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The 20 Best Scenes in Indiana Jones Movies

24 July 2016 | Features, Other Lists | by Andy Kubica

best Indiana Jones scenes

Filmmakers and friends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were looking to collaborate on a film project together. They discussed the matinee serial films they had enjoyed as children and wanted to come up with a similar character.

Additional supposed inspirations included real-life adventurers Sir Leonard Woolley and Roy Chapman Andrews as well as the fictional characters of Allan Quatermain and James Bond.

Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis has also cited the 1954 Charlton Heston film “Secret of the Incas” as inspiration for both the signature look of the character as well as certain plot and scenes elements.

Lucas had just finished working with screenwriter/producer/director Lawrence Kasdan on “The Empire Strikes Back”, so Kasdan wrote an action-packed screenplay for this film as well.

The character’s name was inspired by Lucas’s dog Indiana (the same Alaskan Malamute who inspired the look of Chewbacca) and the generic last name Jones which Spielberg liked better than the original choice, Smith.

Fearful of the utilizing the same leading man too many times, Lucas decided on Tom Selleck for the role.

Unfortunately, CBS would not let Selleck out of his contract for the 1980s television show “Magnum P.I.” for the duration of time it would have taken to film “Raiders”, so he ultimately had to quit the film.

Last minute Lucas veteran and Spielberg first choice Harrison Ford came to the rescue and stepped in at the last minute to fill the role.

The rest is film history as this combination of elements gave rise to one of the most iconic franchises in film and most memorable screen heroes of all time.

How about this five-year span of films for Harrison Ford:

1980 – The Empire Strikes Back
1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982 – Blade Runner
1983 – Return of the Jedi
1984 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

National Geographic has even cited the “Indiana Jones” films as having renewed the interest in archaeology throughout the world for another generation. They created the exhibit “Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology” which opened in 2015.

Actor John Rhys-Davies (Sallah) was quoted as saying:

“I must have met at least 150 or 160 full professors, lecturers, practicing archaeologists who have come up to me to say their first interest in archaeology began when they saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. That’s not a bad legacy for any film!”

Unfortunately, all four “Indiana Jones” films are not represented on this list.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was released in 2008, nineteen years after the 3rd film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” premiered in 1989. It was not worth the wait.

Veteran screenwriter David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, etc.) managed to create a story which was boring, confusing and extremely unbelievable all at the same time.

Having rewatched the film again recently, it does not hold up well at all. Bad CGI with swinging monkeys and killer ants as well as a swordfight between vehicles in the jungle are only a few of the films many faults.

We should be worried as Koepp is also writing “Indiana Jones 5” which was just moved by Disney to now release on July 19th, 2019 when Harrison Ford will be 77 years old.

Crossing my fingers it will bring back franchise glory.

For the context of this list, each of the first three films is almost equally represented. Otherwise, “Last Crusade” may have only had one or two entries in comparison to the previous two.

 

20. Leap of faith from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Leap of faith from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Time is running out. Indy’s father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery), has been shot. The only way for salvation is for Indy to traverse the three trials or traps protecting the Holy Grail from those who seek to locate it and harness its power.

After having completed thwarting the spinning blades and spelling the Latin name for Jesus Christ, Indy must now believe in the power of the grail in order to complete the final task, “The Path of God”.

“Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.”

It is important for Indy, so he takes a moment to collect his thoughts. He holds his hand to his heart, closes his eyes and takes the step.

It tries to show the importance of belief in something greater than humanity is guiding us at all times.

Spielberg shows us the landing, then pans the camera to side revealing the hidden path. A cool bit of deception.

 

19. Umbrella vs. plane from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Umbrella vs. plane from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

After having escaped the Zeppelin in a biplane, Indy and Henry find themselves on a beach pursued by the remaining German plane.

Their own plane crashed itself and had taken down one of the pursuers earlier.

Indy checked his gun and he is out of bullets with few options. Henry takes it upon himself to remove his umbrella from his suitcase and runs towards a flock of birds perched upon the beach. He opens and closes the umbrella rapidly causing the birds to fly up in a frenzy crashing into the pilot’s windshield causing him to crash.

