Ranked: All Five ‘Indiana Jones’ Films from Worst to Best

Ranked: All Five ‘Indiana Jones’ Films from Worst to Best 

By Daniel Rester

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) further established Steven Spielberg as a top director, boosted Harrison Ford’s star power, and introduced audiences to one of cinema’s most celebrated characters in archeologist Indiana Jones. The globetrotter has five movies now, with Ford still taking on the role at the age of 80 in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. How do the five films stack against each other? Here’s my ranking of them from worst to best. 

5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  (2008)

The entry where the series “nuked the fridge,” Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an overproduced and messy film in many ways. However, it also isn’t as terrible as some make it out to be. Ford is still great in the role as Indy takes on Soviet agents looking for alien artifacts, while Cate Blanchett brings some fun as one of the villains. John Hurt is also very good as Ox. The college campus chase and ant attack scenes are quite entertaining too. The visual effects, sci-fi elements, and Shia LaBeouf as Mutt do distract at times, but the adventurous spirit and craft is still there enough in Crystal Skull despite its issues. Grade B- (6.3/10)

4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  (1984)

A noisy prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a big step down from the first film. It’s still a solid enough entry though as Indy takes on a cult in India that practices black magic. Temple of Doom is a dark and intense chapter in the series (and even helped lead to the PG-13 MPAA rating with its material) but still provides plenty of enjoyable thrills, especially with the bridge climax. Willie (Kate Capshaw) is an annoying supporting heroine while Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) comes across much better as Indy’s young sidekick. Grade: B (7.3/10)

3. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny  (2023)

The talented James Mangold took over directing duties for Spielberg for this fifth and most recent – and supposedly last – film in the series. Ford reclaims his famous role with skill as Indy teams up with his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) to find a time-altering device before Nazi scientist Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) can. Mangold does an excellent job of mimicking Spielberg with his lighting and camera angle choices. Many of the action scenes work well, with the prologue set during WWII being a highlight. Mikkelsen makes for a great villain too. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny goes on a little too long and the third act doesn’t completely work, but overall it’s a satisfying conclusion for the series. Grade: B+ (8/10)

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade  (1989)

Originally meant as the finale to the series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is both a large improvement over Temple of Doom and a terrific ending for the intended trilogy. It recaptures the tone of Raiders of the Lost Ark as Indiana fights Nazis searching for the Holy Grail. The sequel establishes a buddy comedy center by focusing on Indy and his father’s relationship; Sean Connery is very welcome as Henry Jones Sr. The action is frequently breathtaking, with a tank chase being a highlight, and the film also provides some strong backstory for the title character. Grade: A (9.3/10)

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark  (1981)

One of the best Hollywood blockbusters ever made, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an exciting action-adventure masterpiece from beginning to end as Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood (an excellent Karen Allen) take on Nazis searching for the Ark of the Covenant. Everything works here, from Ford’s introduction as the whip-cracking character to Spielberg’s meticulous staging to John Williams’ iconic music score. The opening boulder rolling scene might be the most memorable bit in a film full of rousing sequences. Raiders of the Lost Ark is often imitated but rarely matched. Grade: A+ (10/10)

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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