Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is the first film in the Indiana Jones series. After the release of its sequels, it has also been retroactively called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.It takes place a few years before World War II, when Nazi Germany was searching for supernatural artifacts. In this case, they were searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which held the remains of the tablets of the Ten Commandments. After getting word of this, Dr. Indiana Jones is sent to recover it, due to him knowing some people that had clues to where the Ark is held.This leads him on a wild chase involving fighting bad guys in a burning bar, fighting bad guys on moving trucks, and killer sand ghosts.And that's not even taking into account what he has to go through in the prologue, which involves the iconic boulder escape scene.The film itself was a massive hit, but due to the Troubled Productions of Star Wars, and Jaws, studios were reluctant to fund a film by bothGeorge Lucas and Steven Spielberg, despite those respective films also being massive hits. Paramount eventually agreed to fund the film, although the series belongs to Lucasfilm (and now to Disney). The production, while having some problems (mainly the majority of the crew being ill in Tunisia), it wrapped ahead of time and on-budget (something Spielberg felt was important). Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to write a screenplay based on ideas born during story meetings between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan. The screenplay was so good that Lucas asked Kasdan to write the final draft of the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
All There in the Manual: The novelization reveals that Marion was only 14 years old when she and Indy (who was 24 at the time) began their relationship. This explains her "I was a child! It was wrong and you knew it!" comment.
The novelization also reveals that the headpiece to the Staff of Ra is engraved with a warning not to look inside the Ark of the Covenant, which is how Indy knew to close his eyes when the Nazis opened it.
Back in the day there was little difference between archaeologists and graverobbers. They were also employed by intelligence services.
The Nazis had an entire organization that travelled the world looking for long-lost ancient weapons, the Ahnenerbe.
Appropriated Title: The first movie was released as just Raiders of the Lost Ark, while all other media include Jones' name in the title. Later re-releases did change the title to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Archaeological Arms Race: This is alluded to, since both the US Army Intelligence and the Nazis might want to use the Ark as a weapon (although it's more of a powerful spiritual artifact than lost technology).
Artistic License - Religion: In-universe: Marcus speculates that the Nazis want the Ark because "an army that carried the Ark before it is invincible." In the Bible, every time the army of Israel carried the Ark into battle without God's specific direction to do so, they were SOUNDLY trounced and usually lost the Ark as well. For the capturing nation, at best, it would remain inert. At worst... well, let's just say it was usually hastily returned, often with a request to please ask the Lord to stop smiting them now.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Averted; the Nazis all speak excellent German, except for Toht, whose only line of German — "Heil Hitler" — is pronounced incorrectly.
Toht has other lines in German, such as "Achtung, die leute!" during the truck chase.
Bang, Bang, BANG: Used intentionally to provide "heroic" and "villanous" gunshot motifs. Note that every pistol Indy uses (from his spare 9mm Browning Hi-Power in the bar fight to his trademark revolver) produces the exact same sound, a huge "kaboom" that was actually a recording of a .30-30 rifle.
Bar Brawl: Marion's bar is destroyed as the result of one of these, which includes a lot of burning drink and a full-scale shoot-out.
Bat Scare: A flock of birds emerges from a statue's mouth, startling one of Indy's jungle porters.
Big Damn Heroes: Just when Toht is about to torture Marion with a red hot poker, it is ripped from his hand by a bullwhip with Indiana Jones at the other end, ready for battle.
Bilingual Bonus: The Nazi officer who finds Indiana at the U-boat base says, in German: "Good day. Tired? Why do you sleep? Wash yourself! And straighten your shirt, so that you don't look like a pig at your court martial. Stand up..." *punch*
Chain Lightning: The Ark is apparently capable of generating an electrical effect that jumps from person to person.
Chekhov's Skill: Marion's Establishing Character Moment shows her drinking a large, burly brute under the table. She later uses her hard-drinking ability to get the cultured and effete Belloq drunk in an attempt to escape from him, while pretending to be drunk herself.
Did They or Didn't They?: "I was a child; I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it!" Lucas has admitted that originally, he wrote young Indy and Marion's relationship as taking place when Indy was in his twenties and Marion was fourteen.
Dressing as the Enemy: Played with, where the first guard Indy knocks out in the sub pen is too skinny for his shirt to fit. Fortunately, a larger specimen turns up to scold him for being "out of uniform"...
Early-Installment Weirdness: As the first film, it's only Indiana Jones movie (or related title, like the PC adventure game, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis) whose title doesn't start with Indiana Jones and... This was changed in some rereleases, however.
Also Darker and Edgier than the sequels. Notably, Indy's implied to have seduced Marian when she was in her early teens, and Indy's reaction to opening the Well of Souls reveals he is just as obsessed as Belloq says.
Ethereal Choir: The Ark theme includes this when the moments get really dramatic.
Flat Earth Atheist: Before leaving America, Indy expresses his disbelief in the supernatural to Marcus despite the fact that he had firsthand experience with the supernatural during the events of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which takes place a year before Raiders, but was written and filmed after).
Follow the Chaos: After he has seen Indy buried alive in the Well of Souls, Belloq looks around at the burning airfield and destroyed plane.
Foreign Cuss Word: Gobler yells "Ah, Scheisse!" when getting rammed off the road by Indy.
Foreshadowing: We don't really see outright supernatural stuff in the film, until the Ark is on a submarine, and the box containing it suddenly gets partly burned, blackening out the swastika. Considering what happens later, the swastika got off easy
Gory Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away as the Giant Mook gets turned into red paste, only showing the splash of blood on a swastika. This is occasionally edited out of broadcast versions, but it's anyone's guess if they're editing out the blood or the swastika itself. Averted at the very end of the film, however. During most of the film, though, the writers love creative ways of including gore.
