Aug 21 2012 1:00pm

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

This is one of those opinions that is probably going to get me hauled out to face some sort of tribunal under charges of blasphemy. See, when it comes to Indiana Jones, most hardcore fans will say it's Raiders, obviously. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best Indiana Jones film, the only one that matters, and for the most part, I completely understand why. It's our introduction to a beloved pop culture hero, Harrison Ford is a handsome dog in it, the fedora, the whip, Karen Allen being awesome, plus America has only recently gotten over its love affair with beating up Nazis in every WWII-era film it puts out. (If you're watching Inglorious Bastards, it might appear that we haven't gotten over it at all.)

But I'm going to say it: I don't think it's the best Indiana Jones film. I think that award goes to The Last Crusade.

Before everyone starts throwing old shoes and rotten fruit my way, let's talk about it. Because, you know, it's incredibly easy to say that the movie that begins a series is the best, especially where cult classics are concerned. The first film is the first time you see the characters you love in action. The first film sets the tone for the rest and establishes rules for the fictional universe. The first film introduces you to the musical and visual themes that you come to associate with those stories. It gives you all the cues you require to appreciate potential sequels in the first place.

So we often like first films the best. If you did a general census and had fans checking boxes, most of them would tick Raiders, Back to the Future I, the first Matrix film, and so on. But just because those movies are essential to our understanding and enjoyment of further installments doesn't automatically make them the best. What makes Last Crusade special enough to top my list, then? Observe....

The opening of Raiders introduces us to Indiana Jones in a surprisingly distant way. We don't even see our hero's face for the first few minutes, and when we finally do, it's because he's whipped a gun out of the hand of a man about to kill him. And that's pretty badass. There's no reason to repeat it. So when The Last Crusade opens, we're given a different sort of introduction: A “Formation of the Hero” sequence. This flashback has a sort of whimsical, mythic quality; everything about Indy gets explained in one go, from his fear of snakes to his love of fedoras to the scar on Harrison Ford's chin. It's daring in its decision to put everything up front and make Indy more of a legend, with a defining moment of construction.

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn't mean you have to like it.” That's what the man in the hat says to teenaged Indy, and don't those words basically guide his life from that point on?

Indiana Jones has always had a lot more to offer than your average “action movie with fantastical elements,” and I attribute a lot of that to its sense of humor. It's as though Harrison Ford got to take all the parts of Han Solo he liked, and then was free to add his own lack of levity to the situation. The Last Crusade perfects that sense of humor, allows us to revel in how admittedly ridiculous this universe is, a place where all religions, all supernatural happenings, all parts of history can collide however they see fit for the sake of a globetrotting romp. Indy's Scottish accent is appalling, he still can't manage to pick a disguise that fits him, and his frequent bickering with Papa Jones, Sr. is a marvel (that I will get to in a moment).

If Indiana Jones is being constantly compared to James Bond—which was part of the reason Connery was cast to play his dad in the first place—then Last Crusade goes out of his way to prove just how badly Indy lives up to that sort of mantle. He lets a nasty lady get too close and pays the price, he brings hapless friends on the journey who make everything more difficult for him, he ends up working for the bad guy by accident, he gets noticed everywhere he goes, and worst of all, he cares. Indiana Jones has far too much heart to be the iceman with a pistol, knocking back martinis and offering glib retorts to bad men.

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

Steven Spielberg has spent nearly his entire career picking apart bad father-son dynamics, and though it grates at times, The Last Crusade is one of the places where it works to an utterly charming end. Ford and Connery form a super team that needed to occur on screen, and the film chooses not to spend the bulk of the narrative angsting over past wrongs between them. Instead, we see a lot of exchanges that remind us of how we interact with our own parents, moments of utter exasperation, communication meltdowns, pride paired with shock, and the protectiveness that overwhelms on both sides of that relationship.

Spielberg was a more experienced director by the third Indy film and it shows. Raiders and Temple of Doom both have places where the pace suddenly slows and the narrative fizzles out: Either actions scenes go on for just a minute or two longer than they should, or too much talking gets in the way of important things that need to get done. The Last Crusade has very few drags; many cuts from one scene to another impart a joke of some kind, from Brody in the market in Iskenderun to Sallah returning with camels instead of horses. There are plenty of smaller obstacles to overcome on the gang's way to the giant MacGuffin, and that keeps the whole story fast on its feet.

Some of the most famous Indy lines come from this film, which is rare for a sequel. “No ticket” is an obvious favorite, along with “The Ark of the Covenant” “Are you sure?” “Pretty sure,” but nothing in any of the other films can match up to the whole “you are named after the dog” fiasco.

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

We get a lot of moments that mirror Raiders of the Lost Ark, but offer different outcomes. In that way, the third film pays homage to everything we enjoyed about Raiders, but gives closure in some places and more bang for our buck in others: Indy gets the artifact he's been searching for in the film's opening this time around, the odd benefactor of the Grail expedition is actually integral to the plot, we see more of Marcus and Sallah, and Indy has a fling that doesn't go so well for him. (You could almost call it his comeuppance for whatever he did to Marion when they were young.) The Nazis are as odious as ever, but treated with perhaps even a bit more tongue-in-cheek this time around, turning them into classic supervillains for Indy to battle each time they reemerge. The final showdown builds with each step of the challenge, and the danger of the quest is much more immediate with Henry Jones' life on the line.

