‘Raiders’: Damon Lindelof’s love letter to a ‘perfect movie’

Aug. 31, 2011 | 6:30 a.m.
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Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, prepares to snatch a golden idol from a South American temple in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones flees from a giant rolling boulder used to safeguard an ancient temple in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, confronts his lost love Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, contemplates the sought-after headpiece to the Staff of Ra in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, makes sure the setting sun is in precisely the right position as he prepares to uncover the location of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones fights a Nazi-hired assassin at a street bazaar in Egypt in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Sallah, played by John Rhys-Davies, and Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, lift the Ark of the Covenant out of its resting place in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, carries Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Indiana Jones is surprised by a venomous cobra in the forbidding Well of Souls in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Nazi Col. Dietrich, played by Wolf Kahler, left, French archeologist Renée Belloq, played by Paul Freeman, and the evil Toht, played by Ronald Lacey, examine the contents of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones try to avoid the powerfully destructive forces unleashed by the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Harrison Ford and Karen Allen pose for a publicity photo during location shooting in Tunisia for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Director Steven Spielberg uses a vast miniature set of the Tunisian desert to plan a complex shot for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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George Lucas, left, and Harrison Ford take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)

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Harrison Ford, left, and George Lucas take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)

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Executive producer and story creator George Lucas, left, poses with director Steven Spielberg on location in Tunisia during the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

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Harrison Ford watches director of photography Douglas Slocombe, director Steven Spielberg and art director Leslie Dilley set up a shot of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol for a scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Emmy-winning writer and producer Damon Lindelof, in a guest essay for Hero Complex, describes seeing the action-adventure film for the first time when he was 8 years old. Let’s just say the movie made an impact on Lindelof, whose credits include “Lost” and the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot. Read his essay below, and enjoy photos from the set of “Raiders” and the film itself in the gallery above. Be sure to click CAPTIONS ON.

GUEST ESSAY

I remember with great clarity the last time I peed my pants.

This was not, contrary to later reports, an “accident.”  It was a decision I made of sound mind and body and one that I make no apologies for.  Despite overwhelming opportunity to release my bladder the way most civilized people do (that would be into a toilet), I made a conscious choice to do otherwise.   I offer only two points in my defense;  The first is that I was 8 years old.  The second, and much more relevant, is that I was in a movie theater watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark”  for the very first time.  And there was not a chance in hell I was missing a single second of that glorious movie.

raidersfreescreening Raiders: Damon Lindelofs love letter to a perfect movie

Truth be told, I had initially resisted the idea of going to see “Raiders.”   I was much more interested in seeing “Clash of the Titans,” which opened the same day and had a Pegasus in it.  Ultimately, however, my dad argued that “Raiders” was the superior pick because it had Han Solo.  I narrowed my eyes suspiciously — “But… Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.”

“This movie happened before that.”  My dad responded.

“How could it happen before a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?”  I reasoned.

“Because this was longer ago.”

“How much longer?”

My dad leaned down, quite serious, and whispered, “The 1930s.”

And thus, I was effectively  duped into seeing what even now, three decades later, stands as one of the most perfect movies ever made.

And here’s the thing: Although it’s easy to reduce “Raiders” to a “popcorn” movie — a piece of escapist adventure with fantastic action — very rarely is it appreciated for its pure innovative genius.  This is something people seemed to be well aware of back in 1981 (it was nominated for a best picture Oscar), but over time, the legacy of “Raiders” seems to neglect just how incredibly revolutionary it was as a film. Therefore, as a debt of gratitude (and for everything I’ve stolen from it in my own work), I feel it’s only fitting to write a long overdue love letter to one of my favorite films ever.  So without further ado…

Dear “Raiders of the Lost Ark,”

You are awesome. God, you are awesome.

I have seen you, in your entirety, more than one hundred times. I know there are folks out there that have seen you more than that, but they don’t know you like I do.

I really know you. I know what music you listen to and where your scars are. I know that you like to be kissed where it doesn’t hurt. And I’m sorry if that seems a little “creepy,” but hey, you’re into snakes and melt people’s faces off, so we’re speaking the same language, are we not?

So what, exactly, is it that I love most about you, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? Man …  I don’t even know where to start. But let’s get past the obvious stuff that all your other admirers seem so dazzled by (the whip!!!) and talk about what truly makes you unique.

