Monday 19 May 2008


In celebration of the big screen return of Indiana Jones, using a vote from Fanboys and Fangirls Daily Film Dose has compiled a list of 20 favourite moments from the trilogy. These moments define the charisma, style, humour and awesomeness that has made the Indy Jones character and Spielberg and Lucas’ brainchild one of the most endearing action franchises in cinema history.

What’s clear is that the series is made so enjoyable because of it’s counterpoint of action with humour. Spielberg is a master of mixing scenes of incredibly tense action with well-timed comic punchlines. You’ll see this list captures not necessarily whole scenes but very specific moments, actions, or lines of dialogue.

1. Indy’s Gun vs. The Sword
Raiders of the Lost Ark

The unanimous defining moment in the Indy series is the famous scene during Indy’s frantic search to find Marion in the streets of Cairo. When he happens upon a terrifying foot soldier with impressive sword-brandishing swordsmanship, Indy rolls his eyes, pulls out his gun and shoots him down easily causing mass elation from the crowd. It’s a moment that defines the self-deprecating wit of the character and the irony of the series as a whole. Years later it was revealed that this moment was one of those ‘happy accidents’ on set. With Harrison Ford suffering badly from the flu, an elaborate fight sequence on the day was cancelled in favour of the quicker and more succinct solution of the single gunshot. The rest is history.

2. The Boulder
Raiders of the Lost Ark

The heightened comic book quality action of the series was established in the fantastic opening sequence of “Raiders”. After Jones negotiates his way through the boobies traps and poisoned darts in the cave and steals the golden Idol, he inadvertently sets off a self-destruction device in the cave. Indy desperately runs back dodging more traps. But he stops when he finds his traitor colleague Sapito harpooned through the face with a spear. Indy grabs the idol and trips another trap. He doesn’t know what it is until he hears a rumbling, looks up and sees a massive rock boulder hurdling towards him. Indy of course makes it out of the cave alive. The stunt was filmed with a real-sized boulder. Though it was made of fibreglass, it was still heavy and a dangerous stunt for Mr. Ford.

3. Coat Hanger Reveal
Raiders of the Lost Ark

This classic moment occurs midway through “Raiders” during Marion’s and Belloc’s drinking game courtship. After Marion drinks Belloc under the table, she pulls a knife and is about to walk out of the tent when the intimidating Nazi, Toht, stops her. Toht methodically pulls out a menacing chain device and twists it around, forming some kind of torture device. John Williams’ music helps build up the moment to a wonderfully humourous bit of misdirection when Toht calmly twists the device into an innocent coat hanger for his jacket. It should also be noted this gag was borrowed from a deleted scene from Spielberg's previous film, "1941".

4. Indy Crawling Under the Truck
Raiders of the Lost Ark

One of the greatest action chases in the history of film occurs midway through “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. After Indy chases down the truck carrying the Ark by horse, and after he leaps onto it and fights off half a dozen soldiers, he meets his match with the last remaining Nazi in the truck. After he throws Indy through the window onto the hood of the truck, the only place for Indy to go is underneath using the axels as handles, and his bullwhip to pull him back onto the truck. It’s a thrilling scene featuring some of the finest stunt work ever put to film. It should also be noted that this scene was borrowed from one of Spielberg’s main influences – John Ford’s “Stagecoach” which features a similar stunt, performed by the great stunt man Yakima Canutt.

5. Anything Goes
Temple of Doom

Though it constitutes an entire scene, the list couldn’t be complete without mentioning the amazing opening musical sequence in "Temple of Doom". After the Paramount logo fades into the banging gong we are treated to an inspired Busby Berkeley-esque musical sequence featuring Willy Scott (a stunning Kate Capshaw) singing “Anything Goes” in Mandarin (or is it Cantonese?) It’s filled with the flashy tap dancing, sparkly cinematography and big-screen choreography of the classic MGM musicals. The only other scene comparable in Spielberg’s oeuvre of great scenes is the dance-hall chase scene in “1941”. In the film though, we were teased with the potential of what Mr. Spielberg could do if he made a traditional musical – which, at the time, was not in fashion.

6. Hitler Autograph
The Last Crusade

The Indiana Jones series are filled great moments of comic misdirection. The coat hanger reveal in "Raiders" is a great example, but so is the moment when Indy comes face-to-face with the ultimate villain, himself, Adolf Hitler. In "The Last Crusade" Indiana and his father travel to Berlin to recover the stolen Grail diary. After he has just reclaimed the book Indy finds himself in the middle of a Nazi rally where he bumps into the Fuhrer. Hitler grabs hold of the book and slowly opens it up. Indy's face falls thinking the gig is up, but Hitler non-chalantly takes his pen and signs his autograph on one of the pages. It's a great moment of suspense with a hillarious comic punchline.

