66 – Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Belloq: What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something.


Seen before?

F: Yes at least twice plus bits on TV.

R: More times than I can count.



F: I think I am surprised to see this so high up the list. To me this has always felt more of a popcorn movie – something to be enjoyed whilst watching it but then quite easily forgotten.

R: It is absolutely a popcorn movie, but it’s a pretty perfectly executed one. And although you say “easily forgotten”, this film is chock full of scenes that have become etched into our popular imagination (dare I say like commandments on tablets of stone?). In the opening scene alone you get Indy putting on the hat, you get the boulder roll, you get the chase from the natives, you get the dramatic seaplane takeoff, and all accompanied by John Williams’ truly unforgettable score. It is a relentlessly iconic film, and really pure cinema.

F: I think I know most of the iconic scenes from The Simpsons! I only saw this film once as a child – I’m guessing you saw it slightly more than that. So I don’t have a vivid memory of the film. All of the Indiana Jones films blur into one for me, so much so that I thought Sean Connery was going to turn up in this one! But as far as a piece of entertainment it certainly delivers.

R: The fact that it got parodied in high-quality era Simpsons is one of the things that makes it iconic – I won’t argue with that. And I’ll forgive you for mixing it up with the second sequel The Last Crusade because that does basically hit the same story beats, with the addition of a Sean Connery and a somewhat higher ratio of jokes to action. But we’ve already established that you’re​ prejudiced against any film featuring Harrison Ford, so I wonder if perhaps that’s why you’re not a bigger fan?

F: Ha! Perhaps I am prejudiced but I do think Harrison Ford is at his best here. This role suits him better than anything else I’ve seen him in. I do think in general the cast are all hamming it up here, especially the bad guys! Not necessarily a complaint but one of the reasons I struggle to take it seriously for sure.

R: Yeah, taking it seriously would be a big mistake. Belloq is a totally pantomime villain, as of course are the Nazis. But my point is that there’s still real skill and craft in making a film this well-paced, with such great set-pieces, even if it is undeniably silly.

F: Absolutely – we’ve seen evidence of big blockbusters getting it wrong, even in this list! And no-one can argue what a magnificent storyteller Spielberg is. It’s his main strength and the reason why I’ll always enjoying watching his movies.

R: For sure.

F: Can we talk a bit about the target age for this film? It’s rated PG in the UK which surprised me. There are a couple of moments that would almost certainly push it to a 12A if it was released now.

R: It is surprisingly gory in parts, and the face-melting could almost certainly give younger or more sensitive viewers nightmares. But I think I probably watched this when I was around 7 years old and absolutely loved it, and it doesn’t seem to have done me too much harm.

F: Freaked me out a bit!

R: The thing I was asking myself watching this – trying to get beyond my undeniable nostalgia – is whether it’s been surpassed by something like The Bourne Identity. If a 12 year-old today wanted to see a globe-trotting, action-packed adventure with a bad-ass hero, do you think that would be a better pick?

F: 12 year-olds would probably tell you it’s all about Superheroes these days. I definitely think the Bourne films are superior to this (at least the first three) but I still think there’s a place for this kind of movie. Do you think the legacy of Indiana Jones is forever tarnished with the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

R: I prefer to pretend that Crystal Skull never happened. We should probably just be grateful we were able to watch the original cinematic release of this and George Lucas hasn’t decided to “enhance” it with singing CGI characters. At least not yet…

F: Well let’s see what the 5th film has in store shall we!


Is it worthy of the top 100?

R: It’s pure, politically-incorrect fun. I have to say yes.

F: Sorry Indy. You’re fun and all but I’m after something a bit more deep and meaningful.


Up next:
65 – The African Queen (1951)
67 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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