Any film buff will tell you that the Indiana Jones movie franchise is a cinematic landmark. When discussing great movies, these are always among the first films that come to mind for many movie critics and fans, and with good reason. What Star Wars did with the sci-fi genre, Indy did it with action-adventure cinema.
Also, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones is returning to the big screen after years of absence. Now that it seems like Indiana Jones 5 will be a treat for nostalgic fans of everyone’s favourite archaeologist, I think now would be the perfect time to rank each and every movie in the series so far.
We saved the best for last, but Indy still has a solid track record in terms of film quality – with one questionable exception, of course.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Many Indiana Jones fans consider Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the only misstep in the movie franchise, and it’s easy to see why. Released much later than the original trilogy, this 2008 revival aimed to do for Indiana Jones what the prequels did for Star Wars: reigniting the series for a new generation of fans.
Sadly, the movie’s CGI-heavy action scenes and Shia LaBeouf’s unconvincing performance weren’t enough to carry the Indiana Jones name to a broader audience. It’s a shame, really: the entire mythology behind the Crystal Skulls was one of the most well-thought ideas ever to come out of the series, and they were just as visually stunning as all previous entries from an art design perspective.
The 4th movie even reunites some classic favourites from the original trilogy: together with Harrison Ford, fans got to see Karen Allen as Marion for the first time since the first Indiana Jones movie. To top it all off, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull found an amazing antagonist in Cate Blanchett’s Irina Spalko.
If this movie existed in a vacuum, without any previous films to serve as references for what the franchise could be, it would be easy to see Kingdon of the Crystal Skull becoming a modern cult classic. After all, it is the highest-grossing Indy film to date. It simply fails to capture the excitement and overall soul of the original trilogy – and with a franchise that’s so dependent on nostalgia, that’s the only thing that matters.
The film also stars Ray Winstone as ‘Mac’ George Michale, John Hurt as Professor Oxley, and Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth.
1984 was, without a doubt, a pivotal year in film history. Along with Terminator, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and The Karate Kid, the year also saw the release of the first Indiana Jones sequel, Temple of Doom.
Even though it’s not considered the finest example of what an Indy film should be by fans or critics, Temple of Doom still delivered some of the more memorable moments in the Indiana Jones series. Ke Huy Quan‘s Short Round is one of the most beloved characters in the franchise, and he only joined Indiana in The Temple of Doom.
Surprisingly enough, most fans don’t know that Temple of Doom is actually a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even though this might make sense from a chronological point of view, it makes one wonder what happened to Short Round. I’m sure that will be addressed in Indiana Jones 5, now that we know that Ke Huy Quan will be part of the upcoming film’s cast.
Temple of Doom might be a bit more cheesy than Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it’s still an immensely entertaining film that exudes the adventurous energy of the franchise. If there’s one major complaint about the movie, that would be Willie, Indy’s new love interest. She fulfils every possible stereotype of a “foolish blonde” in the book: the complete opposite of the brilliant Kate Capshaw, who portrayed the character.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom also stars Amrish Puri as Mola Ram, Roshan Seth as Chattar Lal, Philip Stone as Captain Blumburtt, Dan Aykroyd as Weber and Roy Chiao as Lao Che.
The final instalment in the original trilogy, The Last Crusade was intended as Indiana Jones’ last hurrah, so it had to be an epic conclusion for a legendary character. In the end, it didn’t disappoint.
The Last Crusade introduced fans to Professor Henry Jones, Indy’s dad and the only man who could ever put him in his place. Played by Sean Connery, seeing two cinema icons such as Connery and Harrison Ford together in an Indiana Jones film was like a dream come true for fans, old and new, of adventure films in general.
Steven Spielberg – who has directed every single Indiana Jones film to date – considers The Last Crusade his personal favourite, and that’s saying something coming from the guy who made Jaws and Jurassic Park. He also stated that this film was made as an “atonement” of sorts for the production of Temple of Doom, which was, at the time, a critical failure for the franchise.
The film also inspired the creation of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1992, a live-action show that followed the adventures of a teenage Indy.
In The Last Crusade, the part of young Indiana Jones was played by none other than River Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix’s late older brother. Harrison ford handpicked River after working with him on The Mosquito Coast. River would point out that he based his portrayal, not on Indiana Jones but on Harrison Ford himself.
