Welcome to LRM Scenes. In each installment of this collaborative column, we will present our favorite scenes from a particular movie, from a notable director’s catalog, a specific film or the theme may be something different altogether. These may be scenes that are pivotal to the film, or simply ones that we love.
Continuing this week with the Indiana Jones franchise, we are honored to present to you are favorite scenes from what many would consider one of the greatest films of all time. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Is it THE greatest film of all time? That is of course debatable. Many of us at LRM believe it resides somewhere on that list. Nick, Cam, Stephon and myself hold it in much higher regard than Kyle and Jammer.
Alright Cam, take it away…
I think what marks his film as special is that it’s really difficult to pick a favorite scene, there are just so many. We can’t cover them all so some hard choices must be made.
I must admit that my very favorite scene was already nabbed by Nick, who had first pick. That was a scene that I rate as perhaps my favorite action scene of all time and the one I tried to copy as a child.
However, my second favorite was even tougher to choose and I decided to go with the Map Room scene. The dialogue in this scene is minimal to the point of a few German phrases and the word Sallah. It doesn’t matter.
It’s all about the imagery guiding the music of John Williams here. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine Williams writing the Ark theme as he watched this scene. It lines up perfectly from the moment Indy enters the room to the climax as the sun shines through the headpiece and lights up the true location of the Well of Souls. It’s mesmerizing really, and as an audience, we are drawn into the myth of the Ark most in this scene.
This is how a movie score should work in a scene and both the score and the visuals need one another to really flourish. It’s been imitated so many times in lesser movies and shows and I’ve never seen it bettered. Two geniuses in their prime making art.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite film, because if adventure has a name, it is certainly Indiana Jones. This is Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, John Williams, and practical stunts at their best, which is a killer combination. I could talk about nearly any scene in the film, but I, unfortunately, had to pick just one scene that exemplifies that movie, so that my fellow LRM contributors have something to write about.
So I’m going with the phenomenal “Desert Chase,” as the score track from Williams is titled on the Raiders of the Lost Ark score. This is classic Indiana Jones right here, folks! Hot off a fight with a giant Nazi airplane mechanic that brings Jones to his breaking point, Indy learns the Ark of the Covenant is being put on a truck for Cairo, not the plane he just destroyed. After asking Sallah, “Truck, what Truck?” an exhausted Jones sighs and states that he’s making this up as he goes, as far as getting the Ark out of Nazi possession.
What follows is an incredible sequence with Jones catching the truck on horseback, jumping from his horse to the truck, taking control of the vehicle, and ramming a Nazi motorcycle off the road with a sly grin. It’s little moments like that grin that define Indiana Jones and cement Ford as a charismatic action star.
As Nazi’s climb along the side of the truck from the back, Indy scrapes them all off except one, who gets into the cab of the truck and throws Indy through the windshield! Indy uses his whip to allow himself to be dragged by the truck so he can climb back on, return the favor by throwing the driving Nazi through the broken windshield, and getting the Ark back to Cairo just in time to lose it again a scene or two later.
There has not been a better action sequence since, nor a more rousing Williams theme to accompany it. The reason I love films like Mission: Impossible – Fallout is they try to recapture the feel of the stunt-heavy ‘80s action films because this was the real Golden Age of cinema.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great film, with so many scenes to choose from. Choosing one was difficult, but I have selected the twin snake’s scene. The stakes are always high every moment in an Indiana Jones film, but here director Steven Spielberg’s eye for crafting a great shot really shines. Allow me to paint the scene. Indy rappels down past massive statues of crocodile-headed deities and down into a pit of vipers. Face to face with a cavern of wriggling snakes.
Behind Indy, and just out of his view dangles his escape back out. If only Indy would just turn around and see it. There’s a rope that he can obviously use to climb back out with. When I first saw the scene, I remember thinking “Indy turn around!”, but then it dawned on me that what I thought was a rope swinging is not that at all. It was a long snake writhing behind him.
Why out of so many great choices to pick from did I choose this one? Because it really showcases Steven Spielberg’s masterful ability to craft the action in the film. Not just that, but I love the way the scene interacts with the viewer. There’s Indy face to face with a Cobra, and it’s the audience that notices the danger before Indy does.
I’ve recently been thinking of how Spielberg’s direction seems right in line with how David Mamet explains how to build shots into scenes in his classic book On Directing Film. Face to face with a cavern of wriggling snakes. Solution? Torch them. In the hands of Spielberg, the scene is elevated to another level. I imagine how less skilled directors would have shot that scene, and appreciate what Spielberg crafted.
The opening scene, the one that introduced many of us to the character of Indiana Jones. This is not only one of the best scenes in Raiders, I think it’s one of the best scenes in all of cinema, ever. It lets the viewer know most everything about Indiana Jones with little dialogue.
The entire sequence just oozes with iconicity, so much that I feel there really isn’t a reason to describe it to you folks, as you all know it as well or perhaps even better than I do. This is where we meet Dr. Jones, and is such a huge part of my childhood, as I imagine it is for many of you.
The traps on the way to the idol, the remains of the treasure hunters that came before Indy, the giant boulder, the entire escape from the temple, all of it, it’s just, well, as a kid it made me want to be Indiana’s sidekick and go on adventures with him. I
The part of the scene that will always be my favorite is where Indy squats down in front of the idol, and Spielberg comes in with that awesome zoom, Dr. Jones then rubs his chin, examining the idol, thinking about his next move as John Williams’ score helps to slowly build the tension.
The entire sequence has of course been slowly building up to something, but the situation gets far more intense once Indy begins his walk to the idol. Again, the small amount of dialogue through the opening lends to the intense nature of the scene. Once Indy sets off the final trap by taking the idol, the stakes are raised as Indy runs, jumps, and makes what is arguably the most narrow and daring escape ever seen on film.
Personally, I always wondered why Indy took some of the sand out of the bag, did he have an idea of what the idol weighed, and just tried to ballpark it?
Are you enjoying nerding out with us? Let us know your favorite scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the comments down below!
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