Matthew McConaughey’s Overlooked Big-Budget Adventure Movie Finds New Life On Streaming

Matthew McConaughey's action-adventure film Sahara is streaming in the top 10 on Paramount+.

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

Matthew McConaughey isn’t the first actor people think of when they hear the words action and adventure, but the 2005 movie Sahara tried to change that. The film was McConaughey’s gateway to big-budget action-adventure stardom, and according to FlixPatrol, Sahara is the #7 movie currently streaming on Paramount+.

The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as explorer Dirk Pitt. Pitt is on the hunt for a long-lost confederate battleship known as the “Ship of Death” in the deserts of West Africa. Of course, the real confederate battleship is the friends he makes along the way.

Matthew McConaughey is joined by World Health Organization doctor Eva Rojas played by Penelope Cruz, and Steve Zahn’s comic relief sidekick Al Giordino. Sahara was made in the days when Steve Zahn was required to play the comic relief sidekick in practically every film coming out of Hollywood. A phenomenon that is sadly missing from most movies these days.

The movie, based on a 1992 novel by Clive Cussler, was shot on location in Morrocco. Being shot on location gives Sahara an authenticity missing from a lot of modern blockbusters shot entirely on green screen. Unfortunately, shooting in Morrocco caused the Matthew McConaughey movie’s budget to soar to double its original amount.

Not only did the movie spend more money than Paramount initially green-lit, but some of the money was spent bribing the Moroccan government. The bribes made the Matthew McConaughey production not only extra expensive but legally questionable as well. Sadly, the movie ended up with a revenue of $202.9 million against expenses of $281.2 million, making it one of the most expensive bombs in Hollywood history.

Matthew McConaughey

Most of the movies Matthew McConaughey made prior to Sahara were either romantic comedies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or dramas like A Time to Kill. McConaughey intended for the desert epic to start an action-adventure franchise based on Clive Cussler’s other Dirk Pitt novels. Any hope of the sequel was dashed, unfortunately, when the movie underperformed at the box office.

After Sahara flopped, Matthew McConaughey went back to what he did best. The actor followed up Sahara with romantic comedies Failure to Launch and Fool’s Gold. McConaughey didn’t try another action-adventure role until 2017’s The Dark Tower.

That Stephen King adaptation was also a massive flop proving that action-adventure just isn’t Matthew McConaughey’s genre. The Dazed and Confused star is better suited for roles that rely more on his charm and soothing southern drawl than his physical prowess or whether or not he can play a convincing tough guy.

Still, Sahara is definitely worth a watch, if only to see what might have been if Matthew McConaughey, the action star, had taken off. The 2005 film stands as an interesting experiment in an otherwise straightforward filmography. A filmography that includes Dallas Buyers Club, the movie that snagged McConaughey the Oscar for Best Actor.

While it’s not too late for Matthew McConaughey to make it as an action star, it’s doubtful the actor will stray from his usual movie roles again anytime soon. And that, as McConaughey himself would say, is “all right, all right, all right.”