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Indiana Jones Adventures, ranked from worst to first!

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

In 1981, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas worked together to create an exciting tribute to the old-time movie serials of times past. Indiana Jones arrived that summer to lines around the block, thrilling audiences with humor, state-of-the-art special effects and a globe hopping battle against the Nazis.

The perfect summer movie, it took Harrison Ford into the stratosphere of Hollywood. In the 42 years since, Indy has remained an iconic hero.

As his last adventure, INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY continues its run in theaters, where does it rank among all five films in the series?

Let's take a look at the entire Indiana Jones legacy, starting with the worst film and following the action all the way to Indy's best.

#5 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

19 years after our favorite archeologist and his father had their "last crusade", Harrison Ford returned to his classic character for 2008's INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

Director Steven Spielberg is having a blast right from the film's opening scenes as Indy manages to escape a late 1950's Nevada nuclear test hiding in a refrigerator. The sequence is almost like a Bond movie opening, a clever and suspenseful mini-adventure that manages to set up the story.

Indiana is soon dragged into a quest against very nasty Russians to find some legendary mysterious Crystal skulls.

Ray Winstone (The Departed) is Mac, Indy's on again/off again partner in adventure, Shia LaBeouf isn't great, but isn't quite as bad as you remember as young, tough Mutt, who is dragged into the quest by the disappearance of his college Professor Oxley, well played by John Hurt (Alien).

Spielberg and Ford are all in, bringing back some legendary memories with the very welcome return of Marian Ravenwood as played by Karen Allen.

John Williams music score is excellent, with Indy and Marian's themes soaring in just when you need them.

LaBeouf seems more like Fonzie that an adventurer in waiting, but he and Indy's escape through the campus is perfectly staged.

A very long chase sequence in the jungle is a valiant attempt by Spielberg to top Indy's desert chases in the original Raiders. With fencing battles on top of moving cars, the nastiest man-eating ants you've ever seen and Cate Blanchett in fine form as Russian baddie Irina Spalko, its pure summer movie thrills.

Audiences in 2008 debated the "Close Encounters" ending, but it never bothered me and plays even better now.

I'm thrilled that Ford didn't hand off that famous hat for LaBeouf to take over the franchise. It would have sunk faster than those Nazi's faces when they opened the ark.

As for this fourth entry, it gets an enjoyable A-, nicely calling back a 1950's sci-fi thriller with big budget style.

#4 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

In 1984, there was no bigger summer movie than the first sequel to "Raiders of the Lost Ark", INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.

Many people remember that it was a major hit, but do you remember how it changed the ratings system for all time? More on that later.

The film opens with our titles over a big stage version of "Anything Goes" in a Shanghai nightclub.

Future wife of Steven Spielberg (he met her when they filmed this movie) Kate Capshaw plays not so bright entertainer Willie Scott.

Watching her performing is our hero, Indiana Jones, perfectly played again by Harrison Ford.

The first ten minutes is perfect Spielberg action, with Indiana battling Chinese gangsters for a priceless diamond and then his life.

We are then off an running on an action packed flight to India (watch for Dan Aykroyd in a bit part at the airport) where Indiana gets immersed in a troubled village and a very bad villain.

It seems that our villagers are missing their sacred stones AND their children. They fear the evil Mola Ram (a great Amrish Puri) has cast a spell on their families.

When Indiana goes to investigate, dragging a screaming Willie and his loyal young assistant Short Round (Ke Yu Quan of "The Goonies") with him, they soon discover a WHOLE lot not to like about Ram and his band of Thugee henchmen.

There is adventure aplenty, from bug and snake filled secret castle passages, a massive underground mining operation, flights with no pilots and bats and monkey brains aplenty.

But its the dark center of the film that changed the ratings industry. Many parents brought their kids expecting light entertainment and found themselves watching Mola Ram pulling the beating heart out of a man's chest, bad guys whipping child slaves and enough scary encounters set to John Williams terrific and intimidating score that kids left in nightmares (along with more than a few sensitive parents).

The rating system was changed to include a PG-13 rating as a buffer between a family friendly PG and a harder R.

Looking back now, our sensibilities are far different, but it is awful scary for kids.

It's also a ton of fun, with Ford's Indiana moving quickly from adventure to adventure with flawless style and excitement.

First rate stunt, action and special effects throughout. The final sequence with a long mine car chase through the underground caverns is a highlight of the whole film series, with strong sound design and visual effects that still hold up today.