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Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, contemplates the sought-after headpiece to the Staff of Ra in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

I could go on for pages about just the little things. Like the sound you make when Indy punches someone in the face. Or that Marion’s superpower is drinking. And don’t even get me started on the coat hanger. Where did that Nazi even get that thing? Did he special-order it? “I need somezing that vill terrify people when I take it out, but then give them a false zense of relief when I reveal it is simply somezing on vich to hang my coat.” Seriously. The best. But I know you’ve probably heard it all before and therefore, I’ll stick to the big stuff. First and foremost…

I love you because Indiana Jones is a nerd. Granted, a highly capable nerd who knows how to ride horses and fight real good, but still, at his core, Indy is an academic who’s motivated purely by his desire to find and retrieve really cool stuff so he can put it in a museum where other nerds can appreciate it. Also, he wears glasses and gets nervous when hot female students write the words “Love You” on their eyelids. Do you have any idea how much commitment is involved in writing “Love You” on your eyelids?  It’s really hard!  Not that I’ve ever done it.

Because I haven’t.

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Indiana Jones is surprised by a cobra in the forbidding Well of Souls in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

And while we’re on the subject of Dr. Jones, here’s another thing I love about him.  He’s actually scared of stuff.  This doesn’t seem like something that should be celebrated, but it’s actually quite rare for the hero of a movie to be scared of anything.  Do you know what Green Lantern is afraid of?  Fear. He is afraid of being afraid. Does that even make sense? Here’s what makes sense to be afraid of — Hissing Cobras and Gigantic Bald Nazis with mustaches trying to kill you. And it was perfectly OK for me to be scared of them because Indy was too.

You know what else is wonderful about you? That over and over and over again, Indiana Jones has failure rubbed in his face, yet he refuses to give up. He gets the Golden Idol…. But it’s snatched away by a Frenchman. Indy finds the Well of Souls and recovers the Ark. It too gets taken away from him.  Same Frenchman! Now Indy gets back the Ark and …  oh no, Nazi submarine! They take the Ark and Marion… but Indy gets the drop on them with a bazooka! And yet, he can’t bring himself to destroy the Ark, so Indy is captured.

By the Frenchman.

Yeah, I know his name is Belloq. And I’m pretty convinced that he is another reason I love you so much. Because quality French bad guys are hard to come by and Belloq is la crème du la crop.

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Nazi Col. Dietrich, played by Wolf Kahler, left, French archeologist Renée Belloq, played by Paul Freeman, and the evil Toht, played by Ronald Lacey, examine the contents of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

And so, we now arrive at your ending. This, more than anything else, is why my love for you is an undying one. Because we all know how movies like you are supposed to end. The hero fights off a bunch of evildoers, saves the girl, gets the thingamabob away from the bad guys before they can do any harm with it and then say something kinda cool before he rides off into the sunset.

But this, sweet Raiders, is not what you did.

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Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones try to avoid the powerfully destructive forces unleashed by the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)

Your big climax is not affected by Indiana Jones at all.  He’s tied to a pole with Marion the whole time, completely helpless as Belloq and his Nazi pals open the Ark. And while most heroes would perform some incredible act of selfless bravery, what does Indy do? He shouts at Marion to not even look at whatever is coming out of the very thing he has coveted for your entire duration. And you know what?

I listened to him.

For the first 20 or so times I watched you, I shut my eyes tightly as I heard the Nazis scream for what seemed like five minutes. And when they finally stopped, I slowly peeked out to find Indy doing exactly the same thing.

In that moment, we were one. Terrified.  Awestruck. And most of all, relieved that it was finally over.

Now I fully appreciate that Indy was rightly pissed that the Ark was ultimately taken away by the same shady Intelligence dudes who hired him in the first place (“Top people” indeed.  Hrrrmumph!).  but if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been treated to your final crowning achievement. I would never have seen the Ark, now packed unceremoniously in a simple crate, being wheeled down an impossibly long aisle in the largest warehouse ever. And for reasons I am far too lovestruck to fully articulate, let me leave it at this –

In a world where movies and TV shows often end in ways that are sometimes unsatisfying bordering on outrage-inducing (yeah, yeah, I know), your ending, darling Raiders, is absolutely, exquisitely perfect.

And that is how I shall always remember you. Locked away safely in the warehouse that is my heart … fully aware that it’s highly possible that you will burn a hole through my chest or at the very least, make the rats inside me run around in uncomfortable backward circles.

I love you.

Always have. Always will. And I am deeply grateful for the countless hours we have spent together.  I will treasure them more than you can ever know.

Your Biggest Fan,

Damon

P.S.  Do you have a mailing address for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind’”?  She left her T-shirt at my apartment.

–Damon Lindelof

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Comments


89 Responses to ‘Raiders’: Damon Lindelof’s love letter to a ‘perfect movie’

  1. Francis says:

    This letter proves that Damon Lindelof is a boring writer. Which is sad, since he seems to be in the lead of a new generation of writers. We all love Raiders. Now we'd like to see something in movie theaters that doesn't pay homage to the formative movie experiences of one's childhood. Now we would like to see something Fresh. So we can be excited again.