Instead of fearing the awesome Power of God, Indiana Jones walks away with newfound knowledge and a deep realization of what is precious to him. (Which is to say, this time we tackled New Testament God rather than Old Testament God.) The Last Crusade retreads material by altering it and offering something new to take away from it. If you're going to rehash, doing it so intentionally and meticulously is a welcome way to go about it. It isn't copying, but rather, refining. It's like the difference between blanco and reposado tequila.

And it's always tickled me that Indy uses his skills as an archaeologist to figure out which cup is the true Grail. That sort of never happens in the other films.

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Beats All Other Indy Films

So I understand why Raiders is loved the world over, but it's not the one that gets the most play in my house. Whenever I'm in the mood for Indiana Jones, I want to be thoroughly entertained, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the film that manages that far easier than the rest. I mean, the whole thing finishes off with a literal ride into the sunset. For a film that clearly sets out to make Indiana Jones his own legend, it does so in every sense of the word.

Emily Asher-Perrin saw The Last Crusade when she was 3 years old, and tried to explain the whole plot to her godmother... while the poor woman was being driven to the hospital to give birth. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Heidi Byrd
1. sweetlilflower
I have always thought this was the best Indiana Jones film. Of course, after reading your reasons, I want to go watch it right now!
Hedgehog Dan
2. Hedgehog Dan
Totally agree with you. I like the father-son realtionship, and I also think this is the most dynamic Indiana Jones film ever.
Joseph James
4. wjames1204
And of course, The Crystal Skull wasn't even mentioned anywhere in this article, because no one can justify it as truly being a real Indiana Jones movie, not even with Spielberg/Lucas. Spot on with this article. It's sad that we don't seem capable of making movies like these anymore.
Angela Korra'ti
5. annathepiper
Oh, now we're getting into things which are near and dear and critical to my heart. Because Raiders is only my favorite film of ALL TIME. ;D

But that said, I do have a very strong love for Crusade so I can't exactly critique somebody else for adoring it! I think my only real beef with Crusade at all is that Marcus was played as a bit of a buffoon and that didn't work for me; I didn't like the idea that "he got lost in his own museum". He seemed a lot more on the ball than that in Raiders (though granted, he gets much less screen time there).

Every scene with Indy and Henry Sr. is gold, though. "Look what you DID! I can't believe what you did!" (heart) (heart)

I just amused myself watching Raiders with the French language track active (which was great fun, especially hearing the actors they dubbed in for Ford and Allen), and I think I'm going to have to do the same with Crusade!
Hedgehog Dan
6. almos
I believe the tribunal is saved for heretics - you know, people trying to claim the Temple of Doom is the best Indiana Jones movie.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
Odd numbered Indy. Clearly we need an Indy 5.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
8. Lisamarie
I totally agree and didn't even realize this was a controversial opinion! Also, Last Crusade was the first Indiana Jones movie I ever saw (caught it on TV) and I loved it immediately. Raiders was good, but wasn't as good as Last Crusade - just didn't have the same humor and character interaction.

Can't stand Temple of Doom - in fact, I think I like Crystal Skull (are we allowed to mention that one?) a smidgen better than Temple of Doom. Almost everything about that movie irritates me.

However, I also don't favor the first Star Wars movie either - in fact, it's rather low on my list when ranking the six movies (usually around 4 or 5). It's just not as 'deep' to me. I usually like sequels better (assuming they are planned sequels, not the kind that are just made to continue something that was successful for the sake of continuing it).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
9. Lisamarie
I also want to add that it always amuses me to see General Veers as Donovan and Admiral Ozzel as Hitler :)
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
Your arguments make a certain amount of sense, but there are several elements that spoil Last Crusade and keep it from the top spot for me, primary being what you used for your cut-tag: the utter destruction of Marcus Brody as a character for the sake of comic relief that isn't actually funny. In Raiders, Dr. Brody is Indy's dignified, intelligent, respected boss, to the point where when Indy does his rant on how Donovan will never find Brody, you actually believe it -- right up until the bait-and-switch, where poor Denholm Elliott is forced to be a slapstick imbecile for no good reason.

Having said that, the movie has many great moments. "My soul is prepared--how's yours?" "Sallah, I said no camels, that's six camels--can't you count?" "It belongs in a musem." "So do you!" "I was the next man!" And so on....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mouldy Squid
11. Mouldy_Squid
I must disagree, if only for one reason: noir. Raiders… was steeped in the techniques of noir and pulp film: tight closeups, use of silhouette, theatre-like blocking, etc. This created not just an air of nastalgia, but lent a believability to the film itself. By using the same techniques as noir/pulp films, Raiders… was easier to suspend disbelief in the pulpy adventure story.

