Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

ROTLABefore it was re-branded “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” it was simply titled “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Though the title promised great adventure, director Steven Spielberg and writer Lawrence Kasdan managed to deliver a hero every audience member could watch and relate to, no matter what the circumstance. Harrison Ford managed to depict a ruthless space pirate in “Star Wars” and brings that same charisma and enthusiasm to Indiana Jones, a big screen hero who is dashing and cunning, but just as average as anyone else venturing in to his world.

Indiana Jones is a man consistently on the verge of being killed by his foes, but follows a strict code of ethics and morals that make him a hero who fights for the world treasures that should be cherished or locked away from megalomaniacs seeking to misuse great powers for their own devious plans. Indiana Jones is the anti-Bond, a man who is just merely doing his job and seeks whatever avenue he can to accomplish claiming the sacred ark of the covenant to bring back home, as a squad of Nazis race against Jones to find it and use its mysterious powers to help Adolf Hitler rise to power and conquer the world. Though Hitler is never once pictured, his presence is felt in his murderous and merciless army, all of whom will stop at nothing to retrieve the ark of the covenant.

Director Steven Spielberg and George Lucas manage to channel many of the famous big screen serials they loved so much as children, with an adventure that only Indiana Jones could take part in, in the end. Ford is timeless as the charming Indiana Jones, a man whose intentions are noble and just from the get go, as he battles armed cronies, unstoppable war machines, and a madman willing to kill anyone to please the villainous Hitler and his army. He’s a very empathetic character who places intellect above all else. And though he stumbles and falls in to extraordinary and often violent situations, he keeps his knowledge as a weapon that’s just as formidable as his whip and gun. The tone is at times sinister, but “Raiders of the Lost Ark” claims the atmosphere of fun and whimsy first and foremost. Especially with the amazing John Williams score.

Spielberg and Ford have a blast with the story, offering some truly iconic moments that seem directly lifted from the best serials ever made, all the while spinning the conventions of the hero’s journey to help Indiana stand out from all the other globe trotting avengers in his ilk. When he runs away from the dreaded ball in the opening, he looks horrified, when he battles the armed forces of his enemies he is battered just as much as they are, and in a truly human element instilled in him, he’s horrified of snakes. So much so that his confidence immediately shrinks at their mere sight. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” successfully balances comedy, adventure, and romance in what is one of the best action films ever made. Harrison Ford embodies the persona of Indiana Jones with perfection and paves him as an iconic hero.