2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
This has to be amongst the greatest trilogy conclusions in history.
The Last Crusade is a Steven Spielberg blockbuster in every sense of the word, borrowing sequences and imagery from the silent era and the Westerns of the 40s and 50s, and making them flow seamlessly from world-ending stakes to moments of levity. Here, every scene is funny yet thrilling and every reaction shot is perfectly timed, each edit paced with pristine accuracy.
This is a timeless message of how good overcomes evil every single time, and yet it feels the most intimate to Indiana Jones of the five films released in his name thus far. We see the whip-toting cowboy-adjacent archaeologist tirelessly trying to step out of the shadow of his father (played by Sean Connery – a noteworthy cast choice given that it was his Bond that inspired much of the Jones character) and see him struggle with the difference between who he is and who he wants to be, ultimately rejoicing as he yet again overcomes the odds, this time as much for himself as for the fate of the world.
Unlike Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade doesn’t aim too young, and unlike Kingdom of the Crystal Skull it knows how to bulk up the character and pay homage to moments from the previous films without lessening the impact of the movies that came before it, making for a classic Indiana Jones adventure and one of the best films of its type ever made.
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1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Steven Spielberg was in his highest gear when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out and it shows. This 1981 release is a modern and simultaneously classic actioner, and every bit the modernised western serial the director and his producer (and friend) George Lucas had hoped for.
Here, the Nazis are the villains, but Raiders doesn’t get too bogged down in telling us about how evil they are – it’s very much a show don’t tell approach, Spielberg and company rinsing every moment of every chase, every fight and every confrontation for as much tension as they can, and producing a blockbuster masterpiece in the process.The film is a showcase of the Spielbergian tropes we have since grown used to, only all put to screen before the great director had the chance to overthink them.
In 1981, Harrison Ford was one of the biggest stars on Earth, and while he wasn’t the production’s first choice as its lead, he is an undeniable gift, his charisma balanced by the gleam of childlike glee in his eyes every time an enticing situation presents itself.
Meanwhile, Industrial Light and Magic were set on proving their developing reputation as revolutionisers of visual effects with some unforgettable moments that enhance the film’s final act, and composer John Williams offered a typically phenomenal score with an all-time great theme to boot.
This is how you make a Blockbuster.
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What do you make of our ranking? Would you have swapped any of our entries around? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more articles like this one.
Updates to include Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 13th July 2023. Originally published 10th November 2020.