At the time, Temple of Doom was reviled by many, but I loved it then and love it now.

It's a fast moving, atmospheric thriller from start to finish and gets an A.

#3 Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

A treasure trove of nostalgia, thrills, laughs and heart, INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY is a terrific coda for Harrison Ford's beloved character.

For the last month, critics have been less than kind to Indy's final adventure. Ignore them, grab your whip and get ready for an enjoyable mashup of everything you've loved about Indy for over 40 years.

The opening sequence is my favorite of all the films as we are plunged into the final days of World War II and the Nazi's quest to find religious relics to give Hitler power. (anyone remember that quest for the ark of the covenant?)

As John Williams new score (loaded with all the themes we love) soars and the war explodes all around you, a spy is discovered and dragged onto the Nazi's train that's about to leave with all their treasure bounty. That spy is Indiana Jones and through incredible CGI, it's the young Harrison Ford from "Raiders". The technology has come so far from the "young" Jeff Bridges in "Tron: Legacy" 13 years ago, its astonishing. Flawless.

Indy and his partner Basil (a terrific Toby Jones) meet the particularly nasty Colonel Weber (Thomas Kretschmann from Peter Jackson's "King Kong") and Nazi scientist Dr. Voller (the reliably evil Mads Mikkelsen from "Casino Royale") who's on the quest for the ultimate ancient relic.

The Antikythera is the legendary machine that finds fissures in time. Talk about power! It's on the train and as it changes hands from Indy to Voller to Weber and back to Indy, the action sequence takes place across, over and through the long Nazi train barreling through the mountains in the middle of the night. The Lucasfilm effects team is at the peak of their powers, immersing you in the action on a massive scale. We saw the film in IMAX and we WERE on the train. It's a fantastic piece of film making and Director James Mangold (Logan, Ford v Ferrari) stages the ultimate tribute to Steven Spielberg's action set pieces. The titles, the music, the humor and action all perfectly recall "Raiders" in all its 1981 glory.

I remember seeing Raiders opening night. At the time, it was George Lucas and Spielberg's tribute to the old movie serial cliffhangers, a lost art form. The blockbuster success of the film ushered in a new type of action movie. It was fun feeling that same sense of wonder and adventure again in Mangold's capable hands.

The film moves forward to 1969. Indy is approaching 80 (Ford unbelievable is 80) and retiring from the professor role that's left his students bored and Jones less than engaged.

Out of the blue, his goddaughter and Basil's daughter Helena arrives. She's working on her thesis on the Antikythera and has picked up her father's life long devotion to discovering its secrets. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is great as Helena, bringing a 40's style, rapid speaking, up-for-anything action and wit to the proceedings.

It turns out that a lot of people are looking for the relic, plunging Indy and Helena almost immediately into a race around the world to find both halves of it, as well as the legendary instructions created by Archimedes that would give the user access to another time of their choosing.

Antonio Banderas is perfectly cast as an old pal and deep dive expert friend of Indy. John Rhys-Davies makes a very welcome return as Sallah and newcomer Ethann Isidore is a welcome addition as Helena's version of Short Round from "Temple of Doom".

Moving at a breakneck pace, the two and half hour running time seems like much less. Everything you want in an Indiana Jones movie is here as Ford, producers Lucas and Spielberg and Mangold make an all-out effort to send Indiana out in style.

Several scenes are standouts on a grand scale. Indy and Helena's escape during a NYC ticker tape parade for the returning astronauts from the first moon landing is jaw dropping in size.

Several chases in Morocco call back the fun of Indy and Marion on those same streets in "Raiders".

Massive caves and archeological sites echo the relic quest in "Last Crusade".

Bugs, spiders and centipedes give you flashbacks of "Temple of Doom",

And the action climax. WOW.

Some have complained that the finale is "too out there".

Have Indy fans forgotten that the first film was about opening the Ark of the Covenant and unleashing the face melting power within? Come on people, the films have always featured fantastic, out-of-the-box climaxes.

But nothing like what's unleashed here.

It's brave, crazy, ballsy and let's face it, cool as hell.

I loved every minute of the finale and the scenes of the massive plane flying just overhead across that's jaw dropping in its sheer audacity.

The final scene is a quiet, perfect throwback that leaves you choked up and smiling. What a way to hang up your hat, Indy.