    • crick says:

      I second that emotion.

      • feot says:

        Why to you trolls insist on urinating on a perfectly beautiful and heartfelt tribute? Does it diminish you in some way? This was written out of love, not vanity and I'm grateful for it.

      • Miguel says:

        What a piece of sheep you are.

      • crick says:

        Hey ladies, Raiders is a masterpiece, it never spells out the mysterium. It's that well constructed. Nobody is told what the demons are, what the idol in the beginning is. Nobody tells you there's an obelisk monument in both Tanis and D.C. (equate 22nd Dynastic Egypt and 20th century U.S. with a sly wink). Señor Lindelof makes media that spells it all out. He's a wannabee. Look, when Damon makes anything close to Raiders I'll promise to eat my crow, but until then, lay off the worship dude and get to work!

    • SpiderJerusalem says:

      What an ironic reply from Francis, considering that Raiders is a movie entirely about paying homage to the formative movie experiences of one's childhood. Missing the point much?

    • Matt says:

      You do realize that Raiders payed homage to the formative movie experiences of Spielberg's childhood, right?

    • Miguel says:

      Boy, Francis, are you dumb (and uniformed)! Raiders of the Lost Ark herself is a film that pays homage to the formative movie experiences of the director and producer's childhood.

      Why do people like you ever bother to write back?

    • bbmcrae says:

      The fact that you decided to speak for all of "us" by saying "we", coupled with your bizarre, inexplicable, alien capitalization of the word "Fresh" tells me you're kind of a toolbag, Francis. Please don't ever speak for me again.

  2. Robert Walcott says:

    Yeah, it was a great movie. I was a little too old t o pee my pants but I do remember enjoying it a great deal. It's a classic and should be in every collection.

  3. Roger says:

    Absolutely fantastic article from the creator of my favorite TV series. Now I have to pull out my DVD of "Raiders" and watch it all over again. See what you caused, Damon?

  4. 247Stoked! says:

    Ha! That was great! I hear ya brutha!

  5. S.T. Ranscht says:

    Dear Damon,

    Now I love you even more than I did during LOST. Now I love your dad, too. And I've always loved "Raiders."

  6. bardgal says:

    I concur one BAZILLION%. Raiders is the BEST FILM EVER MADE – THE PERFECT MOVIE. Trust me.

  7. hemo_jr says:

    And to think it lost out on picture of the year Oscar to a piece of British tripe, 'Chariots of Fire'

    • Random_Brit says:

      British tripe? Okay, maybe I can't defend it… but I will anyway: Don't disrespect John Hammond's second-best directorial ;-)

      • A. Ravenwood says:

        Let's be honest though, Chariots of Fire is only truly remembered for the song and Raiders is a friggin legend…It's like Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love. One was good at the time and one will always be amazing.

      • Guest says:

        'Chariots of Fire' was directed by Hugh Hudson, not Richard Attenborough…

  8. Shaun Obanion says:

    Damon…

    It seems we've been seeing the same gal… At first, I was offended that she was carrying on an affair, but after careful consideration (and a long talk with my wife — yes, she knows about my relationship with "Raiders") I've decided that we should embrace our deep, shared love.

    So. Let's break bread together some time.

    I'm on the Disney lot. I named my company Ravenwood Films and, if you ever want to just geek out over "Raiders," I'm your guy… Camera Bldg. Rm 2A.

    Oh and "CE3K" left her "LOST" tee at my house and stole my "Blue Harvest" tee. Guess it's a habit.

    Shaun O.
    Ext. 5504

  9. EDS says:

    I still rank Raiders as my favorite film. Period. It has the perfect story. The perfect action. The perfect score. It has incredible cinematography. I was once asked, "Is there a movie that has impacted your life?" Most people instantly think it's Star Wars or Star Trek, but they're shocked when I tell them "Raiders of the Lost Ark". I relate totally to the "nerd" in this essay, in that I love history and knowledge. Star Wars of course had Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo, but Indiana Jones is the quinessential hero. As stated in the essay, he's actually afraid of things and he gets his butt kicked. I recently told someone that it's been 30 years since we first saw Indiana Jones run from that boulder, and I am still trekking around playing "Indiana Jones", going on "adventures" that most think crazy (especially as I am now 46!). But this is the untimate quest of an artist…..To make a story or song or book or painting that stands the test of time and actually inspires or motivates people to get away from the crazy & lunacy of the world…………….

