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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 7.88%
Average: 1.48%
Pretty Bad: 1.48%
Total Crap: 4.43%

6 reviews, 167 user ratings

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
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by Jay Seaver

"The sort of classic that just gets better every time."
5 stars

One of the benefits of living in the Boston area, movie-wise, is that among the multiple theaters in the area that program older movies (either on occasion or regularly), at least one is likely to play "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the big screen at some point during the year. When that happens, you plan your week around those screenings, because as cool as it is to have it on hand to watch in high definition, it is absolutely worth the time, money, and effort to watch it on 35mm with a few hundred of your closest friends.

What makes it worthy of such admiration, compared to the hundreds of other action/adventure movies made in the last century, many of them pretty good? I think it's a pair of traits that are shared not just by the best films by its main creators (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas), but by a great number of movies regarded as classics: The story being told, and the way the filmmakers tell it, is clear and simple, but there's attention to detail as well. The more familiar you become with Raiders, the more little things you notice, but unlike a lot of movies that reward repeated viewings, the price of entry is practically nothing.

Sure, the movie starts in media res with Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) searching the South American jungle for an idol hidden in a booby-trapped temple, but once it briefly returns stateside, it starts to lay out every goal Indy must accomplish before sending him in search of the the Ark which holds the original Ten Commandments. He'll be aided by Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the daughter of his mentor and a former lover, and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), an Egyptian digger; his competition is Belloq (Paul Freeman), a French archaeologist and rival, and his Nazi masters. Indy is clever and resourceful, but the Nazis are ruthless and have a head start.

Here's a big part of why this straight-ahead approach works: While Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (developing a story by Lucas and Philip Kaufman) have no problem with spelling out exactly what the characters have to do, they lets the characters reveal themselves through action and performance. Before anyone describes Jones or Belloq's qualifications, we've seen how they handle a sticky situation and what sort of men they are. We spend a little time getting to know Marion, and then she and Indy kind of dance around their history a little, and while the audience can figure out what happened, what's important isn't what exactly happened but that Indy still sort of thinks of her as Abner's kid while she has a mixture of attraction and anger. Sometimes you don't need that much - Ronald Lacey is mostly doing a great Peter Lorre as Toht, for instance, and while John Rhys-Davies is doing a bit of an "unsophisticated but friendly & capable foreigner", he and the filmmakers keep it on the right side of being an odious stereotype.

And when all this plotting and playing out the characters leads to action... Well, Steven Spielberg puts on a clinic on how to do that sort of thing right: Watch any action scene in this movie a few times, and while it's just exciting at first, eventually you see just how precisely constructed they are, with Spielberg making sure that almost every event in one of those sequences is the result of things he has shown you a few moments before, just shortly enough that the hole in the gasoline truck is fresh in your mind when someone starts waving fire around but long enough that the ensuing explosion doesn't feel out of nowhere. The camera tracks the action rather than jumping around, and this isn't just a matter of how they made movies "then" as opposed to "now"; Spielberg stages this sort of scene in the likes of Jurassic Park and The Adventures of Tintin with the same attention to flow. Just as impressively, he uses action to reveal character, as well - things slow down just enough at times that Indy's personality (and that of the other characters) can shine through without ever stopping for a mere quip.

That's when it's great to have the likes of Harrison Ford on board. Ford's at his most charming here, having a blast with a script that makes its action hero quite capable of screwing up without ever looking less cool for it. It's a very funny performance without being jokey, especially as Jones gets worn down over the course of the movie. Like a lot of the film, though, this performance gets better with multiple viewings: There's a darkness to Indiana Jones that makes Belloq's comments about them being more alike than Jones thinks have teeth - behind the heroic actions and funny responses to frustration is a guy who can have his eye so clearly on the prize that he'll lose track of what that relic he's chasing means or what kind of danger he's putting Marion in to get it. The conflict between monomania and the conscience he does have is something that pops up in interesting places throughout the movie as well as the other films in the series, and the way it seems like something he always has to wrestle with is a big part of why Indiana Jones is Ford's best role on the merits, not just an audience favorite.

Of course, it's also a favorite, and re-watching "Raiders" with a large crowd is always a delight, particularly if the theater books one of the spiffy recent 35mm prints: Each individual piece is so well-done, and the combination so perfect, that it's not just the simple pleasure of recognition that makes the audience cheer: It's discovering that this thing they've loved for decades still works, and may actually be better than they realized. There aren't a lot of films that can reward regular revisits like that, so it's fortunate (for me) that chances to see this one again come relatively frequently.