Fans agreed that The Last Crusade concluded Indiana Jones’ story on a high note. This was a more personal story about an archaeologist and his father, rather than the usual tomb raiding affair we expect from the character. And if Spielberg is the best at something, that would be crafting touching family dramas.
The film also stars Alison Doody as Elsa, Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody, John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, Julian Glover as Walter Donovan, and Robert Eddison as the Grail Knight.
1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Fans and critics agree: sometimes, you can’t beat the classics. Raiders of the Lost Ark took a tried-and-true swashbuckling formula, adding some of the most likeable characters in any movie to deliver a cinematic experience that succeeded everyone’s expectations.
Raiders of the Lost Ark became an instant classic. It was a (surprisingly violent) family film that could genuinely be enjoyed by anyone, not to mention Harrison Ford’s legendary character being welcomed as one of the coolest action heroes of the time – second only to Han Solo.
Steven Spielberg nailed the Indiana Jones formula on the very first film in the series. It had the right balance of adventure, comedy, and even frights to become an unforgettable film. The movie’s awesome practical effects have also stood the test of time: who wasn’t traumatized by the unexpectedly gory Ark of the Covenant scene?
Now, over four decades later, a new Indiana Jones movie is upon us. The series that began as a passion project for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is now one of the most iconic franchises in cinema – and I can’t wait to see where the tomb raider will go next!
Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s cast is also made up of Alfred Molina as Satipo, Ronald Lacey as Toht, Denholm Elliott as Brody, and Paul Freeman as Belloq.
Was Indiana Jones That Good, or Was He Just Lucky?
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic action-adventure movie, and the film’s hero – Indiana Jones – is one of the most iconic characters ever on screen. While he may be dashing and adventurous, it’s his blundering and bad luck which charmed us because he comes across as a bit of a loser: if he’s swinging on a rope, odds are that it’ll be too short; put him in a gunfight and he’ll have likely dropped his revolver by accident in the previous scene.
He’s a hard-luck hero, and even in this cynical era where social media reminds us that you could remove Indy from the entire plot of the film and things would still end the same way… well, it still hasn’t changed our love of him and the films.
Well, three of the four films, anyway.
However, as a fifth film in the series is in the works, it’s time to take a hard look at something: was Indiana Jones really as good as we thought, or was he just lucky?
A great example in Raiders was the scene when Indy’s trying to evade the Nazis near the Well of Souls. He ducks into a tent for cover and discovers that it’s where his romantic partner Marion is actually being held prisoner. So… there are hundreds of tents there that he could have hidden inside. But, of all the tents available, he just happens to go blundering into that one where he finds a woman who he presumed was dead. That was quite a coincidence, and the odds are astronomical. We can chalk it up to fate, the will of a higher power, or the lazy creative plotting of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg… but no matter what, it’s pretty damn lucky.
For a guy who wins over the audience partly by being a hard-luck hero, Indy seems to have a lucky rabbit’s foot jammed firmly up his archaeology degree – making his life seem even more like a rollercoaster of dismal lows being followed by insanely lucky highs, rather than the other way around.
Here are some other examples of this from Raiders…
Bad luck?: The first time we catch up with our hero, his adventure has so many unfortunate events that you’d think it was Lemony Snicket. After miscalculating the weight of a golden FunkoPop, being double-crossed by his backstabbing guide (who he didn’t actually need since he led the expedition himself and did all the work), being trapped on the wrong side of a bottomless pit and then chased down by a massive boulder… he finally has to surrender his golden FunkoPop to “evil” rival archaeologist Belloq, who is backed up by a group of bloodthirsty locals.
Nope! Good luck!: Indy has no reason to complain. In a footrace against the locals, they’re hot on his heels. But, astonishingly, as soon as he gets over the hill they all seem to develop a cramp because suddenly he’s miles ahead of them! Also, all their years of spear-chucking and blowpipe practice are in vain because they have worse aim than a platoon of Stormtroopers. Oh, and upon returning back to the university where he works (and gets paid to travel the world for), it turns out that Indy can… just buy the golden FunkoPop back. Which, thinking about it, kind of seems simpler than all the effort he put in going tomb-raiding.
