Indiana Jones Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

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Harrison Ford as Indiana jones

Credit: Disney

Indiana Jones is back. The iconic adventurer, brought to life by Harrison Ford, started his Indiana Jones series in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark. The creative product of  Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg, co-creator George Lucas and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, his adventures bring to life classic pulp tales of excitement and suspense around the globe. The new movie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), brings a new chapter into the story of the globe-trotting intrepid archaeologist… but where do the movies so far rank?

Harrison Ford as Indiana jones
Credit: Disney

The Indiana Jones Franchise

Who is Indiana Jones?

Dr Henry ‘Walton’ Indiana Jones Jr. is a professor of archaeology, liberator of artefacts and fighter of Nazis. A tomb raider before Tomb Raider, much like Clark Kent and Superman, you can identify Indiana’s m0de by whether or not he is wearing his glasses: on, and he’s in teaching mode as Dr Jones. Off, and he’s ready to crack his signature whip, don his hat, and take to a ruined temple. His adventures have spanned books, games and TV, but he’s best known for his cinematic appearances.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones's character. Collage of images
Credit: Inside the Magic

Who plays him?

Indiana is played by Harrison Ford, and is perhaps the actor’s second most iconic role alongside his part as Han Solo in the Star Wars saga. In The Last Crusade, Young Indiana Jones is played by River Phoenix.

How many movies have there been?

There have been four movies in the Indiana Jones series, with the fifth due to release in a matter of weeks. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the last installment, released in 2008.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Credit: Lucasfilm

Ranking the ‘Indiana Jones’ Films

So for a man with so many iconic adventures, how do we rank them? We’ve considered the story, the action, the sidekicks — but most of all, our opinion. So there.

Harrison Ford and Karen Allen on the set of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981)
Credit: Lucasfilm/Paramount

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

An undisputable classic, Raider of the Lost Ark sees Indy take on a quest to race the Nazis to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant. His adventure sees him thrown in with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and features some of the most indelible moments in cinema history. The boulder roll at the start. “I hate snakes.” And, of course, the melting visage of Major Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey), as the skin slides off his face like melting wax as the power of the Covenant is unleashed. It throws you straight into the story with Indiana established as a fully formed hero, hat, whip, and all.

Sprung straight from the pages of a pulp adventure paperback, there’s an argument out there that Dr. Jones realistically has no real impact on the story itself. But that’s just not true: without Indiana, there’s no Indiana Jones, and Harrison Ford fills the role with his brand of brusque charm, easy physicality, and knowing intelligence, selling in both the adventurer and also the professor as the mystery of the artifact is uncovered.

Alison Doody, Harrison Ford, and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Credit: Lucasfilm

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade pairs Indiana up with the only man who can truly put him on the back foot: his father, Henry Jones Sr., played by iconic actor Sean Connery. Dr. Henry Jones Sr. is a grail obsessive, a scholar like his son who has specialized in learning all he can about the legendary artifact linked to medieval myth. Pairing the two Henrys up is a masterwork in adding something fresh to the franchise. Indiana is given a whole new angle when you see him in the light of his father.

As if meeting Henry Jones Sr. isn’t enough, they establish many of Indiana’s quirks through a breezy opening sequence showing the character at his youngest on screen. Played by River Phoenix, we learn how he comes to acquire his hat, his fear of snakes, and more — and all is accomplished in approximately 15 minutes. You’d get whole movies made out of that today. But in Last Crusade, it’s the first volley of fun in an adventure that is packed with slapstick humor, dry wit, and plenty of pathos, the reckoning of Indiana with his heritage and his father’s mortality a key emotional thread through a story which once again sees the adventurer take on the Third Reich.

indiana jones and the temple of doom 1984
Credit: Lucasfilm

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the second movie in the series, but actually chronologically takes place prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It embraces the darkness in a story of Indiana being lost in India, and encountering a sinister Thugee cult, led by Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) which is determined to steal his very soul. Things open with a peppy sequence in Club Obi-Wan (another Star Wars nod) as Indiana meets Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), night club singer and reluctant companion on the adventure. And there’s Short Round too, played by Eighties teen icon and Everything, Everywhere, All At Once Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan.

There’s no way around the fact that this has aged badly. Not in terms of the action or direction, where Spielberg applies his usual magic in lending sequences a sense of verve, focus and movement that a lesser director wouldn’t even think of. But in terms of its representation of Indian villagers and ‘natives’, it’s pretty rough going.

Capshaw often gets stick for her shrill, screaming performance as Willie. But she’s undeniably camp, and delivers a very different vibe to the prior antics of the far more capable Ravenwood. The found family of Indiana, Willie, and Short Round is a highlight of the movie, which delivers some memorable moments in the rope bridge and the unforgettable horror of the ‘Kali Ma’ heart stealing sequence.

(L to R) Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Karen Allen and Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008)
Credit: Lucasfilm/Paramount

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

If Temple of Doom gets some criticism, Crystal Skull gets the full boulder. Released significantly later, it sees an older Indiana encounter another member of his family in the form of son Mutt (Shia LaBeouf). It has a delicious villain in Cate Blanchett’s Russian Irina Spalko, and the return of Karen Allen’s Marion. It largely gets criticism for some of its most outlandish plot elements. Indy hiding in a fridge to survive a nuclear test. Swinging from vines alongside monkeys. And the conclusion, which sees extraterrestrial life officially confirmed. For some reason, even in a world where the supernatural is clearly present, the sci-fi element seems one leap too far. I’d argue that once again, you do get the Spielberg magic, and Ford brings his charisma to the fore for his return to the role. But it isn’t quite enough to overcome the story beats, even for all of Cate Blanchett’s scenery chewing.

A de-aged Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Dial of Destiny (2023).
Credit: Lucasfilm

What’s Next For Indiana Jones?

Dr. Jones’ adventures aren’t over yet. He is returning to cinemas with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, a rip-roaring new tale that will see him face off against Mads Mikkelsen’s Jürgen Voller, an ex-Nazi scientist recruited by NASA to assist in the Space Race. For this adventure, Indy will be joined by his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). The movie is being helmed by James Mangold, who is taking over directorial duties from Spielberg.

When does Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny release?

Dial of Destiny already debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, but will open wide theatrically on June 30.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford in 'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny' (2023)
Credit: Lucasfilm

Related: Your ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ (2023) Cheat Guide

How would you rank the Indiana Jones movies? Tell us in the comments below.

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