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Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Return of the Great Adventure. 

Year: 1981 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 (70mm) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Steven Spielberg 
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman  
An image from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

In 1936, Hitler and his Third Reich are searching for the legendary Ark of the Covenant, the resting place of the Ten Commandments. To beat him in this mission, the U.S. government turn to archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). Enlisting the help of old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), our hero travels over the world to defeat the Nazis and their leader, rival Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman).

The film is a classic for a reason – from the opening moments, it grips you and doesn’t let you go, and it is such good fun that you are happy to go along for the ride. It’s so full of action and energy that it builds and builds to its brilliant, famous climax. Indy is one of the iconic characters of cinema, and arguably Harrison Ford’s best ever role – a wise-cracking hero, clad with fedora and whip, whose adventures are full of so many classic moments, accentuated by the brilliant score by John Williams, you’d struggle to choose a favourite.

This story has everything – amongst the action, we have humour and a smattering of romance, all presented in an almost comic book style that suits perfectly. Nothing feels superfluous, and it is exhilarating storytelling at its best – Spielberg directed an epic tale, and very few action films succeeded in living up to its very high standard. Simply put, Raiders of the Lost Ark is incredibly entertaining – what more would you want?

Really, the film has got the lot – a perfect collection of action set pieces, thrilling sequences and humour, all held together by a charismatic and likable hero. If you haven’t seen Raiders, you are missing out of one of the best films in cinema history, and if you have, you know you want to see it again already.

Reece Goodall


It seems difficult to believe that there are people out there who have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, who have never spent a Christmas evening enthralled by the ever-increasing sense of wonderment that pervades the film. Quite simply, “Raiders” is the most exciting, dynamic, visually outstanding, perfectly plotted adventure film ever made. Of course, people will flock to argue with this fact, but they are all wrong, so we can discount them altogether.

In the role that sent him stellar, Harrison Ford plays the intrepid, laconic Dr Indiana Jones – by day a mild mannered archaeology professor, but when necessary the whip-cracking, baddie smashing, snake-hating adventurer that every boy in his right mind wishes to become one day. It’s difficult to imagine anyone more perfect for the role – Ford’s wry grin, rugged good looks and sense of deep intellect set him apart as the kind of hero men want to be and women want to be too. And to be fair, this entirely Ford’s film. The evil Nazi with the scarred hand puts up a valiant fight, although Karen Allen quickly surrenders to the borderline misogynistic “damsel-in-distress” role.

The plot, if anyone is unaware of it, is about a race to recover to mighty Ark of the Covenant, in which are supposedly concealed the Ten Commandments, but who cares – it’s all an excuse for thrills, spills, fights and action galore, as well as some of the most gruesome sequences to ever escape the BBFC offices with a PG certificate. The list of classic sequences is endless – the opening scene is one of the most memorable and lampooned of all time. From then on the pace never lets up, as Spielberg unleashes a whole array of cinematic tricks and directorial masterstrokes which leave the viewer breathless with the sheer exhilaration of it all. The finale, in which the Ark is recovered and the powers unleashed allows Spielberg and Lucas to let lose, like little children, all the lights, blood and special effects that they want, and along the way we all cheer them for their exuberance.

To say that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is the seminal action film of the eighties is not only justifiable, but unarguable. Providing the blueprint for hundreds of wise-cracking action heroes, John McClane of “Die Hard” fame being an obvious example, Indiana Jones nevertheless remains the greatest, biggest and best, and this is his most exciting adventure. This is the film to see if you want to rediscover everything that is wonderful about action cinema. Beautifully filmed, tightly plotted and endlessly rewatchable, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will survive as a testament to Spielberg’s genius, Ford’s charisma, and cinema’s unique and vital power to entertain and thrill.

Greg Taylor

The definition of the roller-coaster ride movie, Spielberg's masterful reworking of Saturday matinee serials is an unforgettable box-office smash. Follow the adventures of Indiana Jones, the archeologist with a penchant for whips and booby-traps, as he searches across the globe for the eponymous ark with evil Nazis hot on his tail.

It's hard to believe that Raiders is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year; it doesn't seem all that long ago that the movie was taking the box-office by storm and thrilling (or scaring the hell out of) a new generation of adventure-seeking kids. This unique Lucas/Spielberg collaboration has written itself into movie history - it is the best of its kind for amazing thrills, stunning sets and sequences, and bloodcurdlingly dangerous stunts.

Who can forget the moment when Jones (who was originally to be played by Tom Selleck - can you believe it?) shoots dead an impressive swordsman on the street of Cairo? (Brought abouts by the fact that Ford has diarrhoea and couldn't do a long swordfight scene at the time!) Who can forget the breath-taking stunts in the truck chase? Or Industrial Light and Magic's amazing effects for the horrifying opening of the Ark? These are magical movie moments which are best experienced in the full glory of the widescreen cinema. Don't you dare miss the chance.

Mark Chambers

It all began in the summer of '81 with this, the first of an exotic trilogy inspired by B-movies and films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; because at the end of the day Raiders - and its successors - are lust for gold movies. Okay, so Indy is somewhere down in South America in 1936. He's questing for a gold idol. He finds it, but boy does he pay the price! This famous sequence is what has come to symbolize the world of Indiana Jones - the ultimate screen hero of the 1980s.

With Fedora, leather jacket and bullwhip to hand, Indy soon finds himself in pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant. In the process, he teams up with old flame Marion Ravenwood (Allen) and together they make a terrific duo. Marion gets captured, Indy gets closer and closer to the Ark, and eventually, with the help of Sallah (Rhys-Davies), he finally gets it but the Nazis soon recapture it. In a now classic chase reminiscent of many Westerns, and Stagecoach especially, Indy just won't give up on his goal (that's why he connects with audiences) and when all is said and done those who should still be alive are, and those who shouldn't be aren't.

Indy's creator, George Lucas, summarized Raiders as `Either the Nazis are chasing Indy, or he's chasing them'. Simple but accurate, and it's a tradition displayed more wildly in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


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Screenings of this film:

1984/1985 Autumn Term (16mm)
1991/1992 Autumn Term (35mm)
1993/1994 Autumn Term (70mm)
1995/1996 Summer Term (35mm)
1997/1998 Spring Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Spring Term (70mm)
2006/2007 Autumn Term (70mm)
2014/2015 Autumn Term (35mm)