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Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark

"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
Indiana Jones

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 both George 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.

  1. 60 (1998), then #66 (2007) on AFI' s "Best" list, #10 of its "Thrills", and #2 of its "Heroes".

Raiders of the Lost Ark contains examples of:

  • Action Dress Rip: Marion, with surprising ease.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Belloq telling Indy they're Not So Different in the Arab bar.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Toht and Indy both find humor in the fact that the Ark apparently contains only sand.
  • Affably Evil: Rene Belloq, to the point that he and Marion power through a bottle of grappa and he tries to stop the Nazis from tossing her in the pit.
  • After-Action Patchup
    "Well, dammit, Indy, where doesn't it hurt?!"
  • 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.
  • All There in the Script: Toht's name is only revealed in the credits and in an old TV ad, and much, much later in LEGO Indiana Jones.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees:
    • 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.
    • Although Hitler was the sort of person who believes he's been specifically directed by God to take over the world.
  • 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.
  • Bad Boss: Belloq and even Dietrich have some redeeming qualities, but Toht fits the trope.
    Toht (watching one of his men grapple with Indy): Shoot them. Shoot them both.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: During the fight in Marion's bar.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Used intentionally to provide "heroic" and "villainous" 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 Bad: Belloq
  • Bigger Bad: Belloq is working for the German Government. In the novelization, Belloq has a meeting to get his instructions from Adolf Hitler himself.
  • 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*
  • Binocular Shot
  • Bloody Horror: the Wrath of God scene at the end of the movie- Toht's face melts with the skin and blood evaporating off his face.
  • The Brute: The shirtless Nazi who fights Indy by the plane.
  • Bullet Sparks: During the bar shootout.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A passing mention from one of his students mentions "all that travel" Indy does. Save the world from Nazis on Sunday, midterm on Monday, sure, why not?
  • Coat Cape: How Toht wears his Badass Longcoat while in Egypt searching for the Ark.
  • 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.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    Marion: I'll tell you anything!
    Toht: *advances with red hot poker* I know you will.
  • Combat Pragmatist: One of the most famous examples in all of film; Indy, after going through a lengthy fight and chase sequence, is approached by a villainous swordsman who proceeds to show off a few fancy sword moves with his BFS. Indy opts simply to pull out his gun and shoot the swordsman. This wasn't in the original script and was a Throw It In by Harrison Ford who had dysentery at the time of the scene and wasn't up for the scripted fight. Watch it here.
  • Damsel in Distress: Marion Ravenwood, who is captured three separate times by the Nazis.
  • Dead Foot Leadfoot: The car driver and pilot.
  • Deadly Fireworks Display: A classic example of this trope occurs when the Ark is finally opened. It kills everyone who sees its contents.
  • 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: Gobler and some pals wind up flying off a cliff in their car.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Marion is usually barefoot from pretty much the instant they leave Nepal.
  • Doomed New Clothes: The dress Marion gets from Belloq.
  • The Dragon: Toht.
  • 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.
  • Ethereal Choir: The Ark theme includes this when the moments get really dramatic.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Belloq isn't pleased with Toht tossing Marion in the Well of Souls.
  • Evil Laugh: Belloq, after sending the Hovitos to kill an escaping Indiana.
  • Excuse Me Coming Through: Averted, as Indy has to fight the crowd when Marion is kidnapped by Nazis.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • 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.
    Belloq: Jones!
  • 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 the cargo ship, and the box containing it suddenly gets partly burned, blackening out the swastika. Considering what happens later, the swastika got off easy
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Major Toht, the Gestapo torturer.
  • French Jerk: Belloq.
  • Fruit Cart: Inevitably destroyed at the chase scene on the Cairo market.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Marion uses one in the marketplace scene.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Indiana inquiring about the lovely dress Belloq gave to Marion:
    Indy: Where did you get this? From him?
    Marion: I was trying to escape.
    Indy: How hard were you trying?
  • Giant Mook: The really big sherpa in Marion's bar, and the mechanic who gets diced, both played by Pat "Bomber" Roach.
  • Giggling Villain: Toht. Added with his sexually impotent rapist personality who uses torture to vent his frustrations...
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Ark, or more specifically what's powering it.
  • 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.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Indy to the Giant Mook during the flying wing fight.
  • Hand Signals: Indy gestures to Satipo to turn around so he can brush a bunch of tarantulas off his back.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: Subverted: After beating the asses of several opponents, Indy is sick of fighting. So when another opponent steps up with swords, Indy just pulls a revolver on him.
  • High Speed Hijack: Indy hijacks the truck carrying the Ark of the Covenant from horseback, then uses it to bust up the rest of the convoy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Nazis succeed in their goal of smuggling the Ark out of Egypt, but its power turns out to be too great for them to harness. In the climax, all of the villains—Dietrich, Toht, Belloq, and all of their Mooks—are melted alive by the Ark's power as soon as they open it.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Natives: The Hovitos in the Chased by Angry Natives opening, complete with blowguns, spears and a nasty attitude.
  • 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.
    • Unfortunately for Marion, Belloq has the same superpower, at least where his family vineyard's wine is concerned.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: "Adios, Satipo." A rival of Indy's bit it to the same trap years before, leaving his remains as a Peek-A-Boo Corpse.
  • Indy Escape: Indy running from the rolling boulder.
  • Indy Ploy : Lampshaded.
    Indiana: Meet me at Omar's. Be ready for me. I'm going after that truck.
    Sallah: How?
    Indiana: I don't know, I'm making this up as I go!
  • Island Base: The site of a secret Nazi U-Boat base.
