Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

In director Steven Spielberg's first film in the popular Indiana Jones franchise - a rousing blockbuster adventure-serial film filled with comic-book style, cliffhangers and many great action stunts:

  • the film's title sequence and introduction of 1930s archaeology professor and treasure hunter Indiana "Indy" Jones (Harrison Ford) (wearing his signature short, brown leather flight jacket, with a bullwhip and a snappy brimmed felt fedora); teasingly first seen faceless and only in silhouette while guiding an expedition, his face was memorably revealed after Spanish Peruvian Barranca (Vic Tablian) reached for his gun and cocked it when a treasure map was found; Jones responded reflexively with lightning speed by accurately and gracefully uncoiling his bullwhip and wrapping it around Barranca's hand; his reaction sent the gun into the river where it discharged harmlessly, while Barranca fled into the jungle; then, Jones was fully revealed - he stepped from darkness (in silhouette) into the light.
  • the stimulating opening sequence in a booby-trapped jungle cave when Indy snatched a fierce-looking but beautiful golden Fertility Idol artifact from an altar, located in a mid-1930s South American (Peru) rainforest jungle cave setting and then had to make a mad dash after setting off a chain reaction of destruction (including poisonous darts and arrows); Indy came upon traitorous Peruvian helper Satipo (Alfred Molina) (with the two moments of "Give me the whip" and "Throw me the idol") who was bloodily spiked in the head; Indy retorted under his breath to his unlucky partner: "Adios, estupido"
  • the subsequent sequence of an immense, thundering rolling spherical boulder tumbling in Indy's direction, perfectly sized to fit the passageway; Indy dashed just ahead of the destructive, crushing boulder; he lept to safety outside the cave, just as the giant rock slammed into the entrance of the cave and sealed it perfectly
The Rolling Boulder
  • Indy was pursued by a tribe of Hovito cannibals in a tropical setting as he made a getaway from his nemesis, an archaeologist working for the Nazis named Dr. Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) (who retrieved the idol) and ran toward an awaiting escape plane; there, he first exhibited his fear of snakes to the pilot: "I hate snakes, Jock. I hate 'em"
  • the set-up for the film's main plot: a discussion scene at Marshall College between multi-talented Archaeology Professor Jones - an "expert on the occult" and "obtainer of rare antiquities" - and two Army Intelligence officers: Colonel Musgrove (Don Fellows) and Major Eaton (William Hootkins) in his college classroom; he explained the significance of a Nazi digging occurring on the desert outskirts of Cairo, Egypt in the ancient city of Tanis, the possible resting place of the Ark of the Covenant - a biblical chest reportedly containing fragments of the 10 Commandments: "The Nazis have discovered Tanis!...The city of Tanis is one of the possible resting places of the Lost Ark...Yeah, the Ark of the Covenant. The chest the Hebrews used to carry around the Ten Commandments...Yes, the actual Ten Commandments. The original stone tablets that Moses brought down out of Mount Horeb and smashed, if you believe in that sort of thing. Any of you guys ever go to Sunday School?...Oh, look. The Hebrews took the broken pieces and put 'em in the Ark. And when they settled in Canaan, they put the Ark in a place called The Temple of Solomon...Where it stayed for many years. Until, all of a sudden, whoosh, it's gone...Well, nobody knows where or when"; it was an ominous development that the Nazis were searching for the Ark, to grant their armies invincibility; one of Indy's books illustrated the power of the Ark ("lightning, fire, the power of God or something")
Indy Explaining the Possible Existence of
the Lost Ark of the Covenant in Tanis, Egypt
The Power of the Ark
Dr. Marcus Brody
  • later that evening as Indy prepared for his journey for a lost 3,000 year old object, museum curator Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) warned about the Ark: "That's not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets. It's like nothing you've ever gone after before." Indy replied: "Oh, Marcus. What are you tryin' to do, scare me? I mean, you sound like my mother. We've known each other for a long time. I don't believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus-pocus. I'm goin' after a find of incredible historical significance. You're talkin' about the bogeyman. Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am" (he threw a firearm into his suitcase)
  • the sequence in Nepal of Indy's reacquaintance with ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) from 10 years earlier - the hard-drinking, gambling daughter of Indy's mentor Abner Ravenwood, an Egyptologist; she managed a Nepalese saloon, where Indy appeared as a shadowy silhouette on the wall in his familiar Indiana Jones' adventurer's outfit, after the bar closed; she unleashed a solid right to his jaw to express her anger over their former love affair ("I learned to hate you in the last ten years")
In a Nepalese Saloon Run by Marion Ravenwood
Marion Ravenwood
Indy's Silhouette
Marion Slugged Indy
Marion's Threatened Torture by Toht
Indy to the Rescue
Toht's Seared Hand
  • Marion reportedly possessed (from her father) a valuable Egyptian artifact, a headpiece (that looked like a gold medallion) for the 'Staff of Ra' - a crucial element to help discover the location of the Ark's whereabouts (the Well of Souls); it was revealed to be on a necklace around her neck; later that night, a cohort of four Nazi agents led by sadistic-looking Nazi Gestapo Major Toht (Ronald Lacey) burst in; while dealing with the evil Nazis who were about to torture Marion (with a red hot poker) to have her reveal the medallion's location, Indy emerged with his whip and a gun and fought off the Nazis during a wild scuffle; as Toht reached for the medallion (heated above the fireplace) and as he grabbed for the object, it seared the palm of his hand; Marion and Indy retained the medallion and she became his partner: ("You're gonna get more than you bargained for. I'm your goddamn partner!")
