Ranking the Indiana Jones Films

The Reel World’s Indiana Jones “Content”
Make sure to listen to our site’s podcast episode on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
8 Thoughts on the Harrison Ford Episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
The 7 Worst Parts of Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull
Ranking the Indiana Jones Films

The Indiana Jones film series was never one I gravitated towards much as a child (especially in comparison to my beloved Star Wars).

As such, I do not have a lot of feelings of nostalgia tied up with them. Nevertheless, revisiting them as an old has been interesting and satisfying.

Harrison Ford is obviously one of the greatest and most compelling movie stars of all time, and George Lucas is utterly fascinating as a larger than life cinema entity. (Spielberg is Spielberg.) Here is how I rank the films.

4. Crystal Skull [2008]

Fundamentally, this film is just no good whatsoever as the magic was just totally zapped out of the world of Indiana Jones. Right from the start, everything just feels “off,” and there were very few moments where you even felt like they might get something back to salvage the experience let alone save it. I will never forget the immense feeling of “underwhelmed” after walking out of the theater in 2008 when I first saw this film. I waited almost fifteen years before giving it another try, and it was somehow even worse with time. Re-watching it was so bad in fact that I ended up devoting a whole second article about the major reasons why the film sucked. You can read that here!


3. Temple of Doom [1984]

There are some very bad things in this movie. For starters, Kate Capshaw just gets saddled with one of the worst big movie roles of all time as Willie. Apparently they designed her character to be as different from Karen Allen in Raiders as possible. In theory, I can understand why – and that mindset would serve the film well in other ways -, but ultimately going full damsel in distress mode with the female lead was just a catastrophe. Secondly, the movie is shockingly racist in ways that are almost hard to believe. Even on the Indiana Jones scale.

There are some real positive things about the film though. Most importantly, the film does not try in any way to just be a repeat of Raiders. There is a different vibe. The situation feels completely unique. There is an annoying kid and annoying lady following Harrison Ford around. In many ways, the film plays out like less of an adventure and more of a haunted house story. While Raiders made you want want to tag along for the journey, Doom really makes you want to escape. I genuinely appreciate when films in a series take deliberate steps to differentiate themselves and the majority of those decisions in Doom made it a more interesting watch than I had remembered from my youth.


2. Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981]

The first Indiana Jones film has just so much going for it. Prime Harrison Ford in all of his glory. Great chemistry between Ford and Karen Allen. The classic villain characterization where Paul Freeman has convinced himself he is not actually a bad guy despite working with NAZIS. Strong supporting characters played by John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, and Ronald Lacey. Spielberg just kills it with a variety of action/fight scenes that are all compelling but all feel unique so the film never gets repetitive. More than anything though this film makes you feel like you’re going on an adventure, and it is that feeling that makes Indiana Jones special. (And it’s why Crystal Skull fell so flat.)


1. The Last Crusade [1989]

Crusade is truly and quite obviously by far the best Indiana Jones film. It essentially takes all of the good elements from Raiders but strips away all the weaknesses. While Karen Allen did more than an admirable job in Raiders, Indiana Jones is not James Bond. He does not need a woman on his arm or anything like that in order to be Indiana Jones. Teasing Alison Doody has Jones’ partner in crime in this only to replace her with Sean Connery as Indiana’s father halfway through the film was a stroke of absolute genius. Just watching two of the biggest stars in the world go back and forth with each other on this adventure was as fun as it gets. A genuinely great film.

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