Indiana Jones is an American media franchise based on the adventures of Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr., a fictional professor of archaeology that began in 1981 with the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. In 1984, a prequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was released, and in 1989, a sequel, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A fourth film followed in 2008, titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A fifth film is in development and is provisionally scheduled to be released in 2022. The series was created by George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford (of Star Wars fame) as Indiana Jones. The first four films were directed by Steven Spielberg.
In 1992, the franchise expanded to a television series with The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, portraying the character in his childhood and youth, and including adventures with his father. Marvel Comics began publishing The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones in 1983, and Dark Horse Comics gained the comic book rights to the character in 1991. Novelisations of the films have been published, as well as many novels with original adventures, including a series of German novels by Wolfgang Hohlbein, twelve novels set before the films published by Bantam Books, and a series set during the character’s childhood inspired by the television show. Numerous Indiana Jones video games have been released since 1982.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The first film is set in 1936. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is hired by government agents to locate the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. The Nazis have teams searching for religious artefacts, including the Ark, which is rumored to make an army that carries the Ark before it invincible. The Nazis are being helped by Indiana’s nemesis René Belloq (Paul Freeman). With the help of his old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indiana manages to recover the Ark in Egypt. The Nazis steal the Ark and capture Indiana and Marion. Belloq and the Nazis perform a ceremony to open the Ark, but when they do so, they are all killed gruesomely by the Ark’s wrath. Indiana and Marion, who survived by closing their eyes, manage to get the Ark to the United States, where it is stored in a secret government warehouse.
The second film is set in 1935, a year before Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana escapes Chinese gangsters with the help of singer/actress Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and his twelve-year-old sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). The trio crash-land in India, where they come across a village whose children have been kidnapped. The Thuggee led by Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) has also taken the holy Sankara Stones, which they will use to take over the world. Indiana manages to overcome Mola Ram’s evil power, rescues the children and returns the stones to their rightful place, overcoming his own mercenary nature. The film has been noted as an outlier in the franchise, as it does not feature Indy’s university or any antagonistic political entity, and is less focused on archaeology, being presented as a dark movie with gross-out elements, human sacrifice and torture.
The third film is set in 1938. Indiana and his friend Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) are assigned by American businessman Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) to find the Holy Grail. They are teamed up with Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), following on from where Indiana’s estranged father Henry (Sean Connery) left off before he disappeared. It transpires that Donovan and Elsa are in league with the Nazis, who captured Henry Jones in order to get Indiana to help them find the Grail. However, Indiana recovers his father’s diary filled with his research, and manages to rescue him before finding the location of the Grail. Both Donovan and Elsa fall to the temptation of the Grail, while Indiana and Henry realise that their relationship with each other is more important than finding the relic.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1996)
A television series titled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992–1996) featured three incarnations of the character: Sean Patrick Flanery played Indiana aged 16–21; Corey Carrier played an 8- to 10-year-old version in several episodes; and George Hall narrated the show as the 93-year-old Jones, who bookended each episode.
Lucas began developing the series in 1990 as “edutainment” that would be more cerebral than the films. The show was his first collaboration with producer Rick McCallum, and he wrote the stories for each episode. Writers and directors on the show included Carrie Fisher, Frank Darabont, Vic Armstrong, Ben Burtt, Terry Jones, Nicolas Roeg, Mike Newell and Joe Johnston.
In the Chronicles, Jones crosses paths with many historical figures, played by stars such as Daniel Craig, Christopher Lee, Bob Peck, Jeffrey Wright, Marc Warren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Elizabeth Hurley, Anne Heche, Vanessa Redgrave, Julian Fellowes, Timothy Spall and Harrison Ford as a 50-year-old Indiana in one episode (taking the usual place of Hall).
The fourth film is set in 1957, nineteen years after The Last Crusade. Indiana is having a quiet life teaching before being thrust into a new adventure. He races against agents of the Soviet Union, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) for a crystal skull. His journey takes him across Nevada, Connecticut, Peru, and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Indiana is faced with betrayal by one of his best friends, Mac (Ray Winstone), is introduced to a greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who turns out to be his son (his real name revealed to be Henry Jones III), and is reunited with, and eventually marries, Marion Ravenwood, who was introduced in the first movie.