By the time the sequels came around, they were turned from adventure movies in the pulp mode into action movies in the Hollywood mode and the change in film technique hurt the films in terms of believability and style. Since they were no longer pulpy adventure films, but retained pulpy adventure plots, it was more difficult to become invested in the films. Last Crusade is a great film, but in an attempt to be a blockbuster action film it lost the charm and qualities that made Raiders… a magnificent film.

And there was no fourth film. There are only three.
Hedgehog Dan
12. Nothorse
And there was no fourth film. There are only three.
I thought the Crystal Head thingie was to be ignored?

So it's Raiders and its sequel Last Crusade?

Whatever third film are you talking about?
Rich Bennett
13. Neuralnet
I will probably get mauled for this, but I have never particularly liked Sean Connery in this film (and I know he was nominated for some awards for this performance). I just never bought him as Indy's dad. I cant agree that this is the best movie but I do like it better than the Temple of doom or crystal skull. As Emily mentioned one of my favorite things about this movie is that you get a sense that Indy is an archeologist in this movie rather than just an adventurer.
Hedgehog Dan
15. Christopher Lites
You are incorrect. This is not a matter of opinion as I will demonstrate. Forgoing the first is best idea, I will get at the more complex and subtle aspects of Raiders which make the film superior to all others in the franchise and all other films in the history of the world.

Raiders has a prefect screenplay: perfect. Everything is balanced, everything works. Indy has a complex relationship with Marion which is conveyed by a few simple lines in Kasdan's screenplay. We move from seriousness to levity with a transition that isn't effected as neatly in Last Crusade. In the latter film, which I also love, the gravitas of going after the Lost Ark is prominent throughout. In Last Crusade the gravitas is toned down to make room for a heightened comedic aspect. The films lost the gravitas after the first and thus no MacGuffin was ever as important nor mystical as the Lost Ark. Lucas has said that Indy goes from being an atheist to an agnostic in the first film. That is a change in the character, an arc, that we do not see in Last Crusade.

Raiders perfect balance of gravitas, comedy and adventure is upset in Last Crusade. The Grail never attains the serious status of the Ark though it does carry some weight. Instead, Last Crusade goes more for the advneture and levity side of Raiders at the expense of the graitas. We never see Indy's obsession in the Last Crusade as we do in Raiders.

Indeed, he is a man obsessed. He makes the most difficult decision he ever will when he decides to leave Marion to the Nazis so that he can obtain the Ark. He consigns both their fate again at the films end when he refuses to "Blow it back to God." These are choices with huge consequeces and insight into character. We learn that Indy is more a treasure hunter than academic and that he is willing to sacrifice almost anything in the pursuit of history and fortune. In the Last Crusade he has already made the choice to go after his father and not the grail in the films beginning. There is much less of an character arc for Indy to pass through in Last Crusade.

Marion: not only does she have history with Indy, she's his match. We do not see this in Last Crusade. As you rightly mention, Indy has a fling with Dr. Schneider, not a relationship. Again, we have more depth and nuance in the first film. Marion and Indy are both stubborn, willful characters whose presence around each other naturally ups the conflict. This is not the case with Dr. Schneider.

Moreover, Marion dies. Indy thinks his obsession has killed her and he hits his low. Again, character is revealed: Indy is willing to out and out murder Belloq after Marion's death. But, becuase this is the superior film, he contradicts this telling scene by leaving her with the Nazis later in the film. We do not see the same complexity in Last Crusade.

Finally, the ending. The opening of the Ark is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema. It has run through pop culture. It was used just last week on The Daily Show. The Ark is "a transmitter, a radio for speaking with God." It unleashes its holy power devastating the Nazis and, of course, melting people's faces. MOreover, this sequence as well as others in the film requiring FX are done better than in Last Crusade which shows us the Zeppelin and de-winged Messershmidt plastered onto clumst blue screen shots.

But that's not all. After everything Indy has gone through to get the Ark it is ironically only destined to another kind of tomb, another conscription to forgotten history. Indy loses the Ark to a warehouse stacked with all manner of government spookery. He has obtained the greatest prize in his profession and possibly the most important artifact in the world only to lose it.

Take the perfect script with perfect balance and see the conflict play out in every scene and you'll see that Raiders is the better film. As I said, this is a fact, not a matter of opinion. Thanks you for your time.
Mike Dorr
16. Westmarch
I agree 100%. It is, in many ways, the perfect action movie and has become my favorite movie of all time.

1. The film has dozens of memorable set pieces, back-to-back, that comprise 90%+ of the runtime. Before we're even introduced to the plot, you have The Cave, The Train, The Boat, The Classroom. Venice is The Library, The Catacombs, The Boat Chase. Almost all the exposition takes place within the action - its pretty amazing.

2. The film is humorous and eminently quotable, the most so of the trilogy. I think the transition from the castle to Brody in Iskendrun is the best cut in the movies - I never fail to marvel at its cleverness.

3. Indy's interaction with Henry produces many of the film's best moments and most of its heart and humor. In no other film did Indy have a true peer. As a kid, the father-son relationship didn't resonate with me but it means a lot more now.

