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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on May 20, 2015

Raiders of the Lost Ark was directed by Steven Spielberg and premiered on 12th June 1981. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott. Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Music by John Williams. 115 mins.

1936. Indiana Jones is sent on a mission to Cairo, Egypt in search of the Ark of the Covenant, which is believed to contain the remains of the Ten Commandments. The Nazi’s are also looking for the holy relics, not realising the deadly power it would unleash.

Back in the early 1970’s George Lucas had an idea for an old-fashioned adventure story similar to the serials of the 1930’s. But he shelved the idea in favour of the science fiction project he was developing called The Star Wars.

In the summer of 1977 Lucas was holidaying in Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. Lucas asked him what film he wanted to do next, Spielberg replied that he always wanted to direct a James Bond film, Lucas said he had something better and told him his idea about an adventurer named Indiana Smith who travelled the world searching for ancient artifacts and getting into all sorts of trouble.

Spielberg loved the idea but didn’t think the name Smith was right, Lucas changed it to Jones. A year later while Lucas was preparing the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, Lawrence Kasdan was hired to turn the concept into a screenplay. Spielberg meanwhile was busy filming the expensive WWII comedy 1941.

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
Karen Allen
Karen Allen
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen
Paul Freeman
Paul Freeman
Ronald Lacey
Ronald Lacey
John Rhys-Davies
John Rhys-Davies
Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott
Alfred Molina
Alfred Molina

Marion: You're not the man I knew ten years ago.
Indiana: It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

Harrison Ford (1942-) / Indiana Jones. A professor of archaeology

Born in Chicago Illinois, Harrison Ford was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the film Witness (1985). One of the most successful actors in movie history, his movies include – American Graffiti (1973), as Han Solo in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Working Girl (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992), as Dr. Richard Kimble The Fugitive (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), as President James Marshall in Air Force One (1997), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011).

Karen Allen (1951-) / Marion Ravenwood. A former girlfriend of Indy’s, her father was his mentor.

Born in Carrollton, Illinois, Karen Allen’s films include – National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Starman (1984), Scrooged (1988), The Perfect Storm (2000) and 27 years after first playing Marion she reprised the role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

Belloq: How odd that it should end this way for us after so many stimulating encounters. I almost regret it. Where shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?
Indiana: Try the local sewer.

Paul Freeman (1943-) / Dr. Rene Belloq, Indy’s nemesis, a French archaeologist working for the Nazi’s.

Born in Hertfordshire, England, Paul Freeman’s films include – The Dogs of War (1980), A World Apart (1988), as Moriarty in Without a Clue (1988), Double Team (1997) and Hot Fuzz (2007)

Marion: Wait, wait! I can be reasonable!
Toht: That time has passed.
Marion: You don't need that. I'll tell you everything!
Toht: Yes, I know you will.

Ronald Lacey (1935-1991) / Major Arnold Toht. A Gestapo interrogator who is also after the Ark.

Born in London, England, Ronald Lacey’s films include – Firefox (1982), as President Widmark in Buckaroo Banzai (1984), Flesh + Blood (1985), Red Sonja (1985) and as Winston Churchill in Stalingrad (1989).

Sallah: Indy, there is something that troubles me.
Indiana: What is it?
Sallah: The Ark. If it is there at Tanis, then it is something that man was not meant to disturb. Death has always surrounded it. It is not of this earth.

John Rhys-Davies (1944-) / Sallah. An Egyptian friend of Indy’s.

Born in Wiltshire, England, John Rhys-Davis’s films include – King Solomon’s Mines (1985), as General Pushkin in The Living Daylights (1987), as Sallah in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as Gimli the dwarf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003).

Denholm Elliott (1922-1992) / Dr. Marcus Brody. Indy’s friend and museum curator.

Born in Ealing, London. Denholm Elliott was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for A Room with a View (1985). His films include – To the Devil a Daughter (1976), as Will Scarlett in Robin and Marian (1976), Zulu Dawn (1979), Trading Places (1983), A Private Function (1984), Defence of the Realm (1986), as Brody in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Alfred Molina (1953-) / Satipo. Indy’s guide in South America, he gets too greedy and pays the price.

