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Worst to First: Ranking the Indiana Jones Movies

Indiana Jones movies

Very few movie heroes are as iconic as Indiana Jones.  Many movie fans will quickly name the Indy movies as one of their favorite film series of all times.  And yet, most of the Indiana Jones movies aren’t very good.  Let’s rank them and see how things shake out.

Indy 4

4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Summary: It’s the 1950’s and Indy is fighting Communists now instead of Nazis.  And instead of hunting mythological artifacts, he’s ummm… something to do with aliens and mind reading.  Karen Allen returns as Indy’s true love, Marion.  Shia LaBeouf co-stars as a greaser who may or may not be Indy’s son.  Although who are we kidding?  If he’s not Indy’s kid there’s no reason for him to be in this movie.  So, yeah, he’s totally Indy’s kid.

What’s Good: Harrison Ford is back as Indiana Jones.  If you were a fan of the series in the 80’s, you waited almost two decades to see that happen.  And for a senior citizen (Ford was 65 when Indy 4 was released), he’s still got it.  It’s undeniably a nostalgic thrill to see Indy back.  Having him reunite with Marion 27 years after the original movie was also kind of sweet.

What’s Bad: Lots.  Indy climbs into a fridge to survive a nuclear explosion and lives to tell the tale.  Giant CGI ants.  Tarzan yells. Cate Blanchett’s puzzling Boris and Natasha accent.  John Hurt as a burned-out genius.  Ray Winstone constantly betraying Indy and Indy continually letting him.  Pretty much all the supporting cast really.  Especially Shia “this movie was supposed to cement my place on the A-list and instead I pissed off Stephen Spielberg by admitting it sucked” LaBeouf.  Oh and aliens have no place in an Indiana Jones movie.  Sorry, George, but that was a bad idea.

Verdict: When Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, a lot of fans claimed it ruined their childhood.  South Park took that sentiment a step further as they are inclined to do.  The fourth Indiana Jones movie is easily the weakest in the franchise.  I don’t want to downplay that.  I’m not about to sit down and watch it again.  But as bad as it was, it really wasn’t *that* much worse than the other Indy sequels.  Some people went a little overboard.  Although that South Park bit was funny.

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Posted on September 17, 2015, in Movies, sequels, Worst to First and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.

  1. Hmmmm…. I will mostly agree with your rankings (and for largely the same reasons)… except, maybe, switching the #2 and #3 positions.
    Fun fact: I saw each indy movie one time, in the theatre, and only the one time.

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    • I expect that first and last place will be unanimously agreed upon this time. 2 & 3 are where the disagreements are likely to happen. I’m taking the minority view on this one. I will be the first to agree that Last Crusade is less flawed than Temple of Doom because ToD is a mess of a movie. The only reason I am giving Temple the edge is that Last Crusade is too similar to Raider. Having watched the first three movies several times each, Last Crusade just feels like watered down Raiders. But Temple is still worth watching because it’s so different.

      The majority will likely disagree with me and I can’t really fault them for it.

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  2. Ranking the Indiana Jones movies is easy:

    1) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

    That’s all.

    When I was a kid, I was a fan of RAIDERS in the way only a kid can be a fan of something. The ending sucked, although the last scene very nearly redeemed it, but overall, the movie is an incredible piece of work. TOD was one of my first major crushing cinematic disappointments–the point where I realized that those behind the now-franchise didn’t even care about what they were doing.

    A quibble with your ranking of the bottom though: THE LAST CRUSADE is the worst fucking movie in this run and by a pretty wide distance. CRYSTAL SKULL has even more problems than those you outline–you go way too easy on both those films–but TLC is far worse. CRYSTAL SKULL has some character beats that were amusing if one could ignore the picture in which they appeared; TLC was just dogshit from its opening (wherein everything distinctive about Indy is explained via a single brief adventure from his youth) to its ending. Not just a virtual remake of RAIDERS but a bad comedy remake that, every 5 or 10 minutes, leaves you wondering why the fuck you’re even sitting and watching this POS. CRYSTAL SKULL nuked the fridge; TLC is an entire movie full of fridge-nuking scenes strung together. It has some of the worst special effects work I’ve ever seen in an allegedly professional movie too. And it smells.

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    • Lol. I mostly agree with you. Raiders is the ONLY Indiana Jones movie worth a damn. The sequels are all bad. If I could have bought Raiders on DVd by itself, I would have but of course Uncle George packaged them all together. It’s been a loooong time since I subjected myself to either Last Crusade or Crystal Skull. I’m not sitting through either one of those again probably ever.

