It’s the final countdown for Harrison Ford and his portrayal as a master adventurer and professor of archaeology, Indiana Jones. Ford will reprise his role as Indy one final time in the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Directed by Logan’s James Mangold, Indy squares off against the Nazis again, but this time, it’s 1969 amid the space race between the United States and Russia. His mission: retrieve the Archimedes Dial, a time travel device, before it gets into the hands of Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi working for NASA.
It has yet to be seen if Dial of Destiny will be a worthy swan song for Ford. However, the previous four films, especially the original trilogy, will live on forever. There’s a timeless aspect to Indiana Jones movies where the Raiders, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade still look great and don’t feel dated despite being filmed in the 1980s and set in the 1930s. Before we add Dial of Destiny to the rankings, here are the previous four Indiana Jones movies ranked from worst to best.
Note: All four films are available to stream on Disney+ and Paramount+.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is last on most (if not all) Indiana Jones rankings. Kingdom of Crystal Skull relies too much on CGI, taking away the authentic feeling of the stunts provided in the first three films. Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford argued quite a bit about the direction of the fourth film. Lucas’ decision to introduce interdimensional beings in the Kingdom of Crystal Skull was ineffective and head-scratching. It was a decision Spielberg fought against before his loyalty to Lucas won out. Indiana Jones is about religion and archaeology, not aliens.
However, Kingdom of Crystal Skull is not that bad. Spielberg still expertly crafts the film’s exciting action sequences, including the motorcycle chase on the college campus. And Ford is still really good at playing Jones. You can tell by the excitement on his face that he still loves this character. Shia LaBeouf, who stars as Indy’s son Mutt, has a complicated relationship with the film. Yet, LaBeouf is not as bad as he thinks. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may be a misfire, but it’s not a dumpster fire like some other recent blockbusters.
Temple of Doom is the overwhelming answer for the least-liked of the three original films. Yes, there are problematic elements of racism and sexism throughout the film that are too glaring to brush off. Culturally insensitive moments aside, part of the reason Temple of Doom does not work for some involves Indy’s character. In Raiders, Indy is a noble adventurer willing to risk his life to protect the sacred relics of the world. In Temple of Doom, Indy is quite the opposite. He’s selfish, egotistical, and materialistic, as evidenced by his eagerness to sell an artifact for a diamond in the opening moments.
It’s easy to forget that Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark and that helps to explain why the noble Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark is nowhere to be found in Temple of Doom. Indy has yet to learn those lessons about honor and sacrifice as he still seeks fortune and glory in the prequel. Temple of Doom is also the darkest entry in the franchise. From Indy’s zombielike “possession” to the human sacrifices by the villainous Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), Temple of Doom is a fascinating rewatch, considering the transformation that Indy will eventually complete going into Raiders.
After going back in time for the prequel, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade picks up two years after the events of the Raiders. Indy learns that his father, Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery), has gone missing. Henry has been searching for the Holy Grail, a magical cup believed to have healing powers and the ability to grant eternal life. Henry has been kidnapped by the Nazis, who also seek the Grail. Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), Henry’s financial backer, tasks Indy with finding his father and the Grail.
Last Crusade is as much of a father-son movie as an adventure movie, so it helps that Ford and Connery make the perfect father-son combo. Their attitudes and mannerisms feel like they come from the same family. Ford and Connery are very funny, something you wouldn’t expect from the actors who played the sarcastic Han Solo and dashing James Bond. In addition, the opening sequence featuring River Phoenix as a young Indiana Jones is one of the most memorable sequences in the entire franchise. With the wrong actor, it’s a cheesy flashback. With Phoenix in the role of the future adventurer, it’s a wild and entertaining sequence that explains the origins of Indiana Jones.
It’s rare to find a perfect movie, but Raiders of the Lost Ark come close to being absolutely flawless. Everyone from the crew to the cast is at the top of their games. Every scene in the film makes sense. There’s a protagonist on the hero’s journey as the antagonist tries to take down the star. The action and adventure elements are nonstop.
The adventures of Indiana Jones became an instant classic upon Raiders of the Lost Ark’s release in 1981. The partnership between Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford is seamless, as Raiders catches the three icons of Hollywood on the upslope of their careers. The plot of Raiders’ is easy to digest: Indy must find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis find it. From the terrific opening sequence to the exhilarating truck chase, Raiders is the type of movie magic that turns kids into dreamers and adults into nostalgic believers. 40-plus years later, Raiders remains perfect.
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- Where to watch all the Indiana Jones movies and TV series
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