As the countdown to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny continues, we've been thinking not just about Dr. Jones, but the world of movies he's pretty much inspired or influenced. Especially since this will be Harrison Ford's finale as the titular hero.
This all makes for the perfect moment to revisit both the good Indiana Jones movies and the films so similar that Indy might require a paternity test. Yes, that qualifier of "good" means you won't see any Crystal Skulls in this below list of movies, as the weakest chapter of the series — which may have no ties to the new film — can be skipped (for now).
But unlike the previous Indiana Jones movie, some of these movies might surprise you in a good way. We go off the beaten path with a modern adventure featuring two accidental heroes, a classic kids adventure movie that shares a star with Indiana Jones and one treasure hunter whose one-liners are worth stealing.
The Lost City (2022)
The biggest surprise of the last few years in theaters is this little adventure movie that came out of nowhere ... though its huge stars should have given it a bigger spotlight. Romance novelist Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) and himbo cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) make for the unlikeliest of adventurers, and neither signed up for this story.
Instead, Loretta is kidnapped by a rich weirdo (Daniel Radcliffe) to help her find a missing treasure, and Alan wants to prove that he can be the hero he portrays on the covers of her books. Oh, and there's an actual adventurer (Brad Pitt) who knows what he's doing, but his story is just as humorous.
Think of The Lost City as the more comedic Indiana Jones that you never know you needed.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Now, for something more familiar. The original Indiana Jones movie, which spun out of a story from George Lucas (Star Wars) and Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), was an unexpected hit that turned out to be the box office king of 1981.
Its story is simple: Back in 1936, American archeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) figures out that Nazis are looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Adolf Hitler believe it's their ultimate weapon, and the U.S. Army asks Jones to beat the Führer to the punch. Jones then travels around the world with his ex Marion (Karen Allen), with stops in Cairo and an island and the Agean sea, to stop the Ark from falling into the wrong hands.
The Indiana Jones movie to watch if you could only pick one, Raiders became an instant-classic for delivering old-fashioned adventure vibes that stay strong to this day. Ford was also a perfect fit for this role and opportunity, arriving off the success of Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes back.
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy is one of those few excellent movies that seems to have gone ages without discussion before turning into a beloved piece of the cinematic canon. Here, we have Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz sharing the Indy role — he's adventurer Rick O'Connell and she's playing Evelyn, an Egyptologist. The two bicker and squabble over everything, including the box and map that will lead them to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead.
A fun, crowd-pleaser, The Mummy also sports solid special effects, but its stars are its true weapon. Fraser's Rick is excellent because he's not some sort of perfect action hero, but instead a kind of goofy lead who matches perfectly with the super-capable Evelyn, who shattered a glass ceiling for leading ladies in action movies.
Watch it on Peacock
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Not exactly the hit that Raiders was, but still a hit nonetheless, Temple of Doom brings Indy (Ford) back with two new allies. On the run with singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and orphan Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), Jones is beset by chaos from all angles, as he navigates the Himalayas, save stolen children and hunt for relics believed to fight evil.
Some said Temple of Doom was too dark or not right for children, but I'll argue that the movie's name should have been enough of a warning. And today's crowd is probably ready (Common Sense Media rates it as appropriate for audiences of ages 11 and up). A thrilling potion of action, goofiness, romance and gross-out moments, Indiana Jones' second film is still a must.
Oh, and watch Temple of Doom to remember that "prequel" wasn't always a dirty word, as this movie precedes Raiders of the Lost Ark.
National Treasure (2004)
Much like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Disney's National Treasure spawned follow-ups (a show and a sequel, both of which failed to hit the right bar). And much like Dr. Jones, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is hunting for treasure of the highest tier, and one that nobody believes is real. All he needs to do to find it? Steal the Declaration of Independence.
A guilty pleasure that's still worth revisiting, National Treasure works because Nicolas Cage makes it work. Benjamin Franklin Gates may be a ridiculous hero who says things that should make him laugh, but that's the fun. Think "what if Indiana Jones, but more ridiculous."
Watch it on Disney Plus
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
This chronological sequel to Raiders finds Indiana Jones renewing hostilities with power-hungry Nazis in 1938, all while searching for his missing father Henry (Sean Connery). Dear ol' dad, of course, is out trying to find the Holy Grail, which also becomes Indy's new objective.
Met with a strong and positive reception, 'Crusade' leans back into lighthearted adventure, though some thought it felt too much like a retread giving the familiar villains and quest for a famous artifact. This chapter also won points for providing a clearer image of Indiana Jones during his younger years, as portrayed by River Phoenix.
The Goonies (1985)
Right after his appearance in The Temple of Doom, Ke Huy Quan popped back up in the action adventure movie scene as Data, one of the Goonies. This group goes on a much more local adventure than those of Dr. Jones, but still manage to fall into a ton of drama.
Said adventure comes courtesy of their city's own crime family, and the discovery of Sloth (John Matuszak), a deformed and abused boy who they invite into their group.
A more-kid friendly Indiana Jones, Goonies is a fast-paced adventure that should keep all entertained. Also, look out for young Josh Brolin, Sean Astin and Corey Feldman.
Watch it on Hulu