4. Emily mentioned this, but Indy actually does something at the end, instead of being mostly passive in the climax
Hedgehog Dan
17. MidwestMedic
I completely agree. Last Crusade is the best of the movies. Now I know what will be on my watch list again soon!
Mark Cooper
18. BubbaCoop
"Emily Asher-Perrin saw The Last Crusade when she was 3 years old, and tried to explain the whole plot to her godmother... while the poor woman was being driven to the hospital to give birth."

That's truly hilarious

Last Crusade has long been my favorite as well
Hedgehog Dan
19. Christopher Lites
And I didn't even get ito why Belloq is the superior foil for Indy!
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
20. Lisamarie
I have to admit, the "a transmitter, a radio for speaking with God" bucks the heck out of me because it was more like God would communicate with Moses when he so chose, but it's not like a radio that you can tune in and out at your command (nor do I think the connection goes both ways).

Granted, it ALSO bugs me that the Holy Grail confers immortality in the PHYSICAL sense, so the two theological errors balance out for me :)
Hedgehog Dan
21. a1ay
Having said that, the movie has many great moments. "My soul is prepared--how's yours?" "Sallah, I said no camels, that's six camels--can't you count?" "It belongs in a musem." "So do you!" "I was the next man!" And so on....

"Our situation has not improved."

"That car belonged to my brother-in-law!"
Hedgehog Dan
24. Christopher Lites
The historical accuracy isn't a big deal to me. I will say that they did a pretty good job with Shishaq and the like. There is also basis for the Ark's starnge powers in the Bible as well — people dying when they touch, being carried into battle as a weapon, etc. Overall I am willing to let slide whatever supernatural attributes they ad so long as they aren't silly. The Crystal Skull bordered on this I fear.
Chris Long
25. radynski
I agree that Last Crusade is the best of the three movies. For me, it's all about the unraveling of the mystery at the beginning, and then the wonderful relationship with his father. This is perhaps one of my favorite performances by Connery ever. They just worked so well playing off of each other.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
Oh, I think the weapon part is pretty well founded (although I am also rather amused that the Nazis apparently think that just because they control the Ark, they can control God. Yes, God is going to aid you in the destruction of His chosen people), just the use of the word 'radio' to describe it bugs me. Not in a ruin the movie way, more like a pebble in my shoe.
Hedgehog Dan
27. Jeff R.
Fah. Put me in with the heretics: Temple of Doom was the far superior sequel, because, unlike Last Crusade, it was actually a new story about the character rather than a retread of Raiders like Last Crusade.

And also because of the Brody stuff.
James Whitehead
28. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
The Nazis: Hollwood's favourite badguys...

I liked both so I can't really pick which is my favourite, or which is better. Loved the first for what it was & loved the third for the interplay between the two Joneses.

I didn't like the Brody comedy much either but it wasn't much of a stretch for him to be truly an acedemic & not a 'field agent' if you will.


PS - "It looks like Germany has declared war on the Jones boys."

PPS - @27JeffR, Doom was good but Kate Capshaw screaming all the time kinda ruined it for me. Especially when you compare her to Marion in the first movie.
Hedgehog Dan
29. Rancho Unicorno
@22 - Fanfic doesn't count, no matter how much Jeff R likes it.
Michael Grosberg
30. Michael_GR
I'll tell ou which Indiana Jones film is best: the one you saw first. For you, it was your first meeting with the character; when I saw The Last Crusade, the idea of Indiana Jones was an old hat and I've seen two installments already, so I was not very impressed with the movie. It was more nazis, more death traps, more sacred artifacts - just like the first one, only without memorable scenes such as the rolling stone or shooting the sword-weilfding guy.
Hedgehog Dan
31. Hedgehog Dan
Actually, I saw Temple of Doom first, then The Last Crusade, and still the latter is my favourite, while the former is the least favourite - yeah, I even like the Kingdom of Crystal Skull better.
F Shelley
32. FSS
And tragically, George Lucas died right after this film premiered, and never got around to tweaking the original Star Wars trilogy or making prequels. I've always wondered how awesome the prequels could have been. We'll never know, sadly.

(everyone - just go with me on this, OK?)
Hedgehog Dan
33. Desertpaladin
Gotta say, my favorite has always been Temple of Doom. Sure Kate Capshaw screaming was a little annoying, but Karen Allen was basically a dude (IMO). I liked all the movies of the original trilogy, but liked the group dynamics of Temple and last Crusade better than those in Raiders. But that's what opinions are all about.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
34. Lisamarie
"Karen Allen was basically a dude" - what, exactly, does this mean?
Hedgehog Dan
35. Fenric25
I have to agree with this viewer-"Last Crusade" is, hands down, my favorite Indiana Jones movie. True, it was the first (and only) one that I saw for a few years as a kid (didn't get to see Raiders or Temple of Doom until I was almost a teenager, actually.) However, since then, I have re-watched and evaluated the four movies several times and, when trying to distance myself from nostalgia, I still find Last Crusade to be the most enjoyable (Raiders is almost as good, Temple of Doom is the worst, IMO, and Crystal Skull is entertaining enough, nowhere near as bad as the haters say, fridge scene aside...) Anyway, that's all I have to say, glad to see several others agree with me :)
Hedgehog Dan
36. Desertpaladin
"Karen Allen was basically a dude" - what, exactly, does this mean?
It means that Karen Allen was not very ladylike. This is not to say that Kate Capshaw is a good example of that either...He said expecting angry diatribes for perceived insults to femininity. She was just a little too butch for my personal tastes. Just as Kate Capshaw was at the complete other end of the spectrum.
Hedgehog Dan
37. Danika
FSS@32: You're right. It's a terrible tragedy. The world will never know etc.

