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Indiana Jones Complete Movie Timeline Explained

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A complex timeline has emerged over the course of the Indiana Jones movie franchise, which first began in 1981. Helmed by director Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford in another career-making role (in addition to playing Han Solo), the Indiana Jones movies span more than 30 years in real time and, within the franchise, a little more than 20 years. That is, if you don't count all of the historical events which lie at the heart of each Indiana Jones installment.

The Indiana Jones movies follow Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr., a professor in archaeology who also happens to go out into the field from time to time and find himself wrapped up in some exciting adventures. With most of the franchise set during the 1930s and later picking up in the 1950s, audiences follow Indy as he travels across the world in order to find and preserve the world's greatest treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Along the way, there's gun-toting baddies, lots of ancient traps designed to set back would-be adventurers, and a diverse group of allies who join Indy for each film.

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Related: Is Aqua's Doctor Jones Actually About Indiana Jones?

The Indiana Jones movie timeline may be complex, but the release date timeline for the films are fairly easy to pin down. They are:

  • 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • 1984: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • 1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • 2008: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Now, this timeline doesn't account for the numerous novels and comics, as well as a '90s television show based on the Indiana Jones character. To be fair, it only makes things even more complex but what's important is all of these additional materials from the Indiana Jones world cover Indy's childhood, teenage, and young adult years. At the start of the first film in the franchise - chronologically speaking, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - Indy is 36 years old. Let's take a look at how the rest of the Indiana Jones timeline for Indy's adult years play out.

Indiana Jones Pre-History

An Alien in Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Each Indiana Jones adventure is based on a historical event (or, in the case Crystal Skull, a very fictional event involving aliens) which means key parts of every story happened centuries before a respective film begins. Here are some key dates in the Indiana Jones pre-history timeline.

  • Unknown: Aliens arrive in the Akator region of the Amazon in South America, giving local tribesman incredible amounts of knowledge. The tribes build the city of Akator in tribute to the alien explorers and accumulate a vast amount of gold and other treasures.
  • 1400 BC: The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments handed down by God and carried by Moses and the Hebrews through the desert, is created.
  • 1095: Sir Richard, a knight in the First Crusade, and his men find the Holy Grail in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon. One of the knights remained with the Grail and was discovered by Indy centuries later.
  • 1546: Francesco de Orellana disappears looking for Akator.
  • 1872: Henry Jones Sr. is born on December 12 in Scotland.
  • 1899: Henry Jones Jr. is born on July 1. He changes his name to Indiana during his childhood in memory of his beloved dog.
  • 1907-1920: As seen in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Indiana travels with his father, Henry Jones, Sr., his brother, and his mother across the world for his father's work from the age of 8 to 21. During his continent-spanning travels, Indiana often finds himself wrapped up in a new mystery or adventure which lays the foundation for the kind of thrill-seeking archaeologist he will eventually become.
  • 1912: Indiana has an encounter with a man in a Panama hat who attempts to steal a golden crucifix belonging to Coronado. During this encounter, he gets his famous chin scar after using a whip for the first time. His mother dies during this year, too.
  • 1926: Indiana gets romantically involved with Marion Ravenwood, the daughter of his mentor, Abner Ravenwood.

Related: Temple Of Doom's Human Sacrifice Scene Was Almost More Disturbing

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The Year: 1935

  • Shanghai: Indiana Jones flees the city after narrowly escaping the clutches on a local crime boss, Lao Che. He manages to escape with a nightclub singer, Willie Scott, and a 12-year-old boy named Short Round. The three stow away on a plane out of the city, believing they've made it out of Lao Che's grasp. What they fail to realize is the plane is owned by Lao Che. Lao Che's men dump fuel and parachute out of the plane, leaving Indiana, Willie, and Shorty to perish. The three once again make a narrow escape, taking a life raft, jumping out of the plane, and riding it down the river into the village of Mayapore, India.
  • Mayapore, India: Indiana, Willie, and Shorty all find safety in the village. They learn from the villagers that children have been disappearing, which they believe is connected to the disappearance of a sacred Shankara stone. They are directed to Pankot Palace by the villagers after being told the stone was taken from a temple in the area.
  • Pankot Palace: When they arrive at the village, Indiana questions the Pankot Palace Prime Minister, Chattar Lal. Lal rejects the idea that evil forces near Pankot Palace are the reason the Mayapore children are being stolen. Instead, he claims the Thuggee cult is behind the disappearances of the children and the Shankara stone. Indiana, Willie, and Shorty venture into an underground temple where they believe the Thuggee worship in hopes they might be more answers. Instead, they watch as the Thuggee sacrifice a human to the goddess Kali. It's revealed the Thuggee are using the stolen children to mine for the final two stones to complete the set of five Shankara stones which Indiana earlier hypothesized were the same fabled stones which would bring fortune and glory. Indiana, Willie, and Shorty are captured and separated by the Thuggee, led by high priest Mola Ram. Eventually, Shorty escapes his captors and gets to Indiana, who was forced to drink a potion called the Blood of Kali, making him highly suggestible by Mola Ram. Indiana retrieves all of the Shankara stones and they get the stolen Mayapore children. Mola Ram and the Thuggee pursue Indiana and the group through the jungle. Mola and Indiana struggle as they fight for control of the stones. Indiana remembers invoking the name of the goddess Shiva turns the stones white-hot. As Indiana does this, it burns Mola Ram's hands and he falls to his death. Indiana, Willie, and Shorty return to Mayapore, giving the children back to their families and the Shankara stones to the village.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Year: 1936