  • in a Cairo marketplace, the greatest crowd-pleasing scene (Gun vs. Sword) - Indy was challenged to do battle with an ominous-looking, massive, menacing, skilled Arab swordsman (stuntman Terry Richards) dressed in black with a red waistband, in the middle of a Cairo bazaar while he was searching for kidnapped former lover Marion Ravenwood; the overconfident Arab laughed and impressively twirled his swishing broadsword for the crowd; w ithout hesitation or the slightest bit of fair play, and without bothering to reach for his whip, Indy calmly and casually grabbed for his gun and with one shot felled his opponent
  • the sequence of Indy's descent into a map room, in order to use a beam of light (exactly at 9 am) to cast a ray of bright sunlight through the medallion (on the top of the Staff of Ra) to mark the exact location of the Ark; the focused light was transcendently displayed (with an intense, searing glow) onto a miniature stone model or replica of the ancient city of Tanis to show the proper location of the Well of the Souls - a different spot from where the Nazis were digging
  • the exciting sequence of Indy's digging at the new site, and discovery of the heavy entry door to an underground chamber of the ancient tomb, the Well of Souls, as lightning crackled; holding a torch, Indy looked down at the floor of the chamber 30 feet down that appeared to be moving; he tossed down his torch to illuminate asps and cobras crawling around - and piteously sighed: "Snakes. Why'd it hafta be snakes?"; Indy carefully lowered himself into the chamber, but fell to the floor where he landed directly face-to-face with a flaring cobra in an excruciatingly horrific moment
The Discovery of the Underground Chamber with the Ark (in The Well of Souls)
Lightning Crackled
Looking Down into Chamber
Asps on Floor of Chamber
Indy: "Snakes. Why'd it hafta be snakes?
Lowered Into Chamber
Face to Face with Hooded Cobra
  • the process of removing a protective stone cover and lifting the Ark clear of its stone chest without touching it (by using wooden poles); it was awesomely beautiful - a gold-overlaid rectangular box, with two sculptured gold angels (seraphim) mounted to face each other on top; the Ark was placed in a wooden crate, and then hauled up to the surface with ropes - but Indy was greeted by Belloq and the Nazis; Marion was pushed into the chamber to join Indy as the tomb was sealed
  • the exciting sequence of Indy's and Marion's escape from the chamber by breaking through the wall, but they found themselves in catacombs full of cascading, moldering mummies, sarcophagi and skulls (with more snakes), before locating a way out of the chamber
  • Indy's brutal fist-fight at a Nazi airstrip death against two mechanics, including a burly bald German mechanic (Pat Roach) who was pummeling Indy, but at the same time, he was cleverly being backed into a revolving airplane propeller - where he was sliced up (off-screen); his blood splattered onto the side of the Nazi plane; Indy prevented the stolen Ark (possessed by the Nazis) from leaving Egypt (bound for Berlin, Germany) by destroying the Flying Wing airplane
  • the sequence of Indy's exciting pursuit atop a magnificent white Arabian stallion after a canvas-topped Nazi truck caravan, carrying the Ark to Cairo (to be flown from there to Berlin); when asked about how Indy would execute his plan, Indy quipped: "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go"; he lept onto the truck, took over its control, but was then thrown through the windshield and hung onto the truck's front ornament; he lowered himself down, hung onto the bottom of the truck and inched his way back to the rear where he was dragged by his bullwhip, before he made his way back onto the truck and into the cab, and then drove the truck to a hiding place
  • the sequence of Indy with Marion as passengers on Mr. Katanga's (George Harris) steamboat - with the Ark of the Covenant in its cargo hold; Marion nursed a badly wounded Indiana, who complained of pain when she tried to apply ointment; she reminded him: "You're not the man I knew ten years ago" to which he replied, famously about his prowess: "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage"; when he kept complaining about pain everywhere, she retorted: "Well, G-ddamnit, Indy, where doesn't it hurt?" Indy pointed to the only place it didn't hurt on his body - his left elbow; she kissed it for him and then he prompted her to continue kissing him - on his forehead (after she removed his hat), his right eye and finally, a long passionate kiss on his lips. But then he passed out as Marion pondered: "Jones, Jones. We never seem to get a break, do we?"
  • after the Nazi's overtook the steamer via submarine and repossessed the Ark, in a climactic finale - set on a mysterious island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, somewhere southeast of Greece, the contents of the Ark of the Covenant were to be revealed in a preliminary ceremony; as the Ark was marched into a rocky cavern on the island; Indy (in a stolen Nazi uniform) ducked out of sight when no one was looking, climbed the cavern wall, and halted the procession from the cliff ridge with a bazooka on his shoulder, but he was ultimately forced to surrender
  • the captured Indy and Marion were tied back-to-back to a pole-stake, and watching from a few hundred feet away (Indy warned: "Don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion, and don't look at it, no matter what happens"); God's wrath and the horrors of hell were summoned in the form of deadly visions when the Ark was opened; as Indiana's nemesis Belloq opened its cover, he was instantly besieged by ghostly images and screamed in horror; fire consumed him and his body exploded; piercing firebolts and shafts of fire zapped the rest of the Nazis through the heart; all of the interlopers were punished by a lethal dose of death for breaking the sacred taboo; Colonel Herman Dietrich (Wolf Kahler) melted into dripping ooze by the extreme heat, and evil Gestapo Major Toht also burned and melted as he viewed the opening
The Deadly Opening of the Ark
The Ark's Deadly Vision

