Grab your whip and fedora, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' hits 30

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Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. TM All Rights Reserved

In 1975, Steven Spielberg invented the summer blockbuster with Jaws. Only two years later, George Lucas perfected it with Star Wars. And then, the two filmmakers combined their forces and beards to come up with an idea they thought would change movies forever: giant sharks in space. Then they quickly scrapped that idea in favor of Raiders of the Lost Ark, an action-adventure film that would resurrect the spectacle of early film serials combined with enough action and humor to melt the audience’s faces off.

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Raiders. That’s three decades since Harrison Ford first dodged that rolling boulder, and I’m going to celebrate by watching the whole trilogy-plus-one on DVD. That’s right, even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That’s just how dedicated I am. It’s an especially good weekend for it since the Indy movies are really the only Spielberg films not referenced in Super 8. Well, also Amistad, I’m guessing.

There’s almost no franchise I can think of that is as much unadulterated fun. Whereas the Pirates of the Caribbean movieswhich owe a clear debt to Indiana Jones’ mix of rousing action and roguish humor—get bogged down and bloated in extraneous plotlines and nonsensical character motivations, the first three Indy films are great examples of wonderfully simple, instantly memorable storytelling. From Alfred Molina dying straight through to the iconic, strangely ominous final shot of the government warehouse, the original Raiders is essentially a perfect work of pure pulp entertainment, a type of movie even rarer than those considered “cinematic masterpieces.” In fact, it’s so rare that it belongs in a museum.

And that’s true even if you think they nuked the fridge with the fourth film and if news that a fifth one may be on the way makes you want to let out a Wilhelm scream. So how are you going to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Raiders? Don’t choose…poorly.

Comments (121 total) Add your comment
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  • Jo

    One of my favs.

    • derek

      Love the original, never much cared for any of the sequels. For me, Raiders wasn’t just an Indy movie, it was an Indy and Marion movie. Not having Marion Ravenwood in the sequels really harmed them to me. Plus, I just didn’t think they were all that good compared to the original.

      • Jessica

        I loved Marion. I totally agree that she was missed in the other two, which were just okay. The main reason I wanted to see Crystal Skull was because of her, and got some enjoyment out of it sheerly because she was in it. And still looks pretty damn good, by the way.

      • Joe

        Couldn’t agree more. I never got the love for any of the sequels, in my opinion they just aren’t that good. Raiders is freaking awesome tho.

      • pickle t1ts

        One of my earliest memories of film was going to see this with my parents when I was 4 and a half and my mom trying to cover my eyes at the end when the ark goes gorilla shiht and me fighting her off so I could see. I love this movie so much.

      • PN

        Maybe Marion declined to do the later sequel movies because she probably felt that nothing could top what she did in Raiders in 1981. The unexpected box office success and fan adulation must have overwhelmed her.

      • Petra

        Could be wrong, but as I recall, the storylines of the original trilogy were shot/released in reverse chronological order. In other words, the events of Raiders happened after Temple of Doom which happened after Last Crusade – therefore Marion couldn’t be in any of them. On the bright side, it implied that Indy ends up w/ Marion – which is just as it should be!

    • IMPROV

      One of the all-time champs, it should have been Best Picture. The odd-numbered ones have been wonderful, so maybe they should do a 5th.

    • Rock Golf

      I actually saw Raiders as a sneak preview know next to nothing about the film. I knew Spielberg & Lucas were involved. I knew it starred the guy from Star Wars. And nothing else. Not a hint about the plot, the setting, the dialogue. Squat.
      It was the most magical experience of my life at the movies, and I cannot imagine there’ll ever be a situation that tops it. How many movies do we see these days that haven’t been sold to us months in advance? The internet, for all its benefits, has taken away from us the perfect movie surprise.
      There were maybe 20 people in that Toronto theatre (the Eglinton) for the sneak preview. And I’ll bet every one of them remembers it vividly.

