#10 - "We're Not Sinking! We're Crashing!"
I know this scene is ridiculous. In fact, when it comes to impossible scenes in 'Indiana Jones' films, this is one of the top contenders. The scene, in question, involves a couple of pilots who work for Lao Che (the film's opening villain), ditching Indy, Shorty and Willie to crash. With no parachutes left, and no one knowing how to fly, the trio must now improvise with the hopes that an inflatable raft will save their lives.
The three characters then plummet... a long-ass way, onto a snow-covered mountain (I guess it's okay if they land in snow), and the raft then goes from parachute to toboggan. Eventually, they find themselves on a river, which will lead them to India where they take on the role of the "heroes fallen from the sky". So, one may very well be wondering, if the scene is so ridiculous, then why would it make a list of "best moments"? Well, for as silly as it all is, I just can't deny that it's still a lot of fun to watch. Remembering that this is back when practical effects were the only real way to go, there's a certain "cheese" to this scene that I can't help but appreciate.
This scene is also fairly often talked about nowadays, as it's pretty much in direct competition with the waterfall scene in 'Crystal Skull'. The contest is something along the lines of "most impossible stunt because you'd die twice from it". It's kind of fascinating to think about this scene in another context though. We can suspend our disbelief for a lot of the supernatural elements of these films, but an impossible stunt has us going "oh yeah right". It's a fairly good way for the film to let you know it doesn't take itself too seriously. Unfortunately, however, it might not be enough for some viewers, given the intensity of things to come.
#09 - Indy Gets Brainwashed
Granted, this is kind of a weird one to go with, but I will explain... and it's gonna get kind of deep. I'm not gonna mention any names here, but I know someone (who surprisingly wasn't me) who, when watching this as a kid, was pretty traumatized by the whole idea of losing someone to the "forces of evil" as it were. Nightmares ensued, and I can still remember to this day, this person confiding in me with those nightmares.
So, in a bizarre sort of way, this led to one of my first memorable bonding experiences with someone. We were able to talk out the things that scared us both. Although somehow (and I'll never really get this) I was fine with 'Temple of Doom', I was terrified of a LOT of stuff growing up. I wasn't like my peers, and I couldn't endure horror movies at the time. But enduring this has always given me a sort of sense of pride. It felt good to be able to be the "strong" one for once. But hey, I'm gonna get even deeper with what this represents today.
As someone who is pretty out and shameless about things like my mental health problems, today, this can be seen as representative of any sort of moment where one "loses their mind", so to speak, and we must rely on our loved ones to help us crawl back out of it... in this case, Short Round stabs him with a torch, but all the symbolism is still there. It's a pretty intense scene but, just remember, when watching this, this takes place before 'Raiders', so... he's all right, kid!
#08 - The Poker Game
It is SO unfortunate that this scene happens to run parallel to one of Willie's many freak-outs, as the trio attempt to camp in the jungles of India. But there's a lot to this scene I think goes completely overlooked because the viewer is supposed to be following, and laughing at Willie bumping into all of the critters of the jungle and screaming her face off. It's meant to be funny but honestly, it's really just kind of annoying.
In the meantime, Indy and Shorty are playing some hands of Poker (I think it's Poker), and it's one of those scenes that give us what we need to know about Short Round, as well as developing Indy's character ever so slightly. It's pretty simple - Shorty ends up accusing Indy of cheating, and Indy sort of plays along with it until he discovers Shorty is actually cheating, and the pair exchange a sort of almost father/son moment with each other as Short, realizing he's busted, simple smiles and has a laugh with him about it.
But there's something I picked up here that I didn't quite pick up on before. Willie may be the "Indy Girl" in this, but Indy's love and care go towards Shorty here. This is evident all the way through the film, and it's a good way to show the audience that Indy cares a great deal about the safety and well-being of children, which lends itself to the film later. This realization is actually so refreshing in a way. It all adds to the "hero" element of Indiana Jones, and it's something we didn't really know about him before.
#07 - "Hold On to Your Potatoes!"
Short Round's intro might very well be what helped me get through this otherwise scary movie. As mentioned earlier, for whatever reason, 'Temple of Doom' never really got to me, and I sincerely think it was because I was able to follow this kid through it, along with Indy. His introduction always makes me wanna cheer. In fact, if I ever see this in the theater, I will be that one guy clapping as soon as Ke Huy Quan pops onto the screen.
