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Indiana Jones ranked: from the best to the worst

Indiana Jones ranked: from the best to the worst

The Indiana Jones franchise remains timeless. Forty-three years after Steven Spielberg’s created the saga, Harrison Ford as the titular daredevil professor-cum-explorer with his whip and the much-travelled (and saved) fedora is still iconic.The fifth instalment to the much-loved adventure saga, Dial of the Destiny (2023) was the first to not be directed by Spielberg. Instead, James Mangold helmed the action flick, which featured Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, and Mads Mikkelsen.

Although highly-anticipated, the film tanked at the box office, drawing in an underwhelming profit.

(Here is the Evening Standard review for the Dial of Destiny. And be sure to check out our guide for the order to watch them in too, because it is less straightforward than you might think!)

But, let’s not forgot some of the professor’s early and equally-thrilling adventures. Here are all the films in the franchise, ranked from the best to the worst.

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

Rating: 2/5

There have been many theories about what let down Indy’s return to the screen after nearly 20 years. Was it too much meddling from George Lucas? Was it the aliens? Was it Shia LaBeouf? Was it the implausibility of him surviving a nuclear bomb blast by hiding in a fridge?

It was probably all of those things (especially the aliens) but for me what really left a bum note was John Hurt’s final line. As a flying saucer disappears, Indy asks, “Where did the alien go?” with Prof Oxley replying, “Into the space between spaces.” It was one ridiculous line too many.

Being over the top is not always a bad thing. It can be done well, just see Cate Blanchett’s performance as the villain in this very film, which was the best thing about it. But it should not come by switching an established brand’s adventure genre to sci-fi in the closing scenes.

3. Temple of Doom (1984)

Rating: 3.5/5

The most discussed of the franchise and also the most opinion-splitting, the Temple of Doom is the second instalment and actually a prequel to the original.

What is beyond doubt is that this is the darkest of the series, both in its culty subject matter, as well as in the sense that it is literally underground for a lot of it. It’s also the most claustrophobic.

Ford is at his most muscular at any point and performs some of the most daring sequences. But it is let down by Kate Capshaw’s shrieking sidekick — which didn’t help the cause of female stereotypes on screen.

The child part of Short Round has also not aged well and these days comes across only slightly more watchable than Rupert Grint does in the early Harry Potter films. It was, however, heartwarming to see the actor Ke Huy Quan more recently recognised for his role in Everything Everywhere, and also to read about his reconnection with Harrison Ford.

2. The Last Crusade (1989)

Rating: 4/5

Sean Connery is perfect as Henry Jones Sr, who is both a genius and respected archeologist as well as a bumbling and slightly embarrassing dad to Indiana — or ‘Junior’, as he is called to his loathing throughout. The pair make a great odd couple putting old wrongs to right and getting caught up in the usual entangle of exotic but slapstick adventures.

There is also a turn from the late River Phoenix and a seductive role for Alison Doody as Dr Elsa Schneider, a temptress who is in league with the Nazi enemy. The latter is a dramatic improvement on the female lead in its predecessor and contains a neat twist which is unusual for a family-aimed action film.

But Connery is the star and what everyone remembers the film for — which shows Spielberg’s efforts to pick him over Lucas’s choice of Lawrence Olivier was the right one.

In the late 1980s, it felt the perfect way to sign off what was once (or arguably should have been kept as) a trilogy. Is it all a bit cheesy? Hmmm. Does that matter? No.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Rating: 5/5

The film that started it all was the one that propelled Ford to a level of success that would never be matched by his Star Wars co-stars. And, from the first scene of Indy stealing a priceless artefact from a boobie-trapped temple, it was clear we were onto a winner.

All of the classic scenes are here. The propeller death, Indy saving his fedora for the first time and, of course, Jones responding to a feared swordsman by getting his pistol out.

It’s a more exciting film for its genuinely scary Nazi villains and also for its choice of location that gave it an air of a James Bond movie.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is perhaps the most even and complete in the series and possibly the best-executed offering that Lucasfilm ever released.