      • Anthony Thomson

        I saw it too as a sneak preview. It was the second feature after Ordinary People. My Dad and I and about a dozen other people were in the Lambton Mall Cinema in Sarnia, Ont. It remains one of my top 5 movie experiences. It grabbed you by the throat and did not let go until the credits rolled.

    • Cygnus

      If they do a 5th film, we need to hope Ford doesnt phone it in again. He lost his edge and slightly dark side in the 4th film. What happened to the suave guy that can shoot a sword-wielder without flinching in the first movie, the Dark Indy from Temple of Doom, or the Indy that showed true contempt and anger for Nazis in Last Crusade?

  • MWeyer

    Still one of my faves and no, I don’t find “Kingdom” some horrible “raped my childhood” travesty, enjoy the entire saga.

    • Marten

      YAY! I knew we were out there! I totally agree, loved Kingdom as well. But Raiders will always be my favorite.

      • LMFAO

        Crystal Skull is still a$$ raping me as we speak. Truly vulgar.

      • MWeyer

        That bugs me, the idea that if you love the original, you HAVE to hate the fourth one or you’re not a real fan. Yes, the “fridge in a nuke” scene is unbeliveable but how much different than falling out of an airplane in a life raft hundreds of feet, sliding down an icy mountain, over a 200 foot gorge, into a raging rapids with NO injury whatsoever? Besides, you’re at ground zero for the Wrath of God, what’s a nuclear explosion? The whole point of the movies is wild and crazy stuff, just go with it.

      • LOL

        I don’t think anyone is saying that if you love the first one you have to hate the 4th one. It’s just that the 4th one is terrible no matter how you slice it. I don’t judge it compared to the others. I judge it on its own. And I hate it.

      • EC

        the cool thing about Indiana Jones was that yes, it was a fantasy movie. But their was always believability in it. Throw in some adventure (following a series of clues to find an ancient relic, at least in the 1st a 3rd) and “voila”. The 4th one was the worst sequel ever. The “adventure” was the scribbling on the walls of a prison cell by an insane man. And forget the aliens (shudder) and surviving a nuke @ point blank range in a refrigerator for a moment – giant mutant ants that can devour a human in .8 seconds flat? Give me a break. Then falling thousand of feet off a waterfall. And surviving. Pure crap.

      • Fred Blitzfick

        “”Besides, you’re at ground zero for the Wrath of God, what’s a nuclear explosion?””???

      • Ted Striker

        Although there is a great degree of implausibility of some of the scenes in the franchise, Mythbusters proved that falling out of an airplane in a life raft and living to tell about it is plausible. Even though they used a bigger raft and only one test dummy (Buster), he landed without a scratch on him after falling several thousand feet, which was probably the most shocking result I’ve ever seen on that show.

        Regarding Raiders… I think that movie is the Godfather of modern pure summer action adventure movies. I completely agree with the author, Jaws and Star Wars perfected the blueprint and Raiders used that as to create the perfect storm of a summer movie. My two favorite movies of all time (and I classify favorite by using an enjoyment scale) are Raiders and North By Northwest, movies with an ultra-fun blend of comedy, action, and adventure.

    • It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage

      Actually, the fridge moment was one of my favorite moments of the film simply because it’s so ridiculous. But my major problem with Crystal Skull was that the script was an absolute mess. I shouldn’t need cliff notes to fallow the plot of an Indy Movie.

      • Rush

        I agree. I laughed my ass off at that scene, the pure ridiculousness of it. But imagine: fridges of that era had lead walls so thick that it’s really not that much of a suspension of disbelief that you could survive in one.

      • Jenius

        The problem I have is that if you got stuck in an old fridge there was no way to open it from the inside.

      • Heather P

        I thought it was hilarious too. I didn’t hate Crystal Skull. I enjoyed it about as much as Temple of Doom, but didn’t love it like I did the first and third movies.

  • Jerry

    30 years?…I’m getting old.

    • Kaiulani

      My thoughts exactly!