Bad luck?: In a sudden change of plans, Indiana Jones gets bossed around by the government and is forced to go on a mission to buy something new: the headpiece to the Staff of Ra, which is basically a mystical decoder wheel. It’s a one-of-a-kind item and the only thing on the planet that can help him in his quest to stop Hitler. To complicate matters further, it’s currently in the possession of, uh, his ex-girlfriend who hates him so much that she punches him. Awkward. What’s even more awkward are the details of why she hates him.
Nope! Good luck!: Regardless of their past, his ex-girlfriend Marion agrees to sell the headpiece to Indy. It’s possibly because she’s completely blitzed out of her head, having just been involved in a drinking game where she consumed countless shots of local booze. Or, alternatively, it’s because she’s now desperate for the money. That’s because her bar, her business and her home have all now burned down, partly because of Indy – who helped start the fire in the first place, while trying to rescue her.
Bad luck?: So Indy is now forced to drag his ex along with him as his adventure continues. The problem is that those damn Nazis have made a copy of Marion’s mystical decoder wheel, based on the imprint it left on the hand of sneaky bad guy Toht. In the race against evil, the Nazis have jumped into the lead!
Nope! Good luck!: Aha! It turns out there were further instructions on the other side of the decoder wheel too, something the Nazis didn’t know about! Even the, uh, brilliant archaeologist Indy didn’t bother checking the medallion. Not only does it mean that Indy’s actually ahead, but the Nazis have also wasted lots of time and effort looking in all the wrong places. Forget the race against evil, this has become more of a plodding jog against clueless morons. With all the answers handed to him easily, Indiana Jones gets to check out the Well of Souls and dig for the Ark at his own pace… although he doesn’t do any of the actual digging work himself, because he just hires locals to do it all for him – and on Uncle Sam’s dime, too!
Bad luck?: Throughout his travels in Egypt, there are Nazis everywhere. Spies are ratting him out, and to make matters worse he’s adopted a monkey who’s working for Hitler – based on the simian’s evil salute, which proves once again that Planet of the Apes is a perfectly possible future and they’re just waiting to take over. Indy’s in a foreign land, totally outnumbered, outgunned and out-monkeyed. Plus, his delicious bowl of dates has been poisoned!
Nope! Good luck!: can you believe how lucky this guy is?! The evil monkey eats the lethal dates and dies instead, accidentally saving Indy! Doctor Jones’s good luck doesn’t end there, either: a boxing match against the toughest fighter the “master race” has to offer ends when the mechanic walks headfirst into a spinning aeroplane propeller; a top-secret Nazi island base turns out to be easier to break in to than a box of breakfast cereal; and, thanks to an endless supply of enemy soldiers, Indy’s able to steal all their uniforms until he finds one which actually fits!
Bad luck?: No, not every fight is an easy one for Indiana Jones. In one of the most thrilling movie chase scenes ever, Indiana Jones hijacks a truck but gets shot in the arm. It gets worse when he takes a beating in the subsequent fight, gets punched on his gunshot wound, and is then thrown head-first through the truck’s windshield. He tries holding onto the vehicle’s grill, but it starts to fall apart in his hands. He’s really suffering. Or… is he?
Nope! Good luck!: Unsurprisingly, he’s okay! Despite all of his hardships, he slides underneath the truck and manages to latch his whip onto the undercarriage. After being dragged behind the truck, he comes back for round two of the fight with renewed energy. He dishes out some serious punishment, tossing his enemy out of the truck in the same way he was. But, because of Indy’s lucky handiwork in dismantling all the parts of the truck that could save him, there’s now next to nothing for this Nazi to hang on to. He drops, allowing Indy to drive over him and steal the truck like he’s playing Grand Theft Auto. More astonishingly, given that Indy’s “making it up” as he goes along, he still manages to park the truck in a prepared hideout that’s been specially set up by locals who spontaneously disguise it as a market. To further confuse the Nazis, the locals attempt to sell them watermelons. And we know how Nazis hate watermelons.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is, at the end of the day, just a fun romp and it’s impossible to not get a kick out of the adventures of Indiana Jones. It is a modern classic (or, depending on your age, just a regular classic), but like all the best films it doesn’t feel like a classic because as movies go it’s actually timeless. Yes, the story is far-fetched, and it’s true that the outcome would have been the same even if Indy hadn’t been there, but it all still works and there’s no reason to overanalyze it.
