Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Think for a moment about when you were five, ten or even fifteen. What was your favorite movie at that time? When was the last time you watched it? Does it hold up to time? What made that movie your favorite?

For me, movies are the best time capsule out there. Thinking about where and when I saw a certain movie can take me back to a certain period of my life and, sometimes, that film can almost transport me back to when I originally saw it.

I remember 1993 was the year of Jurassic Park because I watched it constantly at the theatre that summer both in my hometown of Quincy and my new city of Decatur. I remember in the summer of 1997 that I saw everything that was at the theatre because it was after I turned 16, so I had a way to get to the cinema thanks to my drivers license and money to pay for the films thanks to my paycheck from my first job.

I can verify January through May of 1998 was a terrible time for films because I just started dating my future wife and we went on date after date to terrible movies. The Lord of the Rings movies will always remind me of college because I was staying up late the night before a major final to see the midnight shows. The Departed was the last film I saw before I became a dad because I was worried about my wife calling me during the show and telling me she was in labor.

I am about to hit a major milestone in turning 30 in a few months and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the last 30 years and rewatch the biggest hit at the box-office of each year. Some of these movies I have watched countless times and I know every single thing about them, some of these films I haven’t watched since they were first released and some I don’t know if I have ever watched all the way through.

How will time judge these films, are they still the biggest movies of that period or has something become better associated with that year? Why were they such big hits, what made them connect with the audiences more than any other film that year? To answer some of these questions, let start the 30 years, 30 films projects with 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I honestly don’t remember a time before Indiana Jones. But since I was born only 3 or so months before the first movie was unleashed in theatres, that isn’t such a bold statement. In fact, Indiana Jones has always been nestled deep into my pop culture subconscious as if I were brainwashed by Steven Spielberg himself.

Even before I ever watched the films there were four things that I knew; Indy always had a whip, he got chased by a big boulder, he fought bad guys with his fists and that he was 100% genuinely a cool guy. The movie made so much money ($242 million or $700 million when adjusted for inflations) and had such goodwill that it turned Harrison Ford into a genuine leading man.

Now 30 years later, Indiana Jones has become such a cultural signpost, that people could not know a thing about the films and still knows who Indiana Jones is and what he looks like. But, what do I think of the movie?

I can say without any kind of doubt that I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the few perfect films ever made. I could look at the film frame by frame, and I wouldn't take out a second of the film from beginning to end. The dialogue, characters, direction, editing, music and action are all perfect. Even for some of my favorite movies, there is a scene that I think could have been cut or a character that was superfluous to the movie. In Raiders, everything has a purpose and furthers the movie along.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is also a film that never slows down; the film builds and builds some more. Many critics use the term a roller coaster ride to lazily describe the newest action film, but for this movie I would say that is very apt.

One of my favorite things about this film is the airplane fight/truck chase part of the film, which I believe is the best-choreographed action scene ever put on film. The scene is almost dialogue free and never segues into a cheap visual gag that later Spielberg films fell into many times. The scene is lean, mean and an example of how sometimes less is better. Watch the scene again with fresh eyes and notice how everything works together flawlessly. The sound, music, acting, selection of shots, how it was edited and the directing were all perfect and gelled together to make 10+ minutes of action movie bliss. Many people would probably put the opening of Saving Private Ryan as Spielberg at his best, but this would definitely be my choice.

I have loved Raiders of the Lost Ark since I was a young kid and I still do love it, only the reasons have changed. Originally I loved the movie because of the great action and people’s faces melting off. There is nothing cooler to a 7-year-old boy then melting faces!

Now I love the movie because it is one of the best examples of how a big summer move should be made and it is a lesson itself on how to create a thrilling action scene. When 80’s movies are discussed, one of, if not the first, movies mentioned is typically Indiana Jones, and for once I believe all of the popularity and success is well earned.

Posted by Ryan

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