Piercing Firebolts
Renee Belloq
Death of Colonel Herman Dietrich (Wolf Kahler)

Death of Major Arnold Toht
Belloq's Consumption by Fire
  • in the deeply ironic twist conclusion, after Indiana Jones had risked his life, recovered the Ark, and it was delivered to Washington, DC, the adventurer was congratulated by two Army Intelligence Officers: "You've done your country a great service..."; however, Indy (along with Brody) was concerned that the Ark was not going to be safe, would not be stored properly, and that its power was misunderstood; he was left with the vague promise that some of the government's unidentified "top men" were researching it: "We have top men working on it right now"
  • after emerging from the government building, Indy told Marion his frustration that his work had been co-opted by the bureaucratic, fool-hardy government: "Fools, bureaucratic fools...They don't know what they've got there"; Marion responded with the film's final line: "Well, I know what I've got here. Come on. I'll buy you a drink. You know, a drink?"; the Ark of the Covenant was crated in a wooden box and its lid was solidly nailed shut - its stenciled label contained a long inventory number for identification:
    ARMY INTEL 9906753
  • the very slow reveal of the deeply ironic final shot (a lengthy matte shot that paid homage to a similar closing Citizen Kane (1941) "toss that junk" scene) in which a warehouseman pushed the crated Ark down a long aisle formed by huge stacks of similar crates in an enormous government warehouse
The Final Sequence

The Entrance of "Indy" Jones

Removing the Golden Idol

A Chain Reaction of Destruction

Death of Traitorous Peruvian Helper Satipo

Flight from Hovito Cannibals

"I hate snakes"

Flight to Nepal

Flight (with Marion) to Cairo, Egypt

Indy's Gun vs. Arab's Sword

Medallion Atop the Staff - To Locate Digging Spot for Ark in City of Tanis

The Ark's Removal From Chamber

Escape From the Tomb - Into the Catacombs with Mummies and Sarcophagi

Fighting At the Nazi Airstrip

Nazi Mechanic Bloodied by Propeller

Nazi Plane Blown Up

Indy on White Stallion: "I'm making this up as I go"

Pursuit of Truck Carrying Ark

Hanging Onto Front of Truck and then Dragged

"You're not the man I knew 10 years ago"

Kisses with Marion on a Steamer

Indy Threatening with Bazooka as the Ark was Marched to Ceremonial Spot on Aegean Island

The Opening of the Ark - Marion and Indy Tied Nearby


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