I too love Last Crusade best, but it's also the one I saw most often when growing up. Temple of Doom was horrible and I refused to see Crystal Skull.

I can't believe no-one's mentioned my favourite moment in this movie!

"I'm shorry shon .... They got us."
Bill Stusser
38. billiam
I cannot agree with this post. Raiders is one of my all time favorite movies while Last Crusade is probably my third favorite Indy movie and nowhere near my top tier of favorite films. Raiders is a movie where all the elements came together perfectly. Story, Direction, filming, editing, and acting are all top notch.

And its not because Raiders was the first movie, after all my favorite Star Wars movie is the second one (that would be Empire, folks, I am not a prequel hater by any means but they will always be the 4th, 5th, & 6th movies to me. You can call SW episode four if you want but that doesn't change the fact that it was the first one made and the first one to be shown in the theaters).

Temple may not be as good as Raiders but at least it was original. Last Crusade is just a rehash of many of the story elements from Raiders.
Alan Brown
39. AlanBrown
My own preferences:
1. Raiders
2. Last Crusade
3. Crystal Skull
4. Temple of Doom
Raiders was darn near perfect, although, since periscopes don't stay up for entire voyages, and if they were running on the surface, they wouldn't have all gone below, I couldn't buy Indy riding that sub all the way to its pen. And the melting bad guy heads was a bit too gross for my taste. And I myself loved Marion--what is wrong with a woman who stands up for herself, and goes toe to toe with the guys?
Last Crusade was the best mix of humor and action, and the dad/son interplay was great.
Crystal Skull was fun, and I loved the interplay between Marion and Indy (like I said, I love that gal).
Temple of Doom was too dark and gloomy, although it had some good moments.
Since the odd numbered movies are generally better than the even numbered, I agree with what someone said above, lets have an Indy 5!
Hedgehog Dan
40. lightninglouie
I hate Last Crusade.

A lot of people have criticized the movie for turning Brody into a comic foil, and rightly so. The same goes for Sallah, though -- in Raiders, he's presented as Indy's peer; here, he's a second banana sidekick and a borderline racist caricature. There's also the distinct lack of a strong female character; in fact, the only significant female character is quite literally a Nazi she-bitch in leather. (The filmmakers try to give her a few sympathetic qualities, but it's obvious that she's going to choose... poorly.)

These things annoyed me when I saw the movie as a teenager back in '89, but the thing that really ticks me off now, more than the piss-poor characterizations of the supporting cast, is the treatment of Indy himself.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is a true anti-hero in the mold of '70s American movies: laconic, ironic, selfish yet driven by moments of real heroism. He's not perfect; in fact, he's rather shady, if you think about it. He had a relationship with Marion when she was around 16 or 17 and he was in his mid- or late twenties. He makes money on the side by selling rare artifacts. He's driven by the need for discovery, not out of any particular sense of loyalty to any institution or government.

In Last Crusade, Indy is (literally) a goddamned Boy Scout: patriotic and obedient (his last line of dialogue is "Yes, sir!"). He scolds villains by telling them that priceless treasures "belong in a museum" and spends most of the movie trying to reconcile with an emotionally distant, uptight father. I guess the eight years between Raiders and Crusade give you a sense of what was happening in the larger culture: greater conservatism, aging boomers wanting to reconnect with their elders, a puritanical attitude towards casual sex and independent women (again, the only woman in the entire series who's Indy's intellectual equal is a Nazi). To me it's an ugly movie, from an ugly time, and I generally try to pretend it doesn't exist. (It's no accident that when Lucas and Spielberg were making Crusade, they were both going through lengthy and painful divorces.)

Everyone seems to think that Spielberg and Lucas lost their mojo long after the '80s ended, but you only have to go back so far to see the seeds of their eventual declines -- as early as Jedi for Lucas, and around the same time with that godawful "Kick the Can" episode of the Twilight Zone movie for Spielberg. The truth is that there's only one great Indiana Jones movie -- Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and there's only one great Star Wars movie -- The Empire Strikes Back. Only if you accept this will you ever find inner peace.
Matthew Watkins
41. oraymw
This article sort of threw me for a loop, so let me get this straight...

There are actually people that don't realize this is the best Indy film?
Leigh Butler
42. leighdb
What clinches it for me is: "You're strangely dressed, for a knight."

