Every Indiana Jones Movie, Ranked: Which One Is the Best?

The Indiana Jones series is one of the most iconic cinema franchises ever made. Which movie was the best?

We often recommend media and products we like. If you buy anything through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.” When one looks through cinema history for the greatest hero of the lot, Indiana Jones has always been right in that conversation.

The charismatic whip-wielding archaeologist/professor has battled against the Nazis, the Soviet Union, and the Thuggee cult, taking a physical battering every time. Jones is often captured, guilty of making one-too-many quips and getting himself into trouble.

But Indy’s most endearing trait is that he never gives up the fight—like in Temple of Doom when he’s burned out of the Black Sleep of Kali Ma, saves Willie Scott and Short Round, and strikes an enemy so hard that they skid across 10 feet of dirt.

The Indiana Jones movies are entertaining, engrossing, highly rewatchable, and perfect for viewers of all ages. But which one’s the best? We’ve ranked every Indiana Jones movie below!

4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

In 2008, Harrison Ford returned to his most famous role, a little older and wearier but still as charming as ever. Not unreasonable, given that 19 years had passed since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull focuses on the undercover operations of the Soviet Union and their search for The Lost City of Gold in the Amazon jungle.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t a bad film, but it is the worst of the series simply because it lacks the same kind of tightly knitted story that the other Indiana Jones movies have.

The previous movies were all tongue-in-cheek adventures that almost felt like they were being made up as they went along. But this movie? It felt too easy, too forced, and too heavy on the CGI.

Several parts of the film actually do work well, though, including when the audience finally learns where the mysterious warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant is hidden and what contribution Indiana Jones made in World War II.

In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford proved that he’ll always be capable of playing Indy, and Cate Blanchett’s villainous Irina Spalko proved to be a fun evil character for Jones to face off against.

The whole supporting cast puts in good work as well, including Karen Black, Ray Winstone, and John Hurt (while the casting of Shia LeBoeuf didn’t come off as well as many hoped).

Best Scene in the Movie:

The opening warehouse fight sequence is pure Indiana Jones, even to the point where he and the big Soviet soldier are dizzy from riding the rocket-powered jet in the desert.

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Casting Sean Connery as Indy’s father was a superb idea by Spielberg and his team. Not many other men could come into the Indiana Jones franchise and believably portray this character, but James Bond himself was more than up to the task.

The film follows Indy, his father, and the whole Nazi government all searching for the Holy Grail. Last Crusade is a rip-roaring adventure through multiple countries with fun action sequences, as the audience knows that Indy needs to find the Grail before the Nazis do.

The story is pure fun and the addition of Connery lights up the picture, but the most intriguing parts of the story lay in finding out about Indy’s childhood and youth.

River Phoenix opens the film as a younger Indiana who’s struggling to get the Cross of Coronado out of the hands of thieves. Phoenix does a great job of playing a teenage Indy as he shows us the origin of Indy’s fear of snakes.

The Last Crusade brings all the usual humor to Indy’s adventures, as well as Denholm Elliott’s Marcus Brody and John Rhys-Davies’ Sallah back from Raiders of the Lost Ark with great aplomb. 

Best Scene in the Movie:

A teenage Indiana Jones loses his fight to get Coronado’s Cross to the authorities, but the man chasing him gives him his hat—only for the film to cut directly to the face of Harrison Ford, wearing his hat, and finally taking back the Cross.

2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Initially, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom didn’t get the reception one might think it got when it first arrived in 1984. Critics felt the film was too dark and too contained compared to the first film.

However, as years passed, it became clear that Temple of Doom was just ahead of its time. The darkness of the film is what gives the picture its edge, resulting in Indiana Jones’ most aggressive adventure.

Furthermore, Temple of Doom serves as a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, meaning that Harrison Ford’s more bullish performance suits the movie very well. Unfortunately, not many knew that it was meant to be a prequel, leading to confusion.

Having a small group of cultists as the villains was a great move, making the film feel claustrophobic and intense. Mola Ram is by far Indiana Jones’ most well-remembered villain, as his habit of pulling people’s hearts out isn’t easily forgotten.

Kate Capshaw’s Willie Scott fits into the film nicely, and Jonathan Ke Quan’s Short Round is one of Indy’s best sidekicks with a charm that flows throughout the film as his friendship with Indy is put on display via their ordeal with the Thuggee.

Best Scene in the Movie:

As hero moments go, Indy has many of them in Temple of Doom; however, the scene where he cuts the ropes of the rope bridge and tells Mola Ram to “Prepare to meet Kali—in Hell!” might be Indy’s most defining moment in the whole franchise.

1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Formally known as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first film had everything: action, humor, Nazis, and the man who stands in their way. The film takes the audience on the ride of a lifetime as Indiana Jones travels around the world on his quest to find the Ark of the Covenant. 

Steven Spielberg’s direction is inch-perfect, delivering an adventure movie for the ages. Harrison Ford’s performance as the eponymous Indiana Jones broke him free of the shackles of Han Solo and allowed Ford to enjoy every moment of wearing Indy’s iconic hat.

As the search for the Ark goes on, Indy finds himself battered from pillar to post by the various enemies he comes up against—all while shooting them dead at the first sign of trouble.

Composer John Williams’ work on the movie resulted in one of cinema’s most adored theme songs. Indy’s theme song is one that fills you with energy and makes you believe that Indy can always go another five rounds if needed, such the hero he is.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a critical and financial triumph for Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg, earning nine Academy Award nominations and winning five of them. It remains the best of the series yet.

Best Scene in the Movie:

Indiana Jones running away from the various booby traps in the opening scene, only to be confronted by a giant stone ball rolling towards him. Come on. It’s iconic!

30 Days of Modern Geeky Movies

Are you bored and in need of movies to watch? Here at whatNerd, we’ve seen a lot of geeky movies—sci-fi movies, fantasy movies, thriller movies, you name it!

And while a lot of them were pretty forgettable, a few of them stand out as classic geeky movies that everyone should definitely watch. Check out our 30 favorite modern geeky movies.

All of these movies are from 2000 or later, and there are NO superhero movies on our list! Download the printable PDF below and see how many you can watch in the next 30 days:

Similar & Trending

Is Disney+ Worth It? 7 Reasons Why You Might Want to Subscribe

The Best Movies With Music Composed by John Williams, Ranked

The 10 Best Steven Spielberg Movies, Ranked

The 8 Best Action Movies From the 90s, Ranked

The 8 Best Movies About Mother-Daughter Relationships

The 8 Best Original Pixar Movie Songs of All Time, Ranked