Raiders of the Lost Ark
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The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) More at IMDbPro »Raiders of the Lost Ark (original title)

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Raiders of the Lost Ark can be found here.

Fearing that the Nazis have discovered Tanis, an ancient Egyptian city buried in a gigantic sandstorm in 980 B.C. and thought to be the burial site of the Ark of the Covenant, built by ancient Hebrews to hold the mystical stone tablets on which Moses originally inscribed the Ten Commandments, the U.S. Army commissions archeology professor Dr Henry 'Indiana' Jones (Harrison Ford) to keep the Ark out of the hands of the Nazis. Unfortunately, Indy's longtime rival, Dr Ren Belloq (Paul Freeman), a French archeologist who has the uncanny ability to show up whenever Indy makes a discovery in order to take it away from him, is also looking for the Ark. Even worse, before Indy can begin his search, he must stop in Nepal to contact Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), estranged (and bitter) ex-girlfriend and daughter of his former professor, Dr Abner Ravenwood, in order to obtain the headpiece to the Staff of Ra, whose crystal will allow him to determine the exact location of the Ark. And then there's the snakes. Why, oh why, does it have to be snakes?

No. Raiders of the Lost Ark is based on a screenplay and story co-written by American screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Philip Kaufman and film maker George Lucas, who also co-produced the movie. The film supposedly originated from Lucas' desire to create a modern version of the movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s. Hence, the Indiana Jones serial begins in 1936 and was followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Indiana Jones 5 has been announced, but no release date has been set.

It is the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol, a sacred object that the Hovitos protect.

The idol appears to be about 5,000 c.c. (300 cubic inches) in volume. If it were solid gold, it would weigh around 100 kg (3,200 troy oz. or 220 lbs). The film, however, never specifies its make-up; it might well have been gold-plated stone or ceramic, seeing as Indy lifts it quite easily and Belloq lifts it easily over his head. The gold nature of the idol may not have been as important as its symbolic importance to the Hovitos.

The most likely explanation for the initially extraordinarily tense relationship with the emotionally turbulent Marion Ravenhood is that Marion had romantic or even sexual relations with Indy when she was a young adolescent. Their age difference is approximately ten years, so Indy would have been in his mid-20s and she around 15 or 16 when they first met and fell in love. The implication is that she felt taken advantage of by the older, more experienced man, an inappropriate relationship which also caused Indy's falling out with her father Abner, Indy's friend and mentor.

Was Tanis a real city?

Yes. Tanis was at one point the northern capitol of Egypt, and in 1939, after extensive excavations, a great deal of treasure and artifacts were found there (however, the Ark was not among them). See here for more details.

Marcus provides the answer in the scene where he and Indy talk to the Feds: "An army which carries the Ark before it is invincible." Also, one of the Feds tells them both that Hitler had become obsessed with the occult, which is historically false, however. It was actually Reichsfhrer-SS, Heinrich Himmler (leader of the Schutzstaffel/SS), an alleged Thule Society member and who had a fond interest in the occult. Himmler also promoted and founded the Ahnenerbe, a research department focused on cultural and anthropological history of the Aryan Race, as well as dwelling into Aryan Mysticism and occult artifacts. Hitler, although fond of Mysticism, would ridicule and poke fun of Himmler's staunch obsession of the subject according to multiple eyewitnesses at the time.

No. There were far too many variables in play for the procedure to actually work. First of all, the staff and crystal medallion would have had to been at the correct height. Ancient peoples did not have precise measuring equipment, which is why a foot is the length of a foot and a cubit the length of a forearm. The length of Indy's staff would therefore not be the exact length needed. Secondly, the relationship between the sun and the horizon changes from day to day. Every day the sun rises further north or south from the previous day depending on the time of the year. If by chance he did have the staff at the correct height he would still have to hope it was the right time of the year. But there is one further problem: in the thousands of years since the map room was created the Earth has shifted on its axis (it's one of the reasons the Earth periodically has Ice Ages). Sailing ships in the past could often navigate at night because the Earth's axis pointed toward the North Star. At the time the map room was built the Earth's axis did NOT point at the North Star. Thus, there is no reason to think it would have worked. It's purely movie magic and myth and does make for one of the more memorable and exciting moments in the movie.

Toht picked up the original during the fight in Marion's bar. Because it was extremely hot from being in the fire, the image of one side of the headpiece was burned into his hand, which Belloq was able to copy. It proved to be worthless, however, because the markings on the other side of the original gave further instructions. Another theory about Toht's burned hand is that the magical nature of the headpiece burned him because he was a very evil man.

Indy stated that you had to "put the staff in a certain place at a certain time of day" for the headpiece to reveal the location of the ark. It would appear that the numerous holes in the floor were based on some kind of ancient calendar, with Indy checking his notes to ensure that he had the right hole. Since Belloq was in the Map Room a few days prior, it would make sense that the hole he used would be slightly different from the one Indy used, i.e. just a notch or two away. If you watch as Indy traces his finger from the symbol, he traces up a few holes, briefly inserts his finger into a hole that had its sand removed, and then traces down two more holes to the one he clears and then uses. We might surmise that the first hole was the one Belloq used, and Indy got to the room perhaps two days after... accounting for the second hole offset from Belloq's hole. Therefore, in addition to Belloq's staff being too long, he also used the wrong hole and got erroneous coordinates.

