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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a rip-roaring adventure with lots of hand-to-hand battles (fists, swords, whips) and plenty of guns. There's not too much blood and gore (though many young children are likely to be scared by a climactic face-melting scene, as well as one in which a thug's head meets the business end of a plane propeller), but it's still way up there in the body count department. Much of the thrill of this beloved movie is in the fright factor, so cadavers, snakes, spiders, and nasty villains (mostly Nazis and Nazi sympathizers) also abound. A couple of scenes feature drinking, including one in which the heroine knocks back a dangerous amount of alcohol to win a contest. And there's a bit of language, including one "s--t."
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What's the story?
After a heroic jungle rescue to start of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) forks over a valuable relic to dastardly French archeologist Belloq (Paul Freeman), under threat of death by a band of spear-wielding natives. Indy is then sent by the U.S. military to outdo the Nazis in a race to find the secret resting place of the Ark of the Covenant -- which purportedly contains the remnants of the Ten Commandments. He reconnects with former girlfriend Marion (Karen Allen), and they end up in Cairo, where they battle all manner of thugs -- Nazi and otherwise -- as they search for the Ark.
Is it any good?
When director Steven Spielberg and writer/producer George Lucas set out to recreate the serial adventure movie of the 1940s, they forged a masterwork of action-adventure. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark includes what may the best opening 10 minutes in movie history. The key to the movie's success is Ford's Indiana Jones, archeology professor and grand adventurer, who seems perfectly at home as both a mild-mannered Clark Kent type -- right down to the glasses -- and a larger-than-life hero. Ford played a similar character in Star Wars, but here he's front and center. With Raiders, Ford established himself as one of the greatest action-adventure heroes of all time.
Despite the movie's superior quality, it's fun to note the small continuity and effects mistakes. Medallions appear and disappear, guns fire seven bullets, the glass separating a hissing snake and Karen Allen is clearly visible. And the biggest goof of all: How the heck does Jones stay with a submerging submarine for hundreds of miles? (Spielberg claims key scenes got lost in editing.) If you go back to the film, which you and your children will almost certainly want to do, it's fun to pick out where even the best filmmakers make little mistakes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Indiana Jones stands for in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If he's a good guy, why does he break the rules? Is that OK? What separates him from the "bad" guys? Are real-life bad guys as thoroughly evil as the ones in movies?
Why is Indy so popular? Why is it so hard for other movies to duplicate the Indy formula?
What makes for a good action film? Is action more important than plot?
- In theaters: June 12, 1981
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2003
- Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: May 25, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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