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"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."—Indiana Jones
It takes place a few years before World War II, when Nazi Germany was searching for supernatural artifacts. In this case, they were searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which held the remains of the tablets of the Ten Commandments. After getting word of this, Dr. Indiana Jones is sent to recover it, due to him knowing some people that had clues to where the Ark is held.
This leads him on a wild chase involving fighting bad guys in a burning bar, fighting bad guys on moving trucks, and killer sand ghosts.
And that's not even taking into account what he has to go through in the prologue, which involves the iconic boulder escape scene.
The film itself was a massive hit, but due to the Troubled Productions of Star Wars, and Jaws, studios were reluctant to fund a film by both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, despite those respective films also being massive hits. Paramount eventually agreed to fund the film, although the series largely belongs to Lucasfilm. The production, while having some problems (mainly the majority of the crew being ill in Tunisia), it wrapped ahead of time and on-budget (something Spielberg felt was important). Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to write a screenplay based on ideas born during story meetings between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan. The screenplay was so good that Lucas asked Kasdan to write the final draft of the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
Provides Examples Of
- Action Dress Rip: Marion, with surprising ease.
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: Belloq telling Indy they're Not So Different in the Arab bar.
- Affably Evil: Rene Belloq, to the point that he and Marion power through a bottle of grappa and he tries to stop the Nazis from tossing her in the pit.
- After-Action Patchup
"Well, dammit, Indy, where doesn't it hurt?!"
- All There in the Script: Toht's name is only revealed in the credits and in an old TV ad, and much, much later in LEGO Indiana Jones.
- Appropriated Title: The first movie was released as just Raiders of the Lost Ark, while all other media include Jones' name in the title. Later re-releases did change the title to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Firmly averted; the Nazis all speak excellent German.
- Asshole Victim: All the Nazis.
- Bang Bang BANG: used intentionally to provide "heroic" and "villanous" gunshot motifs. Note that every pistol Indy uses (from the 45 automatic in the bar fight to his trademark revolver) produces the exact same sound, a huge "kaboom" that was actually a recording of a 30/30 rifle.
- Bait and Switch Gunshot: During the fight in Marion's bar.
- Bar Brawl: Marion's bar in Raiders is destroyed as the result of one of these.
- Big Bad: Belloq
- Big Damn Heroes: Just when Toht is about to torture Marion with a red hot poker, it is ripped from his hand by a bullwhip with Indiana Jones at the other end, ready for battle.
- Binocular Shot
- The Brute: The shirtless Nazi who fights Indy by the plane.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: A passing mention from one of his students mentions "all that travel" Indy does. Save the world from Nazis on Sunday, midterm on Monday, sure, why not?
- Chain Lightning: The Ark is apparently capable of generating an electrical effect that jumps from person to person.
- Chekhov's Skill: Subverted/played with. Marion's Establishing Character Moment shows her drinking a large, burly brute under the table. She tries to use her hard-drinking ability to get the cultured and effete Belloq drunk in an attempt to escape from him, but fails; part of his "cultured" background is that his family owns a vineyard, and he has been drinking since he was a preteen.
- Cold-Blooded Torture:
Marion: I'll tell you anything!
Toht: *advances with red hot poker* I know you will.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: The car driver and pilot.
- Deadly Fireworks Display: A classic example of this trope.
- Deus Ex Machina: The Ark, literally.
- Did They or Didn't They?: "I was a child; I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it!" Lucas has admitted that originally, he wrote young Indy and Marion's relationship as taking place when Indy was in his twenties and Marion was fourteen.
- Doomed New Clothes: The dress Marion gets from Belloq.
- The Dragon: Gestapo agent Toht.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Played with, where the first guard Indy knocks out in the sub pen is too skinny for his shirt to fit. Fortunately, a larger specimen turns up to scold him for being "out of uniform"...
- Evil Laugh: Belloq, after sending the Hovitos to kill an escaping Indiana.
- Excuse Me, Coming Through: Averted, as Indy has to fight the crowd when Marion is kidnapped by Nazis.
- Five-Bad Band:
- Follow the Chaos - After he has seen Indy buried alive in the Well of Souls, Belloq looks around at the burning airfield and destroyed plane.
- Foot Focus: Marion losing her heels.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Major Toht, the Gestapo torturer.
- French Jerk: Belloq.
- Fruit Cart: Inevitably destroyed at the chase scene on the Cairo market.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Marion uses one in the marketplace scene.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Indiana inquiring about the lovely dress Belloq gave to Marion:
Indy: Where did you get this? From him?
Marion: I was trying to escape.
Indy: How hard were you trying?
- Giant Mook: The really big sherpa in Marion's bar, and the mechanic who gets diced, both played by Pat "Bomber" Roach.
- Giggling Villain: Toht. Added with his sexually impotent rapist personality who uses torture to vent his frustrations...
- Good Is Not Nice: the Ark or more specifically what's powering it.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away as the Giant Mook gets turned into red paste, only showing the splash of blood on a swastika. This is occasionally edited out of broadcast versions, but it's anyone's guess if they're editing out the blood or the swastika itself. Averted at the very end of the film, however.
- Groin Attack: Indy tries it on the Giant Mook during the flying wing fight.
- A Handful for An Eye: Indy to the Giant Mook during the flying wing fight.
