Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The Epitome of Adventure

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) perfected the adventure movie and broke new ground on the relic hunting culture we see on our screens today. Let’s face it: Without Raiders, there would be no Dora the Explorer, National Treasure, Nathan Drake, or even Animal Crossing!

The hunt for the holy relic is in our blood, and no gigantic rolling boulder, legion of Nazis, or pit of snakes are going to stop our legendary hero, Indian Jones.

After probably my dozenth viewing of this action-packed classic, I am still in awe at not just the tangible filmmaking effects, pyrotechnics, and actual stunt work (no CGI in 1981), but also John Williams’ complementary film score.

This is Director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, no doubt, but the correlation between melodic theme and characters (the leitmotif) is just as exciting as the action, and Williams deserves all the credit. Heck, even The Ark gets a theme, and when it is first seen in a dusty textbook at the Marshall College lecture hall, the music becomes hauntingly cerebral, foreshadowing doom and gloom for poor professor Jones.

Burly, dusty-mugged Harrison Ford is fantastic in the first of the what is to be a 5-movie series. His straightforward reaction in the infamous Sword vs. Gun scene is just as priceless as his “No ticket” response in “The Last Crusade.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark is Spielberg’s ode to his favorite movie, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), with the additional touch of a B-movie blockbuster. (“B-movie” was actually his intention.) Spielberg and producer George Lucas ended up creating an adventure movie travelogue for dozens of movies, television shows, and video games to follow. Arrow-spray booby traps, Luftwaffe aircraft explosions, and a non-stop car chase continue to flood our memories and hold their place in Hollywood lore.

For me today, it’s all about John Williams’ music, which acts like a second character and further intensifies the archeological hunt. With leitmotifs attached to clues, we hear just as much adventure as we see. And, yes, what we see is a bit dated when compared to the overabundance of CGI in today’s movies. But, when Indiana Jones is your protagonist with a built-in musical theme most moviegoers recognize, this quickly becomes more about the adventure than the special effects.

Thank you for reading and keep watching those movies!

Reely Bernie

29 thoughts on “Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The Epitome of Adventure

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    1. Gosh, you’re right! I didn’t view all of it, but right away, you can observe the tone, color, adventure, and hero in the hat origin right away! I had no idea something “Raiders of the Lost Ark” had already preconceived “Raiders of the Lost Ark!” Thanks for the share!


  1. If anything, this series is the direct grandfather of all modern takes on the Golden Age adventure serial. Temple of Doom is my personal favorite entry, but credit must be given where credit is due.

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  2. I think this is my favourite adventure movie. As a cinematic work of art in this realm: it’s the best I’ve seen. Although Bogart in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ is close on its heels. Also Capra’s ‘Lost Horizon’ (1937) which got the ball rolling is a good contender too.

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    1. So jealous you got to see it in the cinema! My first introduction was a VHS tape, but then it’s been re-releases in small, indie theatre and home theatres. Such a perfect film – it’s always enjoyable no matter what. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a huge fan of this first one and “Last Crusade.” “Temple of Doom” didn’t sit well with me when I was younger, but I’m curious about a revisit… Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It has everything you would want… the music, humor, and action. We just watched the series a few months ago. It’s refreshing to see a movie that is not 1. Dark 2. “Gritty” 3. Free of CGI… just a good case of escapism.

    Liked by 3 people

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