      I remember really getting a kick out of the young Indy sequence in Last Crusade the first time I saw it. But watching it now is every bit as painful as you describe. It’s just so stupid. I try to take it in the spirit of fun in which I think it was intended and not something that is supposed to have actually happened. Also, poor Denholm Elliot. In the first movie, Brody seemed like a rational, competent human being. In the third movie he is reduced to bumbling comic relief.

      Even so, I don’t hate any of the Indy movies. I always had a good time watching Ford as Indy in the theaters. But there’s only one I go back and revisit with any regularity. Obviously, that’s Raiders. Temple, I will pull out every few years. The other two, I have no use for.

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      • Denholm Elliot and John Rhys-Davies too–turned into bumbling idiots whose characters had no connection to anything established in the first film and were direct contradictions of same. Motorcycle jousting, Hitler’s autograph, the plane skidding through the tunnel–more brainless garbage than can be listed. You seem to have reacted much better than I to TLC–I immediately recognized it as the worst of the batch by a wide margin. As in, from that opening sequence. I’ve only seen TLC twice and CRYSTAL SKULL once. I’ll never watch either again. I watched TOD several times but I don’t see myself ever watching it again. I probably saw RAIDERS a hundred times or more when I was a kid–learned it from beginning to end until it was embedded in my DNA–and I’d still watch it any time. And fuck Lucas for spending years trying to retroactively rename it INDIANA JONES & THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I wouldn’t buy one sold with that on the cover on general principle.

        On tv between these movies is also THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES, which was just as bad as any of the sequels.

        Self-Promotion Dept. – The first article I ever posted on the Dig was one I’d written right after seeing CRYSTAL SKULL. It went at this series from a different perspective, the fact that Indiana Jones wasn’t just a great character but a rare and vital one in pop culture–the scholar hero–and decried how this aspect had been insulted by the adventures on which his creators had sent him:
        http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2008/11/wasting-of-indiana-jones.html

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        • My initial reaction to Last Crusade was a positive one. I saw it with friends and we all had a great time. Later that summer, I went with another friend to a sneak preview of When Harry Met Sally. We loved that movie but part of the deal was you could stick around and watch Last Crusade. On second viewing, I was struck by just how silly and dull it was. We had both seen it already and agreed we didn’t need to see it again. So we took off about 20 minutes into it.

          I remember giving Yong Indy a chance. The episodes where he was a kindergartner or whatever were awful. Shades of Phantom Menace. I don’t know what Lucas’ obsession is with seeing characters in their formative years, but no one else in the world shares it. The other episodes with SPF weren’t as bad by comparison because at least he was old enough to have some kind of adventure. But I lost interest after about 3 episodes. I agree they were not worth watching.

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      • jeffthewildman

        Found Raiders on DVD by itself at Barnes and Noble. Needless to say I grabbed it. .

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        • That was quite a find; talk about the last place someone would look for that type of film to be packaged individually.

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    • I remember being disappointed by ToD. Could it be for that reason that I liked TLC more? It’s hard to remember when I never saw any of them more than once. I just don’t remember TLC being as awful as the vehement dissection above 🙂 I enjoyed the ending with the plain cup being the Grail. Then again it probably helped being young and un-jaded.

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      • That is my theory on Temple vs. Last Crusade. Coming off Raiders, Temple was a crushing disappointment. Like cinemarchaeologist, Temple was the first movie that ever made me mad. So five years later when Last Crusade took the franchise back into the safe zone of mimicking the first movie, I along with all of my friend considered it a step in the right direction.

        But I have revisited all three of the movies multiple times. Raiders never loses its appeal. Last Crusade, wore out really quickly. Eventually, I started asking myself why I should watch it when I could be watching Raiders instead. But Temple, even though there are some awful scenes in it, there are parts I like a lot that are very different from Raiders. For that reason, I still revisit Temple every great once in a while.

        I don’t hold Last Crusade in disdain, but I can see where cinemarchaeologist is coming from. It’s just sloppy. Raiders is a tightly constructed piece of pop culture entertainment. But the action scenes in Last Crusade are bloated and lazy. Raiders had an authenticity to it. Last Crusade is pastiche.

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  3. I can’t understand the criticism of the third movie. I think it’s a great step back to the same vein the original has, the second movie however i’m not that fond of (its just to weird, dark and unfunny). Brody also only turns into an idoit when he is out of his comfort zone in The Last Crusade, so i can’t really agree with that it ruins his character either. Ofc Raiders is still the best movie by a mile.

