Every Indiana Jones Movie, Ranked

Indiana Jones is the greatest adventure movie franchise in history, and here's how they rank against each other.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

harrison ford indiana jones

Harrison Ford broke out as Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope, but it was a few years later, when George Lucas cast him as the world’s most famous archaeologist, Indiana Jones, that he became an icon. The adventure franchise set the standard for Hollywood, so high, in fact, nothing has come close.

Fans have debated the right way to order the movies for years, but we stand by this ranking, even though all of them are still well worth the time to watch. Yes, even that movie holds up.

4. Temple Of Doom (1984)

When it was first released, Temple of Doom set an opening weekend record with $45 million, and it was such a success that the MPAA created the PG-13 rating for this film. Darker than Raiders of the Lost Ark, the second film in the series was a prequel, tossing aside all of Indiana Jones‘s character development. The result is a film critics at the time considered to be “mean-spirited,” while fans were largely disappointed over the change in tone.

Critics may have eventually warmed to the film, it’s now at 77 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but fans have been placing it at the bottom of their personal rankings for years. With none of the globe-trotting of the other films and most of the action taking place underground, Temple of Doom is claustrophobic and closed in.

The largest faults of Temple of Doom include the mine cart sequence that inspired the worst trend in video game level design, a crime that can never be forgiven, and Willie (Kate Capshaw). Going from Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), a woman who drinks men under the table multiple times, to a lounge singer who screeches and hates the outside was a major downgrade.

3. Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)

Considered to be the worst of the franchise when it was first released, and yes, the refrigerator scene is ridiculous, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also has a 77 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and while the audience score is lower, it’s trending in the right direction. Time has been kind to Harrison Ford‘s return as Indiana Jones after 19 years away.

Featuring the return of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and introducing Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) as the son of Indy, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull follows similar adventure beats to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Upbeat and embracing the pulpy roots of the franchise, Crystal Skull adds aliens to the franchise, fitting with the 1950s featuring a glut of hokey sci-fi movies.

Cate Blanchett’s KGB agent with mental powers isn’t the strangest part of the film and actually fits in well with the template established by Raiders’ Toth (Ronald Lacey). With better action sequences and a fun story, it’s part of the bottom-tier of Indiana Jones films, but not the worst.

2. The Last Crusade (1989)

Featuring Sean Connery as Indiana Jones’ dad, The Last Crusade explains the backstory of the action star, but to compensate for the darkness of Temple of Doom, it goes far in the light-hearted direction. So far in fact, it includes the backstory of the fedora, which is far more touching than that makes it sound.

The globe-trotting race against the Nazis to recover the Holy Grail takes a backseat to Harrison Ford and Connery’s banter, but it’s well-timed and well-written, continuing the trend of a 1940s comic come to life. Though the film was a success, the franchise went on ice for over a decade as Ford found himself with more work than he could handle while movie studios stopped pushing adventure films.

What makes The Last Crusade work so well is also what Raiders of the Lost Ark did so well, Indiana Jones isn’t a great hero since he’s constantly struggling to get by, barely winning fights, and at the end of the day, he wins by outsmarting the villains. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson would never make a film that shows them getting beat up in front of their dad.

1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

opening scenes

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t just the best film in the franchise, and when The Dial of Destiny comes out, it’ll still be the best one, but it’s also the best adventure film ever made and one of the greatest movies of all time. The introduction to Indiana, set in a Peruvian temple and featuring the famous boulder escape, sets the stage for the rest of the film, which introduces the principal players, the stakes, and then takes off and never stops.

Filled with iconic moments, from shooting the swordmaster to Toth pulling out a bizarre device, seemingly for torture…that turns into a coat hanger…and then the famous face-melting scene. Raiders of the Lost Ark perfected the Indiana Jones formula the first time out, and it will never be surpassed, it’s always a question of where the other films fall in order behind it.

From globe-trotting to punching Nazis, Raiders of the Lost Ark has been a success every decade since its release; from setting records for VHS sales to being a hit Blu-Ray release, no adventure film will ever come close to being as good as Indiana Jones first outing.