At the beginning of the film, Indy and Willie make a daring escape, falling through some awnings and into the back seat of a car. Said car is a 1934 Duesenberg Auburn convertible being driven by a young kid. When Indy tells him to "drive!", Shorty hits us with one of my favourite lines from the movie, "Okie dokie, Dr. Jones! Hold onto your potatoes!" Then, with great enthusiasm, Shorty becomes the wheelman for Indy and Willie during an otherwise intense car chase. You can't help but love how much fun the kid is having behind the wheel.
To top it all off, there's a hilarious bit that still gets to me to this day when Shorty tries to get a rickshaw to move out of his way. In failing to do so, Shorty just says "okay, you asked for it!" and drives into the rickshaw, lifting the incredibly confused driver up into the air. Watching this as a kid, I saw a hero in Short Round almost as much as I saw a hero in Indy, himself. And this hero was much closer to my age, and we see later that he can definitely hold his own in a fight. He's one character I kind of wish came back into Indy's world... but there's still time!
#06 - Indy to the Rescue
After Indy, Shorty and Willie stumble on the Thuggee ceremony (which will be mentioned later on the list), they go through a series of nightmarish events but, ultimately, survive it all. However, they're far from being done. At one point Willie says "let's get the hell out of here", and although they have the opportunity to just save themselves, Indy responds the way he should with "Right. All of us!" And with that, Indy goes back to rescue the enslaved children.
As I mentioned in the 'Raiders' moments, every one of these films has its own special music which helps make each one a little unique. For my money, the best time to hear this music is from this particular scene, as it offers up a sort of heroic tone of determination. Top off the great new score from John Williams, you get this image of Indy emerging from the dust, silhouette style, and it just gives the viewer goosebumps. It's definitely one of Indy's more heroic moments, whatever your thoughts on the film may be.
Spoiler alert, he (with the others' help) does save the day, and it's incredibly satisfying to see a literal swarm of freed slaves running through the palace and essentially trashing it as they go. The lot of them are headed back home to their families to be reunited, and give this otherwise terribly dark film a happy ending. This moment also marks the beginning of the last half-hour of the film, which is essentially action scenes all the way through. I mean, when you reach this point, hold onto your pota-- ah well, you get it.
#05 - Indy's Crushing It!
As we get closer to the end of this movie, it does involve quite a long and drawn-out climax that's stitched together with a bunch of different scenes. Say what you will about the quality of 'Temple of Doom', but its final sequences are a hell of a lot of fun to watch. And what 'Indy' movie would be complete without the gruesome death of a big brute that Indy has to fight. In 'Raiders', it was the mechanic, and here it's a slave overseer, credited as "Chief Guard".
Indy once again ends up going one-on-one with a big guy, and they end up fighting on a conveyer belt. "Chief" ends up getting some assistance from the brainwashed Maharaja through the use of an Indy-shaped Voodoo Doll they just happened to have handy. But Indy soon gets some assistance from not only Shorty but surprisingly, Willie, who starts just hucking rocks at the big brute as a distraction and even hands Indy a weapon of sorts. Just when it looks like Indy is losing because of the damn doll, Shorty manages to get to it just in time.
Indy springs up, starts kicking ass, and eventually makes the lug drop a big rock on his own head. The guy's garbs get caught, and he is sent back into the rock crusher. Indy even tries to save the man from this terrible fate, again, showing the "hero within". It all boils down to a great fight and the gruesome death of someone we all felt kind of deserved it. And guess who played him? The same guy as last time! That's right, Pat Roach (again, not the guy from 'Trailer Park Boys') comes back here for round two! I mean between a propeller and a rock crusher, will this guy ever learn that he can't go one-on-one with Indiana f*cking Jones?... and his friends?
#04 - The Suspension Bridge
I've already mentioned that the last half hour of this is pretty much just straight-up action, but it all leads to this intense climax involving Indy, Shorty and Willie being surrounded by the Thuggee, who are being led by Mola Ram, who has come for the final fight. Surrounded and desperate, Indy says something in Chinese to Shorty, we see Shorty nod, and start wrapping his hands into the rope bridge.
