Franchises of All Time
The "Indiana Jones" Films
Indiana Jones and the
Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones Films
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) | Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) | Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Film Plot Summary
The film opened as a prequel, set in 1912, as young 13 year-old Boy Scout, Indiana "Indy" Jones (River Phoenix) was with his troop on horseback in SE Utah. While exploring a cave, they came across cave robbers who had just dug up the Cross of Coronado, a bejeweled ornamental cross belonging to Francisco Vásquez de Coronado - given to him by Cortez in 1520. Realizing it was an important artifact that belonged in a museum rather than being looted, Indy grabbed the cross.
The next pursuit-chase segment provided background on Indy's well-known fear of snakes, chin-scar, and his bullwhip. The thieves began to chase him in vintage automobiles until he leaped onto a passing circus train, and fell into a pit of squirming snakes in the "House of Reptiles" freight car. After fighting atop a car with a horned rhinocerous, Indy fell into another car with a roaring African lion, where he used a bullwhip to subdue the animal, but cut his chin (scarring it for life). He escaped from the caboose onto the tracks and returned to his small-town home, where his father Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) (offscreen) was deeply involved in his study, researching medieval artifacts and keeping diary notes. The town's Sheriff mistakenly believed that Indy was the thief and he was forced to return the cross to its "rightful owner" - a white-dressed gentleman - dubbed Panama Hat (Paul Maxwell). For his impressive efforts, Indiana Jones-look-alike lead robber (named "Fedora" in the script) respectfully gave the young lad his Fedora hat, and told him: "You lost today, kid, but it doesn't mean you have to like it."
The film then became a sequel, set in 1938 on a cargo ship named the Coronado off the Portuguese coast during a fierce storm, where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was again attempting to retrieve the cross from the same white-dressed man named Panama Hat and his sailor thugs. An explosion blew up the ship as Indy successfully escaped with the cross, and shortly thereafter returned to his normal occupation as an archaeology professor at an unnamed American college, and donated the cross to a museum run by Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott).
Indiana was brought to the home of wealthy antiquities collector Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) during a cocktail party, where he was shown a fragment of a flat sandstone tablet (marked with a "Christian symbol"), unearthed in the mountain region north of Ankara. An inscription in early Latin text from the mid-12th century was translated: "...who drinks the water I shall give him, says the Lord, will have a spring inside him welling up for eternal life. Let them bring me to your holy mountain in the place where you dwell. Across the desert and through the mountain to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, to the temple where the cup that holds the blood of Jesus Christ resides forever." Donovan interpreted: "The Holy Grail, Dr. Jones. The chalice used by Christ during the Last Supper. The cup that caught His blood at the Crucifixion and was entrusted to Joseph of Arimathea." Donovan was enthralled by the promise of immortality: "The gift of youth to whoever drinks from the Grail," and mentioned how Indy's father, a teacher of medieval literature, had spent his life researching the Holy Grail: "Grail lore is his hobby."
Donovan described how an attempt to recover the Grail was already underway, and then provided backstory to the Grail. After it went missing for a thousand years, it was found by three brothers -- Three Knights of the First Crusade, two of whom emerged from the desert after 150 years. The surviving brother (before he died) told his tale to a Franciscan friar, which was chronicled in an ancient, leather-bound manuscript that Donovan displayed. It didn't reveal the location of the Grail, but the Knight had promised that two markers left behind would - and the incomplete stone tablet was one of those markers. The second marker was entombed with the knight's dead brother, and it was believed that the tomb was located in the city of Venice. Donovan urged Jones to join the "great quest" and pick up the trail - since the project leader had vanished along with all his research - "Find the man and you will find the Grail." And then he revealed the identity of the project leader who had disappeared - Indy's own father!