  10. Elaine Williamson says:

    No, I am Indy's Greatest Fan!
    (This is sort of like the last scene of Spartacus – "I am Spartacus!" "No, I am Spartacus", etc. But it's true. Since the very first film, I fell in love with the sheer escapism, the schmaltzy story, the amazing ending – It is perfect.)
    I am a 60 year old woman, and I now confess – "I AM INDY'S GREATEST FAN!"
    At my age, I am beyond embarrassment.

  11. jmechner says:

    I saw it in the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It was a packed house, the biggest screen I'd ever seen and the crowd was roaring so loudly I missed a lot of the dialog. Maybe my best movie-theater memory ever.

  12. admin says:

    I saw Raiders 14 times in the theater. Mind you, this was the days before home VCRs so if you wanted — NEEDED — to see a movie again, you had to get your butt to the theater.

    BTW, the line was "top men," not "top people." tsk tsk

  13. Matt Schollmeyer says:

    Great essay. Not to be “that guy” but for someone who has seen the movie over a 100x you should know it’s “top men” not “top people”. All the same an enjoyable read! Definitely due for an Indy marathon (don’t worry no crystal skull-can’t get a better ending than riding into the sunset with Sean Connery)

    • Jonny South says:

      damnit, Crystal Skull isn't so bad! the ending was, for me, terrific. Not the best of the Indy movies, but worthy of them.

      however – MARLON BRANDO > shia lebouf (what the hell were they thinking here?!)

  14. Shaun O'Banion says:

    Damon…

    It seems we've been seeing the same gal… At first, I was offended – I mean, I'm the guy who named my production company Ravenwood Films!!! But then, (after a long talk with my wife — yes, she knows about my mistress), I was convinced to embrace our shared love of "Raiders." And so I do. And I will. I'll share her with you, Damon. Because I respect you and I know you'll treat her well… and, you know, because you can probably get Steven on the phone (and convince him to get it onto Blu-ray)!!!

    I'm on the Disney lot thru November, so if you ever want to break bread over our shared love of "Raiders," let me know. Camera Building. 2A.

    Oh… and by the way? "CE3K" left her "LOST" tee at my place. She took my "Blue Harvest" tee. Guess it's a thing.

    Shaun

  15. Kevin says:

    Couldn't agree more Damon!
    A really great and funny love letter to a phenomenal film!
    And since you deftly referenced it… I loved the way you and Carlton ended 'LOST'.

  16. Digger says:

    That’s one dumb piece of writing. Also, never use French if you have no idea what you are doing, because you will get it wrong (“crème de la…”, never “du la…”).

  17. Dan Lucas says:

    Oh god I hate to do this, but there is one massive flaw in the plot: had Indy let the Nazis carry out their evil plan of opening up the ark in Berlin, in front of the party and the entire party, then the whole war would have been avoided. Instead he screwed it up for everyone.

    • Umptyscope says:

      Indy had nothing to do with the decision to open the Ark on the island. He didn’t figure out what would happen if the Ark was opened until he was tied to the pole with Marion.

      You’re right that opening it in Berlin would have ended the war – in retrospect – but if you’re gonna blame anyone you have to blame Belloq.

    • Chris says:

      Belloq was the one who wanted to open it sooner, before The Furher had seen it. He said as much to Dietrich in the U-Boat base.

  18. Paul Mendoza says:

    Wonderful!

  19. ben says:

    It's "Top Men", not "top people"

    • Anonymous Coward says:

      The important part about this statement (misogynistic or not) is that, given that Jones, Belloq, and Ravenwood are possibly the top 3 archaeologists in the world regarding The Ark, then if 2 of those guys are dead and the third is being shut out, exactly *which* "top" men are studying the thing?

      Indy could tell they were just stonewalling him, but didn't have enough pull to get around the bureaucracy.

  20. John K says:

    This is such a great article and sums up why RAIDERS is one of my favorite movies of all time and why I wanted to be Indiana Jones as a career option when I got older (ok, I still do). The best thing about him is that he gets his ass kicked. A lot. He fails. A lot. Through it all he keeps on fighting through and comes out on the other end. He's not Superman. He's just a man.

    Thanks for articulating how I, and I'm sure millions of other fans, feel about this movie!

  21. Rob P says:

    1) Awesome essay. As Raiders is my favorite movie, you ably summed up why it is so great, without getting creepy about it (well, TOO creepy)

    2) I would also like to commend your Dad on his wonderful parrying of your questions as an eight-year old. It takes a special skill to quickly respond to the out-of-left field but somehow logical questions of kids, but your dad did it well (esp. "The 1930s" – genius). Good job by him.

  22. Story-Maps-Dan says:

    Great article, Damon, on my favorite film of all time! Raiders is a masterpiece, top to bottom, no two ways about it.