Born in London, England. Alfred Molina’s films include – Ladyhawke (1985), Maverick (1994), Species (1995), Boogie Nights (1997), Chocolat (2000), as Diego Rivera in Frida (2002), as Dr Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2 (2004), An Education (2009), Prince of Persia (2010) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010).

Belloq: All your life has been spent in pursuit of archaeological relics. Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations. You want to see it opened as well as I. Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This... this is history.

Tom Selleck was up for the role of Indiana Jones, both Spielberg and Lucas wanted him but Selleck had signed up for the TV series Magnum P.I. (1980-1988) and couldn’t do the film. Ironically by the time filming of the series had started, Raiders had wrapped filming.

George Lucas actually had Harrison Ford in mind for the role before deciding on Tom Selleck but as he had already worked with Ford on American Graffiti and Star Wars he wanted to cast someone new.

Other actors considered for the role of Indiana Jones include – Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Tim Matheson, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson. Finally Lucas went with his first instinct, Harrison Ford.

Sean Young, Amy Irving and Debra Winger were considered for the role of Marion Ravenwood before it went to Karen Allen. Sean Young would star with Harrison Ford in his next film, Blade Runner.

Klaus Kinski was considered for the role of the nasty German Toht but he turned the role down saying the script was “moronically sh*tty like so many other films of this ilk”.

Sallah: Indy, you have no time. If you still want the ark, it is being loaded onto a truck for Cairo.
Indiana: Truck? What truck?

The most famous stunt in the film occurs during the truck chase. Indy gets thrown thru the windscreen by a large German, Indy manages to hang on to the front of the moving truck then using his whip he slips underneath the truck and catches hold of the rear slowly climbing back on the vehicle surprising the driver who thought he was dead.

This stunt was first attempted by legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt in John Ford’s classic western Stagecoach (1939) where Yakima plays one of the Indians attacking the stagecoach. He jumps on the speeding stagecoach and falls underneath he manages to climb back on behind.

Three different stuntmen doubled for Harrison Ford - Terry Leonard, Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace.

Size does matter. The length of Indiana Jones whip is 10 feet.

George Lucas had a dog named Indiana, an Alaskan Malamute, he named the character after his dog. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones father Henry (played by Sean Connery) tells Sallah that Indy’s name is Henry Jones Jr and that “we named the dog Indiana”.

Raiders was Alfred Molina’s first movie, playing the treacherous Satipo in the opening temple idol sequence. On his first day of filming he was covered in tarantulas.

Sallah: Indy, why does the floor move?
Indiana: Give me your torch. Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps... very dangerous. You go first.

Hundreds of snakes were used for the Well of Souls sequence filmed at Elstree Studios in England. Snakes of every breed, it wasn't long before the big snakes were eating the small snakes. Unlike his character Harrison Ford has no fear of snakes at all.

British wrestler and actor Pat Roach has two roles in this film, he plays the giant Sherpa in the fight in Marion’s bar in Tibet and he appears again later as the bald German mechanic Indy fights around the runaway plane.

Roach can also be seen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the chief Indian guard who has a lengthy fight with Indy at the end. He dies horribly in both films.

Harrison Ford managed to get his leg run over by the runaway plane during the fight with Roach. He tore ligaments but had his leg wrapped in ice and carried on filming. What a pro!

The pilot of the plane during the fight sequence is Frank Marshall who was one of the film’s producers. He would later direct films himself such as Arachnophobia (1990) and Congo (1995).

Everyone on the film was sick during filming in Tunisia, except Spielberg who was eating only canned food shipped from Europe. Ford and Rhys-Davies suffered from dysentery and would be rushing to the toilets between takes.

One of the most famous scenes in the film was Fords idea. There was to have been a fight scene between Indy and a flashy swordsman, but Ford was feeling sick that day and asked Spielberg if he could just “shoot the sucker instead” Spielberg liked the idea. They went with it and it got the biggest cheers and laughs from audiences.

