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YMMV / Raiders of the Lost Ark

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  • Acceptable Targets: The villains are well chosen; no one is shedding many tears to see Those Wacky Nazis get theirs.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Did God spare Indy and Marion in the climax because they closed their eyes when his Ark was opened, or because they are fundamentally good? (Similarly, did Indy tell Marion not to look into the Ark because he knew they would be killed or so she wouldn't have to see the Nazis all die?) The former makes sense, since the Ark is an Old Testament artifact (and God in the Old Testament is not hesitant to hand out fatal punishments), but the latter fits in well with the more overtly New Testament themes and imagery of The Last Crusade.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Despite having the dream team of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg behind the film, it was initially turned down by every studio in Hollywood. Only after much persuasion did Paramount agree to do it.
    • Michael Bay was an intern at Lucasfilm at the time and he thought the film would stink. He ate his words when he saw the final film, and watching it even inspired him to get into film-making.
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • One of the rare great examples, if the number of tropes referencing the Weapon Twirling scene with the Swordsman is any indication.
    • Belloq and the Nazis may also count given that Indy is tied up, surrounded by goons, his arch rival has the artifact they were competing for (again)... and he essentially "wins" simply by closing his eyes as the Ark wipes everyone else out. Of course, this is literally a case of God himself smiting the villains, so let's face it - anything is this trope compared to that kind of power.
  • Award Snub:
    • A pretty minor one, considering it lost to a good movie like Chariots of Fire, and was up against a major epic like Reds and well-received dramas On Golden Pond and Atlantic City. But of those films, Raiders has made a far more lasting impact (on summer blockbusters, adventure films as a respectable money-making genre, Harrison Ford's bankability outside of Star Wars, etc.)
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    • Steven Spielberg losing Best Director to actor Warren Beatty (for Reds) is an arguable case. Those who support Spielberg note that, while Beatty is a respectable director with a decent career, Spielberg was at the height of his powers directing incredibly well-made action movies. However, this is refuted by some who find Reds to be a directorial achievement above all else (not to mention a labor of love that took Beatty years to get off the ground), and many cite his win (the only Oscar he ever earned in his long career) as one that was justified both in context and by merit. It would get worse when Spielberg lost the following year over E.T. (after which is when he started making serious Drama movies).
  • Awesome Music: Arguably the finest work of John Williams' career, which is filled with Awesome Music.
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  • "Common Knowledge": George Lucas has been known to use the phrase "pointer scene" on DVD Commentary when comparing an Infodump in another film to the scene where Jones explains the history of the Ark to the government men. The closest thing to a pointer in the scene is Jones drawing on a blackboard with chalk, but so many parodies of the film include presentation pointers that fans tend to remember seeing one in the original film.
  • Critical Research Failure: In 1936, Egypt was still a British protectorate which means there's no way the British would have allowed a massive German military presence to be carrying out some secret operation in the country.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Spielberg likes to mention regarding this film that Nazis make ideal movie villains, as you can do any horrifically violent thing you want to them and no one will get upset.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Sallah, thanks to his loyalty and usefulness to Indy. It's rather telling that Sallah returned in The Last Crusade to much fanfare because of his being a well-liked character.
    • The nameless German mechanic Indy fights by the plane, due to his impressive brawling skills preventing Indy from directly defeating him. So memorable was the character's physical presence by the late Pat Roach that Temple of Doom featured Roach playing a similar character in the Slave Driver, and Colonel Dovchenko in Crystal Skull was modeled after him.
    • The Cairo Swordsman, thanks to his role as an Anticlimax Boss getting shot after a grand entrance serving as one of the film's funnier scenes.
  • First Installment Wins: Raiders is an undisputed classic. The sequels are more varied, though Last Crusade is the least contested largely because of its similarity to Raiders.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: As Indy speaks with Marcus while packing for his trip, Indy says "You sound just like my mother" as he dismissively speaks of the Ark's powers (which turn out to be very real). In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we learn that Indy's mother passed away during his childhood, and his relationship with his father fell apart afterwards. And he grew to hate his father for being so obsessed with the Holy Grail, rather than focusing upon Indy.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title: Upon its original run, the movie did not follow the "Indiana Jones and the X" naming scheme that sequels did, simply titled Raiders of the Lost Ark. However in later home media releases it was retrofitted, ie: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • For awhile, it was popular to juxtapose the scene where Indy is running away from the boulder with the Apollo 440 song "Stop the Rock".