    I recorded a video about the film's famous ending and have a screenplay analysis here, if you're interested: http://tinyurl.com/3nkr6v5

  23. Randy Walters says:

    My favorite moment? Impossible to plan, rehearse, or force to happen in any way – but pure, unspeakable beauty.

    The little monkey climbs up Marion's torso, and perches on her shoulder. Indy and Marion look at each other, and the monkey reaches around and places its little hand on Marion's cheek. She smiles shyly.

    Smitten. Forever.

    I doubt there's any of the original wild sound left in the audio, because if there was, you would hear Speilberg shouting '"OH MY GOD!!! That's F%#!*@ INCREDIBLE!!! Cut! Print!" I can just see them in the editing room, gazing in disbelief at what they caught on film.

    And Damon, if I have your attention, I just want to thank you for Lost – six unbelievable years, an experience unequalled by any other series. An incredible achievement. Screw the cretins who want you to change their diapers for them.

  24. aohora says:

    Funny how much certain movies MEAN to us. Transcendence is a good word to use here. Mythic. Holy, even.

    You're lucky your dad understood. My father thinks all "entertainment" is frivolous and, therefore, morally suspect. [Guess what he thinks about people who make a living creating it?] If I peed my pants in my seat to keep from missing any of a movie, my father would have LOST HIS MIND.

    I tend to hold creators of transcendent films/TV shows in the highest regard [wet pants notwithstanding]. What's worse, according to my father, is how much I wanna be like you-oo-oo.

    That being said, it would be nice if peeps who made brilliant movies would LEAVE THEM THE **** ALONE. Hopefully, Lucas will read this love letter and, perhaps, NOT decide to "fix" Indiana Jones by adding CGI, silly lines, MORE action sequences, etc. — and then re-release it to much "fanfare" on Blue-Ray and/or in 3D.

    Dear George: Perfection can be dated and still Holy. [Duh!]

    P.S. If you're a boring writer, I'm the frickin' Queen of England. [Not the skinny, perfect future queen. The frumpy, will-she-ever-die queen.] Seriously.

  25. We at theraider.net and theindycast.com echo the happy thoughts and glorious memories of seeing Raiders back in June of 1981. It changed my life forever and even now as we sit without power in hurricane ravaged parts of CT, I packed the family up and drove to an old $2.00 theatre last night that was playing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The umpteenth time for me, but first for my wide and sons on the big screen. And for two hours the world was safe again thanks to Indiana Jones! Long live Harrison Ford! George Lucas! Steven Spielberg! You made us all live the adventure we only dreamed about.

  26. John says:

    I wonder at what point in the movie you relieved yourself and for how long you had to sit in said wet seat.

  27. ari says:

    “In a world where movies and TV shows often end in ways that are sometimes unsatisfying bordering on outrage-inducing (yeah, yeah, I know), your ending, darling Raiders, is absolutely, exquisitely perfect.”

    Congratulations, Damon. The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem.

  28. The Tupper says:

    Thank Goodness that I clicked 'captions on'.

  29. Danny says:

    "…into snakes…" Really? Was that Indiana Jones you speak of or Indianapolis Jones in some bootleg copy? I remember him being afraid of more than just a cobra.

    All in all a totally entertaining movie I can watch over and over and never tire of. Especially when I hear John William's score.

  30. Devera says:

    I feel kind of like an obvious ditto-head here, but I love this movie, too. It's nice to read such an unabashed love letter to RAIDERS. Also, I really like your dad, he sounds like a sneaky guy. It must run in the family.

  31. MARK GEORGEFF says:

    Flaws, fears and personal fanaticIsm about over reaching and always out of the reach objects and goals of extreme desire in a main character? Yes and more yes! We don't have that anymore in sooo many Hollywood so-called movies? Why? Why? Why? In RAIDERS, much like JAWS…the perfect narrative structure to a perfect movie is there. Sure, it's hidden properly where it needs to be so the flaws of our imperfect heroes can rise and fall and come to a new transformation where it all ties together at the end. It's all there for other storytellers to emulate.
    So, why isn't it there in so many of today's movies?
    If we, the audience can marvel at these re-releases over and over again…why can't Hollywood take the same pain staking development process into mailing new movies? The suits and execs can't keep saying development costs are so high…when it's pennies compared to what they're paying many so called stars who aren't doing crap.
    Oh, that's right, it's the fault of the writers again.
    Darn those billionaires with all that power.

    Thanks Damon for the appreciation.
    And thanks Mr. S, Mr. L. and a certain Professor…who never stops digging away for the treasures he helps bringing to all of us. One ark at a time.

