Having grown up in the 1980s, it's certainly no surprise that Indiana Jones is one of my favorite action heroes of all time. I remember seeing all three movies in the theater, and it's occurred to me only recently, with something of a shock, that there are kids going into college now who were not yet alive when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out. So many of today's youth may be unfamiliar with Dr. Jones and why he is so awesome, if they were not fortunate enough to see his adventures on VHS or DVD.
Maybe some teenagers don't understand why some "washed up old fart" like him getting a new movie has me seriously excited. So for those of you who missed out on the original ride, or for those who perhaps haven't seen the movies in a long time, I've prepared a list of some of Dr. Jones's finest moments. These aren't necessarily his most impressive feats, but rather key moments that define the character and why we love him so much. Because Indy isn't exactly your regular action hero--he often finds himself stumbling into success rather than achieving it because he's the best of the best or anything like that. He's an everyman who has to struggle to succeed--and he doesn't always get it right, which is a big part of why audiences respond to him so well.
And bear in mind before you decide that I left something off the list - these aren't the best moments of the Indiana Jones movies but rather the best moments of the man himself.
10. Willie Gets Ignored
There's a great sequence in Temple of Doom where Indy, Short Round, and Willie Scott have to camp for the night in the Indian jungle on their way to Pankot Palace. Indy and Short Round play poker while Willie dries her clothes from getting dunked in the water earlier. While she's on the outskirts of camp, she encounters just about every kind of creepy crawly jungle critter she can and freaks out screaming, running back and forth all over camp. Indy and Short Round continue their card game, however, completely ignoring her (save to complain about how loud she is) and catching each other in the act of cheating. I love this moment because it shows that Indy doesn't put up with anyone else's bullshit. Willie may annoy the hell out of the audience with all of her screeching, but Indy can't even be bothered to acknowledge her at all, and that makes him badass.
9. Indy Gets Pushy
After Indy sneaks aboard the German submarine in Raiders of the Lost Ark and joins the Nazis on their secret island, he finds himself in a base where the sub has docked. He quickly steals a guard's uniform so that he can blend in, and shortly after doing so, he sees rival French archeologist Rene Belloq approaching from the opposite direction. So what does he do? He goes out of his way to bump into him forcefully, totally risking his cover being blown, simply because Belloq is such a dick. It's a move that completely, 100% jeopardizes his mission, but he can't resist because he simply cannot suffer the presence of a complete prick like Belloq.
8. Face To Face With Der Führer
Indy and his father have to travel to Berlin to get back Dr. Jones Sr.'s stolen Grail diary in The Last Crusade, and they track down Dr. Elsa Scneider to a book burning rally where Hitler himself is in attendance giving a speech. After reacquiring the book, Indy gets pushed and shoved by the enthusiastic crowd and eventually finds himself right in front of the Führer, who has been signing books for Hitler youth. Hitler sees the disguised Jones holding the Grail diary and assumes he is a soldier wanting his book signed. From the stern look he gives Indy, we can tell that it is highly irregular for a grown man (particularly a soldier no less) to request an autograph like this. But Hitler signs the book without comment and continues on his way. This moment so perfectly captures the idea that Indy often finds himself in the worst possible situation and yet somehow manages to pass through on sheer luck alone.
In Raiders, shortly after Indy goes to Nepal to visit old flame Marion Ravenwood in her bar, some Nazis and their local thug brigade show up to rough up Marion and get the medallion they need to discover the location of the Ark of the Covenant. Fortunately for her, Indy decides to double back to the bar, and a chaotic fight ensues upon his arrival. This is the first time we actually see Indy in a proper fight, so we haven't witnessed how Indy handles himself just yet. When one of the thugs grabs Indy and shoves his face into the bar, upon which a trail of flames is getting ever closer to Indy's head, he merely reaches his arm out to Marion, crouching for cover behind the bar, and calmly asks "Whisky?", as if he's ordering a drink. She hands him a bottle, and he wastes no time in reaching back and smashing it over the thug's head. Here we learn that Indy is cool under pressure, which is fortunate, because he often finds himself under an abundance of it.
6. "Don't Call Me Junior!"
In The Last Crusade, after Indy comes to Castle Brunwald to rescue his father, the two of them are quickly captured by Nazi soldiers looking for the Grail diary. Father and son get into an argument over the diary after Henry Sr. learns that Indy brought the book with him from the United States, and at one point in the exchange, he refers to his son as "junior" in a condescending tone. This enrages Indy, who grabs a machine gun from the nearest German soldier before he can even react and blows away everybody in the room. Afterward, he turns to his father and snarls "don't call me junior!". Henry Sr. just stands there in shock, evidently unaware of the kinds of dangerous situations his son regularly gets himself into and the terrible things he needs to do to survive. It's just great to see Indy channeling his rage and using it to escape from something he probably otherwise would not have gotten out of.