It's a clear plastic shield, like safety glasses, for his eyes. In the desert there's a lot of wind and blowing sand so Belloq was using this device as eye protection.

Because he knew where the Ark was BUT hadn't found it yet. The location of the Ark he'd gotten from the previous scene showed that it was still pretty close to the main excavation. They could dig for it there, fairly well hidden from the Nazis and Belloq, but it was still close enough that they could be discovered. If Marion disappeared suddenly, Belloq and the Nazi officers would do just what Indy said; they'd comb the place until she was found. An extensive search of the entire site would lead them to Jones, Sallah, and their dig, so Indy leaves her bound and gagged, much to Marion's fury, and promises to return for her when they'd find the Ark and have it safely away from the Nazis.

Both Marion and Belloq were trying to fool each other into thinking the other was drunk. Both are hardy drinkers, as we see with Marion winning the shot contest in her bar early in the movie against a man much larger than herself. Belloq was also a hardy drinker, having grown up drinking the wine he provided, which was, in his cheerful words, "my family label." Wine is much less potent than the whiskey Marion was drinking earlier, and she was able to stay sober. Assuming that Belloq was going to be inebriated faster than she was, she could escape easier. However, her assumption was wrong, and Belloq was just as sober as she was -- and Toht arrived just at the moment she tried to walk out.

After being trapped in the Well of Souls, Indy and Marion crash through a wall, travel (what seems to be) a short distance, move a loose stone, and escape. The loose stone is in plain view of the airstrip where the Nazis are readying a plane. Many fans have wondered why no one bothered to move the stone and find the Well through this way. There are a number of possibilities to explain this. The stone was loose so someone may have searched it before. We don't see Indy and Marion's full journey from the Well to the stone so they may have travelled farther than anyone bothered to before. This area could have been scheduled to be explored but no one got to it yet. It's also important to remember that Indy had to crash through the wall to get out. If someone had explored this area, they may have reached the end with the bodies and thought nothing was beyond the wall. If no one saw the snakes going through the holes they wouldn't just start knocking down walls to see what's on the other side.

Yes. Footage from "Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark" shows Harrison Ford and stuntman Terry Richards rehearsing some slashing and ducking moves. But Harrison Ford suffered from dysentery in the Tunisia location (as did many of the Raiders crew), and reportedly asked director Spielberg, "Can't I just shoot him?" Spielberg thought about it, said, "Yeah, why not? Let's shoot it." And a classic movie moment was born.

There is a deleted scene in which you see Indy holding on to the periscope, which is sticking out of the water. Early submarines generally traveled the oceans on the surface of the water under diesel power, which requires access to the air for inlets to the engines. They could only travel short distances under water, as this required electric propulsion and the battery power of the submarine did not last very long. German U-boats would only submerge when they'd attack surface ships. However, there would generally be four or five crewman on the conning tower as lookouts. U-boats generally would submerge to a depth of roughly 12 meters, deep enough to see out the periscope. In the novelization, Indy lashed himself to the periscope with his bullwhip and rode/dozed through 20 frigid hours in oceanic water. In the movie, we never see the sub fully submerge, so are left with the conclusion that Indy rode on the top, a more believable scenario than riding it underwater without freezing or drowning.

How does the movie end?

Although tethered to a pole, Indy and Marion are allowed to watch as Belloq opens the Ark, cameras rolling to record the momentous event. In it, they find only sand. Suddenly, lights begin flashing and bulbs exploding. Fog begins pouring out of the Ark and jets of light shoot upwards. Indy warns Marion to shut her eyes and not look at it...no matter what. The rays of light turn into ethereal beings then into skeletons. Beams of fire curse through the bodies of the soldiers, consuming everyone but Indy and Marion. The fire curses upoward into the skies, taking the Ark's lid with it and then depositing it back upon the Ark. When it's all over, Indy and Marion open their eyes and realize that they haven't been harmed. Weeks later, Indy and colleague Dr Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) are in Washington being thanked (and paid) by the Army officers. Brody asks where the Ark is now, but the only answer he's given is that it's being researched by 'top men'. Leaving the office, Indy is met by Marion, who loops her arm through his and offers to buy him a drink. In the final scene, a workman is shown locking a box marked 'Top Secret...Army Intel...Do not open' and storing it in a warehouse stocked with thousands of other such boxes.

A deleted scene was shot where Imam, the wise man translating the markings on the headpiece of the Staff of Ra also translates another set of markings, which gives a warning about not looking into the Ark. Since this scene is not in the movie, it is a little confusing as to how Indy knew that he could only survive the opening of the Ark by closing his eyes. Perhaps he simply remembered the picture of the Ark he showed to the army officers; in it, an entire army is decimated, but the people carrying the Ark remain unaffected. So he may have concluded that opening the Ark is not necessarily deadly to anyone in close proximity, and that it is the visual contact that was deadly. Another option is that he remembered a relevant passage from the Bible (1 Samuel 6:19), where God "smote" the men of Beth Shemesh for looking into the Ark. Plus, there's a brief moment when Marcus Brody says the light from the Ark could lay waste to everything it touched, further warning of the Ark's power.

In the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory' the character of Amy Farrah Fowler suggests that Indy's actions are irrelevant to the storyline, that the Nazis would have eventually found the Ark and been incinerated when they opened it. This provoked fierce debate from fans who argued that ultimately Indy saves Marion. At the end, when he asks what he gained for all his trouble, she points out that he got her.

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