Yes, Indiana Jones is more lucky than good at his job; it’s the same plot-driving luck that most big screen action heroes have, from James Bond to Harry Potter. There’s nothing wrong with that because that’s how films work. They suspend disbelief and we can still love our movie heroes regardless. Indy’s been ridiculously lucky over the years. It’s just a shame that it took him surviving a nuclear blast in a fridge for some fans to declare him as being too lucky.
Star Wars Could Be to Blame for Steven Spielberg Avoiding Indiana Jones 5
While fans are lamenting the loss of Steven Spielberg as director for Indiana Jones 5, it’s worth considering why the filmmaker would unexpectedly leave the beloved series. When considering that he directed all four previous films and was in line to direct the fifth instalment, his exit as the director becomes most peculiar.
The reason for Spielberg abandoning directing duties (with director James Mangold taking over) has not been officially confirmed but Variety reported that a source close to the director said that ‘the decision to leave was completely Spielberg’s, in a desire to pass along Indy’s whip to a new generation to bring their perspective to the story’.
If that statement is true, then it could pass as a valid reason for leaving. It is never a bad idea to get fresh blood to reignite intellectual property especially if it has suffered derision and is seen as underwhelming by a large contingent of fans as was the case with Kingdom of The Crystal Skull.
Still, for a director to leave a franchise that helped forge his career raises some flags, especially when you also consider that Spielberg is still keeping tabs on the film by staying on as producer.
It is not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the hate levelled at George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for the last Indy movie may have resulted in Spielberg delaying Indiana Jones 5 for over a decade. Plus, Spielberg saw first-hand the difficulties his friend George Lucas went through with the Star Wars prequels where rabid Star Wars fans came to despise George Lucas’ attempts to continue the Star Wars Saga, starting with 1999’s Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace.
The vitriol towards Indiana Jones 4, while not on Star Wars levels must have seemed close enough for Spielberg to take a step back and reassess his desire to continue the franchise. Whether deliberating to continue or simply waiting for enough distance between Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the follow-up, Spielberg must have been influenced to step back all the more after the recent Star Wars sequel’s furore as well. It is no secret that legions of Star Wars fans were even more disgusted by the new Star Wars trilogy-starting with J.J. Abrahams’ The Force Awakens than they were for the prequels.
In a behind-the-scenes documentary for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Spielberg confesses he was not hot on the idea of making or directing another film in the series. It was Harrison Ford pushing George Lucas to continue with another ‘Indy’ story and Lucas, in turn, pushed Spielberg who said that he made the fourth film to humour his friend George. Spielberg even mentions how he ‘invented’ the famous scene in The Last Crusade where Indiana rides off into the sunset as a goodbye to the series.
Considering this, it is safe to assume that Steven Spielberg would have been even less enthused to make a fifth film. The negative reaction from many fans to the fourth film and George Lucas’ seemingly zero involvement in a fifth film might have made Spielberg reject the director’s chair all the more.
All of it is pure speculation though. Perhaps Spielberg was simply too busy as a producer and director facilitating other projects for his own enjoyment. The right script might also have been elusive, delaying Spielberg, Lucas and Ford from forging ahead with the next instalment, and Lucas dropping out altogether eventually.
Whatever the case may be, Spielberg is out, and director James Mangold seems to be taking over. The sad reality is that one of our favourite film series has lost George and Steven, who together with Ford constitute the heart and soul of the Indiana Jones movie franchise. Losing them makes the next film feel less like a personal project and more like a Disney product pumped out to cash in on nostalgia.
Let’s hope that under Spielberg’s guidance James Mangold is able to make another classic Indiana Jones movie even if it lost its two principal creators and in so doing please disgruntled older fans while enticing a new generation to fall in love with the character and his adventures.
No, Indy Is Not A Trans-Male Berkeley Student
Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 a new Indiana Jones movie has always been on the cards. The new movie will see Harrison Ford reprising his role as Dr Jones. And most importantly, both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are overseeing executive producing duties.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Indiana Jones was created by the masters of cinema in an attempt to make a version of James Bond without the hardware. The collaboration resulted in a franchise which kicked off in 1981 with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The movie was wildly successful, shattering all sorts of box office records. Praised by fans and critics alike, Raiders also cleaned up during awards season, winning an impressive five Academy Awards (and being nominated for Best Picture).
Today, the movie is still considered a quintessential cinema classic. It’s even earned a place in the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as a culturally and aesthetically significant piece of cinema history.
