Indiana Jones is an icon of the American film industry, and you'd be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn't recognise the fictional archaeologist's silhouette. The iconic bullwhip and fedora have graced the screen in four epic films made successful by Harrison Ford's perfect portrayal and Steven Spielberg's masterful direction, but invariably, fans argue over which film is best. Critics favour the original, but here is my ranking.
4. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The fourth film came many years after what is considered the original trilogy, and this is probably the most controversial films according to the fans, and I happen to agree with most of these things that irritated fans.
Shia LaBeouf's Mutt was a very controversial addition to the cast, and while I personally don't fault the actor or the logic behind repeating the curse of elderly Joneses being disappointed in their sons, he just didn't seem to work. He wasn't very interesting and the vine swinging scene was utterly ridiculous.
The plot is also a low point. While other Indy films perfectly balance realism with its supernatural or religious elements, Skull's plotline goes a step too far with supernatural events that suspend disbelief and do not feel natural. This was not helped by Spielberg's decision to use cheap CGI instead of the fantastic practical effects employed in the first three films.The CGI was quite frankly awful.
It's not all bad of course. Some of the action scenes are classic Indy and some of the additional side characters are better than others we've had in the past, but ultimately it failed to reach the high standards set by the original films.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Most critics and fans hail the original outing as the best in the series but something makes me enjoy this movie less than the two subsequent sequels. The plot isn't quite as engaging and it's much less interesting and complex than those of the sequels, and there are often boring patches where not a whole lot happens and it's simply expository dialogue.
It sometimes feels less polished, as if the crew hadn't quite hit their stride yet. The audio is not quite as clear sometimes; though this could be because it's an older film but the others are old too.
However, Raiders features some very classic set pieces like the escape at the beginning and the convoy chase near the end, and is still a very high quality film.
2. Temple of Doom
Temple of Doom is also quite controversial, as some believe it too dark or too gross. However, I enjoy Temple of Doom for boldly going for a unique sequel rather than more of the same. The entire second half is a fast-paced action-packed romp filled with mine-cart chases, mountain climbs, voodoo dolls, and deadly conveyor belts. Short Round is an enjoyable companion in my opinion, and while Willie leaves much to be desired, she doesn't have a very integral role anyway. From the epic Shanghai escape at the opening to the tense encounter on the bridge, Temple of Doom shines.
It has its drawbacks of course, most notably the gross-out gags and slow patches in its first half, not to mention unsettlingly racist settlements, but the movie's location and idea of isolating Indy work brilliantly, earning the second movie second place in this list.
1. The Last Crusade
The third movie is often criticised as being too similar to the original, but this is one of my all time favourite movies, and my favourite of the Indiana Jones movies.
From beginning to end, the pace never lets up, as Indy and his father, played hilariously and perfectly by Sean Connery (who now looks so similar it seems the Grail worked a little too well), fly from one exciting set piece to another while still having a very interesting plot that makes sense and stops the action from feeling shoehorned in. From the speedboat chase to the tank battle to the three trials, the film remains engrossing and provides some of the best action scenes known to man.
The Holy Grail is a very interesting plot and it works perfectly at combining archaeology and science with religion, and the characters shine: the late Denholm Elliott's Marcus Brody and Indy Sr are enjoyable characters to watch as they bumble through the action, surviving everything and each having their own moments to shine. Elsa's betrayal was obvious from the start but is still a better twist than is found in a lot of films and The Last Crusade is above all the other Indy films in terms of pure quality.
Everything about the film is perfect; the characters, the action, the plot, and the music, as the movie boasts one of John Williams' best scores in any movie. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is unlikely to ever be beaten by any potential future instalment.
That's my ranking of the Indiana Jones film series, and while my choices are likely controversial, I feel I have justified them all. Make sure to comment below if you agree or disagree with these!