That was the best moment, because that's exactly what Indy is. Last Crusade wins all the things.
Hedgehog Dan
43. Gardner Dozois
THE LAST CRUSADE is a fun movie, far superior to the awful TEMPLE OF DOOM, one of the most disappointing sequels in movie history--but it's not a patch on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which is better in almost every way.
Hedgehog Dan
44. Bad Penny
Last Crusade isn't just the best Indy film, it's my favorite film. I've seen this movie so many times every line is burned into my mind, and I love to slip Indy-isms into conversation. "I'm like a bad penny, I always turn up." The Last Crusade was a big part of my teenage years and growing up. I've even played the video game , where you can punch Hitler in the face at the book burning- classic.
This is a movie that meshes humor, adventure and wonder perfectly. Its my childhood in an hour and a half.
Mouldy Squid
45. Mouldy_Squid
Alan Brown:

One word about Indiana and the submarine: Schnorkel.

This device allowed the u-boat to "semi-submerge" so that they could run the diesel engines and yet not be on the surface where they could be easily spotted by airplanes. This is what he is strapping himself to, not a periscope. It is quite reasonable that a u-boat on a secret mission to transport a valuable object for the Reich would want to be both a) fast and b) unnoticed. Thus the use of the schnorkel.

Now, the problem is that the schnorkel was not widely used on u-boats until the 1940s, so it's a bit of an anachronism in the film. But none the less, this is probably the most historically accurate part of the film despite the problem fans seem to have with it.

It is the hypothermia and dehydration that are the real obstacles to the scene, not the hardware. And this can be forgiven in a film that is supposed to be an homage to the adventure pulps of the 1930s.

What I find the strangest about this "controversy" is that people say that the Indy-submarine thing is just not believable, but they don't bat an eye at a magical golden box that melts Nazis.
James Whitehead
46. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@36Dessertpaladin, we definitely disagree on this subject but I will say that Marion never really had the chance to become 'ladtlike' did she? Following her father all over the world on archeological digs & then owning a bar in Nepal (or Tibet, I've forgotten which) doesn't lend itself to the learning of the 'gentle pursuits' if you will.

Can't say I agree with the adjective 'butch' when describing Marion, however. But that's just my take.

Simon Hemmings
47. bartokian147
I went see this in Bath, UK at the old Beau Nash theatre the weekend it came out (I think), according to IMDB it came out on 30 June 1989 - I was 11, crumbs! About a year later I had an ex-rental copy on VHS in one of those big old cases, I practically wore that thing out watching it over and over. I've probably seen it more than any of the others.

It's a really good film, my second favourite Indy, and a VERY close second at that - to Raiders of course. The screenplay is top notch, loads of funny lines and fantastic chemistry between all the actors especially Connery and Ford. I always loved the Williams score in this one, with all the little musical nods to the other films.

Funny aside - when I was at school we had to do Latin. My friend and I were terrible at it and when we had to do our last exam at the age of 14 we decided to see who could do the worst possible job as we wouldn't have to study it after that. My friend Magnus was stumped translating his paper so he 'translated' the end bit of the film instead, when Donovan drinks from the wrong grail and crumbles into dust. He put that in as his final exam and got, if memory serves, 14% as his final result.
Hedgehog Dan
48. Alex K.
Of course "Last Crusade" is the best of the Indiana Jones films.

I mean, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are amazing together and Tom Stoppard co-wrote the screenplay.
Hedgehog Dan
49. Lialand
Last Crusade is my favorite Indy movie too!!
Alan Brown
50. AlanBrown
Mouldy_Squid, So, there were no snorkels in use at the time portrayed in Raider of the Lost Ark, and even if it stayed up during the whole voyage (unlike a periscope), Indy still would have been struggling with dehydration and hypothermia by traveling that way. And you wonder why people say that scene doesn't ring true?
People will accept fantastic stuff in the context of a movie, but the stuff that is rooted in reality should be logical and realistic.
Mouldy Squid
51. Mouldy_Squid
How is the submarine thing any less fantastic than the rest? How is it more rooted in reality? If you can accept that there is a magical Nazi melting box then you can accept Indiana managing to strap himself to an experimental device on a elite u-boat. That is a pretty easy thing to do if you are willing to accept all the rest of the outrageous stuff Indy does. You can rationalize it with things like drinking rainwater (it does rain in the Mediterranean), or the exhaust from the diesel engines (which will be coming out of the schnorkel as well fresh air intake) keeping him warm enough not to die.

These things can make the submarine scene plausible through the use of logic and reason. What is not plausible is the Maguffin, the thing the entire film is based around. It astounds me that in a film filled with improbabilities, impossibilities and outright fantasy, the one thing that can actually be explained "realistically" is considered the least believable.

Thousand of snakes sealed into a pit with no food for thousands of years; no problem. Being dragged along a gravel road behind a truck doing 60 miles an hour and coming away completely unscathed; sure thing. A man turned to paste by a propeller that remains completely undamaged; happens all the time. A magical box that melts people; for sure. But the one thing that you can actually use real world explanations (however stretched) to rationalize; ABSOLUTELY NOT! TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE!
Travis Butler
52. tbutler
I have to say, while Last Crusade was good, it doesn't measure up to Raiders, for many of the reasons cited above.