    Great blog btw, sorry if my english is poor or odd. Not my native toungue and auto-correct doesn’t seem to work.

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    • Thanks for the kind words. I would have never guessed English was a second language.

      My preference for Temple over Last Crusade isn’t a strong one. The first time I saw Temple, I thought it was too dark and too weird. It’s only through repeat viewings that I have come to appreciate the weirdness over the sameness of Crusade. But I can definitely understand why others would feel differently.

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  4. Once again a good write-up. I agree with your rankings all the way. Raiders is a brilliant example of moviemaking as sheer entertainment, one of the best ever. Of the rest, Karen Allen’s return is the only worthwhile part of Crystal Skull, while Sean Connery cannot save Last Crusade. I’ve always found Temple of Doom reasonably watchable. The opening Shanghai sequence, and the final segment in the mines, are both very fast-paced and exciting. And Jonathan Ke Quan (or Ke Huy Quan, as he was billed back in 1984), actually makes a “kid sidekick” character work. I’ll take him over Jake Lloyd as Anakin, or any incarnation of Dick Tracy’s Junior, any day. True, the whole middle section in the Maharajah’s palace, including that banquet of icky stuff, is a drag, and Kate Capshaw never rises above being annoying (and sinks below that level quite often). But these days, I just hit fast-forward through those scenes, or use that time to put some laundry in the washing machine, or whatever (a great invention, DVD’s with fast-forwarding).

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    • It’s funny you mention laundry. Temple of Doom is a laundry movie for me. I’ll do chores during the stuff that doesn’t work and tune in for the good parts.

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      • Revisiting Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom https://t.co/G0nAITDUB6

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        • Full disclosure: I have a real soft spot for Temple of Doom. I honestly think Temple is the most divisive of the Indy films, even with Crystal Skull in that equation. The majority agree Indy 4 is flawed, at the very least. It’s easily the worst of series. On the opposite spectrum Raiders, of course, is an undeniable stone cold classic. And Last Crusade, well, I know a few people are less than enthusiastic about it but the vast majority put it in the win column.

          So that leaves Temple of Doom. Some people outright hate it. And, some people really love it. Myself included. That’s why I say Temple of Doom is the most divisive of the Indy series to date. We are about 4 years out from seeing the recently announced Indy 5, but something tells me that no matter where the chips fall on that one, I think in the end the masses will decide rather quickly how they feel about that one and Temple of Doom will probably always remain the most divisive of the Indy series.

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        • That film was the first of the Indiana Jones series that I viewed (recorded most of it, beginning at the escape from the nightclub, off of HBO when I was a kid, and still have the tape), so I’m a little woozy wearing my nostalgia googles again, but in revisiting it I still like it. Sure, it’s a mixed bag (the tone is all over the place: one minute it serious, then it’s funny, then it gets gross, then it goes dark, now it’s funny again…), but I feel there’s some good entertainment there.

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        • The opening scene at the nightclub is legitimately great. Nothing in Last Crusade equals that scene.

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        • I don’t know, the more I think about it, I like the doom film. There’s just too much stuff that I like (Indiana ends up learning that fortune and glory rules) vs. what I don’t like (the dinner; too gross for me; ah, give me some breadsticks and a can of Progresso soup:-).

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        • Temple is definitely the most divisive movie because it is the one that dared to be different. It broke the Raiders mold and suffered for it. Which is why Last Crusade reverted to being a watered down Raiders remake. Temple has very obvious flaws, but at least it tried something different. And the things that work are great.

          At the end of the day, Raiders is the only great Indy movie. None of the sequels come close. But if I am going to watch one of the sequels, it will be Temple.

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        • The more I’m thinking about it, the second Indiana sequel makes me think of the video game “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link”. Heck, Indy had to fight himself when he was possessed (I loved it when he winked at Short Round as in, “Yeah, we got this”). Ah heck, I really like “The Temple of Doom” (any voting thing happening?:-)

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  5. My ranking is the same as yours, Raiders, Temple, Last Crusade, and Crystal Skull (which I haven’t even seen).

    Raiders is a great movie. ‘Nuff said.

    For me, Temple and Last Crusade are not close.

