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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’s ending, explained

Harrison Ford sits in an airplane in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
Lucasfilm / Lucasfulm/Disney

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023).

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has never felt more like a man out of time than he does in his latest (and likely final) big-screen adventure, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. When the new film begins, Indy finds himself celebrating his retirement on the exact same day that the rest of New York City is holding a parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts. Indy’s disinterest in the historical achievements happening around him (in one memorable moment, he compares going to the moon to going to a desolate desert town like Reno) only makes his own sense of historical displacement all the more palpable. Everyone else may be looking forward, but he’s still stuck looking back.

Early in the film’s first act, he’s pulled into one last adventure by his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who cons him into giving her the one-half of the famed Archimedes Dial that he and her now-deceased father, Basil (Toby Jones), recovered from Nazi Germany decades prior. When she absconds with Indy’s half of the dial, she not only forces him to track her down in Morocco but also puts him in the crosshairs of Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a Nazi obsessed with finding both halves of the artifact. Once he does, Voller believes he will be able to travel back in time and change the outcome of World War II.

In The Dial of Destiny’s third act, it’s ultimately revealed that Voller’s belief in the Archimedes Dial’s time-traveling powers is correct. However, when he uses the dial to lead him, his men, Indiana, Helena, and the latter’s sidekick, Teddy (Ethann Isidore), through a fissure in time, he doesn’t end up back in 1939 Europe as he expects. Instead, he leads everyone back to 212 B.C. during the Siege of Syracuse. As a result, Voller doesn’t suddenly find himself flying over other Nazi soldiers, but an entire fleet of Roman warships.

Harrison Ford holds a gold disk in Indiana Jones 5.

With hundreds of Roman warriors firing projectiles at them from below, Indiana and Helena both manage to parachute out of Voller’s Nazi airship just before it’s shot down. Voller and all his men, including Boyd Holbrook’s Klaber, die gruesomely in the crash — leaving their completed version of the Archimedes Dial to be discovered by none other than Archimedes himself. Elsewhere, Helena and Indy, who was shot in the shoulder earlier by Klaber, land in the hills of ancient Sicily and take a breath to survey the historical moment happening around them.

Indy, for his part, insists that Helena and Teddy, who followed Voller back in time on a stolen plane of his own, leave him where he “belongs” in history. Bleeding out and ignoring Teddy’s calls for them to get on his plane, Indy has a brief conversation with Archimedes and tells Helena that he believes he was always meant to end up stranded in the past. Helena, in a truly applause-worthy moment, responds by punching him so hard he goes unconscious. When he wakes up an undefined amount of time later, he’s back in his 1969 New York City apartment.

He doesn’t just find Helena waiting for him when he wakes up, either. Moments after the two have a legitimately moving conversation about the people who love him in his time, Indy is surprised to see his estranged wife, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), walk into his apartment with grocery bags in hand. Earlier in the film, Indy revealed that he and Marion had slowly but surely grown apart following the off-screen death of their son years prior, a fact that makes Marion’s return at the end of Dial of Destiny all the more emotional for both characters.

Helena and Indy stand in a cave together in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

In their final conversation, Indy and Marion cryptically address their recent separation before taking an affectionate trip down memory lane. When Indy asks Marion where her grief doesn’t hurt, the two engage in a deeply touching inverse of their iconic boat conversation from 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Dial of Destiny then ends with Indy and Marion kissing in their kitchen just before the former reclaims his fedora from his fire escape, ensuring that no one else will ever wear it in his place.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in other words, ends exactly as it should — with a warm embrace of its hero’s present life and a playful nod to his past.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is now playing in theaters.

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Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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