7. Chilled Monkey Brains
Temple of Doom

The famous dinner scene at Pankot Palace in "Temple of Doom" is a legendary scene of excessive emotional manipulation. After a long tiring elephant ride through the jungle Indy, Willy and Short Round finally have a chance to relax and enjoy a decent meal. The series of over-the-top-digusting dishes served in front of Willy and Short Round’s shocked faces is completely ridiculous. It’s also culturally irresponsible, which became a central part of the backlash against the film, but 20+ years later, who cares. It’s a hilarious scene. After snake surprise, boiled cockroaches, and eyeball soup the scene is capped off with the delicious chilled monkey brains. Wow! I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again from Mr. Spielberg.

8. Indy Fighting Dirty at the Airfield
Raiders of the Lost Ark

One of the most memorable scenes in the series is Indy’s fight with the German strongman in “Raiders”. As Indy looks for an escape via a German plane parked on an airstrip he fights off a lowly pilot. In doing so he attracts the attention of a German bull of a man, who rings his hands at the pleasure of a good ol’ fist fight. It’s clearly a lopsided bare-knuckle match and so Indy does what he can to get an advantage. Indy resorts to the dirtiest fighting in the book – distracting his attention, throwing dirt, kicking the groin, and biting. The shady tactics exemplify the Jones character perfectly - a man with conflicting morals and scruples – a man determined to do anything it takes to win.

9. “So long, Lau Che!”
Temple of Doom

After the rousing fight scene in the Café Obi-Wan to start “Temple of Doom” Indy, Short Round and Willy Scott elude their Chinese pursuers and escape to the airport. Just as Indy is about to enter the plane and take off he sees his opponent drive up at the edge of the runaway, about to accept defeat. Indy impudently mocks his pursuer with the smug line “So long Lao Che”, then slams the airplane door shut, revealing the words “Lao Che” emblazoned on the door. As much as Indy is an escape artist, he also has a knack of getting himself into deeper trouble. And of course, the plane trip is just the beginning of long adventure ride of non-stop terror and jeopardy.

10. Junior?
The Last Crusade

The reveal of Sean Connery who plays Indiana's father was no secret. But Spielberg still has an obligation to introduce his characters and stars with flare. We see the elder Jones twice prior to his big reveal - the back of Jones' head in the flashback opening scene, and once in a photo cutaway in Jones' ransacked home. Sean Connery officially enters the film in dramatic fashion after Indy crashes through the window to rescue him. Jones smashes a Ming vase over Indy's head before he realizes its his son. And Connery's first line is "Junior?" which reveals that Indiana's name isn't actually Indiana, but Henry Jr. The scene gets even funnier when Henry's attention is distracted by the smashed vase. It's a great piece of casting, perhaps the only Hollywood hero who could match the charisma and machoness of Indiana Jones - James Bond.

11. “He No Nuts, He Crazy!” 
Temple of Doom

The big finale of "Temple of Doom" comes after a lengthy escape from the Pankot caves, a fantastical rollercoaster ride through the mines shafts and a narrow escape from a flood of water off a narrow cliff. Somehow Indy gets separated from Willy and Short Round and meets them on a rickety rope bridge over a hundred foot drop to a river of snarling and hungry alligators. Indy finds himself cornered in the middle of the bridge with Willy and Shorty hostage and the evil swordsmen slow approaching. The build up to Indy’s shocking escape is punctuated by Shorty's wonderfully timed line of broken English, “He not nuts, he crazy!”

12. Indy Swims from Steamer to U-Boat
Raiders of the Lost Ark

As a kid, seeing “Raiders” for the first time, my favourite moment, was near the end of the film after we’ve seen Indy elude rolling boulders, getting dragged under moving trucks and fighting off gargantuan German strongmen. Indy should have been dead or at least limping a bit. But when the Nazis take over the Jamaican steamer and kidnap Marion and the Ark into their U-Boat, Indy is left with no other option but to swim from one from to the other. The brilliance of Spielberg makes the moment work. We don’t ever see Indy swimming the route, only the reaction of the steamer crew after he has accomplished the feat. John Williams’ rousing score also helps puncuate the moment.

13. Toht’s Melting Face
Raiders of the Lost Ark

At the end of "Raiders" Spielberg kills off his three villains in the most despicable manner imaginable. After the Nazis open the Ark and those ghostly ghouls emerge and reek havoc on the spectators, they kill Toht by melting his face, down to the bone, with his bloody skin slowly sliding down his face – leaving his eyeballs alone in its eye sockets. Col Dietrich gets it bad too. His face literally sucks in on itself like a paper bag. And of course Belloc’s head actually explodes into a million pieces. The sequence continues on as the Ark kills all the other Germans in a hail and brimstone climax of epic proportions.

