Since the franchise kicked off in 1981, Indiana Jones has remained one of the most action-packed and outright fun movie series’ of all time. The fantastic result of a collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the series is notable for bringing the adventurer archaeologist trope back into popularity and handing Harrison Ford yet another iconic character under his acting belt.
But the question remains – just what are Indy’s best films? Only four films have been released, and honestly, none of them are flat-out terrible. Some have a better array of good moments than others, while others are just better plotted and more watchable. Therefore, ranking these movies is hard work – but heck, someone has to do it.
So, get your fedora and whip at the ready as we take an archaeological dig into the iconic Indiana Jones movies!
4) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Released in 2008, hardcore fans of the original trilogy berated this one too high heaven. And you can see why – a relatively weird plot involving extra-terrestrials, overuse of uncanny valley-busting CGI and forgettable communist villains.
But hear me out here – it’s not all bad. In fact, there’s stuff here to enjoy. Take the relationship between Indy and newcomer Mutt. Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf bounce off each other brilliantly, with Indy’s experienced cynicism an excellent foil for Mutt’s youthful naivete. And that bike chase through the university campus? Thrilling with a touch of comedy gold. And let’s not forget the infamous fridge scene – I don’t care what you say, that is movie brilliance, and you know it deep down.
So, altogether? The movie has its flaws, yes, but it’s a watchable, entertaining action flick that’ll keep the family invested for a night. Just an FYI, though: a fridge cannot protect you from a nuclear blast. Your best bet is to run, pray, cross your fingers, or literally be anywhere else than the target of the blast. Or you could be Indiana Jones, in which the case the fridge trick will almost definitely work.
3) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
It’s weird that the second Indy film is, in fact, a prequel to the first. However, George Lucas wanted the movie to be set before WWII so that the infamous adventurer could fight something other than the Nazis. His opponents this time? Heart-stealing (literally), psychopathic Hindus with a thing for magic stones.
This film is torn apart often, albeit not as often as Crystal Skull. Many critics – its own director Steven Spielberg being among them – feel that it is just too dark. Both Spielberg and Lucas attributed the movie’s tone to their personal splits with their partners at the time of production. And if the result says anything, it’s this – those break-ups must have been pretty brutal. When one unlucky specimen has his heart ripped out in this film, one wonders whether it was a visual metaphor for the feelings of the film’s esteemed creators.
But while it has some truly gory, bloody scenes, the stuff of which resulted in the PG-13 rating’s creation, there are some truly great action setpieces here – the minecart chase, the bridge scene, even the opening scene in the club with Jones and Lao Chao. The film shows Indy at his best, and even if Willie is one of the most annoying characters in movie history, Short Round is a cool little badass, and I won’t be convinced otherwise. This is a film worth anyone’s time.
2) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Is this is a controversial option? I’ve seen many best Indy lists grace the top position with Raiders. And it’s obvious to see why – it’s a darn good movie and a killer opening for this great franchise. But there a few things that prevent me from giving it the gold medal.
Firstly, while the action is as great as it was back in 1981, you get the feeling that Indiana Jones doesn’t actually do a lot in this film. By that, I mean he doesn’t actually affect the Nazi’s plans much, being more of an annoying fly on their part than an effective action hero. Then there’s Marion Ravenwood – while she’s an interesting strong female character at first in her opening bar scene, she spends the rest of the film is a typical damsel-in-distress and not providing much to the plot. I also feel that it wasn’t made clear to the audience why the humans couldn’t look into the ark (and how Indy discovered this fact).
But Raiders takes spot 2 because it’s filled with great action scenes, one of the best openings of the series, well-written dialogue, a new rival for Indy in Belloq, and just a great concept overall. Just be warned – don’t look or touch the ark, got it? Good.
1.) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
It’s sporadic that the third movie in a trilogy is fantastic. Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Batman Forever, Alien 3, The Godfather Part III…the movie world is filled with substandard third entries. It seems to be a recurring theme. So, when an absolute blockbuster in the vein of The Last Crusade comes around, it’s a pleasure to see.
No doubt responding to criticisms of the previous film’s dark tone, Spielberg and Lucas took Indy back to the light-hearted, fun roots of Raiders and brought Sean Connery along for the ride. One of the best things about this movie is the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. They were never the most obvious combination, but they play the father-son duo so well that you get invested in the relationship.
Besides, the action scenes are brilliantly kinetic and thrilling (with the young Indy opening particularly memorable), and the film has the best sense of pacing in the series. The concept of the Holy Grail was also an interesting one. Never a dull moment, and that reason are why I place it at the top of this list.
Do you agree with this list? How do you think the Indiana Jones films rank? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.