Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★★★

"Top...men."

Admittedly it has been a good while since I last saw Raiders of the Lost Ark but it still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it and as though it is my first time experiencing it. I would consider that the first and most important aspect of any iconic film: how fresh it feels even after 39 years.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Raiders the iconic film it is without quoting every line of dialogue from the script, screen grabbing every frame of Steven Spielberg's masterful direction, humming every note of John Williams' adventure-laden score or marvelling at Harrison Ford's everyman performance.

What brings all those elements together, for me, is the Ark of the Covenant. The conversations between Indy and Marcus as they quickly begin to realise the scale of the Ark's discovery and the giddiness they feel about its mere existence give me goosebumps. The Staff of Ra gives me goosebumps. The Well of Souls and the literal unearthing of the Ark gives me goosebumps. And John Williams manages to convey a mere hint at the divine power of the Ark with his eery, almost unearthly, theme for it.

The Ark also proves that Indiana Jones could and should be considered as one of cinema's greatest superheroes. Jones is an everyman, a highly-educated one at that, but he is but one man. He cannot even begin comprehend the power contained within the Ark, and chooses not to because he is a 'good' man and believes in what is right - he literally stands up to an entire army to uphold that belief. One man. And to hammer home the everyman that Jones is, he doesn't even succeed in his quest. He loses. But his sheer will and defence of what is 'good' and what is 'right' triumphs over the forces of evil (with a little help from God).

Raiders of the Lost Ark is adventure. It may tackle themes like the power of God and good vs. evil but at its core, it appeals to the 10 year-old inside us yearning for a life of adventure. If The Empire Strikes Back hadn't come out the year before, I'd happily declare Raiders the greatest film ever made.

1981 ranked
Indiana Jones ranked
Steven Spielberg ranked

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