Untitled fifth film (2022)
On 15 March 2016, Walt Disney Studios announced that Spielberg and Ford would both return for a fifth and final Indiana Jones film, scheduled for release on 19 July 2019. Lucas will return as executive producer, while Kennedy and Marshall will serve as producers and Koepp as screenwriter. Williams will also return to compose the score.
On 24 April 2017, Disney shifted the release date of the untitled Indiana Jones sequel from 19 July 2019 to 10 July 2020. Spielberg confirmed that filming would begin in April 2019 in the UK. In late 2017, David Koepp revealed that Shia LaBeouf’s character Mutt Williams would not return. In July 2018, Disney pushed the film’s release date back to 09 July 2021.
In early 2020, Ford stated that they were hoping to start with the film late in the summer, although in a separate interview, he hinted at his involvement in the picture beginning as early as April. In February 2020, it was revealed that Spielberg had stepped down as the film’s director as he desired to “pass along Indy’s whip to a new generation to bring their perspective to the story.” It was reported that Spielberg will remain on the project as a producer while James Mangold entered negotiations to direct.
In early April 2020, it was reported that the film’s release date was delayed to 29 July 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the film industry.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has indicated that the film will not be the conclusion of the franchise as a whole.
During 1973, George Lucas wrote The Adventures of Indiana Smith. Like Star Wars, it was an opportunity to create a modern version of the movie serials of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Lucas discussed the concept with Philip Kaufman, who worked with him for several weeks and decided upon the Ark of the Covenant as the MacGuffin. The project was stalled when Clint Eastwood hired Kaufman to write The Outlaw Josey Wales. In May 1977, Lucas was in Maui, trying to escape the enormous success of Star Wars. His friend and colleague Steven Spielberg was also there, on vacation from work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Spielberg told Lucas he was interested in making a James Bond film, but Lucas told him of an idea “better than James Bond”, outlining the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg loved it, calling it “a James Bond film without the hardware”, and had the character’s surname changed to Jones. Spielberg and Lucas made a deal with Paramount Pictures for five Indiana Jones films.
Spielberg and Lucas aimed to make Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom much darker, because of their personal moods following their respective breakups and divorces. Lucas made the film a prequel as he did not want the Nazis to be the villains again. He had ideas regarding the Monkey King and a haunted castle, but eventually created the Sankara Stones. He hired Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz to write the script as he knew of their interest in Indian culture. The major scenes that were dropped from Raiders of the Lost Ark were included in this film: an escape using a giant rolling gong as a shield, a fall out of a plane in a raft, and a mine cart chase. For the third film, Spielberg revisited the Monkey King and haunted castle concepts, before Lucas suggested the Holy Grail. Spielberg had previously rejected this as too ethereal, but then devised a father-son story and decided that “The Grail that everybody seeks could be a metaphor for a son seeking reconciliation with a father and a father seeking reconciliation with a son.”
Following the 1989 release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lucas let the series end as he felt he could not think of a good plot device to drive the next instalment, and chose instead to produce The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which explored the character in his early years. Ford played Indiana in one episode, narrating his adventures in 1920 Chicago. When Lucas shot Ford’s role in December 1992, he realised that the scene opened up the possibility of a film with an older Indiana set in the 1950’s. The film could reflect a science fiction 1950s B-movie, with aliens as the plot device. Ford disliked the new angle, telling Lucas: “No way am I being in a Steven Spielberg movie like that.” Spielberg himself, who depicted aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), resisted it. Lucas devised a story, which Jeb Stuart turned into a script from October 1993 to May 1994. Lucas wanted Indiana to get married, which would allow Henry Jones Sr. to return, expressing concern over whether his son is happy with what he has accomplished. After learning that Joseph Stalin was interested in psychic warfare, Lucas decided to have Russians as the villains and the aliens to have psychic powers. Following Stuart’s next draft, Lucas hired Last Crusade writer Jeffrey Boam to write the next three versions, the last of which was completed in March 1996. Three months later, Independence Day was released, and Spielberg told Lucas he would not make another alien invasion film (or at least not until War of the Worlds in 2005). Lucas decided to focus on the Star Wars prequels instead.