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originally posted: 07/09/13 13:34:04
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User Comments

5/04/20 Anne I lasted 15 minutes 1 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell best one of the series 5 stars
9/08/16 Bobby This is the best movie in the franchise, but later ones were just too commercial. 5 stars
4/27/16 Ken Whoever thinks this movie is stupid, is a fag. A masterpiece. 5 stars
1/03/16 Theresa Miller Love Harrison Ford. Fun movie. 4 stars
12/06/15 johnnyfaye Some people say the greatest adventure film ever made. I just say the greatest film ever. 5 stars
4/04/15 jack ford the greatest shit ever tied with star wars films 1 stars
3/02/15 john lasseter i'm glad in many list lord of the rings beat raiders of the lost ark 3 stars
3/01/15 manalone923 TRASH 1 stars
3/01/15 stanley welles an efficient immaculately constructed rip-roaring masterpiece 5 stars
1/19/15 felipe delano just trash 1 stars
1/05/15 jrjj stupid movie 1 stars
9/03/13 Geraldine Amazing! A classic! 5 stars
7/11/13 Charles Kill This was the best one...besides crusade...and temple, of course. 4 stars
6/03/13 Ron One of my top 3 or 5 films ever. 5 stars
9/16/12 cindy madson good 4 stars
5/12/12 matthew thompson dalldorf One of the best adventure movies of all time! 5 stars
3/01/12 jcar a very good action movie with lots of thrills and cool effects, ford is great action hero 4 stars
1/04/12 Flipsider One of the best American Movies, maybe THE best! 5 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King Raiders could be the best action film ever made 5 stars
3/10/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Just as good everytime you see it 5 stars
4/19/09 Jbond the moving corpse scene as "merely to scare the kids"... indeed it did 5 stars
9/03/08 austin wertman one of the greatest movies of all-time 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Great film!! 5 stars
8/28/08 Charles Tatum Absolutely huge fun, why have I not commented here before? 5 stars
8/25/08 George Barksdale This movie is the reason you stood in line for the other ones, Great! 5 stars
7/17/08 Keithers The only movie that entertain you...30 years later, the greatest adventure of all time... 5 stars
6/10/08 Johnnyfaye the only movie that will actually knock you out of chair then then slap the shit out of you 5 stars
6/02/08 mike pease awesome movie loved it 5 stars
5/25/08 debdahlin excellent movie - love harrison ford in action paction films 5 stars
5/07/08 AJ Muller I take back every bad thing I ever said about Rob G - great review for greatest flick ever. 5 stars
3/24/08 Bnorm If you dont like this movie you're not a fucking American 5 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega More than just another old-fashioned adventure movie. 5/5. 5 stars
6/13/07 al smith the best adventure film ever.anyone who disagrees is a cock 5 stars
4/27/07 R.W.Welch Top of the Adventure Genre -- probably forever. 5 stars
11/02/06 Patsyc very good movie. Definitely worth watching. 5 stars
10/25/06 Drew G What can I say that hasn't already been said? 5 stars
10/15/06 Ron Newbold Escapism at its best. This became an instant classic 5 stars
8/26/06 michael can't wait for the new 1 to come out one of these years 5 stars
8/25/06 Al Guy A permanent classic! 5 stars
8/24/06 David Pollastrini great action with a few comedy bits 5 stars
8/23/06 Ole Man Bourbon Richard Chamberlain in Alan Quatermain was SO much better. In hell. 5 stars
7/26/06 Sepi53 Best adventure film since Adventures of Robin Hood! 5 stars
6/24/06 JohnnyFaye Ford gives the proformance of a lift time, cloest you can get to the best adventurefilmever 5 stars
5/26/06 Kimberly Dull This is my favorite movie. 5 stars
3/10/06 Dk The last crusade may be more entertaining but this is the best Indiana Jones movie 5 stars
11/18/05 Chris Barrett Lets All Hum The Theme!!!! Whoever Hates This, Hates Movies 5 stars
11/18/05 John Dog Awesome action movie. Anyone who dislikes this film has a lot of problems. 5 stars
9/08/05 Johnny Best action movie. 5 stars
9/02/05 Zack great movie 5 stars
8/28/05 Quigley there are so many classic scenes; this is an unforgettable movie experience. i love it!!!! 5 stars
8/26/05 EZ Ford was great, exciting action, and George Lucas delivered another masterpiece 5 stars
