Raiders of the Lost Ark, i.e. the perfect movie, was released 40 years ago today.
In 2022, Harrison Ford will crack the whip once more as Indiana Jones, the globetrotting, Nazi-fighting archaeologist and one of cinema’s most beloved heroes.
By the time our eyes reach the fifth entry, it’ll have been more than four decades since the one that started it all. Everyone has their favourite, but Raiders is almost inarguably the best of them all; impeccable, swashbuckling fun built on the backs of legends.
Just like James Bond always opens on the climax of an action-packed mission, the opening sequence of Raiders isn’t just top-to-bottom wondrous; it’s a mini-movie in itself. It’s a 14-minute elevator pitch for Ford’s hero; a scrappily arrogant, violent, nimble but fallible adventurer and treasure hunter with a suave fedora.
The spider, snake and beastie-infested jungle, the booby traps, the glistening idol and of course, the tumbling Bandicoot boulder – it’s no surprise Spielberg said, ‘The piece should be like a real horror ride… what we’re doing here is designing a ride at Disneyland.’
While its opening is home to the Indy iconography we know and love, and arguably fuelled the appetite for an even wilder prequel, a wonderful, more mature follow-up and the one where he gets nuked in a fridge, the rest of the movie is spotless and worthy of equal praise. I mean, they literally melt the faces off Nazis with an ark.
Of course, its influence was both immediate and everlasting. Indiana Jones has lived on vividly in every decade since; Raiders may be a movie of its time, indebted to earlier serials with that peak Spielberg and Lucas charm, but it’s also timeless, much like Star Wars.
Just look at the clear inspirations: countless references throughout pop culture, like Bart grabbing the coin jar in The Simpsons, Tomb Raider, Uncharted and even Captain America: The First Avenger. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy previously said, ‘Raiders has had a tremendous influence. It has become the touchstone. I hear people even now in development meetings refer to things as Raiders-esque.’
In an oral history with Empire, Spielberg said, ‘The first Indy, for me, is the most perfect of the three. I’ve never gone back and said I could have done anything better than what I achieved on that film.’
Producer Frank Marshall also said, ‘One year after the movie came out, I went to two Raiders birthday parties, one in San José and one in San Diego, where the movie had been playing for a year. Just think about that: today, what movie plays in a movie theatre for a year?’
None. No movie plays for a year. But Raiders of the Lost Ark will live on; today, tomorrow and always.
Featured Image Credit: Lucasfilm
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