#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.