An article by Chris "The Tingler" Capel: very dangerous. You go first.
Raiders is a perfect film. I don't say that lightly. To be specific, I mean structurally perfect. There isn't a single frame of this film that's wasted or bad or silly or not fun in some way. What makes that even better is how memorable everything is. Everyone imitates the Boulder Rolling sequence or the Truck Chase. No one bothers with the Tank Battle in Last Crusade.
IT IS NOT OF THIS EARTH
I say 'everything is memorable' but there is one area in which the film slips. Name one memorable thing from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boulder chase? The Ark of the Covenant? Melting faces? Indy's silhouette on the bar wall? The monkey doing a Nazi salute? The evil coathanger? Shooting that swordsman? Snakes? Getting hit by the mirror? Belloq eating a fly? Da-da da-daaa, daa-da-daaa?
I bet you didn't give a quote. In a film this classic, well-loved and oft-watched, it is really surprising how few genuinely quotable lines are in it. If you have a favourite quote from an Indiana Jones film, it's probably from Temple of Doom or Last Crusade. "It belongs in a museum", "Fortune and Glory", "You call this Archaeology?"
Apart from possibly "Snakes... why'd it have to be snakes?", and the recently incredibly overused "It's not the years honey, it's the mileage" I can't really think of a single line from the film I'd gladly use as my Signature on a forum. Not that the dialogue's bad, far from it! It's wonderful! I just don't think that, unlike Star Wars, very many lines can be copy-and-pasted into Family Guy or The Simpsons and get a laugh. At least not from Raiders anyway. Michael Eisner shouting "Kali-Marrr!" still has me in hysterics.
IT'S LIKE NOTHING YOU'VE GONE AFTER BEFORE
The reason the Mine Cart Chase and the Rolling Gong Being Shot By Gunfire moments in Temple of Doom are so great is that they were supposed to be in Raiders. This film is literally brimming over the edges with creative genius. Everything and everyone is at the top of their game and obviously loving every minute of it.
It's hard to pinpoint what holds the film together so well. The Ark of the Covenant is an absolutely perfect MacGuffin for the characters to pursue for example. The very dull Hot Glowy Stones and the Cup Which Probably Doesn't Exist And If It Does Is Certainly A Bowl And Not In One Of The Most Conspicuous Temples In The World are not as good in any way. The jury is still to decide on the Crystal Skull and Eldorado of the new film but they seem quite fun. The rumours that the Ark will make a reappearance just won't go away (although I don't see how), showing just how popular the Tea-Chest Of The Divine is.
The Nazis are another possibility, being so obviously evil and actually genuinely searching for these powerful artifacts (although the Spear of Destiny obviously didn't do Hitler much good). John Williams' stirring music is credited by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as having saved Star Wars and Jaws from being dull, and can you really imagine Indy without The Raiders March? However, I'm going to give the award to Harrison Ford and Henry Jones Junior himself. Bloody brilliant, the most likeable and yet almost totally superfluous hero in history – if Indy hadn't been there, everything from the Idol to the Ark opening would've happened the same. The only difference is that the Nazis would've taken longer to find the Ark. He makes much more of a difference in the next two (or, I'm guessing, three) films, and yet is somehow slightly less lovable for it. He never gets quite as badly beaten up as he does here either.
THIS IS HISTORY
No matter what Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's like, there's no way it'll beat the first Return Of The Great Adventure. Raiders has everything you can want in an action/adventure movie and set a template that has been copied and not bettered for almost thirty years. It has a select group of extraordinarily talented filmmakers working at the peak of their careers on a project they blatantly adored – a passion that fills every frame.
That is why Raiders of the Lost Ark is still the best adventure movie ever made.
Second opinion by Gabez
I suppose it matters which film you saw first, and when. I saw Raiders quite a long time after I had watched Last Crusade, and thought that the film was a little dull. I've grown to like it much more, tho' it's still the least exciting film for me. Jones's role seems almost pointless, not having any direct effect on the action; although on the other hand, at least he didn't have too much control and power, which is the path that other film heroes sometimes follow.
It's still a very well made film, and deserves to be watched until the End of Days. It's charmingly old-fashioned, full of memorable scenes, and has God as a "bad-ass" action hero in His own right.
Next page... Temple of Doom!