Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is knocking on our doorstep. What better time to reminisce about the Indy of yesteryear? To be honest, Indiana Jones has played a massive role in my life since I was a kid. I think a lot of us can say the same. Any excuse to talk about my favorite archaeologist is a delight for me.
So, with the new movie about to release, it’s worthwhile to consider the movies that got us here. What better way than to pick the five best action scenes (plus some honorable mentions) from the past movies? These are in no particular order of awesomeness, and it was ridiculously hard to narrow it down to only five; but I’m doing it anyway.
Raiders of the Lost Ark — Opening Sequence
Obviously I had to mention this one first — it’s the most iconic of all the Indiana Jones action scenes. For one thing, it establishes what kind of character Indy is right off the bat. He’s in a jungle, he has a treasure map, he has a whip, there are creepy tarantulas and deadly traps and ancient ruins. He’s clever, he’s knowledgeable, he’s brave. Best of all?
That giant boulder. The one that has become so iconic that Disneyland put it in the Indiana Jones ride. This sequence has become so famous, so beloved, that even people who haven’t seen the movie recognize it at this point. It lets the viewer know what manner of adventures lie in store. You simply have to respect a ten-minute scene that so completely encapsulates a franchise all on its own.
Raiders of the Lost Ark — Marketplace Sequence
Nearly as iconic as the boulder, this half-chase, half-fight scene is also a pleasure. Taking place in a bustling marketplace in the desert, Indy and Marion (his love interest) are enjoying themselves when all hell breaks loose. There are swordsmen, gunmen, fine basketry, a villainous monkey, a frying pan — what’s not to love?
Everyone’s favorite part, of course, is when a menacing swordsman faces down Indy from across the market, skillfully twirling his blade, only to have Indy shoot him out of pure exhaustion. Most fans already know the story behind this scene: Harrison Ford was very sick the day of shooting and just didn’t have it in him to do the intense, involved fight scene that had been planned; so he suggested instead that he just shoot the show-off.
It’s a well-established gag now; one that’s funny to this day, and very relatable. How many times have you watched a hero on the screen and shouted at them to use their gun? It’s nice when someone actually does the smart thing.
Temple of Doom — Hanging Bridge Sequence
While Temple of Doom isn’t as beloved as Raiders or Last Crusade, it does have plenty to enjoy. One of these being the hanging bridge scene near the end of the film. It’s a fun, action-packed sequence, starting with a play on the shooting-the-swordsman scene mentioned above. Sadly, when Indy tries the same trick again, he realizes he’s without his gun and must deal with them the old-fashioned way. He soon gets caught in the middle of the hanging bridge, enemies closing in on either side.
So he cuts the bridge and takes his chances, hanging tight while bad guys fall into the waiting mouths of the crocodiles below. Of course there are plenty of stragglers to still cause trouble, and the rest of the sequence is a nice blend of tenseness mixed with just desserts for the evil priest who has been asking for karma to give him a nice smack in the face for the entire movie.
The Last Crusade — Escape from the Castle Sequence
One of my personal favorite sequences from The Last Crusade is the escape from Castle Brunwald. This part is simply fun. Indy and his father start tied up back to back, which humorously turns into his father accidentally setting the castle on fire in an attempt to burn the ropes. The already pear-shaped escape gets even more dangerous from there as they dodge gunfire, navigate a secret passageway, and endure a motorcycle chase, complete with side car and some ad hoc jousting.
The entire time the banter between the two characters is hilarious, only adding to the over-the-top escape. I swear my mom has given me the same withering expression that Henry, bouncing around in the side car, shoots Indy. He’s legit my mom’s withering-expression-face twin. (Love you, mom!)
The Last Crusade — Opening Sequence
This might be my favorite on this list. The lengthy opening chase in Crusade is actually a flashback to a young Indy exploring the caves of Utah with his Boy Scout troop. He sees some robbers taking an old crucifix owned by Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, which he believes should be in a museum instead.
He steals it and the chase is on, starting on horseback and then progressing to a mad dash on on top of and through a moving circus train, complete with exotic animals. We quickly see why Indy is so afraid of snakes, something mentioned throughout other films, as he falls into a writhing pile of the slithering things. He also has his first encounter with his iconic bullwhip when he comes face-to-face with a lion.
It’s a light romp that serves to show the origins of his character, his motivation, his phobia, all done to the most fittingly delightful soundtrack ever. River Phoenix was perfectly cast as a young Indiana; and though, sadly, his life ended prematurely, it’s lovely that such an esteemed franchise as this will always have his performance immortalized.
I’m sure some people out there will disagree with my choices, and that’s totally fine! There are so many to choose from, and I haven’t even touched Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. When it comes to Indiana Jones, you really can’t go wrong with picking a favorite action sequence. Some that deserve a nod include:
- The mine cart sequence in Temple of Doom. Honestly, it looked like a blast.
- The tank sequence in Last Crusade. This looked like less of a blast. I’m pretty sure everyone got dust in their eyes the entire time. Still, it was a pleasure to watch!
- The propeller sequence in Raiders. It took me years to not have to look away at that part as a kid. Yikes.
- The warehouse escape sequence in Crystal Skull. It felt more akin to the original films than most of the rest of the movie.
- The poison antidote sequence in the opening to Temple of Doom, where he’s trying to get the antidote right after being poisoned. That one almost made my top 5, actually.
Geez, at this point, I may as well list all the action scenes! You get the gist. Indiana Jones is awesome. If you haven’t seen the movies by now, holy moly you’d best get on that.
Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny hits theaters on June 30th. Want more Indy appreciation? Here’s my ranking of every Indiana Jones movie.