Indy feared that his father was "in over his head" when he arrived at his father's ransacked house. A package sent to Indy postmarked from Venice, Italy contained his father's Grail diary - with all his research: "Every clue he followed. Every discovery he made. A complete record of his search for the Holy Grail." Realizing the diary was in hot demand, Indy decided to travel from New York to Venice with Marcus. They met with Henry's flirtatious Austrian art professor/colleague Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), who told them that Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. had vanished from the library (a converted ancient church) where he was last seen. Indy surmised that his father was looking for the knight's tomb itself: "The tomb is somewhere in the library." Beneath the tile floor of the Venice library, Indy and Elsa discovered rat-infested catacombs and petroleum-soaked sewers - and the tomb area and coffin of Sir Richard, a knight of the First Crusade, with a complete version of the sandstone tablet found earlier. Indy exclaimed: "The shield is the second marker," and then made a rubbing of the shield inscription.
Meanwhile back in the library, Dr. Brody was knocked out by unknown assailants (later identified as The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, an organization formed to protect the Grail) who then pursued the duo underground and set the petroleum on fire. Indy and Elsa escaped and emerged from a manhole cover outside the library, and fled in a motorboat. Indy successfully struggled against and captured the Brotherhood's leader Kazim (Kevork Malikyan), who described their objectives to protect the Grail and keep it safe. Kazim gave Indiana his blessing when he explained: "I didn't come for the Cup of Christ. I came to find my father." He was told the location of his father, abducted to the Castle of Brunwald on the Austrian-German border. And Indy was reunited with colleague Dr. Brody.
Together with information in the diary, Brody and Indy deduced that Indy's father "knew everything except where to begin - the name of the city" - the complete stone tablet rubbing mentioned Alexandretta as the starting point (Alexandretta was destroyed, but "the present city of Iskenderun is built on its ruins"). Indy instructed Brody to get Sallah and meet him at Iskenderun, while Indy went after his father held at Brunwald Castle. Indy was suspicious of love interest Elsa, telling her: "Since I met you, I've nearly been incinerated, drowned, shot at, and chopped into fish bait. We're caught in the middle of something sinister here."
Indy and Elsa drove to the castle, and infiltrated as imposter art collectors. They learned that the castle was a secret base for the Nazis, and Indy located his father held as a prisoner. They evaded apprehension by the Nazis, and soon Indy's father revealed that Elsa was secretly working undercover with the Nazis: "She's one of them...She's a Nazi" - Indy didn't believe him, until she traitorously took back the diary ("You should have listened to your father"). The two captives were also introduced to Walter Donovan, revealed to be a collaborator with the Nazis. They were frustrated that some diary pages had been torn out - those that showed a map with no names but "precious directions from the unknown city to the secret Canyon of the Crescent Moon." The Nazis realized that Marcus Brody had the missing map pages from the diary, and sought to capture him at Iskenderun, where he had just met up with Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). Brody was seized and the maps were retrieved by the Nazis.
Dr. Schneider took the diary with her (to be taken to the Reich Museum) when recalled to Berlin for a rally at the Institute of Aryan Culture. Her future plans were to meet up with Donovan at Iskenderun, where the Nazis were converging (with support from the German leader Hitler). The two Jones' escaped from the castle, avoiding an order by the German Fuhrer to "eliminate the American conspirators," and fled in a two-passenger motorcycle. Once free from pursuit, Indy's father revealed that they must first go to Berlin to retrieve the diary from Elsa, because it contained further essential information about the "final challenge" - three booby traps (that he had researched in the Chronicles of St. Anselm) at the site of the Grail. He called their quest "a race against evil." In Berlin at the book-burning rally attended by Hitler himself, the Jones' impersonated Nazi officers, recovered the diary from Elsa, and then took the first available flight out of Germany - in a zeppelin.