  32. Sophie says:

    Dear Damon,

    Raiders is a great movie, but your besotted love may have something to do with the fact that you were EIGHT YEARS OLD! Having said that, I feel the same way about Star Wars: A New Hope. I was around your age when I saw it, and the movies have never been the same ever since. Oh, and Star Wars (not including the prequel ***t) runs RINGS around Raiders).

  33. TBurton says:

    On the topic of awesome movies: Labor Day weekend, American Film Institute presents the Great American Movie Quiz @ Hollywood Bowl. Dazzle at the multimedia presentation! Re-live awesome movie moments complete with soundtrack! Own your friends and their crap sense of movie trivia!

    …or something.

    I work with the Bowl so *I* will be there, along with my actor/movie buff +1. Just look for the person getting every. single. thing. right. (Or just drinking enough wine that I don't care.) http://hbowl.com/AFI

  34. aazell says:

    That was a lovely read…

    Slight misquote though… the line is “Top men!” Not top people… might want to go watch it again!

  35. Philip says:

    I find it interesting that Raiders is an homage to the old serials and yet it is so innovative and became the template for action movies that followed it. It has the energy and soul of the old movies but rejects many of the cliches and establishes modern expectations that have now become the cliches. The hero can be vulnerable. The heroine can be tough. The villains can be smart. Raiders keeps the best aspects of the vintage action movies and populates it with relatable characters. It's the latter element that so many movies neglect.

    I liked Cowboys & Aliens partly because it seemed like they were trying to develop the characters (see my blog at InTheSieve.com) but ironically I get a sense that too much focus on the characters is what hurt it at the box office.

    And that's the challenge for film makers. It takes just the right touch to develop characters in an action flick and make them relatable but if that screen time doesn't pay off, it drags the movie down and the audience will wish there were more explosions and fights.

    Further testament to how impressive it is that Raiders got it so right.

  36. Billy Rotten says:

    In slide number 7, you incorrectly state that Indy is waiting for the setting sun. In fact, this scene takes place in the morning.

  37. biggerraidersfan says:

    belloq is not a Nazi. Belloq is the one with the coat hanger. 100 times you say?

    • Wrong and Wrong says:

      Dude, you're embarrassing yourself. Everyone knows that TOHT is the one with the coat hanger. I hope you're not claiming to having seen this move 100 times…
      And could you tell me where in this article it was stated that Belloq was a Nazi? "Belloq and his Nazi pals", was that it?

  38. Barb says:

    I was sixteen, with a boy who had dumped another girl for me – way cool, at the Old Orchard Movie Theater in Niles, IL. I'll always remember exiting the theater with a complete sense of exhilaration. I remember watching the blocks go by and thinking that I wanted to do something to mark this intense new feeling like tear my clothes off — which was the extreme of wild for this catholic-school girl.

    It was the perfect movie at the perfect age.

  39. Chris says:

    This is the best movie in the history of all possible universes.

  40. Yum says:

    The best part of the movie was when that villain ate that fly. Gross! :)

  41. Kathi McCord says:

    Let's not forget one of the GREATEST movie posters of all time that advertised one of the GREATEST MOVIES of all time… the magnificent art work of the late Richard Amsel (Google it if you can't remember). It captured the power of the film like no other with Indie's whip encompasssing the entire composition…awesome!

  42. Shannon says:

    RAIDERS… is like an old shoe, a favorite holey sweater, Sousa's great marches, a smokin' hot date and a *spider encounter all rolled into one.

    I'm grateful to Damon for putting words to our feelings toward the shared experience of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was 11.

    No matter the changing platform, I always update my RAIDERS…

    PS…I may have cheered loudest when the Judas-monkey bought it.

    *I'm well aware of the actual tarantula scene in the movie. Telling, isn't it? That to adequately describe an entire aspect of the movie I need only reference a commonality?

  43. Eugene says:

    It's perfect because you saw it when you were a kid. I'm sure some kids today will say "Super 8" is the perfect movie but I see flaws in it. But I agree too. Perfect movie.

  44. Donovan Weihmann says:

    This is a fantastic letter…and I appreciate all your sentiments entirely…this film will stand out in film folklore for years to come, and rightly so.

    I like to watch "Raiders" at least once a year, and it still sucks me in…characters, action, score, FX,…you name it…its all perfection.

    "Asps…very dangerous. You go first."

  45. Jason King says:

    My son is named Indiana. Who's the greatest fan now?

  46. Moog says:

    Okay, I loved "Raiders" when I was a kid, but I watched it again recently, and it doesn't hold up very well at all. There's no story at all, just a bunch of action scenes loosely strung together, with a preposterous deus-ex-machina ending that comes out of nowhere (albiet a hilarious one, I'll give it that). It kind of represents the end of the old classic movies and beginning of the big, brainless Hollywood blockbusters which, when watched retrospectively, are like watching molasses dripping all over the screen.