If I had to pick one overarching issue with Last Crusade, it's that they pushed too far over the top in too many ways. Take the prologue the original article cites; it had a number of neat moments and the overall arc was great (going through all that only to have the cross taken away at the end), but defining everything about Indy's character in one sequence? Really? I could buy a couple of the moments, but as a package the whole thing was just too pat. Or many of the set pieces, like the plane smashing off its wings with the fuselage racing down the tunnel alongside the car. Or the utterly ridiuclous 'Scottish lord' disguise that could be seen through by a 5-year-old. They were pushing too hard to try and avoid repeating Raiders, and it shows.

And yet, even with all that, too many moments still felt like a Raiders retread - recycled, not refined. Jokes and moments that felt tired, not fresh - "Germany has declared war on the Jones boys" being one of them. Part of that, too, is how much shallower some things were - Sallah and Marcus being excellent examples as described above, along with the romantic subplot. Think of how much deeper Dr. Schneider's betrayal would have cut if the relationship had been built up with as much depth as Marion had been in the first film.

All that said, I still love Last Crusade. The relationship between father and son was wonderfully done, and I only wish the romantic subplot had been handled with as much complexity. Connery was brilliant, of course. There were wonderful musical moments, like Schizero for Motorcycle and Orchestra - and if the motorcycle chase felt like a retread of the superlative chase sequence from Raiders, it was still fun. While some of the one-liners were tired, others were wonderful. 'That's the cup of a carpenter' - brilliant.
Hedgehog Dan
53. Zuiun
I actually take the exact opposite opinion: I believe that Last Crusade is the WORST film in the series.

(Two clarifying notes:

1. Yes, I have seen Crystal Skull.
2. "Worst" is highly subjective in this case, because even the worst Indy movie is better that most other action films.)

Here is my reasoning:

The flawed hero.
Raiders of the Lost Ark set up Indy as not only a fantastic action hero, but a very flawed hero. He never has all of the answers and he is always escaping situations by the seat of his pants. Somehow he always comes out on top, but the audience is never quite sure he'll succeed until the end.

The bigger point, however, is that Indy is very clearly human. That is to say, he gets hurt. He stumbles. He gets hurt some more. In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that getting hurt is Indy's greatest strength as a hero. This is what makes him relatable.

When Spielberg and Lucas made their apology letter (called Last Crusade) for the dark tone of Temple of Doom, they intentionally softened up the Indy character in order to create a lighter mood to the story. Indy no longer gets hurt. At least not like the previous films.

This was the start of a very dangerous trend that turned Indy from a relatable hero into a cartoon hero - and this would carry over into Crystal Skull to the absurd extreme (refridgerator, anyone?).

Natural comedy versus forced comedy.
Raiders of the Lost Ark had very little "comedic" humor in it, but what it did have stemmed naturally from the situations. The closest the film comes to "slapstick" humor is the streets of Cairo fiasco, but even then, the film balances it with a sense of urgency and then ultimately despair (when the truck explodes).

Temple of Doom ventured much more blatantly into comedy, but it could be argued that some of the absurdity was necessary to balance out the extremely dark tone.

Last Crusade removes the dark tone, but ramps up the comedy even more. The comedy seems forced and strains credibility (Hitler's autograph???). Again, this set up a dangerous precedent that resulted in some of the completely ridiculous comedy moments in Crystal Skull.

That not-so-fresh feeling.
The mistake most sequels make is to try too hard to capitalize on the success of the first film by making the follow up film(s) too similar.

Temple of Doom at least has the disctinction of doing something different from Raiders.

Last Crusade, however, doesn't merely "pay homage" to Raiders. It blatantly steals its villians and structure. How about a little game...

"Join Indiana Jones, and an estranged figure from his past, in a race against time to locate a powerful religious artifact before it falls into the evil hands of the nazis!"

Quick! Which movie am I describing?

Oh yeah, and there's a chase in the desert, too. And a guy's face melting (rotting).

If the plot of a sequel can be summarized EXACTLY the same as its predecessor, then it's failed the originality test.

There are many flaws with Temple of Doom, and bucket loads of them in Crystal Skull, but what I do admire about both of those is that they at least tried to give Indy a different kind of adventure.
John Massey
54. subwoofer
Hmmmmm... just wanted to bark out a couple of comments here.

I remember when Raiders came out, it was back in the day when there was such a thing as a "blockbuster" we stood in line twice to see the movie. The first time was the line up for tickets, the second time was the line up for seats... and both were around the block. Movies back then were not like today, Raiders was in the theater for a long, long time. The other thing was that VHS/Beta were new formats and video stores were a new idea too. Movie rentals cost quite a bit considering what minimum wage was and buying a movie? Save your pennies.

Raiders took a while to come to video too, today a new release hits the video shelves within the year if not within six months. Back then we were waiting over a year for a movie to hit the shelves.... and Raiders stayed on top of the rental list for a very long time.

One point in favor for Raiders is that it was such a hit it spawned several sequels and a TV series.