During the flight, Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. discussed the three challenges at the Grail site: (1) "The Breath of God. Only the penitent man will pass." (2) "The Word of God. Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed." (3) "The Path of God. Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth." When the flight was turned around, they disengaged from the dirigible in a small biplane, and were pursued by two Messerschmidt fighter bombers who streaked toward them for a dogfight. When their plane lost its rudder control, they crashed into a farm, where they stole a car - as the pursuit continued. One of the Messerschmidt planes bore down on them as they entered a mountainside tunnel, and the flaming fuselage narrowly missed them as it rocketed through the tunnel after them. The second plane followed them onto a beach shoreline, where Henry, Sr. opened his umbrella - provoking a flock of seagulls to fly into the air and collide with the plane - causing it to explode.
In the Republic of Hatay, Donovan and the Nazis met up with the Hatay Sultan and bribed him with valuables and a new Rolls Royce to allow them to seek the Grail. They were promised resources, including camels, horses, an armed escort, provisions, desert vehicles and tanks. The two Jones met up with Sallah and were told of Marcus' kidnapping - he was held prisoner with the convoy already approaching the Grail's location in a desert valley. Assisted by the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, the duo were able to exchange fire with the Nazis (although Kazim lost his life after warning: "For the unrighteous, the Cup of Life holds everlasting damnation"), ending with a climactic battle pitting Indy (on horseback) against a giant Nazi armored Tiger tank commanded by brutal SS Colonel Vogel (Michael Byrne). Before the tank went over a steep cliff edge (killing Vogel) in an exciting sequence, Indy rescued both Marcus and his father.
Donovan and Elsa continued on to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon to retrieve the Grail, where they first entered into a carved mountain temple. Indy and his party followed and witnessed the beheading of a Turkish soldier in the first of several booby traps, before they were discovered. Donovan deliberately shot Henry, Sr. - a lethal wound in his side, to force Indiana to save his father by circumnavigating the traps using the information in his father's diary ("The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now"). Indy knelt at the first booby trap as "a penitent man," avoiding decapitation. At the second booby trap, he interpreted God's name as Jehovah (in the Latin alphabet beginning with an I) - he stepped on cobblestones to spell out I-E-H-O-V-A. At the third trap, he took "a leap of faith" from the head of a lion inscribed in the rock, across the chasm - stepping onto a narrow path, an optical illusion.
Everyone else followed Indy as he entered into a temple, where he was confronted by the last Knight of the First Crusade (Robert Eddison), the immortal guardian of the Holy Grail and the last of three brothers who swore an oath 700 years earlier to find the Grail and guard it. The Knight had hidden the real sacred Grail among lots of other glittering cups. In the supernatural showdown, there was a choice of Grails to drink from to attain eternal life (the Knight advised Donovan: "Choose wisely"). Elsa chose what she believed was the true Grail - a solid gold, emerald-encrusted goblet (although she might have had a change of heart and deliberately selected the wrong one?). He drank from it, but perished from immediate decomposition - it was the wrong cup. After Donovan died, Elsa told Indy: "It would not be made out of gold" as he selected a different chalice - a simple earthenware cup of a humble carpenter. He drank and was told by the Knight: "You have chosen wisely." As they prepared to leave, the Knight warned: "The Grail cannot pass beyond the Great Seal." Indy brought the Grail filled with water to his father to save him from his deadly gunshot wound - and he was healed.
The film ended with Elsa's fatal, selfish attempt to take the Grail from the temple beyond the seal, as it crumbled from earthquakes and she fell into a deep chasm. Indiana nearly fell into the same chasm, but followed his father's calm advice as he clung by one hand: "Let it go." The group of four fled from the temple's crumbling debris, and before riding off on horseback into a setting sun, Henry Sr. revealed why he always called his son Junior: "We named the dog Indiana."
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
With three Oscar nominations (and one win): Best Original Score, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing (win).
With a production budget of approximately $48 million, the film grossed $197 million (domestic) and $474 million (worldwide), becoming the second highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year.
It was originally the last film of the trilogy, but a fourth film with aging Harrison Ford finally appeared almost 20 years later, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).
This was the first Indiana Jones movie to receive an MPAA rating higher than PG, a PG-13 rating.
The main religious artifact or icon: legendary Christian sacred vessel, the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper.
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