In 2000, Spielberg’s son asked when the next Indiana Jones film would be released, which made him interested in reviving the project. The same year, Ford, Lucas, Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy met during the American Film Institute’s tribute to Ford, and decided they wanted to enjoy the experience of making an Indiana Jones film again. Spielberg also found returning to the series a respite from his many dark films during this period. Spielberg and Lucas discussed the central idea of a B-movie involving aliens, and Lucas suggested using crystal skulls to ground the idea. Lucas found these artifacts as fascinating as the Ark, and had intended to feature them for a Young Indiana Jones episode before the show’s cancellation. M. Night Shyamalan was hired to write for an intended 2002 shoot, but he was overwhelmed by the task, and claimed it was difficult to get Ford, Spielberg, and Lucas to focus. Stephen Gaghan and Tom Stoppard were also approached.
Frank Darabont, who wrote various Young Indiana Jones episodes, was hired to write in May 2002. His script, titled Indiana Jones and the City of Gods, was set in the 1950’s, with ex-Nazis pursuing Jones. Spielberg conceived the idea because of real-life figures such as Juan Perón in Argentina, who allegedly protected Nazi war criminals. Darabont claimed Spielberg loved the script, but Lucas had issues with it, and decided to take over writing himself. Lucas and Spielberg acknowledged that the 1950’s setting could not ignore the Cold War, and the Russians were more plausible villains. Spielberg decided he could not satirise the Nazis after directing Schindler’s List, while Ford felt “We plum[b] wore the Nazis out.” Darabont’s main contribution was reintroducing Marion Ravenwood as Indiana’s love interest, but he gave them a 13-year-old daughter, which Spielberg decided was too similar to The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Jeff Nathanson met with Spielberg and Lucas in August 2004, and turned in the next drafts in October and November 2005, titled The Atomic Ants. David Koepp continued on from there, giving his script the subtitle Destroyer of Worlds, based on the Robert Oppenheimer quote. It was changed to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as Spielberg found this a more inviting title which actually named the plot device. Koepp wanted to depict the character of Mutt as a nerd, but Lucas refused, explaining he had to resemble Marlon Brando in The Wild One; “he needs to be what Indiana Jones’ father thought of [him] – the curse returns in the form of his own son – he’s everything a father can’t stand”. Koepp collaborated with Lawrence Kasdan on the film’s “love dialogue”.
The Walt Disney Company has owned the Indiana Jones intellectual property since its acquisition of Lucasfilm, the series’ production company, in 2012, when Lucas sold it for $4 billion. Walt Disney Studios owns the distribution and marketing rights to future Indiana Jones films since 2013, with Paramount retaining the distribution rights to the first four films and receiving “financial participation” from any additional films.
A novelisation of Raiders of the Lost Ark was written by Campbell Black and published by Ballantine Books in April 1981. It was followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, written by James Kahn and published by Ballantine in May 1984. Finally, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was published in May 1989, and was the first Indiana Jones book by Rob MacGregor. A fan of the first two films, MacGregor admitted that writing the novelisation made him “somewhat disappointed” with the third film, as he had expanded the script whereas Steven Spielberg had cut scenes to tighten the story.
George Lucas asked MacGregor to continue writing original novels for Bantam Books. These were geared toward an adult or young adult audience, and were prequels set in the 1920’s or early 1930’s after Jones graduates from college. Of the film characters, Lucas only permitted Marcus Brody to appear. He asked MacGregor to base the books on real myths, but except for the deletion of a sex scene, the writer was given total creative freedom. His six books – Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi, Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants, Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils, Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge, Indiana Jones and the Unicorn’s Legacy, and Indiana Jones and the Interior World – were published from February 1991 to November 1992. The Genesis Deluge, published in February 1992 and featuring Noah’s Ark, was the best-selling novel; MacGregor felt this was because it “had a strong following among religious-oriented people […] because they tend to take the Noah’s Ark story to heart and think of it as history and archaeological fact, rather than myth.” MacGregor’s favourite book was The Seven Veils, which featured real-life explorer Percy Fawcett and the death of Indiana’s wife, Deirdre Campbell.
Martin Caidin wrote the next two novels in Bantam’s series, Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates and Indiana Jones and the White Witch. These feature Gale Parker as Indiana’s sidekick; they introduced afterwords to the series, regarding each novel’s historical context.
