Anyone who’s seen the recent superhero movie hit “Aquaman” will readily agree, the word “adventure” fits it perfectly. And when it comes to adventure, there’s one name that immediately springs to mind – that is, of course, none other than Indiana Jones. Born out of director Steven Spielberg’s desire to make a James Bond movie, the “Indiana Jones” series came about at the suggestion of Spielberg’s producing partner, George Lucas. Together, the duo created Indy as an homage to the adventure serials they grew up loving as kids. Fast-forward thirty-eight years, and “Indiana Jones” has comes to define adventure movies, with a series of four films and the prequel TV series, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” to Dr. Jones’ name.
Indy is also set to return to the big screen once again with the series’ in-development fifth film, with Steven Spielberg returning to direct, and Harrison Ford set to reprise his iconic role of cinema’s most famous archaeologist!
Of course, whenever Indy’s chased after an ancient artifact, he’s always faced competition from Nazis, underground cult leaders, and everyone in between. But Dr. Jones has never let an ancient relic fall into the hands of his enemies without a fight, and that can only mean its time for another KFK Countdown. So strap in, watch out for snakes, and be sure to keep a reliable bullwhip by your side, readers – here (in descending order) are KFK’s Top 5 Indiana Jones Movie Fights!
- Indy vs Colonel Dovchenko – “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008)
- The Truck Fight – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
- The Tank Fight – “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
- Indy vs Big Nazi – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
I’m just going to say it – “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is underrated. Yes, they perhaps pushed it a little too far with the film’s controversial “Nuke the Fridge” moment, but then no one batted an eyelid when Indy used an inflatable life raft as a parachute in “Temple of Doom”, did they!
In any case, one of the greatest strengths of Indy’s fight sequences has always been the use of a secondary threat from the immediate surroundings that Indy and his opponent have to avoid while battling one another. In “Crystal Skull”, that comes in the form of a horde of carnivorous insects known as “Siafu” (or “Big Damn Ants!” as Indy offers in layman’s terms).
Dr. Jones has to hold his own against the ruthless Colonel Dovchenko, played by Igor Jijikine, in order to keep the otherworldly crystal skull out of his enemies’ clutches, all while the two are surrounded by thousands of hungry ants. Sure, by this point, it had been 19 years since Indy’s last adventure, but like Harrison Ford himself, he’s ready to rock and roll at the drop of a hat, or, in his case, a fedora. A bit of trivia – Harrison Ford had stayed in such good shape after “Last Crusade”, that when he did costume fittings for “Crystal Skull”, his measurements hadn’t changed at all, and he performed many of his own stunts for the film. No wonder Dr. Jones is able to put this much hurt on his bloodthirsty adversary!
Indy had just finished brawling with a Nazi twice his size a few minutes ago (and, trust me, we’ll get to him in a moment) before picking up a ricochet to his shoulder. Now, he has to face off with another vicious Nazi in the cabin of a moving truck, one who puts Dr. Jones through plenty of extra pain by repeatedly punching said wound. You just can’t catch a break when you’re chasing after the Ark of the Covenant, can you?
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” kicked off the “Indiana Jones” franchise in the summer of 1981, and action sequences like this are exactly why it’s stood the test of time. Okay, “Raiders” truly cemented its place in popular culture with Indy nonchalantly blowing an Egyptian swordsman away. (Ironically, that was meant to be an elaborate fight sequence itself before a dysentery-stricken Harrison Ford suggested, “Let’s just shoot the sucker.”) Nevertheless, the battle pushes Indy to his limits, leading to possibly the film’s most daring stunt, with our hero clinging to the bottom of the moving truck before climbing his way back to the cabin to finish the fight – which, as you can see, doesn’t end well for this particular Nazi. If you really want an example of just how influential Indy’s first adventure really was, check out the final fight in 2002’s “The Transporter” below, and you’ll see quite the homage being paid!
Before we get into this one, I put it to you – has there EVER been a more fitting, more sinister theme for the Third Reich than in “Last Crusade”? Seriously, if John Williams’ score whenever the nefarious Colonel Vogel is onscreen doesn’t convince you, surely the score from the Nazi march where Indy inadvertently gets Hitler’s autograph will.
In any case, “Last Crusade” teams up Indy with his father, played by Sean Connery, on a quest to uncover the mother of all artifacts, the Holy Grail. As in “Raiders”, The Nazi’s are after the lost relic, too, and Indy has his work cut out for him rescuing his captive father and Marcus Brody from a Nazi tank with the formidable Colonel Vogel in his way. Spielberg also injects a little levity into the tank battle with a nice callback to the famed gun gag in “Raiders”.