- Hand Signals: Indy to Satipo.
- Hollywood Density: The gold idol at the start of the film, which should weigh far too much to be toted around as easily as it is, let alone weigh about the same as a small bag of sand. When Indy looks at it, he actually removes sand from his bag to approximate its weight. A solid gold object of that size would weigh at least fifty pounds. However, it's never explicitely stated that the idol is indeed solid gold.
- Human Sushi: the Giant Mook during the flying wing fight
- Karma Houdini: The evil eyepatch-wearing owner of the monkey vanishes from the film unscathed. The monkey isn't as lucky.
- Look a Distraction: Indy does it to the Giant Mook mechanic he fights near the plane.
- MacGuffin Delivery Service: Happens twice in the movie to Indy.
Belloq: Again, Dr. Jones, what was briefly yours is now mine.
- Mayincatec: The trap infested Hovitos underground temple is one of the best-remembered trapped lairs of all time.
- Meaningful Name: Major Toht's name is an anglicized spelling of the German word for death.
- Memetic Sex God: In-universe. One of the girls in Indy's class goes so far to write "Love You" on her eyelids to flirt with him, when he's in his nerdy tweed ensemble. One can only imagine what they'd if they saw him in the fedora and whip outfit.
- Mobstacle Course: Indy does this to chase Marion-in-a-basket.
- The Mole: A monkey is the Mole.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles:
- Indy sees Marion getting carried off in a straw basket, and chases her into the square—which is crammed with people carrying identical baskets.
- At the end of the movie, the Ark is put in a nondescript wooden crate and hidden in a warehouse full of other identical, nondescript wooden crates.
- Never Bring a Knife to A Gun Fight: Especially when the actor with the gun is sick and wants to get the scene over with.
- Newspaper-Thin Disguise: A Nazi agent played by Dennis Muren, one of the men behind Industrial Light and Magic. This unnamed character is sometimes mistaken for Major Toht.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Marion's captivity with Belloq.
- Not So Different: Belloq tries to make Indy think this.
Belloq: Where else shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?
Indy: Try the local sewer.
- Pound of Flesh Twist: It works!
- Punctuated for Emphasis: "Top. Men."
- Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: The giant German mechanic.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The given length of the staff of Ra (about five feet) indicates that Harrison Ford is 3–4 feet tall, seeing how the staff towers over him.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Of all the Nazis who end up victim of God's vengeance, Toht, the Cold Blooded Torturer screams in a very high pitch.
- Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Belloq seals Indy and Marion in the snake-filled Well of Souls.
- Second Face Smoke: Marion does this to Toht. Bad idea.
- Serendipity Writes the Plot: The swordman chase scene originally involved Indy disarming the man with his whip, but Ford was sick with dysentery at the time, and he asked if he could just shoot the man, which the final cut had him doing.
- Shadow Archetype: Belloq. He even gives Indy a minor Hannibal Lecture in the middle of a crowded bar. Doubles as a Smug Snake.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Indy shoots out the lock on the plane's cockpit so Marion can escape.
- Shout-Out: At the scene where Indy and Sallah get the ark, you can see C-3PO and R2-D2 carved on a wall behind Indy if you look hard enough.
- Indy finds a valuable idol on a pedestal. Removing said idol causes a giant boulder to release and crush everything in its path.
- While "The Well of Souls" is a concept from Judaism (Evangelion fans will know it as the "Room of G[a]uf"), it's been confirmed that Raiders lifted the term directly from the title of the Jack L Chalker novel Midnight at the Well of Souls.
- Slasher Smile: A rare *heroic* version of this occurs when Indy uncovers the Well of Souls, though it's intended to prove Belloq's comments about the two men's similarities.
- Smug Snake: Belloq.
- Spotlight-Stealing Title: Raiders of the Lost Ark was renamed to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Stab the Salad: Toht and the coat hanger.
- Star-Making Role: For Harrison Ford. Star Wars was a huge success and his Lovable Rogue became an Ensemble Darkhorse, but it was after Raiders of the Lost Ark that he stopped being "the guy from Star Wars" and became Harrison Ford.
- Sundial Waypoint: The purpose of the Map Room scene is to make use of this trope.
- Swallowed a Fly: In the last few minutes of the film, Belloq is clearly seen to have a fly crawling across his face and into his mouth.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: One villain attempts to poison Indy with some substance poured on dates.
- Tap on the Head: Marion does it three times and Indy does it twice.
- Too Dumb to Live: The Nazis.
- Tribal Face Paint: The Hovitos Indians at the beginning of the movie.
- Weapon Twirling: The infamous scene where a swordsman shows off and Indy just shoots him.
- We Have Reserves: During the Nepal bar brawl, Indy is struggling against one of Toht's burly mooks. Toht, however, tells one of his other mooks to "Shoot them. Shoot them both.". This has the hilarious effect of making both Indy and the big mook stop to shoot the other mook.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Trope Namer
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him: Indy's famous Combat Pragmatist scene. Ford was among the people on set suffering from dysentery, and wasn't feeling up to doing a big fight.
- Wicked Cultured: Belloq is a brilliant archeologist, fluent in many languages, and enjoys fine wine and food.
- Your Head Asplode: Belloq, at the end of the film.