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Raiders of the Lost Ark

"I don't know, I'm making this up as I go along."

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect movie. I can't find anything wrong with it. Try as he might, Steven Spielberg has yet to direct a more purely enjoyable movie than this one.

There's no point in debating this. Raiders is just perfect. Which makes it very hard to review. All I can seem to do is gush endlessly about how brilliant it all is. Why give up your precious time just to read this when all I'm going to do is lovingly prattle on for a few paragraphs about a movie you're likely to love anyway? Boring, I know.

So, rather than waste time by rambling on with redundant analysis, let's break this down into bullet points (you can never go wrong with bullet points).

--The Man in the Hat. Doctor Henry Jones Junior (he prefers Indiana) is the greatest, most iconic action adventure hero of all time. He's instantly recognisable just by his shadow. He's the perfect fusion of character and actor. Let's face it, no one except Harrison Ford could've played Indy. Indiana Jones is a superhero without the superpowers (complete with secret identity: nerdy school teacher) but he's still a refreshingly fallible action hero. He might not hesitate to jump on a horse to steal a moving truck while fighting off a squad of Nazis, but afterwards he's so knackered he can't even stay awake to make out with his love interest. Jones doesn't make all this look easy because it isn't easy. Jones isn't perfect, he makes mistakes, gets beaten up by the bad guys, is terrified of snakes and may have once had an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl (but let's not dwell on that). Like James Bond, he arrives on screen fully formed. None of this origin story malarkey with Doctor Jones.

--The Girl. I love Karen Allen as Marion. Of all Indy's love interests she's by far the best and one of the few good things about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

--The Sidekicks. Any hero would be lucky to have sidekicks as awesome as Sallah and Marcus Brody. Marcus might not get much to do, but Denholm Elliott gives everything he's got in his few scenes. And John Rhys-Davies is just a joy as Sallah.

--The Bad Guys. Great heroes need great villains. It's a simple fact of fictional life. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luther, Jon Stewart has Fox News and Indiana Jones has Rene Belloq, brilliantly brought to life by Paul Freeman. And let's not forget the Nazis. Oh how we hate those guys. Which is one of the reasons they make such great movie villains. Especially creepy Nazi guy. Creepy Nazis trump Russians and Thuggies every time.

--The MacGuffin. The Ark of the Covenant. Nothing else has come close. Sankara stones, the holy grail, crystal skulls, nothing more than trinkets and baubles. The Ark is the true price. You really get the sense there is something powerful and Biblical in that golden box. Something that should never, ever be unleashed. Can't wait for them to open it.

--The Opening Sequence. The temple. The booby traps. The golden idol. The bag of sand. That boulder. The natives. Reggie. This is the greatest opening to a movie, ever. Also the greatest opening to an episode of The Simpsons as well. And look, there's Doctor Octopus being all treacherous. Never trust a future supervillain when you go treasure hunting.

--The Music. From the majestic 'Raiders March' to the spine chilling Ark theme, the entire score is just impeccable. This is without a doubt John Williams' masterpiece.

--The Maps. Brilliant idea.

--The Amazing Sound Design. Listen to those punches. The gunshots. The crack of that whip. The freakin' Wilhelm scream. Ben Buntt is an audio god.

--The Swordsman. Of course he was going to shoot him. Wouldn't you?

--The Map Room. A simple but effective scene. Just a guy with a staff looking at a model, but it gives you goosebumps.

--The Action. Ahhh, good old fashioned action scenes with proper stunt men, like the indomitable Vic Armstrong doing dangerous, life threatening stunts. That's a real person crawling under that truck and getting dragged along, not some complex combination of 1s and 0s. The most impressive thing is that Indy never once loses the hat.

--The Uniform Doesn't Fit. Hilarious. Even funnier, the soldier who scolds him for being so scruffy looking while on duty.

--The Miracle of the Ark. Spielberg might be the king of sentiment but he's got one hell of a nasty side. And he gleefully unleashed it on those Hitler-loving douchebags.

--And last, but not least, that amazing dialogue:

Washington Man: “Good God.”
Marcus: “Yes, that's just what the Hebrews thought.”