When Willie asks what's going on, Shorty simply says "Hang on, lady, we're going for a ride!" and at that point (if we didn't already get it by Indy raising a sword) we know he's gonna cut the bridge, sending a bunch of these guys plummeting into a crocodile-filled lake (although apparently, alligators were used for this). Meanwhile, the three, along with Mola Ram and a few leftover henchmen, hold on tight and "Tarzan" themselves to the side of the cliff, using the bridge now as a ladder to climb up and get back to safety.
It gets intense here, especially when Mola Ram starts dropping his own people just to thwart Indy. But we also get another great scene of Indy's hidden knowledge here (like knowing to close his eyes if he ever saw the Ark get opened), and seemingly harnesses the powers of the Shankara stones to his own advantage. It's pretty damn cool, and the intensity of the scene builds, even after the bridge robe is cut. It's classic edge-of-your-seat material, to be sure.
#03 - A Banquet of Oddities
Even without seeing this, many know about the banquet at Pankot Palace, where we see an array of supposed delicacies served to the three guests who don't quite have the stomach for it, although the idea of the food doesn't seem to phase Indy much. Throughout the meal, they are served a variety of odd things that would make the typical North American vomit in terror. We damn near see Willie do exactly this, but luckily, all the gross stuff here is the food.
Let's see what we've got on the menu, shall we? Today, Pankot is hosting the Guardian of Tradition Dinner, consisting of Gently Roasted vanAhira (roasted boar, complete with its roasted offspring), Coiled Wrigglies ("Snake Surprise"; aka a big-ass sake stuffed with eels), Cristpy Coleoptera (fresh beetles, still in their shell), Soup of the Head (The eyeball soup in the accompanying picture), and for dessert, Primate Parfait ("Chilled Monkey Brains"). But for as nasty as it all sounds, apparently, it was all made of some pretty tasty stuff. For example, if memory serves, the monkey brains were actually just Jello.
The scene has gone down in cinematic history as probably one of the best "gross-out" scenes of all time. Personally, I always had fun with this scene, showing people this movie and seeing what their reactions were to it. It just makes me think of things like Halloween parties where you played that game involving having to touch "eyeballs" but they were grapes or thick spaghetti "hair". I've always appreciated gross out stuff as long as its innocent fun, which this quite honestly is.
#02 - The Minecart Chase
As another section of the action ride that is the last half-hour of the film, Indy, Short and Willie attempt to escape from the Temple of Doom and the Thuggee army via mine cart. The whole thing becomes a fairly ridiculous and rather deadly rollercoaster ride, as the trio constantly fights off other carts full of Thuggee thugs in the process. When you really look at it, there's plenty to question about the scene... but why spoil this for yourself?
I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly sure that this scene is altogether improbable (and I'll stand corrected if someone who knows better says otherwise). To put it another way, the game 'Donkey Kong Country' supposedly took its minecart levels from this premise. And if I'm honest, the mine cart tracks do not look much different here than they do in the game - suspended high, often above a pool of lava, and going at breakneck speeds. But honestly, this is one moment I find it easy to throw reality out the window.
The fact of the matter is that this scene adds some much-needed fun and action after things like the Thuggee Ceremony, and witnessing Indy get more or less "possessed" (possessed/brainwashed, I dunno what exactly to call it). Much like the raft scene, it is kind of hard to un-see some of the models and dummies used for the scene, but it's still some edge-of-your-seat fun that hasn't really been attempted to be duplicated. For my money, watching this scene is just as fun as playing the levels in 'DK Country'.
#01 - The Thuggee Ceremony
If there is one thing everyone knows about 'Temple of Doom', it's that some unfortunate soul gets his heart ripped out. This scene represents a LOT for me on a personal level, but it's also quite historical, and had a bigger impact on film as a whole than most moments in the series. I'm talking, this is up there with the opening scene to 'Raiders' in as far as how influential it has been. I mean, right off the bat, 'Mortal Kombat' fans will be reminded of Kano's fatality.
The scene in question goes like this. Indy, Shorty and Willie find a secret tunnel that leads them to the "Temple of Doom", where the first thing they witness is a Thuggee ceremony. This involves some poor guy in a cage, and Mola Ram taking his beating heart out of his chest. The man survives this process and is lowered into a pit of swirling fire while Mola Ram chants, and we see the rapidly beating heart catch on fire as he laughs maniacally. By the way, this is rated PG, and that's what makes this so historical.