Caidin became ill, so Max McCoy took over in 1995 and wrote the final four novels: Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone, Indiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs, Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth, and Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx. McCoy set his books closer in time to the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which led to his characterising Indiana as “a bit darker”. The prologue of his first book featured a crystal skull, and this became a recurring story, concluding when Jones gives it up in the final novel. Lucas’ involvement with McCoy’s novels was limited, although LucasFilm censored sexual or outlandish elements in order to make the books appeal to younger readers; they also rejected the theme of time travel in the final book. Sallah, Lao Che, Rene Belloq and the Nazis made appearances, and McCoy also pitted Jones against Benito Mussolini’s fascists and the Japanese. Jones also has a doomed romance with Alecia Dunstin, a librarian at the British Museum. A novel involving the Spear of Destiny was dropped, because Dark Horse Comics was developing the idea and later DC Comics developed the idea.
The books were only published in paperback, as the series editor felt readers would not be prepared to pay the hardback price for an adventure novel.
In February 2008, the novelisations of the first three films were published in one edition; James Rollins’ Kingdom of the Crystal Skull novelization arrived the following May. Children’s novelisations of all four films were published by Scholastic in 2008.
MacGregor was said to be writing new books for Ballantine for early 2009, but none have been published.
A new adult adventure, Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead by Steve Perry, was released in September 2009.
A novel based on the video game Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, written by MacGregor to coincide with the release of the game, was canceled due to problems around the game’s production.
Additionally, German author Wolfgang Hohlbein wrote eight Indiana Jones novels in the early 1990’s, which were never translated to English.
Since the release of the original film, there have been a number of video games based on the Indiana Jones series. These include both games based on (or derived from) the films, as well as those featuring the characters in new storylines.
Theme Park Attractions
Prior to Disney’s acquisition, George Lucas collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering on several occasions to create Indiana Jones attractions for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. Indiana Jones-themed attractions and appearances at Disney theme parks include:
- The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! show opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in 1989.
- The Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril roller-coaster opened at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, France, in 1993.
- The Indiana Jones Adventure, which opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in 1995 and at Tokyo DisneySea in Chiba, Japan, in 2001.
- An Indiana Jones-themed bar lounge, “Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar”, opened in 2015 at Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort.
- The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios featured a scene based on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
For the holiday season following the June 1981 debut of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kenner produced a 12-inch-tall “Authentically styled Action Figure” of Indiana Jones. The next spring they delivered nine smaller-scale (33⁄4″) action figures, three playsets, replicas of the German desert convoy truck and Jones’ horse, all derived from the Raiders movie. They also offered a Raiders board game.
In conjunction with the theatrical release of The Temple of Doom in 1984, TSR, Inc. released miniature metal versions of twelve characters from both films for a role playing game. LJN Toys Ltd. also released action figures of Jones, Mola Ram, and the Giant Thugee.
No toys were produced to tie in with The Last Crusade in 1989.
Hasbro released toys based on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008. Further figures, including characters from The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, followed later in the year, but were distributed on a very limited basis. This line of toys included 33⁄4-inch and 12-inch figures, vehicles, a playset, and a series of “Adventure Heroes” aimed at young children. Hasbro announced the cancellation of the line in the fall of 2008, due to decreasing sales, although some figures continued to be released up until the 2011 San Diego Comic Convention.
Sideshow Collectibles, Gentle Giant, Diamond Select Toys and Kotobukiya also earned Indiana Jones licensing rights in 2008. Lego released eight play sets to coincide with the fourth film, based on Raiders and The Last Crusade as well as on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Merchandise featuring franchise cross-overs include a Mr. Potato Head “Taters Of The Lost Ark” set by Hasbro, Mickey Mouse as Indiana Jones, and a Muppets-branded Adventure Kermit action figure, produced by Palisades Toys and based on the frog’s appearance in the Disney World stunt show as seen in The Muppets at Walt Disney World.
Disney Vinylmation introduced a series based on Indiana Jones characters in 2014.
There have been two publications of role-playing games based on the Indiana Jones franchise. The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game was designed and published by TSR, Inc. under license in 1984. Ten years later, West End Games acquired the rights to publish their own version, The World of Indiana Jones.
A pinball machine based on the first three films was released in 1993. Stern Pinball released a new edition in 2008, which featured all four movies.
Indiana Jones Series
- Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
- Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (1989) (Fan Film).
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skill (2008).
- LEGO Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick (2008) (Animation).
- Indiana Jones 05 (?2022).
- TV Series:
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1993).
- Plus four made-for-television films from 1994 to 1996.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): George Lucas.
- Release Date: 1981 to 2022.
- Running Time:
- Rating: PG.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.