The Indiana Jones series is the other popular film series created by George Lucas. While not as popular as Star Wars it’s still one of biggest and most enduring universes in American film. I think there are many people who consider the Indiana Jones films as childhood favorites. Lucas’s famous friend Steven Spielberg has directed all of the films in the series.
Growing up the second film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was my favorite. I think this was largely because that was the VHS we owned. However, after re-watching the entire trilogy (yes, I know it’s technically a quadrilogy now) Raiders is clearly the best entry.
In 1936 Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is an archaeologist and professor. He is considered an expert on the occult and religious artifacts. One day after one of his classes, agents from the US government approach him. Hitler is searching for the lost Ark of the Covenant, the ark the Israelites believe contained the presence of God. The US wants Indiana to find the Ark before the Nazis.
Why It’s Great
The plot hardly matters. What’s great about this movie are the characters, the quips, and action scenes.
It seems like everyone Indy meets he has a screwball comedy like back-and-forth with.
At first every character seems like a cliche, but there are subtle twists on the normal templates. Marion (Karen Allen), the love interest, is not a exactly a damsel in distress; but she’s not a hero in her own right either. The ally that double-crosses him is right at the beginning of the tale; the allies you think may turn on Indiana later in the film never do. Indiana’s rival isn’t really his dark side equal. He just gets ahead of Indiana because he’s amoral. Indiana himself isn’t a saint. He’s a lovable rogue, but he’s more of a straight ahead hero than Ford’s Han Solo.
The action set-pieces are legendary. In the twentieth century there may not have been a better action director than Spielberg. And the action is spread throughout the movie, it’s not just the big opener scene and the final climatic fight.
There’s an undertone of humor that helps set the mood of this movie. It’s not knee-slapping hilarious, but it makes you like the good guys more.
I loved this series as a kid and I love it just as much as an adult. Raiders is the most consistently great movie of the series.
Like the Empire Strikes Back, I doubt very many people have yet to see this. But if you like the action/adventure genre, Spielberg, or Lucas movies you’ll probably love this one. It may even become your favorite.