5. Indy Joins The Mourners
After the tank Indy was fighting on plunges off a cliff in The Last Crusade, Henry Jones Sr., Marcus Brody, and Sallah all run over to the cliff ledge to view the wreckage below. They assume that there's no way Indy could have survived such a fall, so they stand there in shock, silently mourning his death. Meanwhile, Indy, who apparently jumped off the tank at the last minute, is climbing up the side of the cliff several yards away from the others. Unnoticed by them, he walks up beside them and peers over the cliff, marveling over his narrow escape. Henry Sr. looks over and does a double take when he sees his son standing next to them. It's a hilarious scene and it reminds us that no matter how bad a scrape he gets himself into, Indy always manages to find his way out of it.
4. A Skewer In The Stomach
After being double crossed and poisoned by some Chinese criminal underlords at Club Obi-Wan in Temple of Doom, Indy becomes furious when they laugh at him and refuse to give him the antidote. So he stumbles around frantically with the poison coursing through his body and bumps into a food cart being pushed by a waiter. Without thinking, he grabs a flaming meat skewer and throws it with all his might into the stomach of one of the laughing gangsters. Chaos immediately erupts as Willie Scott screams and everybody rushes to exit the club with their lives. This is easily the most gruesome death that Indy himself is responsible for (the plane propeller and rock crusher deaths don't count as Indy is not directly responsible for either), but it doesn't get the same level of recognition that some of the other deaths get.
3. Indy Cuts The Bridge
After escaping the Temple of Doom Indy and the others must make their way across a flimsy rope suspension bridge crossing over a crocodile-filled body of water far below. Willie and Short Round make it to the other side okay, but Indy is only halfway across when Mola Ram's minions show up and start approaching Jones from both sides of the bridge. Ram forces Indy's friends back onto the bridge, and Indy demands he let them go, or else he will drop the sacred stones he stole from the temple. Ram calls his bluff (as always happens: see Belloq in the rocket launcher scene in Raiders and one of the Grail protectors in Last Crusade being threatened by boat propeller), so Indy says "screw it" and decides to cut the bridge in half, surprising the hell out of everybody on it with this super-ballsy move.
2. "No Ticket."
Indy and his father board a zeppelin to get out of Germany after retrieving the Grail diary in The Last Crusade, when Indy looks out the window before takeoff and notices a Nazi officer rushing for the aircraft. He quickly knocks out a zeppelin employee and grabs his uniform. When the Nazi comes on board looking for the Joneses, he discovers Henry Sr. reading a newspaper, but Indy is standing right behind him asking to see his ticket. The Nazi turns around, surprise and recognition on his face, as Indy punches him and throws him out the window. Realizing that there's a room full of witnesses, Indy has to think of a quick explanation. He simply points outside the zeppelin window and says "no ticket", causing everyone on board to hurriedly brandish their tickets so they can avoid being tossed out as well.
1. Indy Gets Impatient
Longtime Indy fans knew exactly what scene was going to be number one long before getting down here, and with good reason: this is probably the single most famous and character-defining moment in the whole trilogy, and the best part is that it wasn't even planned from the beginning. Marion Ravenwood has just been kidnapped by some Nazi stooges and hauled away in a basket, and Indy has been frantically trying to locate and rescue her, when suddenly the crowd parts in fear, and a large, menacing Arab man with a nasty-looking scimitar stands before him. He grins evilly and starts swinging his sword around, showing off his skill in an attempt to intimidate Indy. The audience naturally expects a big fight here, but Indy simply looks annoyed, pulls out his revolver, and shoots him unceremoniously, immediately turning to continue his search for Marion. I know this kind of thing seems like standard fare now, but back in 1981 it was hilariously fresh and surprising, and it showed us how far removed from your typical action hero Indiana Jones actually is. Most of you have probably heard the story that this is the result of Harrison Ford's dysentery that he suffered from during the shoot. This fight would have required several days of shooting, which Ford did not want to do, so he asked Spielberg if they could make this change. It resulted in less work for everyone and provided what is probably the single best moment in the entire series, absolutely proving that sometimes less is actually more.
And there you have it, the list of what I think are Indy's Ten Finest Moments. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes out this week, and I certainly hope that it manages to create new awesome moments that would cause a need to adjust these rankings. I have been looking forward to more Indiana Jones adventures (though I never honestly thought it would happen) for almost twenty years, so here's hoping it doesn't disappoint. I'm trying to go into it with as few expectations as possible, but with George Lucas's involvement, it's impossible not to fear that we may end up with another situation like the Star Wars prequels on our hands. If that is the case, then I'll be the guy in the theater doing this:
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