Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 55 mins

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Set in 1936, this fast-paced and fiery adventure follows the exploits of Archeology professor Indiana Jones, a renowned treasure hunter. Reveling in danger, and making a habit of defying death, he finds himself experiencing yet another close shave in a South American temple, with a gold idol - by poison dart, fall, and finally a giant boulder that chases him out the front. An old enemy, Rene Belloq, steals the idol and then orders Hovito indians after Indy. Indy, however, escapes back to the USA, where Army Intelligence officers are waiting for him at his university. They tell him about a flurry of Nazi archaeological activity near Cairo, which Indy determines to be the possible resting place of the Ark of the Covenant - the chest that carried the 10 Commandments. The Ark is believed to carry an incredibly powerful energy that must not fall into Nazi hands. Indiana is immediately sent overseas, stopping in Nepal to pick up an old girlfriend (his old professor's daughter) and then meeting up in Cairo with his friend Sallah. But danger lurks everywhere in the form of Nazi thugs, and poisonous snakes in the Ark's resting place. After Belloq, hired by the Nazis, makes off again with the Ark, Indy and Marion are determined to get it back, and they overpower the pilot of a German plane. But Indy finds himself confronted with a giant German thug, and after a frightening hand-to-hand fight Indy and Marion blow up the plane. Now the Nazis must drive the Ark to Cairo, but Indy regains control of the Ark after running the convoy off the road, one vehicle at a time. Once again the Nazis recapture the Ark and Marion, heading for a Nazi-controlled island. There, Belloq will open the Ark and demonstrate the horrific power it can unleash upon the world!
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen

Crew: Steven Spielberg (Director), Douglas Slocombe (Director of Photography), John Williams (Music Director)

Rating: A (India)

Genres: Action, Adventure

Release Dates: 12 Jun 1981 (India)

Tagline: The Return of the Great Adventure.

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Did you know? During the scene where Indiana threatens Nazis with bazooka, you can clearly see a fly creeping into the mouth of Paul Freeman. Contrary to popular belief, he does not swallow it. Freeman explained in an interview years later that the fly flew off at about the instant he uttered the word "bad," but Spielberg noticed it and decided it would be funny to cut out a few frames so the fly would not be seen flying away. This makes it look as though Freeman eats it, and he found the edit highly amusing. Empire Magazine chose this scene as one of the most common scenes for which people press the "Pause" button on their VCRs. Read More
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Special Appearance
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor




Executive Producer
Associate Producer




Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Art Director
Production Designer
Set Decorator


Casting Director

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer


Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
6-Track 70mm, Dolby
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
The Return of the Great Adventure.
Audio/Video Mismatch
In the car chase scene, when Indiana pushes a car off the road into the trees, the driver curses in German. However, his mouth forms the English form of the word.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Indiana hoists himself up the front of the truck, his leather whip makes a clanking noise like it is made of metal.

Audio/Video Mismatch
After Indy and Sallah have discovered the Ark within the Well of the Souls, they pack it in a crate and it is hauled out by the workers. As it is being lifted up, Indy says, "Alright, take it up. Easy!" yet his lips don't move, and, anyway, he looks down, away from the crate and therefore can't critique the job of the workers.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When the German officer tells Gobler that he wants "plenty of protection" for the Ark, we hear Gobler answer "Jawohl, Herr Oberst!" but his lips don't move.

Character Error
The trained German soldiers hold the MP40s incorrectly, holding the magazine instead of the forward stock. Surprisingly, the untrained street thug holds the weapon correctly.

Character Error
Marcus Brody says, "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions." There is no such claim in the Bible.

Character Error
If the idol is made of pure gold, and the bag (which is to be a substitute) contains sand, it is way too light. Gold is about 10 times heavier than sand, thus the bag had to have 10 times more volume than the idol. Thus, Indy's trick doesn't work and the boulder falls down.

Character Error
While discussing the history of the Ark, Indy refers to Mount Horeb as "Herob."

Character Error
Before the airplane fight, Gobler addresses Dietrich in German as "Herr Major", indicating Dietrich's rank equivalent to Major. After the airplane fight, his voice has changed (see above unsynchronized goof), and he changes Dietrich's rank to "Oberst" (equivalent to Colonel).

When Toht grabs the red-hot medallion, his fingers are burned. Later in the movie, the burns on are all squarely in the center of his palm, and upside down compared to the position in which he palmed the medallion.

The staff is supposed to be 60 inches tall (6 kadams = 72 inches, minus 1 kadam). The pole that Indy inserts into the hole in the map room towers over his head, indicating (incorrectly) that Indy is less than five feet tall. The laserdisc edition disproves any claim that he's standing on a lower step.