  47. Lina Bakou says:

    I became a filmaker because of this movie

  48. Curtis says:

    It had me from the logo dissolve into the mountain.

  49. Jeff Levin says:

    Imagine getting to see it at one of the sneak preview screenings the week before it opened as the second movie in a double-bill with BREAKER MORANT. No spoilers! Nada! The shoot-the-swordsman scene elicited the single biggest audience reaction I've ever been in on … and that's saying something.

  50. Dimo says:

    Trivia question Damon….During the bar fight, Indy asks for "Whiskey" What brand does Marion hand him?

  51. Porky the Pig says:

    I wholly disagree with the premise of the article…

    No – not the part about Raiders. It is #1. (I get killed by the unknowing for sticking to this…)

    I disagree with the date the author last peed his pants. We all know it was 5/23/2010…

  52. Björn-Eric says:

    This is the best text here like ever!

  53. Theron says:

    One of my favorite Raiders moments came about a year after it had been released. Back then, before the home video market took over, it wasn't uncommon for popular films to get re-released a year or so after they came out. My buddies and I were at a midnight showing of…something geeky, when the trailers started up. Except there was no sound, so folks were generally cutting up and talking. Until the Raiders re-release trailer came on. The theater got quiet, and then some guys down in the front started going "Bum, Buddabuddabum bum!" and slowly, the entire place started humming the Theme. By the end of it, we were shouting the major beats. It was glorious.

    I think that was one of my first exposures to "geek culture" as a set of shared experiences instead of a stigma.

  54. Gina says:

    I love Indie…but my heart belongs to Empire Strikes Back. And it always will. He is the peanut butter to my jelly of love.

  55. lestro says:

    dear damon –

    yeah, it has a great ending. that's what happens when you know the whole plot and the ending before you sell the project. try it some time.

    love,
    a writer

    ps – agree TOTALLY about Raiders.

  56. DavidJ says:

    I saw Raiders when I was 10 and it was indeed a life changing experience. It blew my little mind. I was just getting into movie soundtracks and begged my parents to buy me the LP. I listened to it ad nauseum for days until I had it memorized. I particularly loved the epic music for the Ark opening scene.

    I got my dad to take me to see the movie again the following weekend and learned a lot about film on that second viewing. First, I learned that movie soundtrack LPs contained only a fraction of the music in a film. I also noticed that the mix of the music was different in the film. it was more focused and intense. Most importantly I learned that films had scenes deleted. I knew this because I had memorized the Ark opening music and in the final film it is severely edited. The scene is a minute or more shorter than the recorded score. I later read that the scene was originally much longer, but George Lucas cut it down right before release. I'm hoping it will included someday as an extended scene on the inevitable blu ray. I have since seen Raiders dozens if times in the theater, and on VHS, laserdisc and DVD and it is truley dear to my heart. It is a perfect movie to me.

  57. DavidJ says:

    I'm a huge Lost fan as well. I have a piece of the temple that I got at the Lost auction last year hanging on my wall. Now that the dust has settled I hope Damon will consider giving us hardcore fans some true detailed insight into how the show was developed and written. What worked, what didn't work. How characters and ideas were developed and changed. I would find that endlessly facinating.

  58. Jeffy says:

    My father took me to see a double feature – Popeye and a sneak preview of some movie he had heard about, Raiders of the somthing-or-other which some of the Star Wars guys were involved with. Popeye was terrible. In between screenings, we agreed that if the first 10 minutes of the next film weren't any better, we would leave. Little did we know that we were about to be flattened by the best opening scene in movie history. After Indy flew away on the pontoon boat (I HATE SNAKES!!), my father jokingly asked "So, are you ready to leave?"

  59. Gary Osborne says:

    Raiders was the last move I saw in a theater, I knew it could not be beaten so why waist me time,

  60. Evan says:

    Back to the Future fo' life!

  61. Scott Free says:

    While I appreciate "Raiders" as a technical accomplishment–Spielberg's use of images, sounds and timing to create the desired instinctive response in his audience is just about flawless–I can't say I've ever enjoyed the movie. For one thing, it's so obvious that he's pushing your buttons (there are times I wonder if he wired the preview audiences to polygraph machines to make sure he got it right) that whenever I watch the film I come away feeling mildly violated. The movie bypasses the conscious, logical mind and instead connects the eyes and ears directly to the glands. It's exciting, but also a bit… creepy… that a film can manipulate the viewer so well, even when the viewer's conscious mind is well aware of the manipulation.