Indy: “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
Sallah: “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”

Sallah: “Indy, you have no time. If you still want the ark, it is being loaded onto a truck for Cairo.”
Indy: “Truck? What Truck?”

Belloq: “How odd that it should end this way for us after so many stimulating encounters. I almost regret it. Where shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?”
Indiana: “Try the local sewer.”

Belloq: “You and I are very much alike. Archaeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”

Marion: “You're not the man I knew ten years ago.”
Indiana: “It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.”

Marion: “I was a child, I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it.”
Indiana Jones: “You knew what you were doing.”
--Like I said, let's not dwell on that.

Four out of four snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. A great review of the one of the great movies of all time. I remember the first time I saw it. My siblings and I were debating what to do on a rainy afternoon, so we went to the movies. We went in to see this, came out to stock up on popcorn and sodas and went right back in to sit through it again. The only time in my life I have done that.

    Thanks for this, Mark. You brought back some good memories.

  2. Was Marion underage? I always thought she was speaking metaphorically about a college student/professor relationship. In any case, it seemed like Indy knew he was in the wrong, even when he was making that excuse.

    I was surprised when they made Brody into a doofus in the third film. I didn't see that in this first film.

  3. Mark, I'm never too busy to spend a few minutes reading some loving prattle about a movie I love. Always nice to revel in the joy with a fellow fan. After all, that's what we specialize in here, right?

    God, how I love this movie. It's very possible I've watched this one more than any other single movie I adore. Wonderful stuff.

  4. Best popcorn movie ever. The only thing wrong with it is that the thrills and chills aren't as wonderful when you've seen it ten times and know they're coming. And I don't think that counts as a flaw. Great review, Mark.

  5. "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?" One of my favourite movie lines EVER!!!

    Brilliant review of possibly the best popcorn film of all time! And yeah, I'll pretty much forgive them for the Crystal Skull because they brought Marion Ravenwood back! ;o)

    I have no idea how many times I've seen this film... and whenver I meet somene who hasn't seen it, I try to get them to watch it asap! :p

  6. I think I read somewhere that Spielberg meant Marion was underage when she met Indy..but I hope I was wrong and it was just a crush and not a relationship. Best not to dwell on that.
    Love this movie..one of the best in its genre. John Rhys Davies always makes everything better..

  7. Awesome and hilarious review of the BEST movie of the series. Number 4 NEVER happened (exception for that remarkable shutout to Marlon Brando. Period).

    It left a powerful mark (no pun intended) on my imagination.

    I said wow ! back then and I still do today.

  8. What a great review! Made me smile. My dad was watching this the other night and I wanted to know where he was: had he gotten to "They're digging in the wrong place?" because I love that line. Sallah's so happy about it.

    I'm not a fan of Karen Allen, however. I find her voice grating. That might be a prejudice passed down from my father, who hates her unambiguously.

  9. I'm sorry that my comment is so late. I have been coming to this site for years and never noticed this review.
    Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie of all time. You're absolutely right that it is a perfect movie. Also, that swordsman you're referring to comes with a great story. I had the good fortune to meet a few people who had worked on the movie a few years ago. That scene was supposed to have a long, well-choreographed fight between the swordsman and Indy, using his whip. On the day they were shooting, Harrison Ford had dysentery. So when Terry Richards (the stuntman who played the swordsman) started doing his sword-juggling, show off thing, Ford, who was desperate for a bathroom, just grabbed his gun and fired. Richards, who was a brilliant stuntman, saw what he was doing and just immediately went with it. Spielberg loved it so much he used it. The official story is that they all sat down and said the fight wasn't working and Harrison suggested, "Let's just shoot the sucker." But according to the guys I spoke to (a cameraman, a grip, and some other minor background set and prop guys), the truth is that it was ad-libbed right then and there by Harrison. When he turns toward the camera, before it switches, you can see the sweat on his face, but that was not from the heat. He was already looking for a bathroom to run to. That's the best adlib he ever did, and you know how good his adlibs were ("I know." from Empire Strikes Back being the second best of his adlibs.)
    Anyway, great review. Again, I'm sorry it took me almost 7 years to notice it! Thanks!


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