Though this was released as a PG film, it, along with 'Gremlins', contained certain scenes of scary intensity for the kids. Afterwards, a new rating had to be created, which we now get as PG-13. But if you want a fantastic example of what you could get away with back in the day with PG, this is a great place to turn. Nowadays, something like this would be a solid PG-13 with parents strongly cautioned. On that not, however, I have Spielberg to thank for allowing me to take some of my first real footsteps into the horror genre with this. It's also a fine example of something that bothers me more now than it did back then, which means, it holds up pretty well in the "scare" category.
#10 - Fly in the Mouth
This is probably the one thing in 'Raiders' that I actually have to point out to people I'm watching it with. Most know a few factoids about this film by now (which I will mention later), but this particular scene is actually so intense that the funny moment is so easy to miss. The moment in question involves Indy's desperate scare tactic of threatening to blow up the Ark before the Nazis can use it to their advantage (or disadvantage, as we'd soon find out).
Indy makes the threat, and the exchange is actually something that helps shape Indy's character (several of these moments do that, actually). Belloq, in so many words, calls Indy's bluff, because he knows him better. Indy would never destroy anything so incredibly valuable, and it sort of turns out to be his Achilles heel (other than maybe snakes and Nazis). That's all well and good, and does make for a good moment, but it's all punctuated with about a second of watching a fly crawl into Belloq's mouth, as actor Paul Freeman manages to stay in character. However, this is a bit of a half-truth.
Freeman did, indeed, have to deal with a fly buzzing around him on set. However, according to some sources (like Freeman, himself), the bug never crawled into his mouth, but was edited to appear that way in order to give his character a bit more menace. Apparently the fly took flight just before it actually crawled into his mouth, and it was edited just right in post-production so as to cut away the "fly-off". That said, however, I still think it's far more fun to believe that bug just crawled into the man's mouth while he maintained focus.
#09 - Marion Ravenwood's Intro
A few 'Raiders' moments are a little easier to pinpoint than others, and were easier to jot down pretty quickly. But then there's the character of Marion Ravenwood, and I wasn't really sure where to mention her, or what her best moment was, etc. Marion's an interesting character. I'd strongly consider her the best of the "Indy Women", but she can still be seen doing some silly stuff. She's like a damsel in distress who can still hold her own despite the distress.
However, if i was to choose a moment for her, it would pretty well have to be her intro. We first see her at her bar in Patan, Nepal in the midst of a drinking contest, where she manages to drink a big lug of a man under the table. Soon, her bar is visited by Indy, where we get a few establishing lines of a previous relationship between them. Then, her bar is invaded by Toht and friends, who have come looking for the same medallion Indy's after. This ultimately results in a fiery bar fight where we see Marion can certainly hold her own. Toht also fries his hand here on the red hot medallion, which is admittedly a couple of seconds of stand-out just because 'Raiders' did it before 'Home Alone' made it so popular by using a doorknob instead.
Marion isn't what I'd call a total badass. She's no Ellen Ripley. But she's a hell of a lot more useful than Willie from 'Temple of Doom', and a hell of a lot more interesting than Elsa from 'Last Crusade' (at least in my humble opinion). I must not be alone on this either, since she was the one they chose to "resurrect" for 'Crystal Skull'. All in all, it's a pretty solid but seemingly overlooked sequence of events.
#08 - The Ark Reveal/R2-D2 & C3P0
It's interesting to think about this moment being a little far down the list since the Ark is the whole driving force behind this story. But in a strange, roundabout way, that's also what makes this part so good. As Indy and Sallah find the Ark and load it into a crate to be hoisted up, we see the great care they have for it as professionals. This later comes into play when we reach the Ark-opening scene, but it's incredibly subtle.
The big takeaway between this scene and the aforementioned Ark-opening is that we get an understanding, without any real use of extensive exposition, that Indy knows his shit when it comes to the Ark. Yes, there's the conversation in the beginning when the plot is getting set up. But between these two specific scenes, Indy's character is very well-shaped, as we eventually pick up that he's biblically educated as well - which we soon see more of when we get to 'Last Crusade'.
