It’s hard to believe that another Indiana Jones movie is coming to theaters. After Indy and his father rode into the sunset in Last Crusade, it seemed doubtful they would embark on another adventure.
Unfortunately, this is the opening of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which, well…more on that later!
But when the new movie hit theaters, we felt compelled to comb through Steven Spielberg’s action franchise and offer a proper ranking. Put on your hat, grab your whip, and read at your own risk—here’s Indiana Jones, worst to best.
5. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
I don’t know where to begin with this bloated wannabe epic. I went in with modest expectations after reading the early reviews. I adapted to James Mangold’s new approach to the franchise and took the reins from Steven Spielberg. After watching the Star Wars series spiral out of control, my faith in Lucasfilm was already hanging by a thread. Still, I wanted to like Dial of Destiny and was moderately entertained in the first half. Then comes the third act and the film morphs into the terrifying Alamo Jobe episode of Amazing Stories. Did this thing really cost $400 million?
Where did everything go wrong? “Dial of Destiny” has brief sparks of creativity, like an early action scene in which an aging Harrison Ford fights Nazis in World War II. However, the production lacks life and freshness so much that all positive aspects quickly disappear.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge steals the show, whether on purpose or out of necessity. Harrison Ford’s age seems to limit his participation in action sequences. The actress brings energy to the film and director Mangold wisely capitalizes on her playful demeanor, albeit at the expense of his star. While Ford delivers a commendable performance, he has little to do other than nagging performances. There’s a poignant moment when Indy talks about what he would do if he had the chance to go back in time. Unfortunately, the film fails to revisit or use these insights to advance the legendary hero’s journey. There is little at stake, and ultimately the film feels both hollow and uninteresting.
Additionally, Mangold takes too long to set up the action sequences and is rarely worth the wait. A fast-paced chase is exciting, but lacks Spielberg’s creative wit and energy. Mangold is not Spielberg – who is? — but you’d think he’d put more effort into reproducing Spielberg’s style. Raiders, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade skillfully blended different genres, but Dial of Destiny feels surprisingly generic in its execution. It’s a routine action film far too benign for a franchise filled with stunning Nazis and heartbreaking cult leaders.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
No surprise here. I’m not going to denounce Spielberg’s much-maligned failure too much, especially since my stance has waned in recent years. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may not live up to the original trilogy, but it still offers plenty of entertainment and some exciting action sequences. It’s always great to see Ford wearing a hat and leather jacket, even if Spielberg doesn’t give him much to do.
That’s the problem with this entry – it lacks substance. Spielberg loathes the alien aspect that delays the final third of the film. He still loves Indy, though, and delivers some well-crafted action with a chase set in Area 51 and another on a college campus. I also like Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams, but his character sticks around without doing much.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t bad. I’d rank it with the Star Wars prequels as a sporadically entertaining return to a well-loved franchise that entertains even though it misses the mark by a few thousand feet.
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
When it comes to my personal rankings, I vacillate between Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. I like both, but I probably watched “Temple of Doom” more often. Why? It has the best beginning of the series, the best sidekick in “Ke Huy Quan’s Short Round” and an amazing production design.
is it extreme You bet. Hearts are ripped from chests, bugs jump over Kate Capshaw’s hair, children are flogged and spanked, and that’s all before Indy drinks demon blood and loses his mind. i understand the hate Even after Raiders’ stunning finale, Temple of Doom feels like a giant step too far. But Spielberg and George Lucas are willing to go to extremes to make this fast-paced sequel unpredictable, chaotic fun.
The only thing holding Temple of Doom back is the lackluster MacGuffin – three magical rocks used to grow crops aren’t quite as memorable as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. And while beautifully directed, the uninterrupted action of Act III lacks the dramatic raider chase and thrilling tank battle of Last Crusade. None of this is terrible, but the movie could end at any moment without pausing.
Hilarious, unexpected, and ambitious, Temple of Doom is a blast from start to finish. This could have been the best of the series with a little more heart, a stronger female lead, and a better MacGuffin.
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The older I got, the more I appreciated Last Crusade. Maybe it’s the father in me, or maybe I’m more fascinated by human drama than non-stop action. Yes, this sequel sticks to the formula and plays it safe – Spielberg practically dares you not to like this movie – but it does it all so well it hardly matters.
Seriously, everything in Last Crusade ends up. The action, the jokes, the characters, the romance and the drama – all from a director of the highest caliber. No one but Steven Spielberg could have made this film.
The secret ingredient here, of course, is Sean Connery’s Henry Jones Sr. The iconic actor is adorable in the role of the eccentric professor, bringing both wisdom and humor to the plot. The chemistry between Connery and Ford is remarkable and their energy is contagious. As they ride off into the sunset, a father and son reunited amid John Williams’ gorgeous score (my favorite of the series), it’s hard not to walk away with a huge smile on your face.
If I had to make a few criticisms, Alison Doody doesn’t make much of an impression as Indy’s lover. She is immediately cast aside after showing her true colors before a bewildering last-second change brings her back to light. Ultimately, the Last Knight/Holy Grail part raises far too many questions. We’re not supposed to think about it too much, but what’s the point of having a chalice that bestows immortality if you can’t take it outside? Also, would there have been an earthquake if Elsa just ran away with the cup? Questions like this have bothered me for years.
Last Crusade makes up for its narrative flaws with a lot of heart. I can understand why some consider it the best in the franchise. This is one hell of a blockbuster and a film that is all too often taken for granted.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1980)
As much as I rave about Temple of Doom and Last Crusade, I couldn’t place either of them above the iconic original.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a damn good movie – probably the most re-watchable summer blockbuster outside of Jaws. From the iconic bouldering sequence to the spooky Ark finale, Raiders takes off and hits every target it aims for. The truck sequence alone is worth the price of admission, but Spielberg isn’t content with delivering a typical adventure. Instead, it downshifts into horror and delivers an amazing finale that still gives you goosebumps.
Indiana Jones remains a marvelous creation, a perfect blend of legend and vulnerability. At the same time, Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood is an extremely capable woman who can hold her own in dangerous situations. She is the perfect complement to Indy.
Raiders is a perfect example of the heights cinema can reach when everyone works to achieve the impossible. If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy this extraordinary adventure, you need to gather your family, curl up on the couch, and prepare for one of cinema’s greatest spectacles of all time.
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