Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriters: Lawrence Kasdan, Philip Kaufman, George Lucas
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Best Line: “Why’d it have to be snakes?”
Release Dates: 6/12/81 (Theatres); 1/28/14 (Streaming)
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Oscars: Won–Production Design, Sound, Editing, Visual Effects; Nominated–Picture, Director, Cinematography, Original Score
Where to Watch: Netflix

I’d already seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first film featuring Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, multiple times when my family recently decided to watch it to distract from election results (a welcome distraction, indeed). It’s the kind of movie that you can watch over and over and never tire of it, and I feel like I appreciate it more every time I see it. Ford was already a star thanks to Star Wars, but the Indiana Jones  franchise (also co-created by George Lucas) made him a certifiable leading man. 

I’m actually not that surprised that the film won 4 Oscars in 1982, all in the technical categories; the set, sound, editing, and effects are terrific, and ahead of the film’s time (it was released nearly 40 years ago). It received 4 other nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture, a huge feat for a high-budget action/adventure flick. But, it really is that good: it’s funny and charming at times, romantic (but not sappy), entertaining and full of exciting action and stunts, scary on occasion (especially at the end), and endlessly quotable.

While Ford is perfect for the role, he is assisted by Karen Allen, who is fortunately not demoted to a mere damsel-in-distress role. While she is, at one point, kidnapped and Indie is meant to rescue her, she’s more than capable than fighting back against the Nazis (who are terrifically despicable villains, by the way). Sure, the romance between her and Ford’s Indie is a bit cheesy, but that takes a backseat to the main plot point: finding the ark of the covenant before the Nazis do. Fortunately, too, there’s never a dull moment, and the scenes zip along fairly quickly. Raiders has something in it for everyone, really, although I’d caution young children away from watching the Nazi-killing scene (which is disturbing but gratifying).