Movies To See Before You Die: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones, is an archaeologist who goes on a search for the mystical Ark of the Covenant, while outwitting Nazis who compete to obtain the Ark for its fabled supernatural power. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a movie that you need to see before you die.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those movies that is as close to a perfect film as you can get. The upbeat rhythms of John Williams’ amazing score superbly complements the action scenes. While the “rolling boulder” and bar scenes are admittedly over-the-top, they feel practical in Indiana’s world and are well-served to get the audience’s heart pumping. Harrison Ford oozes a charisma that few actors today have come to match. When Indiana is running toward the camera – confident in his ability to fend off whatever lies beyond – suddenly he sees an army, and we see the emotion on his face change from sheer confidence to worried panic. Tiny moments like these add up to create an incredibly enjoyable cinematic ride.
When looking at these two films, Raiders has more of a contained narrative – which means we get to spend a lot of time with the protagonist, Indiana Jones. Star Wars, in contrast, is such an epic story that it requires the viewer to remember planet names, alien races, and a multitude of characters in order to get the narrative’s full effect.
Since the film takes place here on Earth, in a very familiar time, Raiders gives the audience the ability to relate strongly to the story being told. Viewers can easily recognize people and places such as Egypt, or the Nazis. In Star Wars, audiences have to work to relate to the actions and behaviors of the characters. Everything in the film requires a suspension of belief in order to delve into the vast world of the Star Wars universe.
When looking at the main characters of each film, we can see that Indiana Jones is a tough, stubborn and charismatic character. He’s out for fortune and glory, and can match fists and wits with the best of the best. In contrast, Luke Skywalker is a simple farm boy with dreams of leaving Tatooine and becoming a pilot. He is inadvertently thrust into the role of hero and stumbles into his new task of defeating the Empire. Perhaps a fairer comparison would be Han Solo vs. Indiana Jones – both the rogues of their respective pictures.
Sahara really wanted to be an Indiana Jones film. Directed by Breck Eisner, Sahara stars Matthew McConaughey as the wise cracking but tough main character, Dirk Pitt. Steve Zahn as the silly sidekick whose only real purpose is to be funny and lose his cool. And then you have the love interest, Penelope Cruz, who is tough but vulnerable. Sound familiar?
While Sahara has all of these elements, of course none of them are executed even remotely as well as Raiders. It also doesn’t help that the film was considered one of Hollywood’s biggest financial flops ever when it opened with a miniscule $18 million while costing over $200 million to make.
What else came out in 1981?
The Road Warrior was a great revenge film and one of Mel Gibson’s best, but has not aged particularly well and retains an oddly linear script. Raiders has neither of these issues, and has proven itself to stand the test of time.
Time Bandits is one of Terry Gilliam’s best films, and is arguably more imaginative than Raiders with its amazing set design and unique camera angles, but it falls into the same trap as Star Wars. It’s an epic adventure, filled with numerous characters, but Raiders benefits more from its strong protagonist and a small, but strong supporting cast.
Superman II. The original great super-hero movie. Christopher Reeve is still Superman to most people. However, the special effects pale in comparison to today’s CG and the Kryptonian costumes are borderline ridiculous. Raiders‘ aesthetics and judicious use of effects have helped it to persevere against the modern movie magic seen in today’s films.
Why must you see this movie before you die?
- John Williams’ score
- Harrison Ford – perfectly cast as Indiana Jones. (Who would’ve thought an archaeologist could ever be synonymous with the word, “cool”?)
- The story – an original adventure tale that really embraces the old serials that it was inspired by
- Steven Spielberg – who knew exactly how to make audiences feel like they were on the path of discovery along with our heroes
Raiders of the Lost Ark is currently ranked as the 9th best movie of all time on Flickchart.