After saying all that, there is one other minor detail about this scene that most of the internet probably knows by this point. During the bit where Indy and Sallah are physically lifting the Ark out of its enclosure, in the background, on Indy's side, to the left of the screen, you can make out a glyph of 'Star Wars' droids, R2-D2 and C-3P0; one of those early movie Easter eggs that just about everyone managed to miss the first few times watching. Just Google "Raiders Droids", and you'll be able to find a decent pic of this pointed out.
#07 - "Why Did it Have to be Snakes?"
This film is loaded with great moments and great lines of dialogue, but my personal favourite was always this exchange between Indy and Sallah. After locating and unveiling the Well of Souls - the final resting place of the Ark, it's revealed that the room is packed with snakes of all shapes and sizes. It has been established that Indy hates snakes at this point, so a helpless-looking Indy rolls onto his back and utters "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"
That particular line has sort of helped define Indiana Jones in a way I can totally relate to, as I also pretty much hate snakes to the point where I've never held one, and really don't care to try. However, the line is then punctuated by Sallah's almost seemingly forgotten line; "Asps. Very dangerous... You go first!" which may be the funniest line in the film (although debatable), based on Sallah's delivery and Indy's response, which is just a look of "... you're serious?" The surrounding effects of thunder and lightning at night time during all this really adds to the fear factor as well.
I would go ahead and extend this moment into the Well of Souls, where Indy drops and comes face-to-face with a cobra, as seen in the accompanying picture. This was a real face-to-face moment but was filmed between a pane of glass for safety measures. In fact, I believe that on certain angles, you can manage to glance the snake's reflection - if you're not too busy trying to wind down from how tense this face-to-face scene is. Maybe it's just me, but it always gives me the chills.
#06 - The Brute Mechanic Fight
I think nowadays this scene isn't quite as iconic as it used to be, but it does still have some power. I'm sure I've seen it parodied more than once, but the one that really stands out involved one of Peter Griffin's many Giant Chicken fights on 'Family Guy'. That said, I still think the scene holds up pretty well as some nice, suggestive PG... although not nearly as suggestive as one particular scene I haven't brought up quite yet.
This is when Indy and Marion manage to escape the Well of Souls through a series of incredibly dusty and scary skeletons that keep popping up like it's a spook house. In their attempt to intercept the Ark before it's too late, Indy is sidetracked by a mountain of a man who just wants a good bare-knuckle brawl, and calls out Indy for a "dance". Of course, Indy can't do much to the guy, but the problem is eventually solved as the somewhat out-of-control plane (the Flying Wing) they're fighting alongside slices the brute into a blood smoothie with its propeller.
The brute mechanic was portrayed by actor/stuntman Pat Roach (NOT the guy from 'Trailer Park Boys' before he ate too many cheeseburgers). This guy was actually in a bunch of stuff as some kind of small role through the 80s and 90s. He can first be seen as an uncredited Milkbar Bouncer in 'A Clockwork Orange', and has since played a "tank" of sorts in various roles, as well as being involved in wrestling under the name "Bomber" Roach. But I'm fairly certain that if he's known for any one role, it almost has to be this one.
#05 - The Map Room
While 'Indiana Jones' is very much focused on action and adventure in archaeology, one cannot deny that each of these films has a sort of magical element to them as well. That's not to say that this scene involves literal magic, but I might suggest that it's at least full of wonder. It involves Indy stumbling on something very awe-inspiring, he's all on his own when it happens, and the expression on his face says everything he's feeling in the moment.
The scene in question involves Indy going down into an overlooked map room while their rival diggers are busy searching all around them. Everything sort of comes together in this scene from what we've experienced up to that point; specifically the Staff of Ra, the medallion mentioned in "Marion's Intro", and the sun rising at the perfect time of day. The sun shines through the Staff of Ra, shining an almost laser-focused beam on the area one would have to dig in order to find the Ark - the Well of Souls, as mentioned in "Why Did it Have to be Snakes?".
What really makes things shine here, however, is John Williams' score. See, each Indy film has the theme music we all know and love but is accompanied by another very specific theme as well. This is where we hear that theme in full force. Altogether, the scene is just sort of full of eerie mystery and awe, and it manages to be a little more iconic than the reveal of the Ark of the Covenant, itself, which somehow didn't quite match up to how wondrous this scene was. At least not for yours truly.
