Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Movie Poster Image
Indy's first adventure is a rip-roaring action masterpiece.
  • PG
  • 1981
  • 115 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 75 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 150 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, teamwork, and trying to do the right thing are ultimately rewarded, although some of Indy's methods are iffy. Standing up to bullies (in the form of the Nazi party) is a strong theme. Additional themes are courage and integrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Indy is brave, resourceful, loyal, and smart, and he's dedicated to preserving historical artifacts and protecting them from those who would misuse them. That said, you probably don't want your kids imitating him, especially given the violence he's forced to use. Marion is a strong, independent female character who often takes matters into her own hands. On the downside, many of the movie's ethnic characters (Arab, German, and French) are shady or downright barbarous.

Violence

Lots of hand-to-hand battles (fists, swords, whips) and plenty of guns, including one iconic point-blank shooting. Frightening/gross close-ups of melting faces and vengeful ghosts. A memorable scene of a man's head hitting a propeller -- blood splattering is shown. Indy is pursued by spear-wielding natives who want to kill him. Indy and Marion are lowered into a pit of poisonous snakes; there's also a close enounter with some very large spiders. A bar fire leads to a man's hand being badly burned/scarred. Near-constant peril.

Sex

Some kissing and flirting (Indy's female students, in particular are quite blatant about it). When Marion is held captive, she's forced to dress up for her captor so he can admire her (she changes behind a screen as he waits/watches). Later the dress is cropped quite short. Implied sex between Indy and Marion; he's shown shirtless and getting out of bed.

Language

Language includes one "s--t," plus "goddamn," "hell," "bastard," "damn," and "oh my God."

Consumerism

Nothing in the movie, but there's plenty of Indy merchandise available.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In a scene played for laughs, Marion wins a drinking contest by pounding down enough alcohol to kill the average person. Other scenes also show wine/spirits drinking, including one in which Marion pretends to get drunk.

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."

User Reviews

Adult Written byDr3w November 7, 2011

Not As Clean As You Think

This film defies age. I don't know how many of my teenage guy friends still enjoy the Indiana Jones movies. My favorite is The Last Crusade, but this is... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old Written bykarimck May 15, 2009

Who cares if "all of the other kids" have seen it!

I wish I would have checked this site before watching this movie with my 5 and 7 year olds. Most of their friends had seen it and other mothers told me it was f... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 15, 2010

fun for preteens and up

love danger and advencher this will blow your mind away not my fav but it is a mix of nashanol tresher and pirets of the carebbean and a pinch of star wars but... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 23, 2014

Should be rated PG-13

This film is really violent! People are shot and stabbed (quite frequently), and one guy is dramatically ripped to pieces by a helicopter propeller! I've... Continue reading

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?

  • How do the characters in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark demonstrate perseverance and teamwork? What about courage and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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