8 Reasons why The Last Crusade is the Worst Indiana Jones Film

(With apologies to Jonathan Tuckett for stealing his format. And writing style. And, you know, just in general.)

    1. The original series. I am obviously ignoring the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is obviously the weakest of the series as a whole. Although actually I think it’s better than most people give it credit for. It has some really good scenes—the opening, the CIA debriefing, and the scene with the fridge is no more ridiculous than jumping from a plane in a dingy, getting dragged under a truck or that leap across the chasm in a minecart… But the main point at which the series jumps the shark is that the Hebrew god (and Aztec and Indian gods)—who the central character disavows on a number of occasions—actually get involved in the plot. And nowhere more so than the denouement of the Last Crusade.
    2. There’s not enough Harrison Ford. He’s not even in it for the first twenty minutes. Then he has to share all his screentime with Sean Connery (although that he manages to compete at all is impressive).
    3. The plot is complete bobbins. Spielberg and Lucas admitted as much when they added a sequence to the middle – and that it was another chase sequence is telling. The film is structured like this: Beginning (20 mins—established Henry Jones and makes a bunch of references to the other films), Plot Setup (30 mins—mostly boring until Connery turns up, although I admit a complex admiration for Elsa, who is in my opinion the best looking of the Indy Girls, though lacking the chutzpa of Marion… Complex because she is a Nazi, after all. Still, no-one missed Willie, eh? (Except Spielberg lol)), Chase Sequence (about an hour), Christian Ending (20 mins). It’s boring. The chase sequence was a small part of Raiders and Temple, but here, it’s literally half the film.
    4. Sean Connery makes shit films watchable. That is the Mystery of Connery. See also: the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Rock, that one with Zeta Jones. Or, my personal favourite, Sword of the Valiant (see below). If you can think of other examples, please add that in the comments below. 
    5. Spielberg’s using the “Daddy Issues” plot again. See also: ET, War of the Worlds, Hook, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, Jurassic Park…
    6. Again and again, the film riffs on Raiders. Say what you like about Temple of Doom, but at least it tried to innovate—Last Crusade is terribly derivative, but amplifies Raiders every time it copies it. Indy meets Nazis; Indy meets Hitler. Characters like Marcus and Sallah reappear, although tellingly, none from Temple of Doom. Most obviously, the sequence at Marshall College is a complete remake of the sequence in Raiders, except now so many students demand his time that he has to jump out of a window to escape. While a hot student writing “I Love You” on her eyelids is not part of my experience as a lecturer, it is at least believable, but in Last Crusade his teaching career becomes utterly cartoonish.
    7. Raiders was steeped in Christian imagery. But it is little noted that the mythology it uses is rather unorthodox, drawing from the same deep well that the Da Vinci Code and its ilk would later again capitalise upon. Indeed, the god of Raiders is somewhat complex in his motivations—he sets fire to the swastika on the boat on principle, yet seems only to kill those with their eyes open at the end (even if we doubt that Indy and Marion would have been killed, Belloq is killed extravagantly despite having never directly harmed anyone. Then Temple is all Hindu stuff, and we can say that it is at least heavy handed, or at worst downright racist in places, although the villagers themselves are portrayed very positively. But importantly, for Lucas et al, the agency of the Hindu deities is absolutely as real as that of the Hebrew deity in Raiders—a manifestation perhaps of the perennialist approach to religion as promoted by the Eranos school, and the writings of Jung, Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. Significantly, Lucas was inspired by Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Masks, upon which Star Wars was built. But then… back to Christian imagery for Last Crusade. Except, even more so. Indy becomes a sort of Christ figure, rather than the tomb raider-esque rogue of before. So the tour of objects which embody various hierophanies is over. All we get is a bunch of platitudes about meek-and-mild Jesus’ rubbish old cup. Bah.
    8. …Alright, it does have its good points. Especially the best line in the film, improvised by Denholm Elliot: “Water? No thank you sir. Fish make love in it.”

11 thoughts on “8 Reasons why The Last Crusade is the Worst Indiana Jones Film

  1. egquillen January 10, 2015 / 1:06 pm

    Raiders is steeped in Jewish imagery, not Christian imagery. I’ve always thought of Raiders as the Old Testament to Last Crusade’s New Testament. The Ark is a symbol of the Israelites escaping Egypt, wandering the desert for forty years, and constructing a tabernacle with which the Priests of Aaron might communicate and venerate their God. In it was placed the staff of Moses, which he used to enact the plagues upon Egypt, as well as part the Red Sea; the destroyed tablets of the Ten Commandments; and manna collected from the desert floor as a symbol of YHWH’s assurance that his chosen people would always be fed. Belloq explodes because he crosses the distinct line set up by the Priests of Aaron, mostly in that he is ritually unclean, and pursuing the power of the Ark for his own gains. He’s even draped himself in the ceremonial robes, but has blatantly disregarded the rules and regulations necessary to perform the ritual properly. Likewise, I’ve always thought of the God of Raiders and the God of Last Crusade as two different deities, which I think says a lot about Spielberg, et al’s use of these mythologies in setting up particular metaphorical foundations for the stories themselves. In Raiders, God is mysterious and scary, but the story also re-enacts the escape from the desert and the vengeful wrath bestowed upon those who do not worship Him according to the rules and rituals set down through His direct commandments. With Last Crusade, the God figure is a metaphor for the father-son relationship between Indy and Henry Sr. So, in Indy’s search for a relationship with his father, such as we see enacted in the three ‘tasks’ that lead him to the Grail, he not only must learn humility, remind himself of the name of God, but also take a leap of faith, he must also learn that the true Grail is neither gilded nor a stereotypical image of treasure buried under the ‘X.’ Rather, it is simple, equally humble, and the singular link that might mend the rupture between his father and himself. Which is probably why they both are capable of letting it go at the end.
    And, yes, Denholm Elliot is pretty great. The transition from Indy convincing the Nazis that he’ll blend in, disappear, and with any luck has the Grail already, with Marcus pleading if anyone speaks english, is downright hilarious.