The franchise went on to cement its place in cinematic history with two brilliant sequels in 1984 and 1989 (as well as one not-so-well-received sequel in 2008).
But while most fans eagerly await the release of Indiana Jones 5 on July 9, 2021, the franchise hasn’t been able to avoid dissection by some folks who feel the need to “fix” every movie that doesn’t fit the current popular narrative.
In spite of the success and flawlessness of the Indiana Jones franchise, the movies have been flagged as “too dated” for Gen Zers because Indiana Jones is seen as “far too white, far too male and therefore largely problematic”. (Seriously???!!!)
Even though the new movie is already locked in, someone has taken it upon themselves to “fix” it. There’s a script for an Indiana Jones reboot making its way around the internet (and allegedly across the desks of Hollywood execs too).
The script is simply titled “Indy” and the story is said to follow a “tomboyish girl, who identifies as a man that brings down the patriarchy”. Indy is also no longer a professor, but a student at Berkeley University.
The 200-and-something page script also comes with a set of notes which explain why a film like this is necessary for today’s society. Here’s an excerpt…
“In the wake of our demolished society, it is important that we take focus away from the all-too-white and patriarchal cinema standards that plague the box office today and devalue and dehumanize the lives of marginalized non-confirming groups. We are living in scary times that eerily seem much akin to movie plotlines. The world is ending. But it isn’t because of cursed ancient relics. The dominant white patriarchy, in its own way, is an ancient relic which is responsible for the destruction of nature, climate, and human rights. Indy rights these wrongs and reboots the beloved, yet problematic, saga of everyone’s favourite professor.”
The notes also include a request for Harrison Ford to be cast as Indy’s old-fashioned professor. This character will be (as the script describes him) “a bit racist, a bit sexist and closed-minded.”
Fortunately, this script isn’t being taken seriously by anyone within the movie industry. Just because a character happens to be a straight, white male doesn’t make him “problematic”. To even suggest that is absolutely ridiculous.
In a time when franchises are all the rage and talking trees and raccoons can successfully translate from the pages of a comic book to the silver screen, it seems strange to question the relevance of an icon like Indiana Jones.
But when the announcement of a new Indiana Jones movie was made the reaction from fans was mixed. While some were excited about the prospect of another archaeological adventure, others winced at the memory of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s poor reception and wondered if it was time for Indy to retire his whip and fedora.
Although Harrison Ford may have to retire from the role soon (due to the taxing nature of the role and his advancing age) the character is still very relevant.
Ford’s Indiana Jones is a globally recognized cultural icon. While the franchise tends to get lost in the shadow of Star Wars, Dr Jones is just as inspirational and important a character as Luke Skywalker.
The movies are packed with action and adventure but they also have some important moral lessons to share with the audience.
In Raiders our hero starts out as nothing more than a thief. But as the story progresses we see that the film is an exploration of right and wrong, as well as the proper use of power.
Temple of Doom sees the character grow, as his early lust for “fortune and glory” gives way to an understanding of the value of community at the end of the film.
In Last Crusade, he comes to empathise with his estranged father’s life and stand-offish parenting style, rather than continuing to blame him for their strained relationship.
Movie-goers aren’t oblivious to this type of storytelling. They are inspired by it. It’s why so many directors cite movies like Star Wars or Back To The Future as key influences on their career choices. They grew up watching movies that ignited their imagination so much that they felt compelled to explore their mythic elements, their cinematic elements and more.
Of course, there are plenty of other films that do that now too (like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises). But as brilliant as those movies may be, there’s still nothing quite like Indiana Jones.
Nothing can replicate the unique trifecta of adventure, wonder, and morality that Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford nailed back in the 1980s. The same is true of Dr Jones himself.
While we have a plethora of superheroes to choose from on-screen, Indy is unique. He’s not special because he’s Kryptonian or from Asgard. Indiana Jones is special because he’s a regular guy who’s noble, intelligent and logical (logical enough to know when to close his eyes in Raiders and logical enough to navigate a path to the grail in Last Crusade).
For all its action-packed spectacles Indiana Jones teaches us that there’s more to heroism than physical strength and super suits. Knowledge is where the real power is and Dr Jones makes that abundantly clear. If that’s not worthy of timeless relevance, I don’t know what is.