up reading. There had prevailed for a while a set of assumptions and distinctions, unvoiced and unquestioned, best captured years later in the '70's television character Archie Bunker.