18. Raiders of the Lost Ark


Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Release Date: June 12, 1981

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott.

Tag Lines: “Indiana Jones – the new hero from the creators of JAWS and STAR WARS.”

Relevance: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was released in the summer of 1981. It received universal acclaim from critics and was hailed as an “instant classic” and “one of the most humorous and stylish American films ever made.” It went one to receive plenty of Award recognition, winning five prestigious Academy Awards as well as a nomination for Best Picture. Audiences adored the movie just as much if not more than critics. It was a huge box office success and went on to became the highest grossing film that year. It has since spawned several sequels, television shows and video games and has become a worldwide recognizable franchise.

I was ten years old when ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was released and don’t remember too much about the movie when it was out in theaters. At that age, I was more interested in ‘Superman II.’ That film was released around the same time and since Superman was my favorite super hero, I went with friends to see that movie instead. Interestingly enough, Indiana Jones would soon become another one of my heroes.

I can’t remember if I first saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ through rental or HBO. Regardless, as soon as my family watched it, we fell in love with it. When the movie eventually started playing on HBO, it was one that we watched repeatedly. Every member of my family loved the story and the characters. Even my mom, a person that would usually shy away from a movie filled with spiders, snakes and supernatural elements, adored the movie more so than any of us combined, most likely because of her crush on Harrison Ford. The movie entertained us every time we watched it. For a brief period, I considered a life as an archeologist, but like my mom, I hated spiders and snakes. But I still looked up to both Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford (again like my mom). Han Solo was already on my hero list, so Mr. Ford was on that list twice.

Although I didn’t see ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in theaters, I did see it once with a large group of people. In the summer of 1984, ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ was released to theaters. You might recall that I also did not see that movie in theaters either. You can thank ‘Gremlins’ for that (see 88. Gremlins). Anyway, with the sequel in theaters, the original was getting revisited by a lot of its fans. I was part of an honors summer program that year called the “Higher Achievement Program” or HAP. It was like summer school but more for advanced learning than for repetitive learning. It was filled with art, creative writing as well as some performing, so it was actually a lot of fun. One of the afternoons that summer, as a treat, we watched “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Although I had already seen it by that point, it was fun to watch it with a group and it was just as entertaining if not more.

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ remained a favorite movie for both my family and myself. We owned the VHS and became lifelong fans of the character. As mentioned, we did not see its first sequel in theaters, but me, my mom and dad did see ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ with a group of moviegoers its opening weekend. When the fourth movie, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ was released, I again witnessed it in theaters. I purchased all of the movies on DVD and will most definitely be ready for any other addition made to this franchise. Indiana Jones was such an important fictional character in my life and he will continue to be so until the day I die, all thanks to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

Today’s Thoughts: “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”

Some movies are just pure comfort, like a warm blanket or your favorite song or mac and cheese. They are the films we turn to when we want to escape to a safe place where nothing or no one can harm us. A place where we can let the imagination of the filmmakers take us away from our stressful, mundane lives. That’s what ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ has become for me. Pure comfort.

I watched ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ today alone on my couch wrapped up in a warm blanket. Although I was missing some mac and cheese, I was completely in my comfort zone, re-visiting this old friend of mine directed by my favorite director. Steven Spielberg knows cinema and he is by far one of the best. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is his sixth out of nine films on my list of most influential movies of all time, the most of any other director (see 234. Saving Private Ryan, 169. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 83. The Goonies, 61. E. T. the Extra-terrestrial and 52. Jurassic Park for the other five).

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is pure entertainment and really stands the test of time. It is hard to imagine that it will be celebrating its fortieth anniversary next year. Watching it today is just as fun and exciting as it was back in the 1980’s. The action and comedy superbly mixed with dazzling special effects and terrific characters make this a must see movie for everyone. Although some of the effects are starting to show their age, overall it is still a fantastic joyride. The characters, brought marvelously to life by the fantastic cast, are the heroes and villains we could only hope to be in every story. Harrison Ford is the epitome of cool as Indiana Jones. No one else could have made archeology quite so hip.

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is a great fantasy, action-adventure film that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Every single time that I watch it I am reminded of the magic that could (and should) be brought to the big screen. It is pure entertainment and one that I am sure I will be watching over and over again for the next forty years, as long as I make it out of 2020 alive.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Michael Ford (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, Roy Charman (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Michael Kahn (winner), Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects, Richard Edlund, Kit West, Bruce Nicholson, Joe Johnston (winner), Academy Award for Special Achievement in Sound Effects Editing, Ben Burtt, Richard L. Anderson (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Douglas Slocombe (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Norman Reynolds (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Douglas Slocombe (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Michael Kahn (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, Roy Charman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Artist, Denholm Elliott (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (1999), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, DVD Availability.


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