    • Anthony Thomson

      It’s not the years, it’s the miles.

  • Eric Renderking Fisk

    Got my fedora – now it’s just a matter of finding a new place to explore!

    • Shaun

      You could search for a good script for the fifth movie… I think fans everwhere would thank you for it!

  • scott s

    If they have it On Demand, will watch when I get home tonight… still one of the best movies ever. (along with Caddyshack and Airplane, one of those movies you can watch multiple times and still enjoy)

  • Sarah

    The best of the best of the best! A great adventure, a great story, and I fell in love with Indy *gulp* …30(!) years ago when I was in 4th grade. Still good to see him in the ol’ fedora, just hope if they make another one it’s just him, not aliens, Marian, or Shia LeBouf! Lol.

    • Annie

      Fell in love with Indy in the fourth grade too!!! Raiders is still one of my all time favorite movies!!

  • Pede

    Best ‘sword fight’ ever! And damn I feel old… For the record, I still don’t watch the scene where the guy’s face melts off, the first time was enough for me!

  • Mitchell Hallock

    My friends and I on the IndyCast podcast – the only indiana Jones podcast-will talk about Raiders and why it’s the greatest film ever made and hope there is an Indy 5! Come on Lucas at least give is a BluRay of the Indy trilogy

  • peggym

    I remember turning to my husband halfway through Raiders and whispering “I LOVE this movie!!”. Still do.

  • Missy

    I loved this movie so much that I saw it exactly 18 times in the theater during the summer of 1981. My kids are still floored by that but as I explained we didn’t have cable, video games, VCR’s, computers, etc. Then I remind them how many times I watched The Little Mermaid when they were younger. Fell in love with Harrison Ford as Han Solo but I knew it was true love after my first viewing of him as Indiana Jones. Why do you think I make my hubby wear a fedora? The sequels ranged from pretty good to great but there is nothing like the first. Thanks for the memories.

    • erin

      Also, movie tix didn’t cost $15 back then either

    • Hirolla74

      First movie I ever watched where we(my father and brother and I) waited around the theater and past two blocks to get tickets. No Fandango; no multiplexes! Just good old word of mouth! Indy Jones, Rick Deckard and Han Solo in that order. Nuff said!

    • Linquel

      That beats my seeing Star Wars 13 times in the theater. My fedora is off to you.

    • Amy

      I’m pretty sure I saw the original Raiders at least 20 times in 1981-82. It played at the movie theater down the street from my dorm for my entire sophomore year of college! Another great thing about that movie — my 60 year old mother went with me the first time I saw it, and she loved it too! It reminded her of the movies from her era!

  • brumfest

    I remember seeing Raider’s in the theater! I loved it then and still like it an awful lot. It is so funny to see my boys (5 and 6) fall in love with Star Wars (I was princess leah the year it came out) and someday they will watch Raiders. What is funny is that I was in LOVE with Indiana Jones as a kid but HATED Han Solo and refused to believe they were the same actor!! HAHA!

  • @disappointing

    Everyone’s lost but me!

  • stutzbearcatjim

    All time classic of course. I didn’t hear until years later, though, about the controversy reagrding Temple of Doom. The violence, the heart, the children laborers. I was 10 when I saw it and don’t remember it as a big deal.
    Anyway, favorite line from Raiders:
    “Shoot them…Shoot them both.”

  • shelly

    It still is a great movie, a classic. Everything, from the ating, wonderment, script, endless close calls, music and danger still reverberate today. A complete package. perfect movie

  • plopeye the sailor

    The first and third ones were good. The second and fourth ones sucked cheese.

    • J

      Yep. It’s the opposite of the Star Trek movies.

    • David

      “Temple of Doom” was PURE awesomeness, too. Plenty of people I know agree. Don’t include/confuse the fourth movie with the second.

    • Heather P

      I’ve got to agree with you. Maybe J’s right. If so maybe film 5 won’t suck.

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