  2. Anonymus January 12, 2015 / 7:21 pm

    David, if I were one of your students, upon reading this blog entry I would seize the first opportunity to write “I love you” on my eyelids, just to see what face you’re gonna make in the class. (Would getting this from a guy make you consider jumping out of the window?)

    • adamkadmon January 12, 2015 / 9:12 pm

      Can’t you just leave an apple like the other guy?

  3. Marla February 24, 2016 / 6:48 pm

    Why are you ignoring ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’? That was part of the trilogy, you idiot. And it was better than this overrated, crappy and boring film!!

    • adamkadmon February 25, 2016 / 9:43 am

      The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was it’s own special hot mess. They dropped the ball, but I think there are some salvagable parts… but that’s a whole different post! The Last Crusade consciously set the three films up as a trilogy, however, with Indy coming full circle and the characters riding off into the sunset at the end. But it is overrated and often boring, we’re in agreement there.

  4. Scobiwan September 14, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Just wondering why a previous comment should believe that the fourth film in a series is part of a trilogy? seems like an oxymoron to me, and since that same comment feels the need to stoop to name calling instead of healthy debate, i’m going to emphasise the moron part. On topic, I just watched the movie for the first time in a few years having bought the blu ray set and was amazed to discover how boring and, at times, stupid the last crusade is, even Sean connery is annoying at times, admittedly it’s his character rather than the actor himself, as he seems continually surprised to discover that nazis aren’t very nice and is hilariously naive throughout. I’ve suffered under the delusion that this is a good film for many years but i’m afraid I was wrong.

    • adamkadmon September 15, 2016 / 7:17 am

      Thank you, Scobiwan, for your honesty. The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

  5. Ber Berbadiber May 11, 2018 / 8:07 pm

    This is stupid

  6. Drey October 5, 2018 / 12:09 am

    I know I am late to this article, but I just had to comment.

    BAH! Last Crusade has been my favorite for a long time, sure it has problems, but so do ALL of the Indy films! Which is another reason why it annoys the hell out of me that so many people slam Crystal Skull so severely. They act like the first three are absolutely perfect films, which they are most definitely not, nitpick every single solitary bad bit from Crystal Skull, and then pretend the first three don’t have their own, which you better believe they do.

    IMO Temple of Doom is easily the worst, the Indy chick(I have no desire to waste space in my memory for her character’s name) and the ridiculously annoying Asian boy in the film destroy it all. The only reason the actress got the part was because she was piledriving Spielberg. Last Crusade just rules, I love how much Indy demolishes random and named Nazis he encounters in it, when he throws the broken flagpole through “Random Nazi Number 9’s” motorcycle spokes and he flips through the air fives times and crashes to the ground is one of the funniest and most satisfying moments in film history. I was absolutely dying the first time I saw it, I never would have guessed something so insane was going to happen to that Nazi.

    But probably the biggest thing that bothers me about it is why did they make Henry Sr. such a klutz? He bashes his own son over the head with a Ming vase and subsequently says, “I thought you were one of them!” why in the hell would one of their own people come blasting through a window in their OWN base?? He lights a room on fire while trying to escape from being bound, then of course he shoots the rudder of the plane he is riding in, and when Indy tells him to remain in hiding, he instead feels it a smart idea to climb right into the Nazi tank, getting himself captured(who seriously thought he would actually successfully rescue Marcus?). Anyway you get the point, he is supposed to be a highly intelligent professor but just comes off as a dolt at certain moments, but even with all that I still loved the character.

    It’s a close call between Crusade and Raiders, but Crusade is just slightly more entertaining over it for me and why it is my favorite out of them all. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Crystal Skull and watch it regularly along with the other two.

    • adamkadmon October 5, 2018 / 10:16 am

      Ha ha – I totally get what you’re saying. Her name was Willy and she’s annoying as hell, not a patch on Marion.

      The fridge bit in Crystal Skull is no worse than any other of the films… but the way they neutered Marion is unforgivable, and the CGI was awful 😉

  7. Scott A Williamson April 26, 2020 / 3:45 am

    They are rated best to worst in the order of release, just like the starwars movies IMHO

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