Home Entertainment Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Review

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Review


I have never seen an Indiana Jones film before. Take back that shock, at least I’ve seen this one. I’ll get round to watching the other three in the series soon enough, they’re on the list. No, wait, I’ve seen a bit of the fourth one but I was about seven years old. Honestly I don’t remember a single thing about that film but everyone I’ve spoken to would rather forget about the film. So, on my own adventure dissimilar to the one featured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I decided to watch all four of these films. Obviously not one after another, but I’ll be reviewing all four of these films over the course of a month or so. Now unfortunately even though I haven’t seen any of the films I know what happens due to the LEGO games.

Lets just praise the film for its stellar musical score. Quite simply, John Williams is a genius and is behind some of the greatest musical scores in history. Star Wars, Jaws, Schindler’s List and of course Indiana Jones are all under Williams’ belt. Not only is he a brilliant talent, his music is some of the best of all time and it just goes to show within this film. Even I know the tune for Indiana Jones and I hadn’t even watched the film. Anyways, let’s get on with the review, that’s enough praise for this amazing musical score.

This film is probably best remembered for its truly stellar plot, and many memorable scenes (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981 – CC. LucasFilm Ltd.

Like most action adventure films, a great deal of tension is needed to make an enjoyably thrilling plot. Make no mistake, this film manages just that. Throughout the opening we have a perfect blend of music, action, death and adventure. It sets you off on a good footing for the film and it was well and truly appreciated. Hell, it even managed a pretty decent amount of fear, but that’s because I’m a huge arachnophobe and the spiders freaked me out. Bloody tarantula’s, I genuinely had to look away from the film because of that bit. But that’s a good thing, right? If the movie is making me look away with fear by going after specific phobias, then that’s great! It’s going to make a lasting impact.

Characters are obviously important, and considering this is a series of four films I would be very hard pressed to enjoy them if the main character was an arsehole. Luckily, Indiana Jones oozes charisma simply by looking down the camera. I can’t help but think this is down to Harrison Ford, who is not only an incredible actor but also manages to bring this role well and truly to life. Jones is a passionate man with a love for archeology and the preservation of such means, and Ford projects this perfectly. What I presume he is more passionate for is Marion.

There’s always going to be a love angle in films from the 80s, it just sort of happens. At least this one doesn’t feel too forced. Marion isn’t the worst character in the world and she definitely has her own great moments completely independent of Indiana Jones. The drinking scenes alone are attempts to build her as a strong character, and I feel that they work.

Action is a key part of this film, especially when considering that’s one of the genres alongside adventure. Luckily, the action is a genuine treat to watch. From gunfights in ablaze bars to bare knuckle brawling underneath a plane, there’s no shortage of high octane action. I’ve always felt that eighties films like this have handled action rather awkwardly. Hell, even the nineties films handled it with some clumsy handedness. Still, I made it through these action sequences unscathed and relatively enjoyed my time with these parts of the film. Funnily enough the film does in fact focus more on plot and adventure, but the action was of course going to be there.

There’s no way the film could have worked without a bit of action. Huge chunks of the film are action solely, but these are often broke up with plot thick scenes, alongside some subplots of romance, comedy and, of course, archeology.

This film is widely regarded as having some of the greatest cinematic scenes of all time, and rightly so. The melting heads at the end of the film are an obvious one. My personal favourite is the fight with the swordsman, who, after a display of skill, is simply shot by our beloved hero. It’s a perfect scene, and not just for the humour of it. Most importantly this scene establishes the character of Indiana Jones. He’s not this morally right character, he’s just a guy that wants the easiest way out from many of the situations he finds himself in. To be fair I would to if I was up against the Nazis.

Snakes, a common enemy of literally everybody (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981 – CC. LucasFilm Ltd.

The Nazi’s are villains because this film is set in the 1930s and all other villains at that point had either retired or died. To be fair, who else would it have been? At least we have some variety, with Belloq being the main villain and French also. Bloody French.

Belloq as a villain was extremely enjoyable. He’s honestly one of the better villains I’ve seen in films. He was charismatic, genuinely creepy and above all did have a human side to him. This was shown quite clearly in scenes with Marion, their small romantic subplot a fickle thing for the film, but greatly appreciated by me. I liked this romantic subplot with the villain rather than the hero. You do genuinely believe Marion has switched sides and decided to root for Belloq and his gang of Nazis. Of course, it wouldn’t be a happy ending if that happened so we fall for the trap of traditional romance. Still, it was nice to cling onto the idea that the villain could in fact be romantically involved with the heroine of the story.

I did pinpoint a couple of things that don’t make sense, as I usually do. Mainly at the start of the film where Indiana Jones whips across the gap, but then on his return he manages to just jump across. Yes, I get whipping across was a cool visual, but to be fair, he could’ve just jumped it. Maybe I’m looking far too much into this, but it’s still there.

On the other hand however I am very glad and appreciative that they establish his fear of snakes almost immediately. It’s nothing silly like in Back to the Future 2 (1989) when Marty McFly has a sudden anger towards chickens. The sooner you establish a fear or negative opinion, the better it will be for the movie experience. On top of this, are snakes actually afraid of fire? Why is there a literal pool of snakes inside of the temple? How do they survive down there? This is simply illogical George Lucas, hang your head in shame.

There were some beautiful scenes hidden away in this film that are often overlooked. Establishing shots are used frequently and my favourite was at the sundown archeological dig. The black silhouettes reflecting off of a red skyline, it was genuinely quite lovely to see. It’s in comparison to Full Metal Jacket (1987) where the trainees are climbing on the apparatus.

Of course, it’s going to be very difficult to ignore the religious overtones of the film. Sure, they’re there, but even Indiana Jones doesn’t care, so why should you? Indy manages to subvert these religious tones and just make it all about going after some golden relics. I really appreciated that, I didn’t feel like getting bogged down in scripture on a Saturday night. It wasn’t unavoidable though, but religious ideas were only used in correlation to Hitler. No I’m not comparing religion to Hitler, I’m just showing what the movie was saying. Hitler was in fact obsessed with the occult and it makes sense for the film. Especially considering he’s going after the Ark of the Covenant.


How this film managed a PG rating will truly baffles me. No it’s not the spiders, the melting faces bit is what in on about. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love the fact that this is a PG. That’s not important really, I just got freaked out by the ending, which was really great.

Overall what can you really say about this film? It’s a lot of fun, has a fulfilling story and some stellar acting from everyone involved. There’s no reason not to see this movie and it is very rightly regarded as one of the industries greatest films. When I first entered this film I thought I’d expect some hyped up rubbish. How wrong I was. I can safely say I cannot wait to watch the second instalment of this series, it’s truly remarkable! Raiders of the Lost Ark boasts a phenomenally strong main character and it pays off well.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Sarcastic. Pessimist. I write what I think, hopefully you enjoy that.