Best Action Scenes of All-Time: Indiana Jones Edition - The Part-Time Critic

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Best Action Scenes of All-Time: Indiana Jones Edition

The Top Ten Greatest Indiana Jones Scenes
On my way to making a list of the all-time greatest action sequences this summer, I have decided to create several mini-lists as preparation work. I recently posted a list of the all-time best Star Wars action sequences and now I turn my attention to another George Lucas creaiton, the Indiana Jones franchise. Alongside of Star Wars, Indiana Jones rules the late 1970's through to the late 1980's.

For my money, I think 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the best film of the bunch, but I admit its close to a toss-up wit Raiders of the Lost Ark. For this list we are working with the four major Indiana Jones films released from 1981 to 2008. By my count, there were about 15 significant sequences between the four films. Remember that singling out action sequences and comparing them to each other is an inherently unfair and subjective process. You can read my previous Star Wars list for more on why  or iff you'd like to read a bit more about my philosophy on action scenes, you can click here. If not, you can see the list below with some commentary to follow.

Top 15 Action Scenes
15. “Emergency Boat Parachuting” -Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 
14. “Venice Boat Chase” -Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
13. “Abandoning the Zeppelin & Escape Two Fighters” -Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
12. “Cairo Marketplace Chase” -Raiders of the Lost Ark
11. “Escaping from Area 51 and a Nuclear Bomb Blast” -Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Link)
10. “Shootout in a Nepal Bar” -Raiders of the Lost Ark (Link)
9. “Opening: Raiding a Tomb for an Idol” -Raiders of the Lost Ark (Link)
8. “Shanghai Opener: Club Obi-Wan Shootout & Chase” -Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Link)
7. "Escape from Castle Grunwald" -Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Link)
6. “KGB Chase: Through the University by Motorbike” -Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Link)
5. “Escaping the Tannis Dig: Snakes & Planes” -Raiders of the Lost Ark (Link - Partial)
4. “Mine Cart Madness: Freeing the Minors & Busting Out” -Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Link - Partial)
3. “Opening: Young Indiana, a Train, and the Cross of Coronado” -Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Link)
2. “Tanks a Lot: Indiana Goes Over the Edge” -Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Link)

Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Truck Chase | Indiana jones, Indiana ...
1. “Truck Chase: Getting Back the Ark” -Raiders of the Lost Ark (Link)
- Although I've grown to enjoy The Last Crusade more as an overall film, there's no denying that the truck chase to get back the ark of the covenant is the most definitive and best action sequence in the entire franchise. This is Indiana Jones at his finest. The evil doppelganger of this sequence can be seen at the #15 slot from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The jungle chase sequence so many of the pitfalls of bad chase sequences: obvious use of green screen, reliance on coincidence, superhuman stunts that cross the line of our suspension of disbelief, stupid gags we are supposed to enjoy, and an unnecessarily bloated running time.

The truck chase in Raiders however is a focused, practical, and filled with memorable moments and stunts that serve to highlight not just the bravery and adventure of Dr. Jones, but his fallibility and vulnerability as well. There's some visual effects here to make certain things pop, but you always get the feeling that the majority of the sequence was filmed on location, with real vehicles, with real people, doing risky stunts. Indiana Jones is at his best, like James Bond, in large scale, high production, chase sequences. Jones is a brave fighting archaeologist, but unlike James Bond, his action is grittier, lacking polish, filled with improvisation, and self-deprecating humor. It's no surprise that Jackie Chan was inspired by this franchise - both feature great technical achievements in action, both feature stars doing great stunts, but both understand its the vulnerability and borderline "this might not work" nature that gives action a special comedic/adventurous edge. There's few who do it better than Spielberg's Bond - Indiana Jones.

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