Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG)
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This came out in 1981, and I'm sure I saw it sometime in the 80s. In the years since its release, "Indiana Jones and the" has been added to the title to conform to the titles of later movies in the franchise, but that wasn't originally part of the title. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a story by George Lucas, who conceived the movie in the early 1970s and wanted to do a modern take on the serial films of the early 20th century. I'm not particularly familiar with those films specifically, but I do have a general concept of what they were like, and I would say this movie does a pretty good job of living up to them. It has also inspired a lot of adventure films that came after it. It has some iconic music by John Williams, and lots of indelible scenes.
In 1936, an American archaeology professor and relic hunter named Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) obtains a small golden idol from an ancient temple in South America (Wikipedia says Peru, but I don't think that was specified in the film). (BTW, "Indiana" isn't Jones's real first name, but it's the only one we hear in this movie. Or "Indy", for short.) The idol is immediately stolen by a French rival named René Belloq. After returning home, a colleague introduces Indy to some men from the government who want him to search for the Ark of the Covenant (of Biblical fame) and obtain it before the Nazis can. To begin his search, he reconnects with a former girlfriend (and daughter of his mentor) named Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), whom he had left ten years earlier and broke her heart. (She says she was a kid when they were together, which she may have meant literally, but I'd prefer not to dwell on that possibility.) So she's not happy to see him, now. But when Nazis show up at her bar in Nepal looking for the same relic as Indy (a staff's head that could lead the way to the Ark), she joins him in his search.
The two of them travel to Cairo, where they meet up with Indy's old friend Sallah (John Ryhs-Davies), who informs them that Belloq is working with the Nazis to find the Ark. The Nazis have a partial impression of the staff's head, but the information obtained from it is incomplete, so they're digging in the wrong place. Indy has the head, obtained from Marion, so he and Sallah find the proper site to dig, and locate the Ark, but it's soon taken by the Nazis. And, well, it basically changes hands a number of times throughout the film. I don't want to go into any more detail about the plot.
I've heard theories that nothing would have been different, in the end, if Indy hadn't been involved at all in the events of the movie. And that might more or less be true. But it's certainly a much more entertaining and action-packed story with him as the protagonist. I can't quite manage to love the movie, but I still think it's a lot of fun, and worthy of its iconic status. And of course Indy is an iconic character, with an iconic fedora and an iconic whip.
movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark * Temple of Doom * Last Crusade * Kingdom of the Crystal Skull * Dial of Destiny
TV: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles