Monday 30 March 2015

Rank the Films: Indiana Jones

As any regular reader of this blog will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. I have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of bad to good.

Grab your bullwhip, throw on that fedora and pack a dusting brush - on the slate this month is the Indiana Jones series, from 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark to 2008's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

So, without further ado, let's dive straight in - this is the four Indy films ranked worst to best. Did your favourite reach the top? Read on...

4th - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom the Crystal Skull (2008)

We all knew this one was going to be here, so let's just get it done and out the way okay? Like ripping off a bandaid - quick and painless. Except, watching Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is neither quick nor painless.

I say that not because I dislike the film but because so many others do - yes, it is easily the worst in the series but I still think some of the film is worth praising (don't shoot me!).

I've heard a lot of people compare Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to The Phantom Menace by saying that they're equally as underwhelming. Whilst I do dislike the former, I wouldn't go that far. Sure, it's not a patch on the original trilogy of films - but I think there are still elements to this film that have merit.

For example, Harrison Ford nails grouchy old Indy. It's nice to see him step into the iconic role once more. Likewise, I like that Karen Allen returns as Marion Ravenwood. It's a cool throwback to Raiders. For me, the fault lies with other parties. Shia LaBeouf's character is both ill-conceived and miscast. Adding him to the mix is definitely one of those 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' kind of things. Oh 2007, such a simpler time.

And then, we reach the real flaw; the action. Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of 'suspension of disbelief' but here George Lucas and Steven Spielberg crank it up to scarcely imaginable level. The ants, the waterfalls, the fridge, the vines and the aliens? What on Earth is going on?!

I think the one thing we can agree on is that Indy 4 is very divisive - it has it's fair share of haters but I'm sure there are plenty of people who also don't mind it. So whilst it's far from great, let's not exaggerate just how dismal it is - I'm kind of over it. 

3rd - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A fact that is often overlooked, Temple of Doom is one of the rarest of commodities in cinema; a prequel that isn't shite. Yep, you may not remember but the 'second' Indiana Jones film is actually set prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark and isn't really rubbish like the bulk of prequels we see nowadays. In fact, was prequel even a word back in 1984? Probably not.

Anyway, Temple of Doom has a reputation for the being the darkest entry in the franchise, and for good reason - it is genuinely a really dark film when stacked alongside the other three. It sees Indy travel to India (heh heh) and retrieve a precious gem, as well as several kidnapped children with the help of his lady friend Willie (Kate Capshaw) and adorable kidlet, Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan).

The difference here is that Temple of Doom was 'darker' before being darker than the first film was a Hollywood buzz word for press junkets. It's just genuinely darker because it wants to scare the shit out of 9-year-olds who loved Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is that a bad thing? Eh, maybe. The difference in tone does kind of stick out when viewing the films back-to-back. That being said, the other films aren't without frights - Temple of Doom just ramps it up a little more.

Other than that, it's a really great entry in the series - it's fun (the mine cart sequence), thrilling (the bridge scene) and a tad controversial (the monkey brains). But it's that heart removal scene that'll stay with you, for better or worse. 

2nd - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the third and last great Indy film from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. It picks up our hero in 1938 on the trail of the Holy Grail as well as his missing father.

I was super tempted to put this one atop my list - after all, the decision to cast Sean Connery as Indy Senior is quite possibly one of the best casting decisions of all time just behind giving RDJ the role of Tony Stark. The banter between Indy and his dad is hilarious and takes The Last Crusade dangerously close to usurping the first movie as the best Indiana Jones film so far. 

Like any memorable action film, Last Crusade has its fair share of thrilling set-pieces that tie the swashbuckling plot together - from the circus train flashback to the motorcycle chase in France and the tank sequence, it's a film that races by at breakneck speed. Plus, it's pretty cool to have the Nazi's back for a second time - which is never a sentence I'd thought I'd say and should definitely never be repeated outside of discussing The Last Crusade...

1st - Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Raiders of the Lost Ark (as it was originally titled before the 'Indiana Jones and the' was added later) is one of those milestone films that will endure for decades to come. It's like The Godfather, E.T. or Alien - a definitive classic of the genre in which it resides.

It's the first time we're introduced to Harrison Ford's (second-most) iconic role, as well as the timeless costume complete with bullwhip and fedora, and that soaring John Williams score kicks in.

It's magical moment after magical moment as Indy adventures his way from the golden idol scene to the market shootout and the face-melting Ark sequence. How can you not grin for ear-to-ear when Indy lazily shoots the sword-wielding baddie or falls into the pit of petrifying snakes?

Last Crusade comes close, but Raiders of the Lost Ark remains not just a benchmark for Indiana Jones films but for action-adventure films in general.

Now, who wants to come excavate some dusty old ruins with me?

What are your thoughts on the Indiana Jones series - which film is your favourite? Plus, which series of films should I rank next? Check out past entries here.


  1. I cannot believe that Crystal Skull is at 78% on RT. Didn't everyone hate it?!?

    1. Yeah, that does seem a little generous huh? :) I'd still give it something like a 65% though.

  2. No arguments from me. That's how I'd rank them.

  3. Raiders! Always Raiders!

  4. Nice list! I don't disagree with your number one pick but Crusades is my top favorite. The humor is a bit more on point between Connery and Ford than the others, and I think that's what makes me like it a bit more. I can't say much for the other two though. Doom is extremely annoying and I haven't seen it in years. Something always interrupts my viewing of Skulls. Perhaps for the better? :D

    1. Yeah, the humour really does elevate Crusade doesn't it? :) Connery is a blast when riffing alongside Ford. Thanks for commenting Katy!



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