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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

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Top Rated Movies #36 | Won 4 Oscars. Another 30 wins & 23 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Wolf Kahler ...
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Don Fellows ...
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Bill Reimbold ...
Fred Sorenson ...
Patrick Durkin ...
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Storyline

The year is 1936. An archeology professor named Indiana Jones is venturing in the jungles of South America searching for a golden statue. Unfortunately, he sets off a deadly trap but miraculously escapes. Then, Jones hears from a museum curator named Marcus Brody about a biblical artifact called The Ark of the Covenant, which can hold the key to humanly existence. Jones has to venture to vast places such as Nepal and Egypt to find this artifact. However, he will have to fight his enemy Rene Belloq and a band of Nazis in order to reach it. Written by John Wiggins

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Indiana Jones - the new hero from the creators of JAWS and STAR WARS. See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

12 June 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Indiana Jones  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,673,731 (USA) (7 September 2012)

Gross:

$242,374,454 (USA)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

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(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Originally mechanical snakes were going to be used in the Well Of Souls sequence, but it was decided that they looked too fake so they opted for real snakes instead. See more »

Goofs

Indy flies from San Francisco to Nepal on-board a Short Solent Mark III which makes stopovers at Honolulu (Hawaii), Wake Island, Manila (Philippines) and finally arriving at Nepal (possibly Kathmandu). All of these non-stop flight stretches (which range from 2300-3000 miles) are way too long for the Short Solent's maximum range of approximately 1800 miles. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Satipo: [picking up poison dart] The Hovitos are near. The poison is still fresh, three days. They're following us.
Barranca: If they knew we were here, they would've killed us already.
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Crazy Credits

The mountain in the Paramount logo dissolves into the mountain in the Peruvian jungle. See more »

Connections

References Das Boot (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

A British Tar
(1878) (uncredited)
From "H.M.S. Pinafore"
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
Sung a cappella by John Rhys-Davies
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A wonderful movie, but I still prefer The Last Crusade.
16 July 2003 | by See all my reviews

Rating: **** out of ****

There is no doubt in my mind that Indiana Jones is the best movie series in the history of cinema. And the one start it all was Raiders of the Lost Ark, a fast-paced adventure packed with one death-defying cliff-hanger situation after another. To this day, Raiders remains one of the best action movies, holding up better than most of today's rapid-cut, MTV-style "thrill rides." Raiders relied on no CGI, no flashy editing, just pure, exhilarating film-making and storytelling, a combo of its kind that has only been surpassed by its second sequel, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Harrison Ford stars as Jones, an archaeologist who dresses in a brown coat and fedora, armed with a revolver and lion-taming whip. A delightful opening involving elaborate booby traps informs us he's used to these adventures (especially his even closer brushes with death in Temple of Doom, which was a prequel). When he returns to the states from his latest "excavation," he's informed by the military that the Nazis are after the ark of the covenant, an artifact that could possess the power to make the Nazis an invincible army. So Jones sets out to retrieve the ark first, in what will prove to be one of his greatest adventures.

There's probably little doubt that Raiders is the fan/critical favorite of the trilogy, but there are a few things that I actually have to gripe about, blasphemous as it may be. For one, even though the story is excellent, it's not without its holes. Most perplexing is in the film's opening scenes, when we wonder why Jones bothered to bring along potentially traitorous porters when it's such a short distance from the river to the cave temple. Also (spoilers), one needs only to see the film once to realize that if Indy had never tried to intercept the Ark, the Nazis would a) have never found it or b) still would have suffered the same horrible fate regardless.

The action sequences are superb, though an early bar shootout isn't quite as adrenaline-pumping as it could be and looks quite bland compared to the film's other action scenes. Thankfully, the following street chase is playful and exciting and keeps the joyous momentum flowing. Overall, I'd still argue that both Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade boast more inventive action but there's no questioning that the action scenes in Raiders are fantastic and likely superior to any film you may have seen the last few years.

As bitchy as I may sound, I'm not trying to harp on Raiders, at least not too much. The movie does feature the famous (and deservedly so) truck chase, one of the most unbelievably thrilling and exhilarating action setpieces I've ever seen (and given an extra boost by John Williams' beautifully rousing score). To this day, even with the recent chase scenes in The Matrix Reloaded and Terminator 3, this sequence has yet to be surpassed.

Other standout sequences include a sarcophagus almost entirely decorated with snakes, imposing statues, and well-preserved mummies, and Jones' mano-a-mano battle with a seemingly impervious Nazi mechanic. The finale takes the film dangerously close to the horror genre, climaxing things with a truly memorable (and quite frightening) light show for the ages. Every Indiana Jones film has a scene that scarred me as a kid and I think every one who's seen Raiders knows what I'm referring to (as well as its sequels)

I've said it before, Harrison Ford is wonderful as Jones, embodying a hero that's cool beyond words, yet still entirely human and believable. The supporting cast isn't as up to par: Paul Freeman makes for a decent but not particularly menacing villain as Belloq and Karen Allen is somewhat annoying as Indy's love interest, but there are an equal share in gems, particularly Denholm Elliot as Marcus Brody and John Rhys-Davies as Sallah (The Last Crusade wisely gave these actors/characters more screen time).

Raiders of the Lost Ark was revolutionary cinema, paving way for summer blockbusters that would attempt for the same winning mix of thrills and humor. Only its sequels matched and/or surpassed it, but some have actually come close (The Mummy). If you haven't seen Raiders yet, put it on the top of your list.


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