Henry says:

“I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne. ‘Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky’.”

The two best elements of “Last Crusade” come together here making the scene great: Connery and humor. The two main elements introduced in the 3rd outing which brings new life and energy into the franchise.

Connery seems to have approached the role of Henry Jones Sr. with enthusiasm and dry wit which is exactly what the character needed and is a great contrast to his son.

You will see the humor theme again in a few of the “Last Crusade” entries.

 

18. “He chose… poorly.” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

“He chose... poorly.” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

After following Indy into the Holy Grail chamber, Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) solicits Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) to pick out the one-and-only Grail based upon her expertise. Donovan wants to be the first one to experience the benefits of eternal life.

Elsa picks out a formidable gold chalice and hands it to Donovan for him to sample.

The Grail Guard warned while the Holy Grail gives life, the facsimiles will remove it.

He immediately begins to age rapidly and deteriorate before our eyes. The CGI in the scene isn’t great, but it is rescued by the line.

Having worked at a movie theater during its theatrical run in 1989, this line got one of the biggest laughs of any of the one –liners in the film and was a welcome relief and a moment where the audience could take a breath after enduring the three trials.

The script by Jeffrey Boam (Innerspace, Lethal Weapon 2 & 3) was ripe with one liners like this which kept the dialogue and characters fresh even the third time around.

 

17. Fall from the plane / end up in a river from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Fall from the plane end up in a river from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

After Indy, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) unwittingly board a Chinese airliner belonging to bad guy Lao Che (Roy Chiao) they take at easy and rest.

While they are sleeping, the pilots decide to take their parachutes and exit the plane in midair leaving its passengers to fend for themselves.

Short Round awakens and alerts the other two of their peril.

Indy decides to sandwich them up and jump from the plane using only a rubber raft for landing. The raft inflates on the way down and they land hard on the snowy mountaintop.

The entire sequence of falling from the plane, rapidly rafting down the snowy mountainside, falling from the mountainous cliff and landing in the river below is amazing on keeps us on the edge the entire trip.

It is also important because this is where we first find our way into the village where Indy and the gang learn of the Temple.

 

16. “DON’T call me Junior!” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

“DON'T call me Junior!” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

After being told where his father is being held prisoner, Indy and Elsa make their way to the Scottish castle on the Austrian-German border.

Indy muscles and dupes himself into the castle and locates Henry. They are soon discovered by the Nazis and are now in trouble.

Henry discovers Indy has brought his diary with him even though Henry mailed it to him specifically so the Nazis would not get their hands on it.

We also discover Indy’s fatherly nickname for the first time.

After gaining the momentum, Indy grabs a machine gun and retires his enemies quickly before saying the line.

This scene and line are vastly important in establishing the relationship between father and son as well as showing us the level of humor in the film.

As previously mentioned, this is a new element to the franchise which served well in elevating the familiar storyline to new heights.

You can tell right away Ford and Connery are going to have a great tie playing off each other and have immediate chemistry together.

 

15. Exotic meal from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

After a long journey from the Indian village, Indy, Willie and Shorty are welcomed to Pankot Palace and invited to join an extravagant meal put on by the Maharajah to entertain the visiting British troops.

Indy is at one end of the long banquet table discussing politics and the possible reemergence of the Thugee Cult, while Willie and Shorty are anxiously awaiting sustenance.

Instead of what they were expecting, they are treated to “snake surprise”, large beetles and soup with broth and eyeballs.

They decide to wait for dessert and are horrified when monkey heads are set down in front of them, and their skull caps are removed. Willie faints.

Similar to some of the scenes already mentioned, this scene juxtaposes the serious discussion with Indy and the Willie/Shorty situation perfectly. For those of us who are not used to such cuisine, we feel their plight and revel in their sense of horror at what they are seeing placed in front of them.

 

 

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  • I can’t believe it, you didn’t include… oh wait a minute. That film doesn’t exist and I will choose to deny the existence of Crystal Skull.

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