The submarine used in the film was borrowed from Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot (The Boat) which was being filmed about the same time.

Does Belloq (Paul Freeman) accidentally swallow a fly crawling on his mouth near the end of the film? Some say yes, others say they see it fly away.

Indiana: Marion, don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don't look at it, no matter what happens!

Apparently screaming melting faces were perfectly acceptable in a PG action adventure but an exploding head meant an R rating. Spielberg got round this by superimposing flames over Belloq’s exploding head during the “Wrath of God” finale, and got his PG rating.

Composer John Williams (1932-) provided another memorable score to a Steven Spielberg and George Lucas movie. The Raiders March is just as famous and well known as his Star Wars and Superman March.

Raiders of the Lost Ark cost $18m to make and was a major box office success, the top grossing film of 1981, earning $384m worldwide.

It was nominated for eight Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and winning for Best Art Direction, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects and received a special Oscar for Sound Effects Editing.

Chariots of Fire won Best Picture and Best Music Score that year. Warren Beatty won Best Director for Reds.

Raiders was one of the films chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1999.

It ranks #60 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films list and #10 on the AFI’s Most Thrilling Films list and the character of Indiana Jones is #2 on its 50 Greatest Movie Heroes list (#1 is Atticus Finch and #3 is James Bond).

Three more successful Indiana Jones movies followed all directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

The Critics Wrote –

"The stunts are incredible and the effects astonishing, but it's Harrison Ford's effortlessly charming performance as the original tomb raider that makes his globetrotting quest for the Ark of the Covenant so appealing.” ( Neil Smith, BBCi)

"Raiders of the Lost Ark is a crackerjack fantasy-adventure that shapes its pulp sensibilities and cliff-hanging serial origins into an exhilarating escapist entertainment that will have summer audiences in the palm of its hand." (Variety)

"One of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made.” (Vincent Canby, New York Times)

"After the escape from entombment and the cobras and asps, the film is simply a bore... So save your money." (Christopher Hitchens, New Statesman)

"Steven Spielberg's tribute to Boy's Own adventure is one of the most exciting action movies ever made, even if it never quite lives up to its opening sequence." (Chris Tookey)

"An out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later - breathless, dizzy, rung-out, and with a silly grin on your face." (Roger Ebert)

George Lucas with Harrison Ford
George Lucas with Harrison Ford


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    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      5 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks Bruce. I do still pop in from time to time. I still have about 300 active hubs here. I will check out your John Williams page.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Just added this page to my John Williams movie page. Do you still come here?

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks phdast7. The idea was to squeeze in as many images as I could next to the text. I wish we had the entire width of the page to use on our hubs. Seems a waste to have all that white space running alongside each article.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub! Excellent pictures and video to accompany your text. Personally, I am a great fan of the two column approach -- visually so much easier to read. :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Well, I have seen Without a Clue. :) I know who Alfred Molina is too, but I don't remember him in Maverick. I do remember him in Chocolat. I haven't seen him in anything else as far as I know. That's why I didn't mention him. Knowing who someone is without seeing the movies doesn't count...

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hi Flora, I've sent you mail via your email address. I'm pretty sure you've seen the film in my forthcoming hub more than once. :)

      Denholm Elliott is another actor you should be familiar with, he appeared in many British films and was BAFTA nominated a few times too.

      Thanks for commenting, it is appreciated.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Great photos. You know, it never really occurred to me until I saw a run down of the actors on this hub that outside of Harrison Ford, there is only one actor in this movie that I'm familiar with multiple films of his/her career: John Rhys-Davies. Odd.

      Just had to comment on this hub. Haven't heard anything further regarding the subject we discussed by email. Not sure why. Oh, well. Catching up with far behind chores...

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks Rob, appreciate the comment. Chariots of Fire not just winning best picture but best music too?? For a soundtrack fan like myself it seems unthinkable but Vangelis music theme was playing everywhere at the time, even on the radio, but who plays it now? And I much prefer his Blade Runner score. I'm convinced that if Chariots of Fire didn't have Vangelis catchy theme tune it wouldn't have won Best Picture, which doesn't mean Raiders would have won it was far too popular, Warren Beatty's Reds would probably have clinched it.