    Then there's the matter of the movie's message, which (if you actually think about it after you come out of the theater) is the most depressing since "It's a Wonderful Life": HEROICS DON'T MATTER. Consider: if Indy had spent the entire middle of the film in the bar making up with his ex-girlfriend, the outcome would have been the same–the Nazis would have gotten the Ark, they would have opened it and been melted by their encounter with Unviewable Holiness. Everything Indy does in the movie, however much fun it was, ended up accomplishing nothing. What a downer message–Sartre would have loved this flick. So, a great technical accomplishment, but a great piece of storytelling? I'm not so sure.

  62. bill says:

    what a dumb article – yes we like, "Raiders" but if there was an intended, "shock" value with the peeing thing it backfired. how about developing what could have been decent points like how, "revolutionary [Raiders] was as a film." instead nothing just borishness. i usually would not care to even comment on such pieces as this essay, but its alarming if this guy is considered a real good reviewer in the trade – for sure our standards are getting lower as a community if this essay reflects standards in this trade. please do not bother printing junk like this LA times.

  63. Doc the Gaffer says:

    Damon Lindelof has written a beautiful letter to a profoundly wonderful film. But really it did go on a bit long. Just like the Indian Jones series itself some things should just end a little sooner.
    Doc the Gaffer

  64. Zyx_Psilon says:

    Funny how time has a knack for being coincidental. As i was finally watching Crystal Skull this evening three years later than everyone else who probably did, need not being reminded how it all started with a heavier bunch of sand to escape yet another trap, the perfect motto struck me again in the face too.
    I attribute this wavy brain reaction to one thing alone – how well designed the actual totality brought adventurous scales to a balance so sharp it (indeed) made me forget Blade Runner as well as putting a crowd size smile. I know i was there to witness it.
    Little did i know that in that darkness of a memory would it recycle a principle so fundamental to fun (or as some call it, entertainment) that it yelled for a character life immortalized.

    And just for that much, a lesson of objectivity has to learned; wherever you look on Earth, magic still occurs through the eyes of action rather than from a stepping stone of thoughts yearning for yet another challenge.

    Crawl, run, jump… a great big ball of Rock was no match for THE Raider or so was a magnetic Alien Saucer.

  65. Mark says:

    I remember having a smile on my face, as I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, for the first time. It was in one of those theaters, that no longer exist, with the large Cinerama screens. As I enjoyed every single frame of that film, I clearly remember thinking, at that time, that "this is the perfect movie". I returned, a half dozen times, to enjoy that wonderful experience. Inspired by the archaeological adventure of that movie, I went on my own journey, to Peru, where I visited the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and hiked the trail through the ruins of Machu Picchu. I've always considered Raiders to be my all time favorite movie. Someday soon, I hope, it will be released on Blu Ray. I also hope that Spielberg will make at least one more Indiana Jones film (without an aged Marion or Shia Labeouf).

  66. “Raiders” represents the worst in White Supremacist ideology made into entertainment.

    “Indy” represents the White-Western-Imperial interests who feel it is their God-given right to loot the world of its resources, antiquities, and dignity.

    “Indy” represents colonial interests: the notion that white people have every right to go into every nation and take everything they want…and kill anyone who stands in their way.

  67. dan says:

    Damn! I had nearly the same conversation with my dad too! I wanted to see Clash of the Titans but he said we were going to see Raiders instead. I protested, but to no avail. The decision was final and no explanation was given. It was always his way or the highway. I was expecting to be let down, but the movie was awesome! It made a huge impression on my 8 year old self.

  68. nougatt says:

    I was a fourteen-year-old girl when Raiders came out. I was taken to see it at some sort of sneak preview/audience testing in Belleville, Illinois while I was on a family vacation. I had no interest in seeing it. I hadn't really understood or appreciated the Star Wars films, and I hadn't seen Jaws. But Raiders of the Lost Ark was an absolute revelation to me. Oh, how I loved it. I must have seen it dozens of times in theaters, including the several times I saw it at my local theater and simply stayed on for two showings. I collected the bubble gum cards (which I still have millions of) and even acquired a bullwhip somewhere along the way. I believe this is the greatest movie ever. If you happen to be channel surfing and come across it, you might say to yourself, "I'll just watch it until the boring part." But there aren't any boring parts. Every scene is perfect.

  69. baidu678 says:

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  70. Mike Lonners says:

    There was a generation of filmmakers that drew upon life experience, not just other movies they’d seen. Damon’s paean to this film is depressing as it’s the root of all the apathy the public has towards derivative works and myopic artists. They might as well entertain themselves making YouTube videos because at least those are a tad more personal than the bigger budget regurgitation of overgrown fanboys.

  71. Nasal Ed says:

    Great article. One small point. Belloq is from Belgium rather than France

  72. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She

    never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic

    but I had to tell someone!

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