Story

Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in the year 1936. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), archaeologist and ‘obtainer of rare antiquities’ is deep in the South American jungle searching for lost treasure. Jones finds his treasure, a gold statue, in an ancient temple infested with booby traps. After surviving the dangers of the temple and fleeing with the gold statue, Indiana is confronted by an old adversary, Rene Bellog (Paul Freeman). Bellog promptly steals the statue while Jones narrowly escapes with his life.

Back in the United States, Jones is approached by two US army intelligence agents. They inform him that the Nazis have discovered the ancient city of Tanis near Cairo. Indiana realises that the Nazis must be close to locating the resting place of the lost Ark of the Covenant. Fearing that the power contained in the Ark might fall into Nazi hands, the US Government hires Indiana to recover the lost Ark before the Nazis get to it.

Jones travels to Nepal in search of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), a girlfriend from his past. She possesses a medallion critical to locating the tomb that contains the Ark. He then heads to Cairo, where he enlists the help of an old friend, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies).

When the movie was first released in 1981, it was rated PG. The content of the new DVD version is virtually unchanged, but the rating has been changed to M because of the DVD’s enhanced effects.

Themes

Archaeology; the supernatural; biblical myths and legends; Nazism

Violence

Raiders of the Lost Ark contains intense action violence and danger. Most of the violence is not graphic and is deliberately overdone for comic effect. The heroes of the movie don’t really get hurt. But the movie does sometimes show more brutal violence and some blood, gore and gruesome images. Lots of people get killed too. For example:

  • Indiana Jones often uses his whip to strike his people who attack him.
  • Indiana runs through a hail of poisoned arrows while attempting to escape a cave-in. He narrowly escapes falling to his death, but then runs into a group of indigenous South Americans with their bows drawn.
  • A Nazi soldier holds Marion’s arm behind her back. A second Nazi takes a red-hot poker out of a fire and holds it close to her face while questioning her.
  • During a fight in a Nepalese bar between Nazis, Nepalese thugs and Indiana, a thug has his back engulfed in flames before he’s shot in the forehead. There’s a quick view of the bullet wound and blood running down the man’s face as he falls to the ground. Marion hits a man over the head with a flaming piece of wood. Indiana smashes a bottle and a barstool over men’s heads. A man is shot in the back, and blood runs down the side of his mouth. At the end of the fight, neither Indiana nor Marion seems to be hurt.
  • In a mainly slapstick fight between Indiana, Marion and a dozen Cairo thugs in a crowded market, a thug accidentally knocks down one of his own men with a club. Another accidentally stabs a coworker through the chest with a sword. Indiana punches thugs in the face, knees them in the chest, elbows them in the face, and shoots several men.
  • In a more brutal fight between Indiana and a Nazi, the two men punch each other in the face and stomach. There’s some blood on the Nazi’s face and shoulder. The fight stops when the Nazi accidentally walks into a plane’s spinning propeller. A shower of blood sprays on to the plane’s window. During the fight, Marion shoots two men with the plane’s machineguns.
  • One of the movie’s more brutal scenes shows Indiana with a bullet wound to his shoulder and a Nazi punching the wound over and over again. Blood covers the Nazi’s fist. The Nazi then throws Indiana through a windscreen.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Raiders of the Lost Ark contains images that might scare or upset children under eight. In particular, one scene towards the end of the movie contains horror images as well as blood and gore. Younger children might find it very disturbing and frightening. Other examples include the following:

  • A partially decomposed man’s body is stuck on a series of wooden stakes. One side of the man’s face is rotted away to the bone, showing a protruding eye and gaping mouth. The head partially turns around, making the corpse look lifelike.
  • Giant tarantula spiders crawl all over the backs of Indiana and another man.
  • Indiana is lowered into a room where the floor is covered with writhing snakes. Indiana sprays the snakes with liquid from a bucket and then sets them on fire.
  • While trapped in an ancient tomb, Marion mistakenly hugs a mummified corpse. The corpse has an open mouth with a screaming expression on its skeletal face. It seems to be stuck to Marion. She screams while trying to throw it off. Mummified corpses crowd in on her before Indiana rescues her. A snake crawls out of a corpse’s mouth.
  • When the Ark is opened, swirling vapours rise up out of the ark and wrap themselves around Nazi solders. Ghosts appear out of the vapours. One has the face of a beautiful young woman before it changes into a screaming hooded skull and attacks a hysterically screaming Nazi. A ball of fire rises up out of the Ark and engulfs Rene Bellog before fire shoots out and kills Nazi soldiers. The faces of two Nazi soldiers melt away and reveal blood and flesh beneath. Bellog’s head explodes in a shower of flame and flesh. Finally, a giant firestorm sucks the Nazis and their equipment up into the sky. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Some children in this age group are also likely to be scared by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

Raiders of the Lost Ark contains some sexual references. For example:

  • When Indiana is reunited with Marion Ravenwood, they have a conversation suggesting that Indiana might have seduced and taken advantage of Marion when she was a naïve young woman. Indiana tells Marion, ‘I never meant to hurt you’. Marion replies, ‘I was a child, I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it’.
  • A man holds up an evening dress in front of Marion and tells her that he would like to see her in it. Marion scoffs at the man’s suggestions and says, ‘I bet you would’. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Marion and a man have a drinking competition in a bar. At first, they seem drunk but in control. But as the man drinks another glass he slowly falls backwards off his stool unconscious.
  • Marion smokes a cigarette and blows smoke into a man’s face.
  • A man smokes a hookah-style pipe in a café. Several similar pipes sit on other tables.
  • Indiana sits at a table by himself with a bottle of whisky in front of him. The  bottle is almost empty. He seems to be quietly drunk, slurring his words a bit and slightly unstable on his feet. He seems to be drinking to forget his sorrows.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie contains some sexual activity. For example:

  • Indiana gives Marion several passionate kisses on the lips.
  • Marion stands with her back to a man and takes her top off and undoes her bra strap. Her bare back and shoulders show. In her next scene, Marion wears a backless, low-cut evening dress that shows her cleavage.
  • Marion wears a long silk nightdress that clings to her body. It has a plunging neckline and show some cleavage. She sits on a bed with Indiana, who has a bare chest. Marion kisses Indiana on his elbow, then his forehead, then his eyelid. Finally she kisses him passionately on the lips after which he falls asleep. 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: Johnny Walker Black Label and Jack Daniels whisky.  

Coarse language

Raiders of the Lost Ark contains occasional coarse language and name-calling. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a blockbuster action adventure movie that entertains from start to finish. It targets an adolescent and adult audience. Harrison Ford’s performance created one of the greatest action adventure heroes of all time. The movie has a high fright factor and a high body count. It also contains horror images together with blood and gore. Younger children might find these aspects of the movie disturbing and frightening.

The movie’s main messages are about good winning over evil, and people not interfering with things they don’t understand.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • courage and bravery – for example, Indiana repeatedly faces dangerous situations and people
  • not giving up – for example, Indiana won’t give in no matter what obstacles are placed in his path.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about violence. In the movie, a lot of the violence is unrealistic and doesn’t have many consequences. You could talk about what would happen if people acted violently like this in real life. 

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