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Indy’s Back, So It’s Time for a Rewatch

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in 'The Dial of Destiny'

With news of another Indiana Jones movie in the works now is probably the best time to refamiliarise yourself with the franchise before Dial of Destiny comes out this year. But do you actually need to watch them all? We’re here to tell which are worth revisiting, which are better left to a brief Wikipedia skim, and which can go straight into the ignore pile.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones in Temple of Doom

My parents actually wouldn’t let me watch this as a child and I completely understand why. It’s an awful, racist movie with upsettingly graphic animal cruelty as well. It’s a prequel but it contributes absolutely nothing to the overarching story of the other films, so you can happily skip it.

If you really must know what it’s about, the TLDR is that Indy semi-kidnaps a nightclub singer while running from a Chinese crime lord. They end up in India where they rescue a bunch of children and a sacred artifact from an Evil Orientalist Murder Cult while bickering sexily. She narrowly escapes human sacrifice, bad guys are devoured by crocodiles, and the two of them inexplicably get together at the end of the movie despite seemingly loathing each other throughout. While it’s nice to see Indy actually returning an artifact to its rightful owners for once, that does not make up for the horrendous Orientalism of literally everything about this film. Seriously, do yourself a favor and avoid it. If you’re asking yourself how bad can it be? I promise you it’s worse.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The cast of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'
(Paramount Pictures)

There were a lot of interesting ideas in this one but it didn’t really come together right. Elderly Indy who still fights Nazis and goes after supernatural artefacts? Very cool, but why is he now handing them over to the US government to keep in their secret warehouse? He was pretty opposed to the US government getting its hands on things like this in earlier films.

Marion makes a reappearance—which is great! I love her, and would like to see more older women getting to do things and have adventures please. But their secret son, an idea which had so much potential, turned out to be a really annoying character so it mostly fell flat. Plus he’s played by Shia La Boeuf so there’s that. And really, did the big mystery behind everything really need to be aliens? I know crystal skulls are all tied up with aliens in New Age lore but there are other options they could have gone with. I think the whole alien thing makes everything about the Indy-verse less interesting. However, it’s an OK film and if you’re going to watch the new movie it’s probably a good idea to have a (re)watch, just to make sure you’re all caught up.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'
(Paramount Pictures)

This movie is fun, with the iconic boulder action sequence at the beginning and a whole lot of Nazi punching. The opening is a lot more uncomfortable now as an adult of course, with the full awareness that what he’s doing is Imperialist archaeology and the people trying to nerf him in the process are actually in the right, but for what it is, it’s an enjoyable movie to watch.

There’s a high-stakes global treasure hunt with mysterious artifacts to decipher, intense personal drama, and a scene where Indy chases Nazis on horseback before leaping into their truck and thrashing them! Marion makes her appearance halfway through, and she’s amazing. Who doesn’t love a tough-as-nails, hard-drinking archaeologist who takes shit from no man, not even the hero? There’s a scene where they’re both dangling over the snake pit and Indy utters the iconic line of “Why did it have to be snakes?”, as well as the perfect end for any movie—a bunch of Nazi scum getting their faces melted off by the very wrath of God himself.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade

This is the best one for me, and not just because I was fascinated by the room full of jeweled goblets as a child (it may have permanently warped my aesthetic). We get to see the origins of Indy’s hat as well as him rescuing an artifact that actually does belong in a museum, which makes a nice change from his usual modus operandi, and that’s all before the story really starts.

While I’m always sad about the absence of Marion in this movie, I really like the way it explores Indy’s relationship with his father and how that’s shaped him as both a person and an archaeologist. What I like most about this movie however is its handling of the Holy Grail (as well as all the interesting traps they have to overcome to reach it). The way the Grail mythos has been developed and adapted for the Indy-verse is really interesting, and the movie’s depiction of the Grail as an all-consuming, life-ruining obsession rings true to the original Arthurian mythos and its traditional use as a metaphor for the way desire for power corrupts the seeker. Plus, a Nazi drinks from the wrong cup and crumbles into dust, which is very satisfying.

(featured image: Disney)

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Siobhan Ball is a historian, an archivist, and loves Star Wars so much her English teacher once staged an intervention with her family to try and get her to read other books. She decided to go on and write about it for a living instead.