Raiders of the Lost Ark

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Movie Raiders of the Lost Ark is a feature film released by Paramount Pictures in 1981. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it is a fantasy adventure and the first in a series of film and TV productions about the adventures of the heroic fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones, who was played by actor Harrison Ford. Indy is a professor of archaeology and also acquires artifacts for Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott), who works for a museum. On his adventure he is accompanied by Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). His bte noire is Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman).



Set in 1936, the story begins with Indy's journey into the South American jungle with a few local guides to find a hidden temple that houses a golden idol head (perhaps of the Inca civilization?). With his famous whip, he chases away a guide who attempts to shoot him in the back. In the temple, Jones avoids various traps when retrieving the idol, is duped by another guide, Satipo, who turns on him but is then killed by a trap himself, and manages to escape a giant rolling boulder that chases Jones out of the temple. Outside, his French counterpart and nemesis Rene Belloq has actually befriended the natives, who take the idol from Indy and chase him down. Jones manages to flee with his pilot, Jock, in their pontoon plane.

Back at his American college, two US Army intelligence men summon Jones into the auditorium along with Marcus, head of the department and a good friend of Indy. The men explain that the US has intercepted a cryptic Nazi message that mentions a Prof. Ravenwood being under the scrutiny of German intelligence. Indy, a former student of Ravenwood, helps interpret the message as an indication that the Nazis are close to finding the Ark of the Covenant — a golden and jeweled chest constructed under the guidance of God and Moses that housed the remnants of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, a relic that Hitler could use to render his rising army invincible, or at least what the legend implies.

Furthermore, they believe that Ravenwood has the headpiece of the Staff of Ra needed to pinpoint the Ark's resting place. Using a specifically high staff to hold it, the headpiece is a golden disk that uses the sun's rays cast its crystal to then shine a spot on the city model in the map room, of Tanis, an ancient Egyptian city. According to Ravenwood, the Pharaoh Shishaq stole the Ark from Jerusalem but then buried it in the desert sands of his capital city, Tanis, also the city where the Nazis have begun a massive archaeological dig for the Well of Souls which houses the Ark.

Indy flies to snowy, mountainous Nepal to speak with Marion Ravenwood, the professor's tough-minded and independent daughter, only to find that her father died and that she's reluctant to part with the headpiece. A Nazi agent named Toht (perhaps Gestapo) who had followed Indy to Marion tries to take the piece from her by provoking her with a hot iron. Marion teams up with Indy following a shootout between him and Toht's hired thugs in Marion's tavern. The pair drive off the assailants although Toht inadvertantly brands the markings of on one side of the headpiece on his palm when he tries to grab it when it is red hot. Jones and Ravenwood fly to Cairo and meet Indy's friend Sallah, a skilled Egyptian digger and archaeologist, to find help in decoding the markings in the headpiece that specify the height of the staff needed to hold the headpiece.

While touring about Cairo's markets, Marion and Indy are chased by hired swordsmen. Nazi operatives grab Marion and throw her in a truck, but the vehicle crashes and explodes when Indy dispatches the driver with his pistol. Fearing that Marion was most likely killed in the blast, Indy in a rage encounters Belloq once more in a Cairo tavern and wishes to kill him despite Belloq's sermon about the Ark's wonders, but Sallah and his children rescue him from the other Egyptian gunmen.

That evening, Sallah takes Indy to an old wiseman who decodes the markings. He notes that one side of the piece said says that the staff must be shortened out of respect for the Hebrew. It appears that the Nazis have misread the headpiece (since they only have a copy of one side's markings), their staff is too long, and they are thus digging for the Ark in the wrong place in Tanis. Infiltrating the dig, Indy and Sallah use the headpeice in the map room to then find the Ark deep within the snake-infested Well of Souls. Belloq and the Germans, led by the sadistic Col. Dietrich and his assistant Gobler, surround the entrace, take the Ark, and leave Indy and Marion to die in the snake-infested pit. They escape though a weak stone wall and arrive in time to see a Luftwaffe plane being prepared to ship the Ark to Berlin.