    When i was a little kid first starting to move beyond Disney-fare (five or six), all my movie experience came from cable. And Temple was in heavy rotation at that point in Cinemax. I loved Temple. As a six year old, I was thrilled by Indy’s heroics and identified with Shorty. The heart ripping was scary in a good way. And Mola Ram’s chanting was eerie and cool. At that point in my life, I am quite sure I saw Temple all the way through before I saw Raiders, so it was impossible for me to be disappointed by the letdown. As I’ve grown up and have come to appreciate the differences in the movies, while Temple’s flaws have become evident, its place in my pantheon of movies remains firm.
    Last Crusade I saw in the theater. As Lebeau says, it is safe. Even when I first saw it, I had the feeling it was just not as entertaining as the first two movies. Sean Connery of course is a lot of fun, but he and Ford’s work together is the only real positive. The big negative for me is as others have pointed out the dumbing down of the Marcus and Sallah characters. For instance, if you go back and watch Raiders, Marcus and Indy have a conversation early in the movie when Marcus shows up at Indy’s house to let him know the Army wants him to go after the Ark. Indy starts packing and he and Marcus have their conversation. Marcus says that if he was ten years younger, he’d do the job himself. He is supposed to be a mentor of Indy’s in the fraternity of “raiders” that includes guys like Belloc and so on. With Last Crusade, all that is thrown away in favor of making Marcus Henry Sr’s old chum and providing a contrast to Henry Sr’s eventual hardening into a savvy adventurer much like his son.

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    • Pretty perfect summary there. You guys are convincing me that the gulf between Temple and Last Crusade is bigger than I may have acknowledged. It’s been a long time sine I have revisited the movie because frankly I just have no desire to sit through it all again.

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  6. Well, that was the easiest survey I ever took in my life (I do inboxdollars.com surveys every now and again), as that’s exactly how I have the films in the franchise ranked myself.
    When I was a kid, my father was working on a friend’s ceiling; while he was doing that, I was raiding (ha, raiding) his VCR collection, and one of the films was “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (seriously, this man had a robust collection; I’m reminded why I viewed a ton of 1980’s films, and not just because it was the ’80’s). I viewed “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” around the same time (still have the tape; go me!), so I have more love for it than others do (I don’t even mind Willie all that much).
    As for the other two films, I’m just lukewarm on the third installment, and the best I can say about the fourth film, other than the reappearance of Marion, is that I played the video game “Heavy Rain”, and there’s this scene towards the end in which you have to escape from a burning apartment, but since I could’nt figure out how to get out through the window, on a whim I hid in a fridge. I figured if Indiana Jones can do it (I even said that aloud), then why not? It totally worked, and my character was off to her bike and to the finale of the game.

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    • The next Worst to First has some much harder decisions. This one really could have been a straight Temple of Doom vs. Last Crusade poll instead of a full ranking. Last I looked, everyone put Raiders on top and Crystal Skull on the bottom. But the middle has been a hot race. Last I saw, Temple had the lead. But it’s been back and forth all day.

      At some point in the future, I’m going to have a post sharing the Worst to First results. They have been fun to analyze so far.

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  7. Top 10 Worst Fourth Installments in Movies:

    The Cinefiles – The Indiana Jones Films:

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  8. In spring of 1982 I was 10 years old, and my uncle came over to the house raving about this great movie he had just seen at the movie theatre called Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was aware of it of course as it had been a huge hit the previous summer, but I had skipped over seeing it for reasons that now seem pretty dumb: I was a huge, huge Star Wars fan as a kid (still am!) and for some reason I didn’t want to see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford in any other roles other than Luke, Leia and Han, and since I knew and loved Ford as Han Solo I didn’t want to see him as anything else. Yeah I know, a dumb logic that only a kid would come up with.

    So my uncle asked me to go with him to see this Raiders movie, and for that very dumb reason I just offered I said no. My uncle kept asking over the next several days and I kept refusing. But he would not let up, telling me again and again how great this movie is, he was sure I’d like it. Due to his persistence after about a week I finally relented and agreed to go see it, just so he would stop talking about this darned movie already!

    Then, the movie began. As the film progressed I found the movie so captivating, so engaging, so impossibly fun that I walked out of that theatre completely in love with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I literally walked out with a stupid grin on my face, wishing I was Indiana Jones. All I knew was I had to see this movie again. Immediately. I asked my uncle to take me to see it again, and he was happy to do so. Matter of fact, we went to see it a 2nd time, a 3rd time, a 4th time…..over the next three months or so while it played at the local theatre I could not get enough of Raiders and I kept asking to go back again, finally seeing the film 9 times together before the theatre stopped playing it (My uncle even asked the theatre owner for the movie poster and lobby cards which I still have in my collection). As a kid I took that for granted, but as an adult I am amazed that my uncle was willing to take me to the same film 9 times in a row. Who does that? He was a great guy.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark became my favorite movie of all time I think that first day I saw it on the big screen, and it always will be my favorite movie. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve watched it over the years, but that number is well over 100 by now. Amazingly Raiders still holds its magic, its power no matter how many times I watch it, its one of the rare films I have ever seen that I would say is perfect, at least to me.