    • Robwrite profile image


      9 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Steve; I love this film. It's probably my favorite movie. I used to have in on VHS tape and my pals and I watched it a zillion times. I think most people would have to agree that this is the greatest action/adventure film ever made. It was a great homage to those old serials. I know Lucas was a fan of the Alan Quartmane stories and partially based Indy on that character.

      Harrison Ford managed to break out of the shadow of Han Solo with this film. If not for this, he might have been typecast as the wisecracking sidekick of the hero for his whole career.

      Ford really owes Lucas a debt of gratitude because Lucas not only discovered him for "American Grafetti" , he cast Ford in this and in Star Wars.

      Paul freeman as Belloq is one of the great screen bad guys. He was one step ahead of the hero all the way through.

      Isn't it weird looking back today that this lost to Chariot's of Fire for best picture, since chariots of fire is a mostly forgotten film now and Raiders is cinema legend.

      Great film, fun hub. Excellent photos,


    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hello Jools, thanks very much for the comment. The Big Chill your favourite film eh, it's been a while since I last watched it. I remember it was packed with good actors.

      Probably my fave photo on this hub is Indy at the Well of Souls silhouetted in front of the setting sun. That shot came out so well I've already posted it at a couple of other sites.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      9 years ago from North-East UK

      Steve, another fantastic hub with some amazing photos. I have only seen the movie twice but my hubby is a lifelong fan so it's usually on in the background when I'm doing other things. I didn't realise Lawrence Kasdan wrote the script, he directed my favourite film of all time, The Big Chill. Great hub (as always), voted up etc.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      9 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hey thanks Cogerson, much appreciated amigo.

      Yeah that last Indy film was a bit of a stinker, what was the highlight? Indy surviving an atomic blast hiding in a fridge? Shia swinging through the trees with some monkeys? Spielberg says he'll do one more to make it up to the fans but how old will Ford be by then? Have you seen how old and tired he looked in Cowboys & Aliens?

      Ronald Lacey was a good character actor, I was a big fan of Buckaroo Banzai in the 80's never realising the US president in the film was Lacey.

      I'll do the Indy sequels in the new year, I suppose I'll have to do the 4th Indy too for completion.

      Btw when I first heard about this film around 1980 I was wondering why on earth Spielberg would want to make a film about the discovery of Noah's Ark. I just wasn't interested until I started reading about it in magazines, no internet back then we had to pay for all the latest movie news and read the print on bits of paper stapled together... memories. :)

    • Cogerson profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      Awesome tribute to an awesome movie. This is the movie that turned me into a movie geek. My dad told me let's go see Raiders of the Lost Ark on it's opening day. I did not want to go but he made me....the movie was so good I went back that night to watch it again. I have probably seen the movie over 100 times in my life. I remember when I learned the trick of taping a VHS movie onto a blank VHS tape...Raiders was the first movie that I taped....and I wore out the tape....there are so many great scenes in the movie....that it is hard to single one out.

      But here we go...the chase scene with the trucks, the Marion/Indy love scene on the boat when he falls asleep, the opening of the movie that ends with the snake on the plane and ....I could go on and describe the entire movie.

      As for your hub....I never realized that Pat Roach had two parts I will make sure I pick that up the next time I watch the Indy kills him Although I guess the airplane propeller got him the second time. As for Ronald Lacey, I remember when he appeared in a teen comedy with Judd Nelson called Making the Grade...I could not believe it was the same actor.....great pictures as always.

      As for the Oscar snub....30 years later and I am still pissed that Chariots of Fire won for Best Picture and Best Director. I think the Indiana Jones trilogy is one of the best ever....I am so glad they ended Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones movie career with him riding off into the sunset at the end of The Last Crusade.....I am choosing to ignore that horrible movie Ford and Spielberg made a couple of years ago....voted up and awesome and very interesting.


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