Steven Spielberg is quite possibly the most imaginative and diverse director of his generation, and this is best seen in his blockbuster legend Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones’ (Harrison Ford) cinematic debut has him fighting Nazis around the world in a breathtaking adventure movie that only Spielberg could make. Since then, action movies followed Raiders’ example and Indy’s presence was never forgotten.
But like the serial adventures that inspired Spielberg and George Lucas to create Indy, some parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark didn’t age well. None of these detract from the movie’s cultural impact and its entertainment value, but they cast some harsh light on what is normally seen as an adventurous and light-hearted throwback. Here are 10 things from Raiders of the Lost Ark that didn’t age well.
10 The Prologue
Raiders of the Lost Ark overflows with iconic moments, with its prologue being one of the best opening acts in cinematic history. Here, Indy braves a trap-filled temple to get his hands on an ancient artifact. Because of how effective this sequence was, it became the subject of parody ever since it was first seen in cinemas.
From Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF to The Simpsons to even Disaster Movie, imitating Indy’s action-packed introduction is practically a cottage industry. Chicken Little took this to the extreme by literally showing the scene before the boulder rolled in.
9 World War 2 In General
While it takes place a few years before global war broke out, Raiders of the Lost Ark was still made with World War II firmly lodged in its mind. As if the Nazis didn’t make things obvious enough, Indy and his friends represent the Allied Forces that would later team up to end the war.
The aesthetic can make for fun period pieces, but World War II itself has become a cliché. Today, setting a story during the war is seen as a shortcut to gaining audience sympathy since the genre’s simplistic morals are basically premade.
8 Funny Nazis and the Mystic Arts
Cartoonishly evil Nazis are practically a tradition of heightened World War II fiction, with Raiders of the Lost Ark featuring its famously occult-obsessed members of the Third Reich. As delightfully villainous as Major Toht and company may be, their characterizations still ignored the inhuman ideals that real-world Nazis believed.
Spielberg seemingly acknowledged this as proven by his Holocaust drama Schindler’s List and the works that followed. No longer were Nazis depicted as silly bad guys for someone to beat up. Instead, they were shown in all of their monstrosity and inhumanity.
7 Destructive Archeology
A common joke about Indiana Jones is how much he sucks at being an archeologist. He may know everything about ancient cultures and their histories, but he habitually destroys their places of worship every time he drops by.
In reality, archeologists take great pains to keep their dig sites as intact as possible. Indy, on the other hand, demolishes a Peruvian and Egyptian place of worship over the course of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sure, he had to escape certain death hence the collateral damage but he’s still terrible at preserving ancient structures for future generations’ benefit.
6 Indy Is A Graverobber
The field of archeology has come under scrutiny today thanks to hindsight, with many nations calling out former colonial powers for stealing their ancient culture’s artifacts in the name of insensitive academic pursuit that disregards countries’ histories.
A good example of this in Raiders of the Lost Ark is the prologue where Indy steals an idol from an indigenous tribe because his museum probably needed a new attraction. Even the Ark of the Covenant wasn’t spared, which by the end is just stashed somewhere in Area 51 despite it being a literal Biblical superweapon.
5 Old-Timey Racism
Raiders of the Lost Ark and the rest of Indy’s adventures were inspired by the pulp serial that Spielberg and Lucas enjoyed as kids, which explains the movies’ many anachronistic elements such as unintentional racism.
Simply put, people of non-Western nationalities are shown as exotic caricatures at best and non-white bad guys at worst. The Hovitos tribe, Toht’s Nepalese gunmen, and the Egyptians only exist to hinder or help Indy, having little to no agency to speak of. While their depictions are a product of the archaic adventurer genre’s trappings, the racially insensitive subtext can’t be ignored.
One of Indy’s best friends is Sallah, a fellow archeologist and excavator who’s known for his jovial attitude. He’s also an Egyptian who’s portrayed by the Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies in both Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade.
To the filmmakers’ credit, Sallah is a fun and well-written supporting character who was expertly brought to life by Davis. Still, this doesn’t excuse the casting of a Welshman for a character clearly written as an Egyptian. The fact that Davis actually spent majority of his youth in Tanzania because his father was a colonial officer doesn’t help matters.
3 Indiana Jones
Since he’s based on the likes of Doc Savage, it shouldn’t be surprising to say that Indiana Jones is an outdated archetype. This isn’t just because explorers aren’t famous, but because of his attitude and mannerisms.
Indy is a stereotypical man’s man, someone who’s so manly that even as an academic his forte is punching people. Because he’s the hero, he gets away with casual misogyny, violence, and has to heroically dodge women’s affection (ex. One of his students). This doesn’t make him terrible, but his example is better left in the confines of cinema and mythmaking.
2 Marion Ravenwood
Like many female leads in action movies of the period, Marion Ravenwood is a proactive woman capable of fighting but still needs a man. A man who, in Indy’s case, she’s constantly irritated by and has legitimate reason to hate him.
When she’s not fighting, Marion is often stuck with people who want to take advantage of her. Pirate captain Katanga even saves her life by claiming she’s a sex slave to be sold. To be fair, Marion is the series’ best female lead but given her role in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the bar’s set pretty low.
1 Indy and Marion’s Relationship
Indy and Marion’s love is considered to be the true romance of the Indiana Jones series. Too bad its origins are creepy.
When they first meet in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Marion yells at Indy for taking advantage of her when she was “a child.” She was being literal, as the novelization confirms that she was 15 when she slept with Indy – who was in his ‘20s. Legally speaking, that's a huge no-no. Worsening this is the revelation that Indy left her on their wedding before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, further sullying Indy’s reputation among fans.