I'm looking for a term for the kinds of films (or books or radio shows, etc) that include Indiana Jones, National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Sahara, Treasure Island, City Slickers II, and other "clue-following" stories.

This genre normally features a protagonist who embarks upon a search for an item or place, often picking up the trail of a predecessor on the same search. They use a book, map, or other set of clues, and the bulk of the story centers on the protagonist deciphering each clue in turn, ultimately reaching their goal or finding the sought-after item or treasure.

The closest I've come to a name for this genre is "Questing," but that ends up sounding like Lord of the Rings. Can anyone give me a term for stories like this?

  • Quest for the MacGuffin trope? try TVTropes.com (Warning: Productivity will be lost as you browse). – SrJoven Oct 31 '14 at 22:17
  • Hahaha thanks for the disclaimer. But these stories don't necessarily feature MacGuffins: National Treasure certainly does (they could have been looking for anything on the back of the Declaration, hence the MacGuffin), but Angels & Demons is more like a hostage-rescue story wrapped in... this. Wrapped in a "clue-following" structure. – Nerrolken Oct 31 '14 at 22:20
  • LinkedListClueMethodology for a hint. I wonder where the next link might take you. – SrJoven Oct 31 '14 at 22:24
  • This might just be too specific to have a common term. They're amalgams of mysteries and adventures. – Barmar Oct 31 '14 at 22:28
  • @SrJoven: you, sir, are evil. :) – Marthaª Oct 31 '14 at 22:53

Most of these are treasure hunt films. (Wikipedia)

It looks like the only one that's not on this list is Angels & Demons, but the antimatter does look like a good MacGuffin substitute for the literal treasures in the other movies.

Also see the list of treasure hunt films at IMDB.

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  • 'X' marks the spot. – Mazura Jul 26 '15 at 20:17

I think we can call this sub-genre quest and it covers all the details in your question. Filmsite.org mentions quest as a sub-genre of Action/Adventure genre also. Additionally, it can be a plot device, a trope or a symbol in literature.

Quests, an immemorial trope in literature, are common in fantasy. They can be anything from a quest to locate the MacGuffins necessary to save the world, to an internal quest of self-realization.

Quests continued in modern literature. Analysis can interpret many (perhaps most) stories as a quest in which the main character is seeking something that he desires, but the literal structure of a journey seeking something is, itself, still common. Quests often appear in fantasy literature.


Adventure travel narratives are often written within a quest genre. The quest as genre is a romantic narrative that follows a pattern of sequential steps: the call to journey, preparation, the journey, and returning home.

[An illustration of the quest genre as spiritual metaphor in adventure travel narratives by Jasmine M. Goodnow & Edward Ruddell http://www.tandfonline.com/ ]

Diagramma poem from Angels & Demons:

From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole,
‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold.
The path of light is laid, the sacred test,
Let angels guide thee on thy lofty quest.


As you said, quest genre sounds like a sub-genre of fantasy because it commonly appears in fantasy novels or movies, but not necessarily. Quest fantasy or fantasy quest is often used as a sub-genre of fantasy to differentiate from the general quest genre.

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