  • Peru: Indiana Jones is going into an ancient temple, successfully dodging multiple traps, all so he can retrieve a golden idol. As he is leaving the temple, he is confronted by rival archaeologist René Belloq. Indiana surrenders the idols to Belloq, and Belloq leaves.
  • Bedford, Connecticut: Indiana Jones returns to work as a professor in archaeology at Marshall College. He is approached by two Army Intelligence officers, who tell him the Nazis are pursuing Indiana's mentor, Abner Ravenwood. Abner apparently is in possession of a headpiece known as "the Staff of Ra" which the Nazis believe will lead them to the mystical city of Tanis in Egypt. Indiana theorizes the Nazis are in search of the Ark of the Covenant, which would give the Nazi army incredible power.
  • Nepal: After learning Abner is dead and his daughter, Marion Ravenwood, has the headpiece, Indiana travels to Nepal to find her. He locates her in a tavern - but not before a group of Nazis locate her first. A gunfight breaks out and Indiana and Marion narrowly escape with the headpiece.
  • Cairo: Indiana and Marion head for Cairo, where they meet up with Indiana's friend, Sallah. Sallah tells them Belloq and the Nazis are digging for the "Well of Souls" which they believe will take them right to the Ark. Indiana and Marion piece together that Belloq and the Nazis are digging in the wrong place. Indiana and Sallah infiltrate the Nazi campsite and attempt to use the headpiece to help get into the Well of Souls. The Nazis come upon them, take the Ark for themselves and try to seal Indiana and Sallah in there. The pair escape and manage to take control of the Ark during a high-speed car chase. All three get aboard a tramp steamer bound for London.
  • On an island in the Aegean Sea: A Nazi U-boat intercepts the tramp steamer, with Belloq emerging and taking the Ark, Indiana, and Marion captive. Belloq brings Indiana and Marion to an island in the Aegean Sea so they can witness Belloq test the powers of the Ark before presenting it to Adolf Hitler for his own purposes. Out of the Ark springs angels of death, which proceed to kill all of the Nazi soldiers. Indiana and Marion close their eyes to avoid looking at the angels and being killed. The fiery heat of the angels of death kills Belloq and the rest of the high command. The Ark then seals itself shut. Indiana and Marion bring the Ark back to the U.S., where the government takes possession of it for further research.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