14. The Handle of Bugs
Temple of Doom

In "Temple of Doom" when Indy and Short Round venture into the secret passage and into the darkened bowels of Pankot Palace, we encounter some of the most ridiculous moments of cinematic jeopardy ever put to screen. After some comic banter between Shorty and Indy, a booby trap is tripped and the ceiling lowers onto their heads, then a series of long pointy knives emerges adding even more threat. Willy is summoned against her will to rescue them. The manicured showgirl has to stick her hand in a hole filled with the largest creepy-crawlers ever seen into order to pull the level, release the trap and save the day. Spielberg extends the moment to excruciating levels of tension, as he cuts back and forth between Indy, the spikes, Willy’s hand, the bugs etc etc. And, of course, the punchline to the scene is when everything is fine, Willy accidentally starts the trap again…

15. Brody Lost
The Last Crusade

Dr. Brody (Denholm Elliot) gets a bigger role in the "The Last Crusade". We all knew him as the enthusiastic partner of Indy's at his University in "Raiders". In this film we finally get to see him in action with Indy. With Indy and Henry captured by the Nazis, Dr. Schneider figures Indy's given the crucial map to Dr. Brody. Henry's is aghast that Brody is in charge of finding the lost site of the Grail. But Indy is so confident in his plan he describes the legend of Brody, "he's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the grail already". Then Spielberg provides the comic counterpoint by cutting to Brody haplessly wondering the foreign streets for someone who speaks English, or Ancient Greek.

16. The Lazy Susan Exchange
Temple of Doom

Right after the great Anything Goes musical sequence in "Temple of Doom" Indy engages in a tense exchange of a bag of diamonds with Indy’s newly recovered ashes of Nurhachi. Spielberg makes clever use of the table’s lazy susan as a device to generate suspense. Spielberg’s camera slyly tilts and pans between the characters’ poker faces and the movement of the items on the table. Watch how Spielberg barely shows the martini glass, which ultimately poisons Indy, being placed on the turntable. It’s a great moment of suspense worthy of Spielberg’s idol Alfred Hitchcock.

17. "Why'd it have to be Snakes?"
Raiders of the Lost Ark

It was a great moment for Indy after sneaking his way into the map room, finding the Well of the Souls under the noses of the Nazis. But when Indy and Sallah crack open the chamber, Indy's worst fears are imagined. Sallah asks Indy, "why does the floor move?" After Indy throws down a torch into the pit revealing a floor filled with dangerous snakes, Indy says his famous line "Why'd it have to be Snakes?". And then John Rhys-Davies adds his great well-timed addition, "Asps, very dangerous, you go first". It was the first crack in Indy's armour, and it wouldn't be until "The Last Crusade" when we'd learn the origin of that fear.

18. Henry Jones’s Umbrella vs. the Nazi Plane
The Last Crusade

Throughout "The Last Crusade" Henry Jones plays the comic relief, the affable old man and disconnected father that Indy desperately wants approval from. Jones is freed from captivity by Indy and brought along for the ride to recover the Holy Grail. After a daring escape from the Nazi airship Indy and Henry find themselves alone and vulnerable on the beach with a Nazi fighter plane bearing down on them. With nowhere to go Indy seems to accept his fate. But Henry has a moment of inspiration in the form of his trusty umbrella which he has been carrying with him the whole time. Jones opens the umbrella and scares all the birds on the beach to fly into the path of the plane, thereby saving the day. The scene ends with a great line delivered by Connery who 'remembers his Charlemagne'.

19. Indy's First Fedora
The Last Crusade

The opening scenes of "The Last Crusade" features a young Indiana Jones in an early adventure where we discover the origins of some of Indy's idiosyncrasies, including his famous Fedora hat. After Indy successfully steals Coronado's cross from the rival archeologist he is forced by the authorities to reluctantly give it back. As compensation the archeologist gives Indy his own Fedora as a gesture of respect. When River Phoenix puts on the hat, Spielberg crafts a wonderful transition to Harrison Ford pulling his head up into frame wearing the same hat. And then Spielberg's comic punchline, is the classic punch to the face. A great Indy moment.

20. Marion's Introduction
Raiders of the Lost Ark

A good director should be conscious of how he introduces his characters. The first reveal, or line of dialogue should, in part, define who he or she is as a character. Steven Spielberg does it better than anybody. One of the great screen introductions of the Indy series is for Marion Ravenwood, Indy's old flame who owns the valuable amulet which tells where the Ark of Covenant is kept. Spielberg introduces Marion in a bar in Nepal in the middle of a heated drinking game with a burly competitor and a horde of gambling Sherpas around her. After almost passing out from her latest shot, Marion pulls it together, turns her glass upside down and slams it on the table. The burly man downs his shot, but passes out, crowning Marion the winner. Later her life will be turned upside down when her old beau Indiana Jones will soon enter the door.


Josh said...

No ticket...

Excellent list!

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Anonymous said...

this was a tough list to compile, as I'm sure you had to omit many great moments, so I won't be too incredulous when wondering why the mining cart sequence has been left out, or the even the heart-ripping ritual, or the ridiculous yellow dingy free-fall from Temple of Doom. Dude, c'mon. There are many more, but great list anyway.

Anonymous said...

Loved the list - thanks for the 10 minutes of nostalgia :)

Anonymous said...

I too loved the list. I have not had time to see the latest Indiana Jones movie but looking forward to it regardless of what the critics say.

Thomas Pluck said...

Kudos for including the coat hanger scene. Even though it was cribbed from James Bond- I think from Diamonds are Forever- it's a great reveal. Where can you get one of those?

I just watched Temple again, and while it's not as good as the other two, it has its own charms. I'd have included Mola Ram's hearty handshakes instead of "Anything Goes," which had me reaching for the fast forward button on the remote.