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    • Great story; reminds me of the day my father and I ate Little Ceaser’s pizza and viewed both “Transformers: The Movie” and “The Karate Kid, Part II”. What a day: we had the glory of love AND the touch:-)

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    • I had a similar reaction when I saw the commercials. I would have been 10 years old in 1981. If you saw it in spring of 82, you’d have been catching it at the tail end of its run or in the second-run houses. Anyway, I remember seeing the commercials which touted a new movie from the creators of Jaws, Close Encounters and Star Wars. I remember thinking that sounded cool. But then it turned out to be some cowboy movie. I wasn’t interested in Westerns, so I put it out of my mind.

      We didn’t go to the movies a lot. My dad hated the movies. But if his friends told us he HAD to take us to something, he would. Thankfully, they told him he had to take us to Raiders. We ended up seeing it late in the summer just before school was getting ready to start back up so it had been out for a while already. My expectations were low because the guy in the commercial looked like a cowboy and there were no spaceships or anything cool. But that all disappeared very quickly during the opening scene. This was much, much cooler than my 10-year-old mind could have imagined. Could it be that this was more exciting than Star Wars? I think it could!

      Now, I only saw it one time and I didn’t get any nice souvenirs. But I definitely became a fan. Unlike a lot of movies I enjoyed as a kid, Raiders still holds up.

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  9. We Ranked All 29 Steven Spielberg Movies, from Worst to Best:
    https://www.yahoo.com/movies/best-and-worst-steven-spielberg-129586109247.html

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

    What once was fresh comes off as musty and strained in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the long-awaited fourth vehicle for Harrison Ford’s daring archaeologist Indiana Jones. Nineteen years after The Last Crusade, Ford seems to have lost almost all of the suave, rogue-ish charm that defined his characterization; here, he’s mostly brusque, cranky, and ostensibly annoyed that he has to again perform heroic deeds with his trusty whip.

    Skull’s homages to sci-fi B-movies are sporadically stylish and clever, but whatever thrill Spielberg once felt for this franchise has disappeared, along with Ford’s smile, as the centerpiece chases and fights range from the serviceable (Indy’s face-off with a horde of giant ants) to the laughable (Shia LaBeouf swinging through the forest alongside monkeys) to the outright preposterous (the infamous surviving-a-nuke-in-a-refrigerator opening gag). At least Cate Blanchett has a campy blast as a Russian agent intent on finding a mythical, telepathic crystal alien skull; the rest of those involved come across as driven less by inspiration or joy than by a duty to revisit these characters for the benefit of fans.

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

    As if responding to complaints that Temple of Doom was too bleak and nasty, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is an archaeology adventure cast in a far sunnier, more Raiders-ish mold. From Indy’s search for another mythical artifact (the Holy Grail) to his clashes with villainous Nazis, this third go-round deliberately tries to align itself with the franchise’s initial installment — a fact that occasionally leaves it feeling like a wan rehash. Nonetheless, if it never achieves its predecessors’ highs, it has its fair share of superb Spielberg-orchestrated moments, most notably a sequence in which Indy tracks down a convoy protected by a panzer tank while on horseback.

    Moreover, Last Crusade benefits from the participation of Sean Connery as Indy’s father, a Holy Grail expert who’s kidnapped by the Nazis and whose repartee with Ford’s spelunking hero is marked by endless bickering and the elder Jones’s habit of condescendingly referring to his son as “Junior.” Even when the film feels like it’s going through familiar motions (replete with John Rhys-Davies’s and Denholm Elliott’s return to the series), Ford and Connery’s witty back-and-forths enliven this sturdy actioner. More than any of his other overt efforts, Last Crusade is Spielberg’s most successful comedy.

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

    For the follow-up to 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg and producer George Lucas went dark — so dark, in fact, that (along with the Spielberg-produced Gremlins from that same year), they drove the Motion Picture Association of America to create the PG-13 rating. While its level of violence and bloodshed initially struck some as off-putting, Temple of Doom finds Spielberg tapping into a grim, ugly vein in a way that he never had before (or has since). From scenes of child abuse to the infamous heart-ripped-out-of-a-living-human-sacrifice centerpiece, the film thrusts Indy into a hellscape of cultish madness. There’s a rugged electricity to the way Spielberg orchestrates his fedora-wearing hero’s pain and anguish, which begins early with a sterling Shanghai nightclub opening and carries through to Indy’s climactic showdown against a horde of angry villains on a rope bridge suspended high above a rocky river.

