Harrison Ford has played the iconic role of Indiana Jones several times, and he has fought Nazis, cults, and Russians to keep priceless and powerful artifacts out of the hands of evil-doers everywhere. Every one of the films is excellent in its own way, but some are better than others. If you’re new to the franchise, you should watch them all in order, but debating which is the best is always fun. So, let’s do just by laying out the Indiana Jones movies, ranked from worst to best.
Ranking All the Indiana Jones Movies from Worst to Best
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
I’ll be very up front. I don’t hate Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as much as many Indiana Jones fans do. It’s fun and has a lot of great moments. I don’t want to say it’s the worst movie, so let’s agree it’s the least awesome entry in the franchise.
The best part of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just seeing Indiana Jones back on screen after 19 years away. The opening sequence is a lot of fun, at least until the fridge moment happens. Whereas the original three movies were meant to celebrate pulp serials from the 1930s, the time jump to the 1950s made director Steven Spielberg decide to make a film that reflected 1950s B-movies. It was done well and the inclusion of aliens reflected the 1950s B-movie theme, but the change in tone and type of MacGuffin was still jarring for audiences that were used to a specific formula. Even so, the action sequences were mostly a lot of fun, and Indiana Jones was the same hero we knew and loved — just a bit older.
Still, something felt missing from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The film struggled between trying to be a new adventure in a new time and providing fan service to those hoping for another Raiders of the Lost Ark. Marion Ravenwood’s (Karen Allen) return was excellent fan service, but it felt forced and convenient. Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) didn’t fit in, and his relationship with Indy can’t hold a candle to the father-son dynamic in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Mutt Williams swinging on vines in the jungle was the worst moment in the franchise, and I’ll die on that hill.
Bring it, fridge haters.
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Every series has a darker entry, right? In the case of this franchise, it was undoubtedly 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Temple of Doom probably has the weakest story of the original three movies, but it also has a lot of action — especially in the film’s second half. If you can get past the bugs, monkey brains, vampire bats, and hearts being ripped out, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
There are many things to like about Temple of Doom. The opening sequence in the movie features a musical number that’s pretty damn cool, followed by a fight, a car chase, and our introduction to Short Round (Ke Huy Quan). In the third act, the mine car chase is exceptionally done, especially for a movie made in 1984. It’s also a nice change of pace to see Indy fighting different villains in Temple of Doom. It’s not that the Nazis shouldn’t get punched more; I just like knowing that Indy had other adventures against other foes.
If you’re a huge Indiana Jones nerd like me, you should check out the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It does an excellent job of expanding on the relationship between Indy and Short Round and how they became friends.
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
There are two Indiana Jones movies that stand above the others, and fans love to debate which one is better. Make no mistake about it — Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is great. I love it. But it’s still the second-best film in the franchise. It was originally supposed to be the final film of the franchise, and it is a wonderful story about family, mortality, and how obsession can destroy everything you care about.
River Phoenix plays a young Indiana Jones in the opening sequence, and we learn a lot about what made our hero the man he is today — including his fear of snakes. It’s a great opening and establishes how Indy and his father both had their separate obsessions in life that drove them forward — and apart. As Dr. Henry Jones, Sr., Sean Connery is outstanding in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He is believable as Indy’s father, despite being only seven years older than Harrison Ford. Ford and Connery play off of each other very well, especially in the second act, where we see the dysfunction of the Jones family front and center.
When it comes to action, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has just about everything — a boat chase, a gigantic fight in the desert against Nazis and a tank, dark catacombs under an ancient church, and a perilous journey to the Holy Grail that will test Indy to his very core. The original trilogy culminates exactly the way it should, with Indiana Jones and his companions literally riding off into the sunset.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It’s really hard to beat Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an action movie that helped define the genre for years to come, and it is in rarefied air when it comes to summer blockbusters. Feel free to argue with me, but it’s my favorite movie of all time and Raiders has nearly perfect action, story, and pacing.
From the opening scene in the Idol Temple, you’ll be hooked. Who doesn’t remember the giant boulder chasing Indy out of the temple? There’s even a whole attraction at Disney World dedicated to the stunts in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Few films can say they’re genre-defining and relatively timeless. Raiders is both.
In the first 15 minutes, the action, score, and Indiana Jones himself will have you wanting more. The bar fight in Nepal, the infamous showdown with the assassin on the streets of Cairo, the discovery of the Lost Ark in the Well of Souls — it’s just a nonstop thrill ride. Bonus points for having Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull kick off in the same warehouse that Raiders of the Lost Ark ends in.
There are just so many great moments in Raiders. Don’t take my word for it. Just go watch it again!
Those are all of the Indiana Jones movies ranked. Let us know what you think of it.