Attempting to stop the pilot, a large fight breaks out instead between Indy and a big muscular soldier around the spinning propellors of the plane. Marion knocks out the pilot and fends off some infantrymen with the plane's coaxial machine gun while Indy (beated to the ground) hides his face when his opponent is torn apart off-camera by a propellor. Gas ignites the plane, and Belloq and Dietrich put the Ark on a truck instead. Stealing a horse and charging off at the truck convoy, Indy manages to take the wheel of the truck, throw the passengers off the back, fend off the other support vehicles, and escape, all in a rather dramatic chase scene. Retaking the Ark, Indy and Marion depart from a happy Sallah and sail with it on the Bantu Wind a ship bound for England.

A Nazi U-boat with Belloq and Dietrich stops the ship and takes the Ark and Marion, but Indy covertly follows the sub (either stowing away onboard or, in a deleted scene, holding onto the periscope). It docks at a submarine pen on an island in the Aegean Sea, where Indy steals a soldier's uniform. Threatening to destroy the Ark with a rocket launcher, Indy is soon convinced by Belloq to surrender, giving in to his own deep desires as an archaeologist to see the Ark's contents.

Marion and Indy are tied up and forced to view a ceremony where Belloq opens the Ark in front of a group of German soldiers, but strange and mysterious spirits emerge (perhaps those sinners during the Exodus who disobeyed God's laws?) killing Belloq, Dietrich, Toht, the soldiers, and evaporating their souls into the afterlife. Indy and Marion are spared because Jones realizes that the spirits must not be viewed and shuts his eyes and instructs Marion likewise, and they escape with the Ark. Back in Washington D.C., the two Army intelligence representatives tell Indy that "top men" are studying the Ark, and Marion invites the disappointed Indy to a drink, but in dramatic irony the Ark is sealed in a wooden crate and stored in a giant government warehouse filled with countless other similar crates.


George Lucas originally became involved in the project in 1977. Like Star Wars he saw it as an opportunity to create a modern version of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s. The early 1970s had been dominated by action films either with a certain gritty realism, such as the Dirty Harry series or that were massive productions with huge casts and elaborate special effects such as The Poseidon Adventure. By contrast Raiders of the Lost Ark is comic book-like in tone, with a glamorous heroine, over-the-top villains, and impressive stunt work combined with moments of comedy. It was also limited in its ambitions as it was made in only 73 days, the plot is rather straightforward, and there are only a few principal characters.

Lucas had conceived of the idea in discussion with Philip Kaufman who had worked on a treatment. While on holiday with his close friend Steven Spielberg the pair worked out the basis for the film. At the time Spielberg's career was suffering due to the expensive bomb 1941 so it was agreed that Lucas would produce and Spielberg direct. A new screenplay was commissioned from Lawrence Kasdan. 'Raiders' was conceived by Paramount Pictures as a star vehicle for Tom Selleck but he was not available due to other commitments so Harrison Ford was cast instead.

It should also be noted that the character of Indiana Jones was directly influenced by James Bond. Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had expressed their interests to make a James Bond film of their own, but to no avail from EoN, the production company which owned the rights to the character. Since James Bond could not be used, the film team created Indiana Jones, a character who is suave, handsome, and lives a jet-setting life, but has clear flaws (for example, a fear of snakes) and has much more comic attributes.


The film was a huge success, becoming the year's highest grossing film. The box office success of the film led to a prequelIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and a sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). A fourth, as yet titleless, movie is apparently in preproduction for 2006. The Indiana Jones franchise eventually expanded to books, games, a television series, and even theme park attractions. (See Indiana Jones for more information.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1982 and won four (Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration). It won numerous other awards including seven Saturn Awards. In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Newer video boxes of the movie (VHS and DVD) are titled Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, in order to correlate with its sequels. However, the restored prints of the film that are transferred to video do not change the onscreen title from its original.



Do not blink or else you will miss a cute bit where a male student leaves an apple for Professor Indiana Jones among the crowd of adoring female students.

External links

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