Groin Attack: Indy tries it on the Giant Mook during the flying wing fight and fails. He tries it later on a Nazi officer in a U-Boat base and succeeds.
Hollywood Density: The gold idol at the start of the film, which should weigh far too much to be toted around as easily as it is, let alone weigh about the same as a small bag of sand. When Indy looks at it, he actually removes sand from his bag to approximate its weight. A solid gold object of that size would weigh at least fifty pounds. However, it's never explicitely stated that the idol is indeed solid gold.
Holy Is Not Safe: The Ark of the Covenant, much as in the original scriptures, is quite deadly.
Hot for Teacher: Indy has to deal with this back at the university, and manages to take the high road.
Immune to Drugs: Not drugs, per se, but Marion's ability to drink seasoned heavyweights under the table comes up twice. She doesn't even come across tipsy either time. This is especially impressive the first time, when her opponent passes out and it takes her more than one trip just to move all the shot glasses she used back to the bar.
Meaningful Name: Major Toht's name is an anglicized spelling of the German word for death.
Memetic Sex God: In-universe. One of the girls in Indy's class goes so far to write "Love You" on her eyelids to flirt with him, when he's in his nerdy tweed ensemble. One can only imagine what they'd do if they saw him in the fedora and whip outfit. Indy apparently isn't aware of this reputation, as he actually stumbles over his lecture when he sees that.
Belloq: Where else shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level? Indy: Try the local sewer.
Pinball Protagonist: Indy. It's been repeatedly pointed out that, aside from Marion being dead, the film probably would have had exactly the same ending if he hadn't gotten involved.
Actually, the outcome would probably have been better if he hadn't gotten involved. Belloq would never have had a chance to open the Ark himself on the island, and the Ark would have been flown straight to Berlin on the flying wing like they originally planned. Once there, it would have been opened (in all probability) by Hitler himself. Cue face-melting...
Depends on whether Marion told Toht, under torture, where the actual headpiece to the Staff of Ra was. Without it, or with the incomplete one they actually ended up with, the Nazis would never have found the Ark's proper resting place, period. Indy's involvement may have been necessary to destroy any of the bad guys at all.
Punch Clock Hero/Punch Clock Villain: Although they both have their own agendas, Dr. Jones and Belloq are officially hired hands for someone in their quest for the Ark (Indy works for the U.S.A and Belloq for Germany).
Serendipity Writes The Plot: The swordman chase scene originally involved Indy disarming the man with his whip, but Ford was sick with dysentery at the time, and he asked if he could just shoot the man, which the final cut had him doing.
Stab The Salad: Toht and the coat hanger. He brings out what looks like a flail of some kind — several lengths of wood or metal joined by short pieces of chain — and allows the tension to build up before folding it into a coathook for the Nazi general to hang his jacket on.
Star-Making Role: For Harrison Ford. Star Wars was a huge success and his Lovable Rogue became an Ensemble Dark Horse, but it was after Raiders of the Lost Ark that he stopped being "the guy from Star Wars" and became Harrison Ford. Tellingly, despite his ties to George Lucas, Ford only got the role when first pick Tom Selleck couldn't get time off from Magnum, P.I..
Sundial Waypoint: The purpose of the Map Room scene is to make use of this trope.
Swallowed a Fly: In the last few minutes of the film, Belloq is clearly seen to have a fly crawling across his face and into his mouth.
Tap on the Head: Marion does it three times, including using airplane wheel chocks, a frying pan, and some generic metal tins, and Indy does it twice.
Timmy in a Well: A German agent in Cairo who wears an eye patch and has a pet monkey. The monkey sees an escaping Marion trying to hide in a basket, jumps on the basket and screeches, calling the German agents to capture her. Also, at one point it gives a Nazi salute.
Too Dumb to Live: Satipo (Alfred Molina), Indy's South-American traitorous guide at the beginning. He just forgot about the trap Indy discovered moments earlier.
Vapor Trail: Happens by accident during the scene with the flying wing due to a series of minor "oops"es. Indy unchocks the wheel of the flying wing to use the chocks as a weapon against a Giant Mook, and the plane starts to turn in place and its wingtip punctures a fuel truck. Next, Marion uses the plane's machine gun turret to keep Nazi reinforcements at bay and stuff catches fire. The fuel pouring out of the truck eventually reaches the blaze, Indy rescues Marion and they run for cover, and then the whole airstrip explodes.
Watching the Reflection Undress: Marian is given a dress by Belloq, she goes to the back of the tent and Belloq happens to have a mirror where he can see her undressing.
Weapon Twirling: The infamous scene where a swordsman shows off and Indy just shoots him.
We Have Reserves: During the Nepal bar brawl, Indy is struggling against one of Toht's burly mooks. Toht, however, tells one of his other mooks to "Shoot them. Shoot them both.". This has the hilarious effect of making both Indy and the big mook stop to shoot the other mook.
Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indy but had to back out due to filming commitments for Magnum, P.I.. Ironically Selleck could've easily filmed both but he didn't know that at the time. Prior to casting Selleck, Spielberg wanted Harrison Ford for the part but George Lucas was reluctant to cast him because he didn't want him to be thought of as his personal Robert Deniro. After Selleck's casting negotiations fell through, Lucas pretty much said fuck it and cast Ford anyway. The rest is history.
What Happened To The Mouse?: After the German agent with the eye patch poisons the dates he completely disappears. He isn't even shown mourning his monkey, who was accidentally killed by eating the dates.
Wicked Cultured: Belloq is a brilliant archeologist, fluent in many languages, and enjoys fine wine and food.
Wilhelm Scream: Twice. First by the Nazi who falls out of the back of the truck and puts his head through Gobler's windshield, and again by a different Nazi when falling off the side of the speeding truck.