Ten Lessons From Raiders Of The Lost Ark

All Artwork By Caroline Hudson


It’s amazing. Harrison Ford, Nazis, reunited love, a car chase that goes on forever and the release of a godly power no man is capable of utilizing. I don’t know what else to say. It brings me back up when the going gets tough.


 I first watched Raiders with my dad. I was told repeatedly it was something I had to see, like no other movie mattered. He said it with conviction. Back then whenever I saw him we watched movies. It was all we ever really did together. I didn’t know what to expect other than Han Solo in the desert searching for treasure. I don’t remember much else about the first time I saw Raiders. I can’t place exactly what apartment I was in or any other surroundings that wouldn’t be memorable to begin with. Probably blank walls and a boxy TV. What I can recall was my dad telling me I need to see this, like the trajectory of my life would be altered if I didn’t sit down and watch. He found the VHS tape and spoiled one of the greatest scenes near the end because he forgot to rewind. I pretended not to see a thing even though I was greeted to this new world by Nazi faces melting like chocolate in the sun. It didn’t make any sense. He knew I knew how the movie would end and I knew he knew this. Still, I shared that moment with him and watched as if I were seeing things for the very first time.


Indiana has to miss a considerable amount of time teaching when he goes off on his excursions to the other side of the world. I always thought about his class. Does someone else come in to teach while he’s away? Do his students stay there, holding their breath, mascara drawn onto the tops of their eyelids waiting to profess their love for him even when he’s gone for weeks at a time? I’d have to imagine that Indiana has some trouble explaining where exactly he’s been: nearly being flattened by a giant boulder, having a native tribe chase him through the Peruvian jungle, fighting Nazis while scouring the desert for something that may or may not exist. I need to find a job that pays this well, one that covers the travel expenses and collects the medical bill. A place that accepts me for all my faults and finds a way to benefit from them.


Indiana is often betrayed. He is bested by brilliant minds, paid guides, and a monkey. This is a sign of how Indiana puts his faith into everyone. He trusts without regard for what could come next. He lives in the moment and refuses to wait for the consequences. He lives on results, facts and knowledge. Indiana refuses to give up until he holds in his possession exactly what he set out to find. 

I want to write this way. I want to stop thinking about what the rest of my career could look like and focus on the words I have right now. Every time I watch Raiders I see a man who doesn’t let the little mishaps stifle him. I learned through Indiana that persistence is key, and persistence often means making the same mistakes again and again. Eventually, like Indiana, I’ll learn.


It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage. Depending on Indiana’s exact age he must feel in the upper hundreds by how much damage he’s gone through. I’m watching again the day I move into my new place, laying on the foreign-smelling floor with a foam roller as my headrest. Blank walls and boxes tower around me but I prioritized the TV and walked across the street for a six-pack. Each time Indiana gets into a fight I crack open another beer. One of my favorite scenes is when he and Marion finally get a moment of peace on Katanga’s boat. They continue to bicker until Indiana yields. Marion kisses him in all the peculiar locations that hurt. I watch this with the woman I love and know on the bad days she will be there to kiss the pain away. I know from Indiana’s mistakes you shouldn’t let the right woman leave.


My favorite death in movie history happens here. Indiana fights a man who is credited as Giant Sherpa/ 1st Mechanic. Somehow, in a Murphy’s Law of accidents, this throw away enemy unknowingly stands in the path of a spinning propellor and is eviscerated. We are shown nothing more than blood splatter and Marion’s repulsed reaction. His death is funny, and if you think about it, death itself is pretty funny every now and then. The end can be met in so many different ways and you just have to hope that your fate isn’t the same as Giant Sherpa/ 1st Mechanic.


The last time I saw my grandpa we watched Raiders together. I think we both knew it would be the last time we were with each other, but we made nothing special of the occasion. We watch in silence. Grandpa dozes off sometime after Indiana thinks he sees Marion die in the truck explosion and wakes up with her back in his arms as they’re getting left to die in the tomb. There are snakes everywhere along the floor, sluicing through the sand. Indiana is terrified. He hates snakes and so do I. When we would come out to visit for the summer, snakes used to make their way into grandpa’s backyard. If they weren’t poisonous he made me touch them. If they were poisonous he killed them with a shovel. Anytime I see snakes I think of him and how he laughed every time Indiana screamed when he saw a snake.


Of course I own the DVD. The Blu-Ray too. My grandma owned the VHS tape of Raiders and I traded her a day’s worth of hauling whatever she needed moved around her condo in exchange for the relic. I bought the movie on my Prime account during a sale which is the most lackluster way of coming into the possession of what I find is the only movie I want to watch when I’ve had long days, weeks, or months and there seems to be no end in sight. I found a way to download a version onto a USB drive that I now keep in my backpack with me as a backup. If I could keep another copy in my wallet, I would. If I had to act out and recite Raiders scene by scene I could get impressively far before I start flubbing the lines and mixing up parts. I know it’s there for me when I need it most, and I am there for it, a dedicated fan if at times for the wrong and questionable reasons.


Indiana Jones isn’t perfect. Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t without its flaws. There’s loose threads and questionable decision-making. How exactly does Indiana stay on that submarine when they go to the island? Whatever. He’s Indiana Jones. Just like the rest of us he’s making it up as he goes. Be like Indiana, I tell myself. Chase after what you want. Fight Nazis. Make mistakes. Know when to apologize and when to look away. Don’t ever lose your favorite hat no matter what.


I don’t mind Temple of Doom. 

The Last Crusade makes me too emotional and I can’t stand the Nazi woman he falls for who looks so much like Dian Kruger it’s painful they are not related. 

We do not talk about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 

Raiders is a great movie. One of Spielberg’s best. It’s not perfect but it’s perfect for me and the times life weighs heavy on me. Indiana is there to crack the whip and pull me back up. He shows me that you can lose things countless numbers of times and on occasion destiny finds a way of giving you another chance. Nobody should find this as useful as I do. There’s some foreign affinity forged between Indiana and myself that helps me realize there’s always more adventures to find. Sometimes you get close to greatness but it may not be all you’d hoped for. We can’t all search after artifacts of the ancient world.

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