Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #7 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Steven Spielberg gives us a new hero in Indiana Jones archaeologist and adventurer. This movie launches him on a quest to find the lost Ark and he has competition from no less than Adolf Hitler's Nazis.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay by), George Lucas (story by)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
The iconic opening scene of Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) not only kickstarted the swashbuckling Indiana Jones series, but also encapsulated within it all the elements that were to make it such a fascinating landmark in the action-adventure film genre. First frame - the pre-movie mountain in ‘Paramount Pictures’ fades to become a real-life South American mountain. Archaeologist-explorer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) leads two rag-tag Men Fridays through a murmuring jungle. Thanks to the thick overgrowth and rough terrain, they have to leave their mule behind. They discover a tribal dart shot through a tree and when one of the helpers fearfully looks around because the ‘poison’s still fresh’, the other dismisses him with a ‘if they knew we were here they’d have killed us already’. The men’s fears make even the cawing and mawing of jungle birds sound devilish. When one of the men tries to pull a gun behind Indy’s back he uses his bull-whip to ease the man’s burden – disarmed, he deserts. Indy and the remaining helper enter a forbidding cave to find a golden idol sitting peaceably on a rock in the centre of the cave. The helper rushes forward ‘there’s nothing to fear here’ but Indy restrains him ‘that’s what scares me’. Then Indy goes on to reveal to the puzzled helper, how the cave is rigged with booby-traps. Between where they stand and the cobbled pathway to the idol, both walls are rigged with poisonous darts set to from the mouths and snouts of grinning engraved faces, if they so much as touched even one wrong cobblestone. Indy steps forward seeming to sense which stones to avoid, climbs up the brief stairway and comes up to the idol. He seems to know that he has to replace the golden idol’s weight with an exact equivalent weight if he’s to avoid disturbing the cave and letting all the booby-traps go off at once. So, picks his sackcloth (weighted with fine dust) and expertly pulls the idol off its base and places the dust-pack there instead. Indy’s famed grin of victory is misplaced and a little too early as the cave begins to close in on itself, all darts firing at once. He somehow rushes through, one hand on his precious hat, the other fervently clutching the idol.
Danger, daring, the whip, the hat and that wry trademark grin - all of it introduced and established in those first few minutes!
Barely managing to get out alive (his helper dies on the way out after failing to steal the idol), Indy is chased by a giant boulder that first rolls up above and toward him, then down and right behind him. He falls, he stumbles - with the boulder still rumbling just a few feet behind. All that out of the way, at the mouth of the crumbling cave Indy is ambushed by his nemesis, René Belloq (Paul Freeman). Rene snatches the idol from him and lets loose a warlike tribe who chase him across the jungle. He dodges poisoned arrows as he escapes on a floatplane. Danger, daring, the whip, the hat and that wry trademark grin - all of it introduced and established in those first few minutes!