A highly entertaining romp of an action film that throws in everything from giant spiders to Nazi villains, biblical and Egyptian mythology, thrills, spills and special effects, Raiders of the Lost Ark marked the first collaboration between Spielberg and George Lucas, the two most commercially successful American filmmakers. Raiders was the first of Spielberg's all-action Indiana Jones films, followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). While Raiders was acknowledged by the director to be a tribute to the action serials of his youth, it's a truly post-modern cornucopia of cinematic styles and genres, drawing on westerns, horror films, war and Bond movies.
Spielberg also described his vision of Harrison Ford's character as a combination of Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Don Juan and Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; an American critic summed up his appeal nicely when he described Indiana Jones as being as 'indestructible as a cartoon coyote'.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, also known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, is a 1981 adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford. It is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise, and pits Indiana Jones (played by Ford) against the Nazis, who search for the Ark of the Covenant, to make their army invincible. Indiana and the Nazis search for a medallion, owned by Indy's old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), which will pinpoint the Well of Souls in Egypt, the Ark's resting place. The film also starred Paul Freeman as Indiana's nemesis, French archaeologist Rene Belloq, John Rhys-Davies as Indiana's sidekick Sallah, and Denholm Elliott as Indiana's colleague, Marcus Brody.
The film's origins came from Lucas' desire to create a modern version of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s. Spielberg originally suggested casting Ford as Jones, but Lucas objected, stating that he did not want the actor to be constantly associated with his films. Lucas persuaded Spielberg to look for someone else and Tom Selleck was cast in the role, but he was unavailable because of his commitment to the television series Magnum, P.I.. Production was based at Elstree Studios, and filming also took place in La Rochelle, Tunisia, Hawaii and the United States from June to September 1980.
When released on June 12, 1981, the $20 million (USD) film was a huge success, easily the highest grossing film of 1981, earning $384 million worldwide, and, at the time, one of the highest-grossing movies ever made. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1982 and won four (Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration). The film was a hit with audiences and critics alike leading to two more films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series, and a fourth film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
To achieve the sound of thousands of snakes slithering, sound designer Ben Burtt stuck his fingers into a cheese casserole. This was augmented by applying wet sponges to the rubber on a skateboard.
1981's biggest grossing film.
Indiana Jones' kangaroo-hide bull whip was sold in December, 1999 at Christie's auction house in London for $43,000. His jacket and hat are on display at the Smithsonian.