    To be sure, some of Temple of Doom’s characterizations don’t quite pass PC muster, and Kate Capshaw’s performance as Indy’s argumentative love interest is shrill. But rooted in twisted torment and the ever-present threat of death, it’s the Indiana Jones outing that feels most unique and dementedly alive.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

    The first collaboration between Spielberg and friend/Star Wars mastermind Lucas was an ode to the swashbuckling serialized stories of their youth, and the results were nothing short of extraordinary. Raiders of the Lost Ark (its title later changed to include “Indiana Jones and” for franchise-unifying purposes) is the ideal action-adventure film, full of nonstop humor, romance, suspense, and jaw-dropping set pieces, all revolving around an irresistibly charming rogue.

    From the classic opening boulder sequence and the supernatural finale of awesome, old-school face-melting effects to his incessant, contentious banter with Karen Allen’s feisty Marion Ravenwood, Ford’s archaeologist is a peerlessly noble, wisecracking hero. Cutting a daring figure in his trademark fedora and matching leather jacket, his trusty bullwhip always at the ready, Indy is Spielberg’s most memorable protagonist, a man compelled by both a sense of obligation to history and an arrogant refusal to let others (much less villainous Nazis) best him at his own trade. While Indy’s exploits continued in a series of sturdy sequels, his maiden 1981 quest — in which he races the Nazis to acquire the fabled Ark of the Covenant — stands the test of time as a near-perfect piece of exhilarating entertainment, as well as an exemplary example of Spielberg channeling childhood cinematic loves into something at once reverent and innovative.

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  10. Just for fun – and because Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie of all time – I decided to add in a few fun trivia bits to this article for our fellow Indy fans.

    1) This one is fairly well known even among casual fans, but Tom Selleck was originally the actor decided upon by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as the actor to portray Indiana Jones. The details may provide fun new insight to most. Tom Selleck was a completely unknown actor at the time of this decision, to put things in perspective. A brand new action-adventure film being made by the filmmakers behind Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters and The Empire Strikes Back made major headlines in all the major industry magazines at the time, since all those films were among the 10 biggest blockbusters of all time in 1980, and George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were arguably the two biggest filmmakers in Hollywood at the moment. To the average moviegoer in 1980, you didn’t get any more well known that Lucas and Spielberg as a filmmaker at that moment in time.

    When the casting was announced, executives at CBS took notice. They quickly realized that they had filmed a tv series pilot called Magnum P.I. with Selleck recently, which they had decided to pass on. But, they took stock of that decision again once the two biggest directors in Hollywood had cast Selleck in a major movie production. Thinking that maybe they had made a big error in recognizing Selleck as a star-in-the-making, they looked at the Magnum P.I. pilot again and saw some merit to it. Just mere weeks before Raiders was set to begin filming in England, CBS called Tom Selleck to inform him that they were calling him on their contract with him, and told him they were moving ahead and giving the green light to begin filming Magnum P.I. as a regular series. Doing so meant that Selleck could not leave the country to film Raiders, to Spielberg and Lucas’ obvious dismay.

    An interesting sidenote takes place here. Jump back to late 1979 before casting for Raiders had begun, as Lucas was piecing together a rough cut of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas decided to show his close friend the film as it existed at that point, to gather his thoughts on the film so far. Spielberg said that more than anything he was spellbound throughout by Harrison Ford’s performance in Empire, and two hours later after the screening ended and the lights came up Steven turned to George and the first thing he said to him was, “Harrison is our Indy.” Again, this is months before they would begin to cast for Raiders. George responded that from the start he always wanted to use different actors in each movie, and he didn’t want to keep using Harrison in each and every movie he made (Harrison had previously appeared in American Grafitti, Star Wars and More American Graffiti by that point). But fast forward to spring of 1980, and CBS taking Selleck up on his contract on a pilot most had forgotten he had filmed and with only two weeks left before Raiders contractually had to begin filming in England, Spielberg talked with Lucas and immediately said, “You know who has been perfect for Indy all along, right?”, to which Lucas responded, “Yes. You’re right. Call Harrison.” Two weeks after, all three were in England for the first day of filming on the now-classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison fitting that hat perfectly.

    Oh, by the way. If your first instinct is to feel sorry for Tom Selleck, well, don’t. Magnum P.I. became a big hit for CBS in the 1980’s, with the series ranking among the Nielson top 10 multiple years in a row and lasting 8 seasons, so Selleck did more than ok for himself after missing out on Indy.