Indeed, Spielberg injects quite of bit of that levity throughout the film. I know I’ve never laughed harder in an Indiana Jones movie than in Indy’s library floor-smashing scene earlier in the film. With the tank careening straight for the edge of a cliff, it’s a brutal, edge-of-your-seat smackdown to say the least, and for as much of a fight as Vogel puts up, it’s clear he didn’t learn that even on a Nazi tank in the middle of the barren desert, you still need a ticket!
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was the one to kick it all off for Dr. Jones, and by the mid-point of the film, Spielberg had already seemingly thrown everything and the kitchen sink at the audience. However, this moment would mark the first proper fight scene for Indy, and it pretty well makes up for the aforementioned planned fight with the Egyptian swordsman that we never got to see.
Naturally, Spielberg and Lucas never want to make things too easy for Indy, so not only is his opponent twice his size, but our hero also has to avoid the whirring propeller blades of a Nazi jet. This sequence also has probably the best starting point of any Indy fight, as you can see from the beginning that Dr. Jones is far less enthusiastic about the inevitable brawl than his enemy is.
Being the first Indiana Jones film, it also very quickly establishes just how big of a difference sound effects make in a fight sequence. The sound effects of punches landing in “Raiders” and, indeed, the entire Indiana Jones series are arguably on the level of those found in “Enter the Dragon” – when hits land, there’s no doubt whatsoever that somebody just got their bell rung. And in keeping with the series’ tradition of always offering a secondary threat from the surrounding environment, it’s the one present here that Indy ultimately exploits to win the fight.
On that note, here’s a fun fact – the Big Nazi is played by stuntman and pro-wrestler Pat Roach, who would become a mainstay of the first three films. Not only did he also portray an equally large Sherpa in the Marion’s bar sequence earlier in the film he would also return to portray a Nazi once again in “Last Crusade”. But if you think Mr. Roach’s involvement with Indy’s adventures stops there, well, he also makes a very prominent appearance in the last entry on this list…
…and in at #1 is…
Indy vs Big Temple Guard – “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)
“Temple of Doom”, the most intense of Indy’s adventures, by far, and the one that helped lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating by the MPAA. Yep, ripping a man’s heart out before dipping him into molten lava in a PG movie will do that!
“Temple of Doom” is where I first discovered the “Indiana Jones” series as a child, and the climax of Indy busting free of Mola Ram’s grip and freeing the Thugee cult’s captive children was THE way to do a finale in an adventure movie, as far as I was concerned. And this is where Mr. Pat Roach comes back into the series as Mola Ram’s fearsome head Temple Guard.
Indy takes the pounding of a lifetime from his towering opponent, but the real challenge is, of course, the obligatory secondary threat in an Indiana Jones fight. However, this time, there’s not one, but two of them – not only does Dr. Jones have to battle his enemy with the brainwashed Maharajah torturing him with a voodoo doll in our hero’s likeness, he and his enemy also find themselves on the conveyor belt of massive rock crusher.
Fortunately, Indy gets a helping hand from his young sidekick, Short Round, but the true saviour of Indy’s greatest onscreen beatdown is stunt legend Vic Armstrong. Harrison Ford herniated his back during production, requiring a substantial recovery period. Ultimately, Mr. Armstrong stepped up to double Indy in the interim. In other words, pretty much anytime Harrison Ford’s face isn’t seen here, it’s Vic coming to the rescue.
Ford himself graciously acknowledged Vic’s contributions to the film during his recovery, autographing a photo of the two taken on set (and featured in Vic’s autobiography “The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman”) with “If you learn to talk, I’m in deep trouble!” That knowledge frankly makes the moment when Dr. Jones finally turns the fight around that much more satisfying – with a clear close-up of our hero’s face and the Indiana Jones theme kicking into high gear, we know that both Indy and Harrison Ford are truly back in action!
So there we have it folks, our Top 5 Indiana Jones Movie Fights! Which do you remember best as your fave fights from the series? Keen to see Indiana Jones 5, set to arrive in 2021? Let us know what you expect in the comments below Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (Enter the Temple of FU for more adventures of the Top 10 variety, these Top 5 Star Wars Lightsber duels, our interview with Vic Armstrong’s nephew and fellow stunt veteran, Jesse Johnson and why not subscribe for videos too?)