8/12/05 D Buckley Best movie ever made? 5 stars
5/27/05 tony BEST FILM BY HARRISON FORD. EXELLENT EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold Flawless from first scene to last. The best action/adventure of all time. 5 stars
1/04/05 t-1000 marion is ugly 5 stars
10/17/04 Elisheva Rison This movie is an astounding piece of work, it's totally breathtaking and action-packed! 5 stars
10/16/04 Denise awesome 5 stars
8/29/04 Conor Crockford great 5 stars
8/19/04 courtney hrison ford is hott and it makes a great move for action adventurer people 5 stars
7/26/04 keithers a timeless adventure film. Just as fun every time you see it. When adventure moviesweregood 5 stars
7/17/04 Evan great stuff 5 stars
7/08/04 Stevo There hasn't been an action film quite like it since 5 stars
5/15/04 the bride whisky?? Funny as! Fuckin awesome as! 5 stars
5/04/04 dead next door has aged a bit but still great. 4 stars
3/27/04 Littlepurch. Disappointing solution through lack of action but gd build up. 4 stars
2/12/04 Johnny Fay GOLDENCHILD!!!!...ARE YOU INSANE!!..someone shoot CC 5 stars
1/27/04 Katie Malone Hung on to the edge of my chair the whole time! 5 stars
1/24/04 CC Whatch the Golden Child ...better 1 stars
12/07/03 john still great! 5 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick brilliant 5 stars
11/12/03 alien assassin timeless classic 5 stars
11/02/03 Skilly Skally Yep. it's a good one alright 5 stars
10/27/03 John Bale One of the best action/fun flicks of all times, Harrison is great, and direction etc, super 5 stars
9/29/03 Boris Smtih "I don't know; I'm making this up as I go." 5 stars
9/16/03 Terry One of the best movies ever made, great fun. 5 stars
9/06/03 Dimitri Aubert Fun, action and romance in a shaker and you have a great movie, thank you Steven. 5 stars
8/19/03 Hewdam The definitive action/advebture movie 5 stars
8/08/03 3man "Asps! Very dangerous. You go first Indy." 5 stars
8/07/03 Roger Thornhill Smart action movie. 5 stars
7/12/03 Indrid Cold Flawless all the way to the wrath of God climax: absolutely as good as movies get. 5 stars
5/08/03 Doctor Jay One of the finest movies of the 1980s!!! 5 stars
4/26/03 Mr. Do They should make more movies like this, not those fuckin things they make today 5 stars
4/24/03 GWB great film 5 stars
3/21/03 defranco73 The best of the trilogy. 5 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby A grand adventure. Feverishly paced with lots of great stunts. Plods some, but rocks mostly 4 stars
3/04/03 hi there This is one of the best movies ever made, and if you hated it, you're an idiot! 5 stars
2/20/03 Mark Earley This is one of the best movies ever made in the history of time 5 stars
2/05/03 123 this is the original stuff! harrison ford's best role 5 stars
11/29/02 Jay Best of the Indiana Jones Series 5 stars
11/09/02 YES 2nd best action film ever, behind only Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 5 stars
9/23/02 George Overrated my ass. This movie rocks. 5 stars
7/04/02 gary vidmar A completely great film in all ways. If U haven't seen it yet, do it now! 5 stars
6/27/02 Shams Huque Anyone giving this less than 5/5 is a fool. 5 stars
5/13/02 Dark Baron Can't wait for the DVD Trilogy. 5 stars
4/22/02 Randal Grantham I Absolutely love it 5 stars
4/13/02 Movie Expert The movie is goofy and is the most overrated movie ever made 2 stars
4/03/02 Stephanie Throckmorton On of most overrated pieces of irreverence &hooey ever & "heroine" is a bitch! 2 stars
3/20/02 Rockitman007 Best Action movie ever!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/11/02 Jo Smo It was a horrible movie NOT it was great! 4 stars
2/19/02 I love movies better than Star Wars y'all 5 stars
2/06/02 Nevz Good enough for me 5 stars
1/18/02 David A. Comic-book style action and adventure--extremely well-done! 5 stars
1/01/02 slipperyK it is know as "the" adventure movie, the greatest adventure ever, specially the desertchase 5 stars
12/19/01 dkb You can see its influence in every action film since. 5 stars
12/13/01 Brian White Easily one of the greatest movies ever made, and my favorite of all time. 5 stars
11/24/01 Andrew Carden I Can't Say It Was That Great, but It Is Such A Classic Flick. 5 stars
10/24/01 Chris Wright Still the greatest action movie 5 stars
10/08/01 jawsboy one of the greatest action movies ever made. Very good movie, but the ending was only ok. 4 stars