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    • Yes, I know the story. But you tell it well. I recently saw Selleck on a talk show. I forget which one. The subject of Indiana Jones came up and the host asked him if he had ever met Harrison Ford. Selleck said he had and that they had gotten along very well. The host asked if they ever talked about what might have been. And Selleck replied “Harrison is kind of sick of that story.”

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      • Thank you for the compliment Lebeau. What’s really interesting is, after Spielberg decided on Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones after seeing a rough cut of The Empire Strikes Back, the same incredible stroke of luck happened again for Ford one year later. Ridley Scott was having a tough time deciding who should play Rick Deckard in a film he was developing at the time called Blade Runner. Negotiations with Dustin Hoffman, believe it or not, fell through and Ridley was stuck on casting (side note, could you imagine Blade Runner with Dustin Hoffman?). Steven Spielberg had a rough cut of Raiders of the Lost Ark finished and, hoping to get Ridley’s impression on the work in progress, he invited Ridley over for a viewing. Ridley stated in an interview that while watching the rough cut of Raiders with Spielberg he took particular note of Harrison Ford’s performance as Indy, finding his performance charming and electric. By the time the film ended and the lights came up, Ridley came to the conclusion that Harrison would be perfect for Rick Deckard.

        So Harrison got the gig for Raiders due to Spielberg watching a rough cut of Empire with Lucas, and then Harrison got the gig for Blade Runner due to Ridley Scott watching a rough cut of Raiders with Spielberg. This guy had some serious luck at a pivotal point in his career with rough cuts of his films.

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      • Um, the 1984 film “Runaway” has been on quite a bit on the GRIT channel. I don’t know, sometimes I like Michael Crichton (my high school senior year English teacher had us read ‘The Terminal Man’; Mrs. McDonald was just awesome anyway, someone who could really reach people, like Grace Slick or my mom).
        Speaking of my mom, she’s become a huge fan of “Blue Bloods”; I mention this just because she said, “Hey, Tom Selleck was wearing a Yankees hat”. Yeah, for anyone who has viewed Tom Selleck, he was a Detroit Tigers fan (1992’s “Mr. Baseball”; yes, I like it. As much as “Runaway”? No. “Runaway” has a Terminator feel to it, just a little paint by numbers I think). He he, I think my mom is just used to “Magnum P.I.” (an excellent series that can work in any era, and I think Thomas Magnum was a character worth listening to and following) But playing commissioner of New York, it would seem silly if he wore a Tigers hat..
        I don’t know, the best thing about baseball to me is summer (I do like the Mets, probably the only New York team I’d like through the thick and thin).
        Anyway, I’m glad it was Harrison Ford who played Indiana Jones, but in a different life if Tom Selleck played Indy (he did that Quigley action, which I kind of like)…nah, I like how everything out.

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    • Ha! I have known the bare bones of the story, CBS using its contract with Tom to keep him from doing Raiders, but I hadn’t known that CBS had passed on Magnum and brought it back because Tom was being considered for the Indy role. Thanks for sharing that.

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      • My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed it. I thought that was an interesting wrinkle in the whole story some may not know and well worth telling. CBS literally pulled Selleck out of Raiders at the last possible minute; with only two weeks left before filming, if they didn’t have Ford in their back pocket – say, if he had already taken another film role for example -, I don’t know what Spielberg and Lucas would have done. Probably asked Paramount for a filming delay to find another Indy, I guess. But the events that happened resulted in the best possible version of Raiders that ever could have been.

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  11. Steven Spielberg says Indiana Jones 5 will star Harrison Ford:
    https://games.yahoo.com/news/steven-spielberg-says-indiana-jones-210002821.html

    Just months after producer Kathleen Kennedy confirmed there were plans for a fifth Indiana Jones film, director Steven Spielberg has released some more details on who will star in the titular role.

    In an interview with Yahoo!, Spielberg said he would be teaming up with franchise veteran Harrison Ford for the new installment.

    “Now I’ll probably do an Indy 5 with Harrison, [so] it’ll be five for Harrison, four for Tom,” the director said, alluding to the fact that he would have done five movies with Harrison Ford and only four movies with longtime collaborator Tom Hanks.

    Harrison Ford hasn’t commented on the role, and chances are he probably won’t until he’s done promoting the upcoming Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens, which is scheduled to be released on Dec. 17.

    The most recent film in the franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was released in 2008 and starred Ford alongside Cate Blanchett and Shia LaBeouf.

    The film is still in negotiation at the studio.