Ford is perfect, obviously enjoying the chance to play his most popular movie hero one more time. He hasn't lost a bit of his comic timing in the 42 years he's played the character.

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY turns back the clock with the perfect blend of reverence & respect for the series legacy, blended with the guts to take it somewhere that's somehow familiar and yet brand new.

"Give 'em hell, Indiana Jones!"

You've uncovered an A.

#2 Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

Five years after "Temple of Doom" scared the hell out of families across the country, our favorite adventurer regained his footing with 1989's INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE.

Spielberg has said he felt a commitment to create another Indy film with a lighter tone than the controversial previous sequel (which I really enjoyed!)

The opening scene is terrific with a young Indy (River Phoenix) showing us how his love of artifacts and crazy escapes was born. Phoenix captures Ford perfectly down to showing us where that scar on his chin came from.

When Indiana's father Henry goes missing in search of the Holy Grail, his son Indiana takes up the quest.

Sean Connery plays the senior Jones to perfection, with charm, smarts and parental rule to spare. Harrison Ford is terrific as well, with plenty of great action and laugh out loud moments from beginning to end.

Director Spielberg and creator George Lucas serve up a non-stop series of cliffhangers, featuring not only nasty Nazis but Hitler himself, a flight aboard the Hindenburg, a midair dogfight, a desert showdown between an armored vehicle and Indy's horse and a bravado final 20 minutes to rival the opening of the ark in the original Raiders.

Denholm Elliot is terrific as Marcus Brody, Indy's friend whose enthusiasm is matched by his oblivion. Alison Doody (A View To A Kill) is Elsa, caught between adventure & both Joneses and Julian Glover (For Your Eyes Only) makes for a villain you love to hate as a wealthy art collector who wants the grail for his own.

The pre-CGI effects are first rate. John Williams outdoes himself with his most fun-infused Raiders music. He seems to be having a hell of a time composing a bouncy action score after the doom and gloom of that Temple in the last installment.

Indy and Elsa's exploration in the sewers of Venice (complete with 2000 rats trained for the film) and their boat escape is a blast. The Indy and Dad scene as the castle is burning down is hilarious.

Spielberg has said this is his favorite Indiana Jones film and it's a close second place for me behind the original Raiders.

If you haven't seen this in awhile, fire it up, settle in with the biggest screen you have, crank up the sound and enjoy two hours of Ford, Spielberg, Connery and Williams crafting an enjoyable adventure loaded with humor, heart and globe hopping suspense.

While it didn't turn out to be THE LAST CRUSADE, it gets an A and fond memories of seeing it at the original Cine Capri opening weekend!

#1 Raiders of the Lost Ark

RAIDERS still packs a punch! Steven Spielberg and George Lucas joined forces in 1981 to introduce us to globe trotting archeologist Indiana Jones. After a great opening in South America, complete with tarantulas, blowguns and giant rolling boulder, Jones is recruited to help find the lost ark of the covenant. The greatest movie villains ever, the Nazis, are also in hot pursuit of the ark for its magical powers. Raiders was always intended as Spielberg and Lucas's tribute to the Saturday morning cliffhanger serials of the 30's and 40's and it succeeds brilliantly. Watching the film now, in a completely remastered blu-ray with 7.1 sound and a pristine picture, its as impactful as it was back in 1981 to this (then 20 year old) film buff. Harrison Ford is excellent (did you know that Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indy?) Karen Allen is a great Marion and Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey and John Rhys-Davies are all excellent bad guys/good guys. The real star here are all the fantastic action set pieces we all remember so well, from Indy's fight scene inside, above and below the truck, climbing down into the snake filled "well of Souls" and of course, the climactic opening of the ark. "Don't look Marion! Whatever you do, don't open your eyes, Marion!" What a great movie! 31 years after it's release, Raiders still thrills, chills and chases it's way to an A+ and a treasured spot in my all time Top 10 films.

(One favorite bit of Raiders trivia: The day they filmed the big fight sequence in the bazaar where Marion hides in the basket and is carried to the truck while Indy battles the gaggle of bad guys, Harrison Ford was ill and battling a very high fever in 120 degree weather. When it came time to film the hardest part of the fight against the huge, black cloaked villain with twin giant sabers, Ford suggested he just yank out his gun and shoot the guy...and a classic moment and biggest laugh in the film was born.

The original is still the best, but all five films have carried on the Indiana Jones legacy in style, bringing moviegoers around the world laughs and thrills for over 40 years. How would you rank them?

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