The Indiana Jones movies are hailed as one of the most beloved and classic franchises in Hollywood history, with the all-too-famous archeologist that sports a hat and whip at the forefront of the story. Despite their fame and family fun, the first three films were instrumental in creating the now-familiar PG-13 movie rating.
Many children — and even adults, honestly — of the 1980s were completely traumatized by the horrifying scene near the closing of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) when evil Nazi Ernst Toht’s (Ronald Lacey) head melts.
The special effect was achieved by time-lapsing a wax head exposed to numerous heat lamps. The wax head slowly melted and Steven Spielberg sped up the footage to make it appear as though the Wrath of God melted the Nazi antagonist’s evil head in a few seconds.
That’s not all, though. The main protagonist, Dr. Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), completely lost his head — literally. In a sequence of seeing the Angel of Death in the Ark of the Covenant, his head explodes.
You can watch a behind-the-scenes of the special effects here:
Raiders of the Lost Ark nearly received an R rating, but Steven Spielberg and George Lucas obscured the head explosion shot with flames and surprisingly enough, Raiders of the Lost Ark squeezed by with a PG rating — remember, PG-13 didn’t yet exist at the time, so there was no in-between option.
While it’s strange now to think the profanity, action sequences with blood, and head explosions in Raiders are inappropriate (watch Deadpool, folks), the film left a very bitter taste in parents’ mouths.
In 1983, Spielberg and Lucas released Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It somehow also passed by with a PG rating, even though there’s a grisly scene of a man’s heart being ripped out of his chest.
While it got away from the MPAA’s assessment without receiving an R rating at the time, it certainly raised questions about rating movies that fall somewhere in the middle of a PG and an R rating.
After viewing Temple of Doom, MPAA President Jack Valenti was ready to halt any further Indiana Jones films. Director Steven Spielberg eventually suggested the PG-13 rating to Valenti, and a new pathway for violent, yet largely family-friendly films, was born.
The first film to receive the PG-13 stamp was 1984’s Red Dawn. After that, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull (2008) both received a PG-13 ratings, though they’re arguably the tamer two films of the four.
It’s likely that Indiana Jones 5 (Untitled) will also get a PG-13 approval, but let’s hope it’s not as gruesome as Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull — in it’s own way…but that’s another story.
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