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  12. I just heard George Lucas on a ‘making of Star Wars’ documentary say that Chewbaca was based on his own dog, named “Indiana.” I had never heard this before. So basically two of the most iconic movie characters of my youth were based on or named after that guy’s dog. I’m glad he wasn’t named “Fluffy.”

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    • Your post reminds me of Sallah’s comment to Indy in Last Crusade: “You were named after the dog?!?” A nice little in-joke nod to the origins of the Indy character himself. And yes, Lucas got quite the mileage out of his beloved dog Indiana.

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    • I heard about the “Indiana” relation, but not the Chewbaca one. That’s funny: “Fluffy”. I don’t think “Sprinkles” would’ve worked out too well either.

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    • Imagine if the Lucas family pet was a cat or a gerbil or something. It’s kind of scary how much of our pop culture comes from the formative experiences of some kid in the suburbs of California. If he hadn’t grown up on Flash Gordon and movie serials, our childhoods would have been dramatically different.

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  13. 10 “Perfect” Casting Decisions That Went Horribly Wrong

    http://whatculture.com/film/10-perfect-casting-decisions-that-went-horribly-wrong-2.php/5

    Harrison Ford As Indiana Jones – Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

    Not that it needs stressing but this entry should come with a controversy alert. Who else would they choose to cast as Indiana Jones if not the one and only Harrison Ford? Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, and casting anyone else in the same role would be tantamount to cinematic sacrilege. At least, so the theory went until the release of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

    There are so many things wrong with Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – the ridiculous use of CGI, the shoddy plotting and one-dimensional characterization – that placing too much of the blame on Harrison Ford’s performance is unfair. But the sad fact remains that it really doesn’t hold up to the original trilogy by any stretch of the imagination – rather than getting drawn into Jones’s exploits the film feels more like an exercise in watching an actor walk on autopilot from A to B just so he can collect his paycheck.

    In Ford’s defense, at the time he wasn’t enthusiastic about returning to the role and that clearly shone through in his phoned-in performance. Things have changed since then, with talk of yet another Indiana Jones movie in the pipeline: let’s just hope he’s more enthusiastic about passing the torch to another actor.

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  14. 12 Reasons Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Screwed Up Indiana Jones

    http://screenrant.com/12-reasons-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull-screwed-up-indiana-jones-brow-691543/?view=all

    In case you’ve been living in a cave or exploring an ancient tomb for the past week, you should know that Disney has announced that there’s to be a new Indiana Jones film released in 2019, directed by Steven Spielberg and once again starring Harrison Ford. The news was met with a mixture of reactions, some incredibly excited that Harrison Ford is dusting off the hat and the whip again and others more cautious with the wounds of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opening anew.

    Will Indiana Jones 5 be the Indy adventure we all hope it will be? Only time will tell, but it could do a lot worse than avoiding the pitfalls Crystal Skull fell into and reading our 12 Reasons Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Screwed Up Indiana Jones.

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  15. 10 Awesome Movies With Disappointing Sequels

    http://whatculture.com/film-tv/10-awesome-movies-with-disappointing-sequels?page=6

    Raiders Of The Lost Ark

    Most directors of summer blockbusters claim their film is a roller-coaster ride but Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the real deal, a near perfect fusion of action and humor that set the standard for action adventure movies for years.

    Alas, even Spielberg struggled to match it in the sequels, which substituted pratfalls for humor and slapstick for charm. Kate Capshaw’s character in Temple Of Doom has the distinction of being one of the most shrill and annoying heroines of the 1980s, capable only of performing unfunny routines and getting herself in hot water. The fact that she later married the director is purely coincidental.

    Spielberg wisely roped in Sean Connery for The Last Crusade, but it was still more of the same, with the bickering between the leads attempting to distract you from how thin and forced the material was. Then there’s Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, whose multitude of sins – overblown action scenes, a witless plot that involved aliens, casting Shia LaBeouf – inspired a South Park parody where Indy gets violated by Lucas and Spielberg.

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  16. I caught most of the 4th Indiana Jones film on USA Network earlier (before that I’ve only viewed certain scenes), and I agree that it’s the worst of the four films. I didn’t really love The Last Crusade either (viewed it on HBO in 1990, and thought it was okay, but it was nothing I wanted to view again, and haven’t), but with The Crystal Skull film, I got where the film was going (must’ve helped that I played the first three “Uncharted” games, which scream Indiana Jones in design, for both good and bad), but I didn’t really enjoy the journey (okay, I liked the marriage though). Well, it’s back to the first two Indy films for me, and I don’t really need the other two.

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