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The 5 best scenes in the Indiana Jones franchise, ranked

Harrison Ford holds a sword in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Indiana Jones is one of the unlikely heroes ever depicted onscreen. Jones is a different kind of hero. One that uses his brain instead of his muscles and wears a brown hat instead of a cape. Indiana Jones is an archaeology professor, not a crime fighter. He is not all-powerful nor fearless. Need I remind you that the man has a crippling fear of snakes. Indy is a human that makes mistakes. Yet, he’s beloved for his flaws because his bravery and willingness to do the right thing make him an admirable hero. Plus, it also helps to have Harrison Ford as to star.

Ford will reprise his role as the legendary adventurer one last time in Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyIn honor of Indy’s swan song, we ranked the five best scenes in the franchise. Apologies to fans of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is much better than it gets credit for, even if no scenes from the film made this list.

5. Sword vs. gun

Raiders of the Lost Ark (3/10) Movie CLIP - Sword vs. Gun (1981) HD

One of the most memorable scenes in Raiders can be attributed to food poisoning. While filming in Tunisia, over 150 crew members, including Ford, had amoebic dysentery due to the local food. Spielberg was one of the few not sick since he brought his own food. The food poisoning severely limited the crew in terms of what they could film.

For the chase scene in Cairo, Indy was scheduled to face off against the swordsman in a heavily-choreographed fight. Stuntman Terry Richards practiced for weeks in preparing for the fight. On the day of filming, Ford was exhausted from dysentery and could not participate in a long battle. Ford suggested shooting the swordsman, ending the fight before it even began. Spielberg loved the idea and used it for the film. The decision perfectly encapsulates Jones’s cynicism and crankiness, creating one of the funniest and most-talked-about moments throughout the series.

4. Choosing the Holy Grail

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (10/10) Movie CLIP - He Chose Poorly (1989) HD

The Last Crusade is centered around the search for the Holy Grail, a sacred cup believed to have magical healing powers that could grant humans eternal life by drinking water from it. Indiana’s father, Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery), is a Grail expert kidnapped by Nazis in search of the ancient artifact. Indiana must rescue his father from the Nazis and find the Holy Grail before the Nazis do.

Indiana finds the Grail inside a temple and is greeted by an ancient knight. Only one cup is the true Grail, so Indy must choose wisely. Donovan (Julian Glover) chooses the wrong cup and dies by rapidly aging. Indy, however, chooses correctly and saves a mortally wounded Henry from dying. The scene is similar to the end of Raiders, where Indy makes another moral choice to not look at the Ark, saving his life in the process.

3. The rope bridge

Rope Bridge Fight | Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) (Movie Clip HD)

Of the three films in the original trilogy, The Temple of Doom is considered the weakest of the three entries. However, The Temple of Doom is not bad whatsoever. Lucas and Spielberg deserve a ton of credit for opting to create a prequel, not a sequel, as the second film. The Temple of Doom is quite fun, especially in the first and third acts, despite being the darkest film in the franchise. The Temple of Doom was so violent that the MPAA created the PG-13 rating.

The climax is a good, old-fashioned standoff on a bridge. After escaping from the tunnels, Jones, Willie (Kate Capshaw), and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) retreat to a rope bridge over a crocodile-infested river, but Mola Ram and Thuggee cultists trap the trio in the middle. Without no good options, Indy cuts the bridge in two and screams, “Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali… in Hell!” The trio holds on for their lives as most of the cultists fall to their death. The intense scene is another example of how Jones pulls the impossible and escapes with his life.

2. The opening in the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:Train Chase

Before he became a globetrotting treasure hunter and archaeologist, Indiana Jones was an adventurous teenager in the Boy Scouts. The opening scene of The Last Crusade flashes back to 1912 and features a teenage Indiana, played by a young River Phoenix, exploring a Utah cave with his Boy Scout troop. Indiana spies on a group of mercenaries who find Coronado’s crucifix. The young Jones believes the artifact should be in a museum, so he steals the cross and makes a break for it.

The exciting chase sequence starts in the desert and eventually transitions to a circus train, where Indiana outmaneuvers the thieves at every turn. The scene explains how Indiana gets a signature scar on his chain when he uses a bullwhip to scare off a lion, leaving a signature mark on his face. Eventually, the thieves gain the cross back in a nearby town, but the lead explorer respects Indiana’s guts and charisma and leaves his hat in the teenager’s possession, the same style of hat he would make famous as an adult. The flashback scene could have failed if the young actor didn’t resemble or act like Ford. However, having an actor as talented and charismatic as Phoenix makes this sequence one of the franchise’s best.

1. The opening to Raiders of the Ark

Raiders Of The Lost Ark - 1st 10 Minutes (Iconic opening scene FULL)

Indiana Jones is universally believed to be one of the most recognizable and influential characters in movie history. That was not always the case. Since Indy is an original character, his introduction onscreen in Raiders of the Lost Ark had to be memorable. The opening scene in Raiders follows Jones on a quest for the Golden Idol in a South American jungle in 1936. The beginning sequence established Indy’s key traits that remained throughout the franchise. First and foremost, Jones is a treasure hunter, fascinated by relics of the past. Indy is also a skilled fighter, using a bullwhip to disarm one of the guides.

Speaking of his bullwhip, that and a brown hat became staples in Indiana’s wardrobe. Jones is intelligent and cocky, replacing the Golden Idol with a bag of sand. Even when the booby-trapped temple fights back, most notably with a giant boulder, Indiana somehow finds a way out of an impossible situation, something he continues to do 40 years later. The exciting opening moments set the stage for the future of the franchise.

The first four Indiana Jones films are available to stream on Disney+ and Paramount+.

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