#04 - The Chase Scene
Back in the early 90s, and I'm sure very few will remember this, but there were two parodies of 'Raiders' called 'Pasadena Jones' - one was on an episode of 'America's Funniest Home Videos', and another was a segment in 'Tiny Toon Adventures' entitled 'Pasadena Jones and the Secret of Life'. Both heavily featured parodies of this particular scene, and it may even parallel the whole opening in how much it's used.
The scene is essentially when the Nazis intercept the Ark after Indy and Sallah manage to find it. Indy goes after the truck that the Ark is loaded on, riding a horse at full speed, and the action ensues from there for a good eight to ten minutes or so as our hero pursues the Ark as the enemy stops at nothing to try to take him out - but Indy's a hero who holds on, as you can clearly see in the accompanying photo.
While watching this scene this time around, I couldn't help but feel this tremendous longing for the way action scenes like this were filmed back in the day. Real vehicles, real stunts, and the John Williams accompanying score *chef's kiss* it's cinematic gold, and completely holds up to this day. Add to all that the idea of Ford actually being dragged for some of these shots resulting in bruised ribs for the sake of his art - and Ford does love this character, as far as I've read. It's one of the most iconic action scenes of all time.
#03 - Opening the Ark
So this scene is actually a pretty major spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen this movie, but it simply can't be overlooked, and I'm also willing to bet it's been long enough that spoilers probably shouldn't matter at this point. This is what would be considered the climactic part of the story where the baddies get punished for disturbing the contents of the Ark upon opening it.
In every 'Indiana Jones' movie, there is some sort of supernatural horror element. In 'Raiders', it involves an intense soundtrack reminiscent of the 'Psycho' theme, screaming, melting faces and exploding heads, all complete with some pretty disturbingly creative sound effects like gargling on one's own melted flesh and blood. All the while, Indy and Marion remain safe with their eyes closed throughout the process. That's probably for the best because the scene is pretty horrific but DOES show the world nowadays what we could get away with, with old school PG!
I didn't really understand until recently exactly why Indy and Marion were safe with their eyes shut, but assumed it had something to do with a sort of respect for not "looking into the eyes of God" so to speak. Apparently, however, according to some Bible verses unbeknownst to this agnostic, one can't touch or look into the Ark, hence why the Ark is carried with long poles. It's always fun to learn little details like that while researching scenes.
#02 - Indy's Got a Gun
Another iconic scene that everyone knows about by now is the scene where Indy encounters an impressively talented swordsman, showing off his skills. The script called for there to be a sort of showdown between the two characters. However, on the day of filming, Harrison Ford was suffering from a stomach bug, and thus the simple shot was fired, and Ford improvised one of the best pieces of comedy throughout the film.
Some other information I found out about this scene, however, was just how long the scripted piece originally was. Indy, sure enough, would have been showing off his skills with his whip, and it was meant to establish how Indy used his whip in combat, eventually besting this swordsman with it. According to Spielberg, there was even meant to be a gag in which the swordsman cuts a marketman's meat perfectly, for which he's thanked.
I do often wonder what the film would look like with this iconic fight, as we really don't see his whip used a hell of a lot as a weapon so much as a handy tool. But with that said, I think it's safe to say that the scene Ford gave us stands out much better as not only a comedic bit of the film, but it shows a bit more of Indy's personality. The scene was improvised, yet so iconic that it was (almost) repeated in 'Temple of Doom'.
#01 - The Entire Opening Sequence
This isn't just the #1 moment in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', but it's probably the most iconic moment in 'Indiana Jones' history. We all know how it goes - Indy heads through a Peruvian jungle and temple, where he retrieves a mysterious golden idol and famously gets chased by a giant boulder after setting off a booby trap.
The scene plain and simply defines 'Indiana Jones', and tells you everything you need to know about the guy. We get that he has the capability to kill, he doesn't take any shit, he's clever and calculating when it comes to his work, he's a snappy dresser, and he's willing to risk his life for his work if it means going after the important stuff, and of course, he "hates" snakes!
The scene, itself, ranges from the Paramount opening logo fade-in, all the way up to Indy escaping by the skin of his teeth into his friend Jock's plane (where the snake is encountered). It's easily one of the best movie openings in cinematic history, along with it being an iconic sequence that has been parodied countless times.