Some sagas are so mythical that they cannot die. No matter what happens, they always come back, in one way or another, with their characters proving that they are already more myths than people. Authentic catalysts of something that transcends the characters, becoming popular icons recognized by all. Among these, cinema has managed to create one in particular that is impossible to forget. This is Indiana Jones.
Created by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, at least the first four films, we have just around the corner the fifth installment of the franchise: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. This one will be directed by James Mangold and if anything they have promised it will have the same adventure movie spirit of the previous films in the franchise, with Harrison Ford returning as Indiana Jones. So let’s order the Indiana Jones movies from the worst to the best. A list where the worst of the movies is very good and the best is a masterpiece, which you can also now watch on Disney+.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Coming back after twenty years in the fridge can be difficult. Just ask Indiana Jones, who in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull showed us that it is still possible to make a family adventure film, fun, full of action and historical and science fiction elements with spectacular set pieces based on relatively realistic elements without losing any of its charm. This was proven by the 790 million grosses and the good critical reception the film received.
That doesn’t mean that the audience was less enthusiastic. Neither Harrison Ford is the same actor now as he was twenty years ago, nor is Steven Spielberg the same director, nor is the audience the same. That’s why the film made it feel clunky and impostured to many people, like a doctored and cheated version of the original trilogy. But if seen without the glasses of nostalgia, the reality is that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a fun, well-paced movie that knows how to drink from the source of the originals to find its own way.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
If second parts were never good, someone would have to explain why Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is so good. Although it is true that it is considered the weakest of the three original films, being received lukewarmly by critics, despite being an absolute box office success, the film gives an interesting twist to the original film by introducing more supernatural elements, introducing more exotic elements and putting even more weight on its secondary characters, unloading the weight of the adventure on Harrison Ford’s shoulders.
All that does not detract from the fact that watching it today can be uncomfortable. Its look is extremely orientalist, which means that all of its depiction of Chinese and Indian characters border on, if not outright into, offensive if not outright harmful stereotypes. That coupled with less finely tuned pacing than the other two installments, despite having some of the franchise’s most iconic imagery, justifies its place on this list. Because Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a great film, but it is probably the worst-aged film of the original trilogy.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The third Indiana Jones movie would be the perfect synthesis between the achievements of the first one and the fumbling of the second one. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns more prominence to Indiana Jones, but again gives more weight to the secondary characters, while enhancing the context of adventure and a certain exotic touch. The result is a much more solid film, with an enviable pace, which would be easy to place as the best film in the franchise if it were not for the fact that, at the end of the day, it does not stop replicating what the original film already did.
That’s perhaps the only problem with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It refines the concept, but doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Sean Connery is amazing, Harrison Ford is great, and it’s never a bad thing to fight Nazis, but it lacks the novelty of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the exoticism and impact of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That’s why it’s the most rounded, most perfect and refined film, but also the one that leaves the least emotional aftertaste. Because although it is not possible to find any technical defect, it is also difficult to attribute to it the same merits that we do find in the other two films.
Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark
The jewel in the crown. The original film. The origin of everything. Here we not only met Indiana Jones stealing a statue in a Peruvian temple in a way as ingenious as his escape was ridiculous, but it gave us all the keys to what would be Indiana Jones from then on. Indiana Jones goes in search of an ancient artifact, someone of great power tries to get it for himself, Indiana Jones gets it first, but discovers that it is better that the world never knows of the existence of that object. Something that Indiana Jones and the lost ark manages to build to perfection while introducing us to tremendously charismatic characters in an extremely fun adventure with interesting and vibrant scenarios.
It’s really hard to find any fault with Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark. It could be more agile in certain moments. It could give a more relevant role to Marion. But all that we can criticize are minor aspects for a film that, even today, is fresh, fun and fascinating. A film that has been imitated to exhaustion and practically never imitated well, let alone equaled, that has defined adventure films as we know them. For that alone, it already deserves to be at the top of this list as the best Indiana Jones movie of all time until we see what the search for the Dial of Doom has to offer.
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