Roger Ebert has a good spin on it:
It's a Boy's Own Adventure, a whiz-bang slamarama, a Bruised Forearm movie (you squeeze the arm of your date every time something startles you). It's done with a kind of heedless joy. Spielberg was old enough (34) to have the clout to make the film, and young enough to remember why he wanted to.
This movie celebrates the stories we spent our adolescence searching for in the pulp adventure magazines, in the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in comics -- even in the movies.
For me, this was the first and will always be the best. Harrison Ford did not need Sean Connery to make a great film, he can carry the load himself. From the start of Raiders, the Hat, the whip, the knowledge of the jungle, the gear that make "Indy", the casualness of spiders... then dealing with Nazis... nope Raiders has one of the top spots in my heart.

Hedgehog Dan
55. Victoria Logue
Absolutely the best film and I watched Raiders numerous times in the theater when it came out and had a poster hanging in my dorm room. But this movie is definitely the best. My family often uses the line: "You chose wisely (or poorly, depending on the circumstance).

Now I need to get my dvd back from my daughter so I can watch it again.
Hedgehog Dan
56. Pendard
I'm pretty sure Last Crusade is the first movie I saw in a movie theater
that wasn't animated. While I think Raiders edges it out a little bit
in my esteem, I love them both just about equally.

In all the talk about quotable lines, I can't believe no one has mentioned: "You have chosen... wisely." (Or the wonderfully understated, "He chose poorly.")

Also -- I need to take a minute to show give some love to the Temple of Doom. It's a little silly at times, but c'mon! It's a GREAT MOVIE. The scene where they jump out of the plane in a life raft, the elephants, the disgusting dinner, the cockroaches, the spiky lowering ceiling, the heart ripping, the kids swarming out of the palace, the minecars, the rope bridge?!? Great stuff!

As for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull... nope, never heard of it, doesn't ring a bell...
Hedgehog Dan
57. Peter Slattery
Here, frickin' here! Great breakdown of why The Last Crusade is the best Indiana Jones film.
Hedgehog Dan
59. Curtis Rogers
Comepletely agree, in fact I just wrote the same thing, though not as well, for our own website.

Hedgehog Dan
60. ericBennett
What most people forget (or just don't know) is that Tenple of Doom is technically a prequel, set a few years before Raiders. Which helps give a bit more strength to the characterization of Indy being a bit less mature and in it for the money than putting things in a museum. But I have to go with Raider, followed in a quantum finish by Last Cruade, then Tenple.
Those are all of the Indy films. Yep, all of them.
Hedgehog Dan
61. Maclaine
Maybe the author was referring to other highly debated movie series, but I think that the Indiana Jones films hardly qualify as "cult classics". It's the very definition of mainstream, big budget blockbuster cinema.
Hedgehog Dan
63. lipplog
In truth, comparing RAIDERS to THE LAST CRUSADE, is like comparing ALIEN to ALIENS. The question isn't which film is better, but which genre do you prefer.

Like with the first two ALIENS films, the characters and settings in INDY I and INDY III are the same. The difference between the originals and their sequels are the genres. Genres with specific tonal differences that make comparing the original and sequel almost impossible.

ALIEN (Ridley Scott) is a HORROR GENRE set in space: An ensemble of characters, trapped in an enclosed space, with a monster on the loose. One by one they fall, until the sole survivor (traditionally a girl in the horror genre) kills the monster.

ALIENS (James Cameron) is an ACTION GENRE set in space: A team of soldiers, lead by a reluctant Heroine, must rescue a colony of families - the little girl - from a malevolent army of aliens. Leading to a final showdown between our Heroine (the human mother) and the arch Villain (the alien mother) in a hand to hand fight to the death.

Same goes with INDY I and INDY III...

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is an ACTION GENRE in period setting. And in a straight ACTION film, the humor is subtle and grounded. The set design is gritty and realistic. The locations are clearly foreign (Tunisia, I believe). And the cinematography is full of contrasting light and shadow.

THE LAST CRUSADE is an ADVENTURE COMEDY in period setting. And in an ADVENTURE COMEDY genre, the humor is far broader (Hitler autographing Indy's notebook never would have worked in the first film). Instead of gritty, the sets look like sets built on a studio backlot. The locations are mostly local (California, Utah, etc). And the Cinematography is over-lit without any contrast, creating a soothing visual tone that allows for comedy.

For me, the greatest similarities between INDY I and III, even more-so than Indy's character (which Emily points out are different) are the flawless screenplay structures, and the top notch relationship arcs. Marion and Indy in I, and Indy Jr. and Sr. in II.

So for me, it's not preferring one film over the other, but which genre I prefer to see these characters in.

Personally? While I love Horror and Adventure Comedy, I prefer both my Indy and my Aliens in the world of the ACTION genre.
Hedgehog Dan
64. Llama
I never would have thought that this wasn't the majority opinion!

Last Crusade is both my favourite and, in my opinion, the best made film in the trilogy. I just saw Raiders in theatres and it does actually have its hiccups. LC is flawless for me. :)
Hedgehog Dan
65. Aylor
Agree completely, and you didn't even mention the dirigible! I also liked you not addressing the rumored fourth installment.
Hedgehog Dan
66. mrankings
I strongly disagree I did a ranking of the best Indiana Jones films on my blog and Raiders of the Lost Ark was the best by far.

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