    • "Top... Men" gets invoked on internet messageboards as a deliberately vague and humorous answer.
    • Toht's face melting makes for an effective "Do Not Want" reaction gif.
    • "Indy was irrelevant to the story." A common criticism towards the movie is that everything would have played out the way it did even if Indy never got involved in trying to claim the Ark (or better, if the bad guys had opened the Ark in front of Hitler).
    • Did Belloq just eat a fly?
  • Narm:
    • While the opening of the Ark is a pretty terrifying scene, Dietrich's expression when the ghosts attack is pretty over the top.
  • Older Than They Think: George Lucas has confirmed that the iconic boulder Chase Scene was borrowed from the climax of the Disney comic "The Seven Cities of Cibola" (1954) by Carl Barks, starring another famous Adventurer Archaeologist Scrooge McDuck.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The swordsman. By now, you should know why.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Sacred Cow: While the Indiana Jones sequels are all fair game for criticism, the first film Raiders is usually off-limits. Minor criticism's okay, but digging into the movie too deep is never a good idea. Oh, and any of the Signature Scenes? (i.e.: The boulder scene, the ark scene) They're off-limits too.
  • Signature Scene:
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • When Indy shoots the truck driver from the Cairo market, leading to the truck tipping over, the mechanism being used to tip it is visible.
    • When Indy and Marion escape the Well of Souls, watch the shadow of the rock he pushes out. It bounces off the ground, thanks to being made of rubber.
    • In a scene filled with several otherwise impressive effects for the time, the brief shot of the Ark's fire rushing over the bodies of the Nazis is a pretty obvious-looking miniature.
    • The transparent partition that separates Harrison Ford from the cobra used to be this but, hallelujah, Uncle George found a constructive use for his digital editing powers.
    • When Indy slides under the truck, both the trench dug for the stuntman to slide along in, and the sped-up film to hide how slow the truck is actually going, are both very obvious. It's also pretty obvious when Indy comes out the back, and he has to be out in the open and not sped up, that the truck is going really slowly.
    • When Toht's face melts in the climax, his glasses seem to teleport down his face. This can clearly be seen if one were to go through the clip frame by frame.
    • Belloq's head looks like a very obvious fake when it explodes in the climax. Which is odd because it directly follows the far more impressive visual of Toht's face melting. This is arguably lessened by the flame effect covering it, which was ordered at the insistence of the MPAA.
    • As Indy scrambled to climb out of the pit in the opening sequence, the stone walls are clearly just a tarp placed over something malleable, given the way it visibly moves under his feet.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Hergé, after seeing the movie, declared that only Spielberg could do Tintin justice. Guess what Spielberg directed thirty years later.
  • Squick: Indy is shot in the arm, and in one of the most viscerally painful action beats ever, his next opponent homes in on the weak spot and punches it several times.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The insinuation, confirmed in side material, that Indy first dated Marion when she was a teenager and he was in his twenties. While not inaccurate for the time period it is set, it’s incredibly disturbing to have a protagonist be part of a predatory relationship. Marion even angrily points out that she was "a child" and makes it clear that she was negatively affected by what happened, but Indy dismisses this and claims she knew what she was doing. The rest of the film completely ignores this element of their relationship and proceeds as though they are a typical pair of romantic leads.
    • Most of the Arab characters are played by white actors in brownface. Needless to say, this casting practice has fallen out of favour.
    • The movie thinks nothing of Indiana going to a foreign country filled with indigenous inhabitants and obtaining a historical relic to be taken back to be exhibited in a Western museum. Again, accurate for the time period and not especially controversial even at the time of filming. But the topic of colonial artifact restitution has now become a hotly debated one in the field of archeology. A case could conceivably be made that the Hovitos were within their rights to defend the theft of their idol.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Toht's melting head. It may not look as impressive nowadays but back when Raiders came out in 1981, that scene was the most talked about out of everything else.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: While this movie may seem like a fun action-packed adventure movie for the family, it has some pretty horrific and graphic death sequences. Canada actually gave the film the 14A rating in contrast to the PG the rest of the series got (the PG-13 rating in the US would not be created until this film's sequel. If it were released today, Raiders would probably be rated PG-13 itself).

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