When the Flying Wing begins to turn in a circle, Marion shoots the Germans arriving by truck. Then the Flying Wing clips off the top of one of the gas truck's tanks spilling gasoline toward the aforementioned, eliminated Germans. We then cut to Indy struggling with the muscle-bound German, and then to Marion shooting at some other gas tanks causing them to explode. In the wide shot that immediately follows, the gas truck's tank has not yet been clipped by the Flying Wing.

During the gunfight in Marion's bar, when Indiana ducks behind a corner, it appears that the type of pistol he is shooting changes with every cut. This is because one shot of Indy shooting the semi-auto appears out of sequence. After his revolver is out of ammo and he reaches for his holster, the semi-auto reappears and Indy keeps it for the rest of the scene. Evidently the semi-auto is his backup weapon; it appears later on the Bantu Wind.

Luggage rack detaches itself from the truck when Indy collides with the water trough, but it's fixed in subsequent shots.

When the slab is removed from the roof of the Well of Souls, we can see that it fits into a network of supports. When the ceiling is shown from below we should see a cross pattern of supports as well as the slabs, however we only see the slabs. There is no interior support for the slabs.

Factual Mistake
There are many flaws with the U-boat sequence. The class of boat is wrong - U-26 was a Type IA, but that shown is a Type VIIC (this is because the film reused the replica of U-96 from Das Boot). Neither the Type IA nor VIIC - nor any of the principal classes - would have been capable of carrying the Ark, due to limited storage space and access hatches that were too small. The Captain clearly orders the U-boat to dive ("Tauchen"); however, a lack of a constant air supply, much reduced speed and limited capacity for the electric motor batteries meant that U-boats only submerged for defense, attack or in heavy weather - none of these apply here. Nor did U-boats sound a 'diving' klaxon. A cut scene shows Indy hiding aboard the boat by clinging to the periscope. However, as explained the boat would not in reality have dived, and even when it did it would not have run at a sufficiently shallow 'periscope depth' the whole time. On the surface, at least four men would have been on watch at all times. Even if he could have remained hidden while the submarine remained above water he would have died from exposure. The trip would have taken many days to reach its target and he would have died of thirst long before then. Thus, however Indy tried to smuggle himself aboard the boat, he would have either been spotted or drowned.

Factual Mistake
In 1936, Egypt was not under British rule but there was a British military presence, primarily to guard the Suez Canal. It would've been impossible for German troops to operate there without the express permission of the Egyptian government or indeed the British government, e. g. to force Egyptians to work on the excavation site. For the same reason, there was no need for the US government to send Indy to stop the Nazis' search for the Ark. Simply asking their 'cousins' to end the excavation would've done the trick.

Factual Mistake
Marcus Brody mentions that "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army which carries the Ark before it... is invincible." Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Ark itself has any power whatsoever, let alone making a human army invincible. If anything, in 1 Samuel 4, it tells how the Hebrews brought the Ark into battle with them, thinking it would give them victory. Instead, they were soundly defeated and the Ark was captured by their enemies.

Factual Mistake
Indy flies from Nepal to Cairo on-board a Douglas DC-3 which makes stopovers at Karachi (Pakistan - part of India in 1936), Baghdad (Iraq) and finally arriving in Cairo. With the exception of the Baghdad-Cairo stretch (about 800 miles), all of these flight stretches (which range from 1200-1500 miles) are way too long for the DC-3's maximum range of approximately 1000 miles.

Factual Mistake
In the beginning of the film, the city of Tanis in Egypt is described as having been destroyed in a sandstorm and recently discovered by the Nazis. In reality, the city was probably abandoned when its water supply was silted in. Archaeological digs had been conducted at the site beginning in the 1800s, so the location of Tanis was well-known within the archaeology community in 1936.

Revealing Mistakes
Glass wall between Indy & Marion and the snakes. Some, but not all examples have been erased in the 2003 DVD edition.

Revealing Mistakes
When Indy is sliding underneath the truck, the trench that was made to prevent the stunt actor from striking the vehicle can be seen.

Revealing Mistakes
When Marion is shooting at the German soldiers from the gunner's seat in the German plane, the bullets clearly hit the ground at the soldiers' feet, yet they react as if they have sustained hits above the waist.

Revealing Mistakes
While Belloq and Marion are drinking in the tent, Belloq says the alcohol is "[his] family label". In the previous shot, the writing on the bottle is in Japanese.

Revealing Mistakes
The plane that is circling on the ground is driven by a chain around its wheels.
The famous scene in which Indy shoots a marauding and flamboyant swordsman was not in the original script. Harrison Ford was supposed to use his whip to get the swords out of his attacker's hands, but the food poisoning he and the rest of the crew had gotten made him too sick to perform the stunt. After several unsuccessful tries, Ford suggested "shooting the sucker." Steven Spielberg immediately took up the idea and the scene was successfully filmed.

Freeze-framing during the Well of Souls scene you can notice a golden pillar with a tiny engraving of R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).

Jeff Bridges turned down the role of Indiana Jones.

Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison wrote a script during shooting breaks on the location of this film. Mathison was there to visit her husband, Harrison Ford and Spielberg dictated to her a story idea he had; that script was eventually called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

Indiana Jones never loses his hat as an homage to the classic serials of the 1940s. In those serials, the heroes' hats stayed on heads through virtually any assault. This was done for continuity reasons, but also because it was considered poor taste for a gentleman to be without his hat in certain situations - even on the silver screen. It eventually becomes a running joke through the series. Indy does, however, lose his hat once each in both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

While filming the snakes scenes inside the Well of the Souls, First Assistant Director David Tomblin at one point had a python bite his hand and latch on without letting go. Tomblin then calmly asked someone to grab the python (still attached to Tomblin's hand) by the tail and whip it, so that the snap would send a wave up the snake's body and force it to let go. A stage hand did just that and the python released its bite from Tomblin's hand. Tomblin then got medical attention on his hand and the python itself was not injured.

George Lucas made what was at the time an unusual deal for this film. The studio financed the film's entire $20-million budget. In exchange, Lucas would own over 40% of the film and collect almost half of the profits after the studio grossed a certain amount. It turned out to be a very lucrative deal for Lucas. Paramount executive Michael Eisner said that he felt the script for this film was the best he had ever read.

The instructions for the construction of the Ark are found in Exodus 25:10. The clothing that Belloq wears while acting as a high priest during the ceremony at the end is found beginning in Exodus chapter 28.

When Indy is dragged under and then out behind a moving truck, it's a tribute to Yakima Canutt's similar famous stunt in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939). In fact, it was a stunt that stuntman Terry Leonard had tried to pull off the year before, and failed to do so, on The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981). He was thrilled at the chance of having another shot at it, but only agreed to do it if his friend & colleague Glenn Randall Jr. was driving. The truck was specially constructed to be higher above the ground than normal so as to allow clearance for Indiana Jones to pass underneath safely. The center of the road was also dug out to allow more clearance. In Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) we see, on the camera slate, that the camera was set at 20 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 fps; in other words, the shots were done in "fast motion," so the truck was not really moving as fast as depicted on screen. Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck for some of the shots, badly bruising his ribs. When asked if he was worried, Ford quipped: "No. If it really was dangerous, they would have filmed more of the movie first." During the chase, Harrison Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of which are playing German soldiers. Terry Leonard plays the driver of the truck, who gets punched out of the cab by Harrison. Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers hanging onto the side of the truck before being knocked off. The truck chase took approximately eight weeks to film.

Indiana Jones's hat came from the famous Herbert Johnson hat shop in Saville Row, London. The hat was the shop's Australian model. On the Bonus Features DVD, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman said that in order to properly age the hat, she grabbed and twisted the hat, then she and Harrison Ford both sat on it, and it eventually looked like "a very lived-in and well-loved" hat.

The film was originally given an R-rating because of the exploding head at the end. They didn't want the picture to be rated R, so they added layers of fire in front of his face to make it appear less graphic.

During filming in Tunisia, nearly everyone in the cast and crew got sick, except director Steven Spielberg. It is thought that he avoided illness by eating only the food he'd brought with him: cans and cans of Spaghetti-O's.

Traditionally when one of his films is about to open, George Lucas goes on holiday to get away from all the hoopla. As Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was just about to open, Lucas went to Hawaii where he was joined by Steven Spielberg. When the grosses for Lucas's film came in, and it was clear that his movie was going to be a hit, Lucas relaxed and was able to discuss other topics with his friend. It was at this point that Spielberg confessed he always wanted to direct a James Bond film, to which Lucas told him he had a much better idea - an adventure movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark". The conversation came up while the two were making a sand castle. After their trip, they got together and developed the script with Lawrence Kasdan.

During the scene where Indiana threatens Nazis with bazooka, you can clearly see a fly creeping into the mouth of Paul Freeman. Contrary to popular belief, he does not swallow it. Freeman explained in an interview years later that the fly flew off at about the instant he uttered the word "bad," but Spielberg noticed it and decided it would be funny to cut out a few frames so the fly would not be seen flying away. This makes it look as though Freeman eats it, and he found the edit highly amusing. Empire Magazine chose this scene as one of the most common scenes for which people press the "Pause" button on their VCRs.

Indy's line to Marion when they are on the ship - "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage" - was ad-libbed by Harrison Ford.

The giant boulder that chases after Indiana Jones at the start of the film was made of fiberglass. On the Bonus Features DVD, sound designer Ben Burtt said that in order to get the proper sound effects for the giant boulder, he and the sound crew tried pushing boulders down a hill, but the sounds they were getting weren't up to par with what they were looking for, and later that day, as they were leaving in a Honda Civic that they coasted down a gravel embankment, Burtt noticed that the sound was just what they were looking for, so he grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the Civic's rear tires to record the effect.