  • Karma Houdini: The evil eyepatch-wearing owner of the monkey vanishes from the film unscathed. The monkey isn't as lucky.
  • Look, a Distraction!: Indy does it to the Giant Mook mechanic he fights near the plane.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Happens twice in the movie to Indy.
    Belloq: Again, Dr. Jones, what was briefly yours is now mine.
  • Magic Countdown: During the opening scene in the dungeon, when the stone door is about to close down in front of Indy, time seems to stand still until Indy manages to sneak through under the door.
  • Mayincatec: The trap infested Hovitos underground temple is one of the best-remembered trapped lairs of all time.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: It works!
  • 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.
  • Mobstacle Course: Indy does this to chase Marion-in-a-basket.
  • The Mole: A monkey is the Mole.
  • Monochrome Apparition: It has a white specter appear near the ending.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Gobler. Also there is a a tough Nazi sergeant who gives Indy some difficulty during the truck chase.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles:
    • Indy sees Marion getting carried off in a straw basket, and chases her into the square — which is crammed with people carrying identical baskets. He just goes for knocking them all open.
    • At the end of the movie, the Ark is put in a nondescript wooden crate and hidden in a warehouse full of other identical, nondescript wooden crates.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Especially when the actor with the gun is sick and wants to get the scene over with.
  • Newspaper Thin Disguise: A Nazi agent played by Dennis Muren, one of the men behind Industrial Light and Magic. This unnamed character is sometimes mistaken for Major Toht.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Marion's captivity with Belloq.
  • Not So Different: Belloq tries to make Indy think this.
    Belloq: Where else shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?
    Indy: Try the local sewer.
  • Perpetual Storm: After an Egyptian pharaoh took the Ark of the Covenant to the city of Tanis, the city was destroyed by a sandstorm that lasted an entire year (note that this did not occur in Real Life).
  • 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.
  • Psycho for Hire: Major Toht.
  • 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).
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: The giant German mechanic.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Top. Men." It's used to make it clear that who the top men are won't be revealed.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Belloq talking to the Hovitos and the large German guard talking to the flying wing pilot.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Indy and Belloq, respectively.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Belloq reveals himself as throwing in his lot with the Nazis.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The given length of the staff of Ra (about five feet) indicates that Harrison Ford is 3-4 feet tall, seeing how the staff towers over him.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Of all the Nazis who end up victim of God's vengeance, Toht, the Cold Blooded Torturer screams in a very high pitch and in a very female tone.
    • He did the same when he tried to steal the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra. Poor little sadist, can't stand a little pain himself.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Belloq seals Indy and Marion in the snake-filled Well of Souls.
  • Second Face Smoke: Marion does this to Toht. Bad idea.
  • Secret Government Warehouse: Seen at the end of the movie.
  • Shadow Archetype: Belloq. He even gives Indy a minor Hannibal Lecture in the middle of a crowded bar. Doubles as a Smug Snake.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Indy shoots out the lock on the flying wing's's cockpit so Marion can escape.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Smile: A rare heroic version of this occurs when Indy uncovers the Well of Souls, though it's intended to prove Belloq's comments about the two men's similarities.
  • Smug Smiler: Toht, even when Dr. Jones threatens to destroy the Ark with a panzerfaust (the German army's bazooka equivalent).
  • Smug Snake: Belloq.
  • Spider Swarm: As Indy and Satipo are exploring the South American temple, Satipo's back becomes covered with tarantulas, which Indy brushes off. Tarantulas are usually solitary.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Title: Raiders of the Lost Ark was renamed to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: One villain attempts to poison Indy with some substance poured on dates.
  • 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.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Indy has this reaction when he turns and sees the Giant Mook who's challenging him to a fight.
  • 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.
    • The Nazis make sure not to touch the Arc and even wear the appropriate ceremonial outfit, but apparently missed that the same passages these precautions come from explicitly say that if you look into it you will die.
  • Tribal Face Paint: The Hovitos Indians at the beginning of the movie.
  • Underside Ride: During the truck chase, Indy gets thrown out of the windshield of his truck. He manages to grab onto the grille, but the driver attempts to crush him using the car ahead. To avoid this, Indy hangs on to the bottom of the truck, lets himself down to the back, and climbs back on.
  • 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: Marion 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.
  • Weight And Switch: The Trope Maker, and it notably fails.
  • 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.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Trope Namer
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Indy's famous Combat Pragmatist scene. Ford was among the people on set suffering from dysentery, and wasn't feeling up to doing a big fight.
  • 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.
  • You Look Familiar: An unusual example as Indy's first treacherous guide and the monkey man, as well as the two giant mooks, are played by the same two actors.
  • Your Head A Splode: Belloq, at the end of the film.


RanEpic MovieRed Cliff
Indiana JonesCreator/PARAMOUNTIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Rebel Without a CauseAFI's 100 Years... 100 MoviesVertigo
Indiana JonesFilms of the 1980sIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
    Franchise/Indiana JonesIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana JonesDiesel PunkIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Raging BullRoger Ebert Great Movies ListRaise the Red Lantern
On Golden PondAcademy AwardReds
Civil Rights MovementNational Film RegistryDo the Right Thing
Iconic ItemImageSource/Live-Action FilmsChased by Angry Natives
Indiana JonesHugo AwardIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade

alternative title(s): Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark
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