The Year: 1938

  • The coast of Portugal: Indiana meets an old foe from his childhood, the Man in the Panama Hat. The two are engaged in a fight on Panama Hat's boat somewhere off the coast of Portugal. Indiana escapes the fight and takes back the cross of Coronado taken by Panama Hat when he first encountered Indiana more than 20 years prior.
  • Connecticut: Indiana receives word his father, Henry Jones, Sr., has disappeared while searching for The Holy Grail. Henry was using an inscription from a stone table as his guide. Indiana resolves to find his father.
  • Venice: Indiana takes colleague Marcus Brody to Italy with Henry's Grail diary, which he received days earlier. He meets Dr. Elsa Schneider, who was working with Henry to find the Grail. Indiana and Elsa go to the catacombs of a library where Henry was last seen. They find the complete stone table inscription from the tomb of a knight from the First Crusade. The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, sworn to protect the Grail, find out Indiana and Elsa are in the tomb and set the tomb on fire. The pair escape.
  • Turkey: Indiana and Elsa go to the Turkish city of İskenderun, a city built on the ruins of the city of Alexandretta. They meet with Sallah. Indiana and Elsa head to a Nazi-controlled castle where they believe Henry is being held. They find Henry but it's revealed Elsa is working for the Nazis in hopes Henry would lead her to the Grail so that she could hand it over to the Nazis. Henry tells Indiana the diary is the key to getting past three booby traps protecting the Grail and they resolve to get it from Marcus, who was entrusted with the diary when he and Indiana parted ways in Italy. They learn Marcus has been kidnapped by the Nazis, and the Nazis are forcing Marcus to reveal information from Henry's diary to lead them to the site of the Holy Grail.
  • Hatay: Indiana saves Marcus and Henry from the clutches of the Nazis after Henry, too, was briefly kidnapped by them. Indiana, Henry, Marcus, and Sallah follow the Nazis to the Grail site. Indiana and Henry follow Elsa and another Nazi conspirator down to the tomb where the Grail is believed to be. The tomb is guarded by a 700-year-old knight who has been kept alive by the Grail, which is hidden amongst many similar chalices. Indiana chooses the right Grail and manages to heal his father, who had been wounded while giving chase to the Nazis. The knight warns them the Grail can't leave the tomb but Elsa ignores this, causing the tomb to crumble. Elsa plummets to her death but Indiana and Henry make it out alive. Indiana, Henry, Marcus, and Sallah ride off into the sunset.
  • Location unknown: Marion gives birth to Mutt Williams. Indiana is the father but he doesn't find out until 19 years later when Mutt shows up, asking for his help.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

The Year: 1957

  • Nevada: Indiana and George "Mac" McHale are kidnapped by a group of Soviets led by Dr. Irina Spalko. They are taken to Area 51 (Hangar 51 in-universe) and ordered to find the body of a mummified alien Irina wants to investigate. Mac reveals he's a double agent and Indiana unsuccessfully attempts to take the alien body from Spalko. Instead, Indiana escapes Area 51 and ends up on a nuclear test site, where he survives a bomb test and is apprehended by FBI agents. The agents suspect him of working for the Soviets but Indiana denies this.
  • Connecticut: Indiana is forced on an indefinite leave of absence because of the FBI's allegations. Shortly afterward, Indiana is approached by Mutt Williams, who asks for Indiana's help in finding Harold Oxley. Oxley was a friend of the Williams family, including Mutt's mother (later revealed to be Marion Ravenwood); Oxley was also a classmate of Indiana's at Oxford. Mutt says Oxley sent his mother a letter written in an ancient South American language. Indiana cracks it and figures out the pair must go to Peru.
  • Peru: Indiana and Mutt investigate the psychiatric hospital where they believe Oxley was held after his search for Akator went awry. They believe Oxley was attempting to find the same ancient city - Akator - that Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana was trying to find in the 16th century after decoding scribbles on the walls of Oxley's cell. Indiana and Mutt are captured by Soviets after successfully locating Orellana's grave and discovering a crystal skull buried in Orellana's tomb. They theorize Oxley found the skull but ultimately tried to put it back before his disappearance.
  • The Peruvian jungle: The Soviets take Indiana and Mutt to their campsite, where Spalko waits with Mac, Oxley, and, much to Indiana's surprise, Marion. Oxley is shown to have gone mad, which Spalko reasons was from looking into a crystal skull for too long before putting it in Orellana's grave. Oxley speaks in riddles but his code, everyone learns, are the coordinates to Akator. Indiana, Spalko, Mutt, Marion, Mac, and Oxley all set off for Akator. During their travels, a fight ensues as Indiana, Marion, Mutt, and Mac try to break away from Spalko. The teams separate, with Indiana and his group getting a head start to Akator.
  • Akator: Indiana and the group successfully make it past all of the booby traps leading down into the belly of Akator's largest building. In one room, they discover vast amounts of treasure. In another room, they find ancient alien skeletons. Spalko arrives on the scene, having been left a trail of transceivers thanks to Mac, who is still working with the Soviets. Indiana places the missing crystal skull on an alien body and the aliens come to life. Spalko attempts to step forward and gain all of the knowledge the aliens have acquired so she can use it for Soviet means. Spalko is overwhelmed by the knowledge and dies. Akator begins to self-destruct after it's revealed the aliens left their spaceship underneath the building. Indiana, Marion, Mutt, and Oxley make it out alive but Mac sacrifices himself.
  • 1959, Connecticut: Marion and Indiana get married. Indiana returns to work at Marshall College and is made associate dean.

Next: Indiana Jones 5: Here's Why It’s Been Delayed

Key Release Dates
  • Indiana Jones 5 (2021) release date: Jul 09, 2021
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