10/02/01 Phoenix The best adventure picture ever made. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk The greatest adventure movie of all time. The end is a trip... 5 stars
7/12/01 the scarecrow a classic 5 stars
6/23/01 erik the movieman Should have been AFI's #1 Most Thrilling Film of All Time. It was mine! 5 stars
6/02/01 G-MAN I Love this movie 5 stars
5/14/01 fifu the best adventure movie ever made 5 stars
5/02/01 sharkey All I wanted as a kid was a bullwhip. And the hat. 5 stars
4/02/01 Jesse L Set a new direction for action thrillers 5 stars
2/13/01 Richard Wright My favourite is the third one, but this is still a classic. Will they make a fourth? 4 stars
2/11/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi I will love this movie till the day I die. See it, or else!! 5 stars
1/09/01 fifu the ideal adventure movie/it's 20 years old and still leaves you breathless at the end 5 stars
12/31/00 Msitrab I still love this movie 5 stars
12/24/00 Destruction Worker "I hate snakes" 5 stars
12/09/00 fifu my favorite movie ever 5 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla a roller coaster ride, one of the greatest films!!!! 5 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin Great, but the weakest of the three 4 stars
10/28/00 Evil Cartman Hella rocks! Too bad about the hella awful sequels... 5 stars
9/22/00 White Rabbit My second favorite Spielberg movie 5 stars
6/30/00 Deckard The best Action/Advanture movie ever made. Period. 5 stars
6/05/00 David Gaukroger brilliant 4 stars
5/31/00 danilo a thrill ride from beginning to end, LITERALLY 5 stars
5/03/00 matt Most exciting, thrill ride in motion picture history. Speilberg is the MANNN 5 stars
4/17/00 punkass Saw it again and wished I hadn't - don't ruin your childhood favourites 2 stars
4/04/00 Bruce A wild ride, this is the role Harrison Ford was born to play 5 stars
3/24/00 stellisima Sweet Harrison... 5 stars
3/21/00 The Saint this movie was pretty damn good 4 stars
3/20/00 Richard Wright I prefer Last Crusade,but this film is certainly a milestone in its genre.Ford-what a star! 4 stars
3/15/00 Matthew Bartley The bit where he shoots the swordsman. That's all you need to know. 5 stars
1/25/00 Eric With The Last Crusade, Raiders of the Lost ark is the best action/adventure film ever made 5 stars
1/24/00 Casey Jarzabek OVERRATED 1 stars
1/20/00 Jedi15 Definitely one of Spielberg's best. A must-see! 5 stars
1/11/00 noelle camargo it's the best actio/adventure movie 5 stars
1/06/00 bk Marion Ravenwood is annoying as hell 3 stars
11/18/99 Vick Di Brecci Truck chase scene is the greatest chase in all of movies. 5 stars
10/27/99 Ralf Behet Hard to beat 5 stars
10/18/99 Ginny Brilliant...set the standard and raised the bar for ALL action/adventure flicks to follow 5 stars
10/14/99 Jay Jourden very good 5 stars
10/10/99 SJKelley Simply redefined the adventure film. We all want to be Indiana Jones. 5 stars
9/17/99 garthow it rocks 5 stars
8/10/99 Ted Wetzel One of the best action/adventure movies ever made. 5 stars
7/05/99 Ben Leostein Rating: **** (out of ****) Category: "Excellent" 5 stars
6/03/99 Matthew Bartley Shooting the swordsman is sill one of the greatest scenes ever 5 stars
4/28/99 Michael Grimm The Bomb!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/19/99 Derek My favorite movie ever. I'm serious. If you don't like this, you're beyond help. 5 stars
2/01/99 Vick Di Brecci Great character, great adven story (for most part), great truck chase scene 5 stars
11/29/98 Mike F pretty good. 3 stars
11/27/98 Mr.Pink An entertaining yarn. 4 stars
11/24/98 bizzy mmmmmmmm...Indiana Jones..... 5 stars
11/02/98 Baba booey !!!!!! 5 stars
10/30/98 Silent Rob Pure Movie Magic. 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Man, this film ruled all butt. Ford will never be better. In fact, now he sucks. 5 stars
10/14/98 Chi-Fan Hu The best Indy film 5 stars
9/18/98 Couch Potato Critic The classic action Saturday afternoon matinee. 1 of the 6 Spielberg greats. 5 stars
9/05/98 Badass One of the best action films ever made! 5 stars
8/16/98 {{{OZ}}} Can't be negative about a classic. 4 stars
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  12-Jun-1981 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2008

  30-Jul-1981 (PG)

  14-Aug-1981 (M)

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