30 years later, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is Still, For a Lot of Moviegoers (Including Me), the Big Screen’s Greatest Adventure.

Apparently, I’m not the only one…

Here’s Ryan Holt:

I must have been as young as six or seven years old. I certainly wasn’t any older. My grandmother suggested to my mother that I would love the film–I was infatuated with ancient Egypt as a child, devouring every book I could find on the subject–and they popped the VHS cassette into our VCR.

They had forgotten how violent the film actually is, but my interest level was so high that they lacked the heart to turn the film off. So the three of us sat there, and I, who was fairly timid regarding violence in films, ended up hiding my face in my mother’s arm very frequently.

But I did love the parts of it that I actually saw, and it soon became part of the Friday-night video tape rotation for me, with my young self gradually working up courage to sit through the climactic liquidation of the villains.

Soon I was dressing up as Indiana Jones and staging mock recreations of the opening excursion into the temple with my brothers and friends.

Glenn McCarty:

Raiders appeals to the secret place inside us that wants desperately to believe that there are still wild places in the world waiting to be explored, and that it takes nothing more than gumption and a bull whip to brave those adventures. It’s the ultimate metaphor for our lives: deep down, we’re all running for our lives from a giant ball that threatens to squash us, figuring it out as we go along.

It’s also why I still have a leather bomber jacket in my closet…

John Volck:

Skeletons. The first images that come to my mind surrounding Raiders of the Lost Ark involve skeletons and melting human flesh. I was six or seven when the movie came out and my brother and sister-in-law took me to see it.

The theater was crowded leaving the only available seats up at the very front.

Needless to say, the first image of skulls with gaping jaws hanging off of booby traps got burned into my mind. Before you think this is a lament targeting Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg, searching for therapy bill compensation, I actually enjoyed the film.

When I get past the gruesome images, I think about the sense of adventure of going to far off places and discovering foreign culture as well as becoming more interested in history despite the film’s fictional storyline. For a six year old, it was not only a rivetting comic book-like visual story that dealt with action and staying ahead of the “bad guys,” but also emphasized for me a thrill of solving puzzles and mysteries.

I think the film even piqued my interest more into the mysteries of God in dealing with the Ark of the Covenant as well as asking myself questions of what I believed at a young age.

I remember the early eighties as a time when the realm of movies began to open up for me and fuel my sense of story and imagination. Before this, there was Star Wars and The Muppet Movie, following Raiders were its sequels, E.T., Tron, Goonies, The Explorers, Time Bandits, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and many others. I believe Raiders and all these movies to some degree, helped me deal with the fears of a sheltered suburban white kid who was afraid of venturing outside the home and taking risks. Some may wince at the titles I have mentioned, but there is a stronger suspension of disbelief when you are a kid, and the characters, shallow or not, still stick with me. Even when I have to face fear as an adult.

Now if I could just find an affordable replica of Professor Jones’ hat…

Ken Priebe:

To this day I am disappointed I did not see Raiders in the theater when it came out, but I vividly remember the first time I ever watched it, on video in the den of my neighbor’s house, when I was about 8 or 9. The more I re-visit it, the more I appreciate it. It’s a masterpiece.

And now, a haiku about ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’:
The wrath of God makes
Heads explode while the hero
Is tied to a post

Peter T. Chattaway:

I was on a weekend trip to the States with my father shortly before or after my 11th birthday. On the Friday evening, we talked about seeing a film, and we debated whether to see Raiders of the Lost Ark or For Your Eyes Only. My father said the first film would have special effects but be really scary, while the second film would have lots of stunts. Since it was late at night and I didn’t want to have nightmares, I opted to see For Your Eyes Only — my first-ever James Bond film — and I can remember looking at all the teenagers in the theatre and thinking to myself that one day I would go on dates, too. The next day, my dad and I were heading back towards Canada when he suddenly pulled in to another theatre’s parking lot, and to my surprise we caught a matinee of Raiders on that very same trip: so I got to see both movies after all. The only thing I remember about that particular screening is that my dad told me afterwards that he wasn’t entirely happy with the ending, which seemed to suggest that you could keep God in a box, and which also suggested that God had a “good” side and a “dark” side, like the Force. But he didn’t object to the film all that much; when my Sunday School teacher decided to take some of us to see the film a few weeks later, my dad gladly let me tag along. (And when my friends and I — most of whom had already seen the film — asked our Sunday School teacher what he thought of it, he just said: “It had a lot of action!”)

Side note: In BC, the film was rated PG with a warning of “gory violence”; in Washington, the film was rated PG with a warning of “explicit violence”. Shortly after this, there was a Wizard of Id comic strip in which the king asks one of his soldiers to do something, and the soldier asks if the king could be more “explicit”, and the king repeats the command and adds the words “or I’ll bite your kneecaps off.” So for years I thought “explicit” was just a synonym for “gory”. (That’s how I remember it, at any rate. One of these days I’ll track down the Bellingham newspaper ads of that era, and the Wizard of Id strips from that era, and see whether they confirm my memories.)

Chris Williams:

I grew up watching Raiders on VHS; I was only two years old when it was released in theaters. A few years back, one of the local theaters was just opening and, to train their staff, they opened up their theaters for free showings of classic movies. My friend and I picked Raiders and, even though the print was scratched and the sound wasn’t great, it was still one of the best big screen experiences I ever had.

Benjamin Stumper:

I was seven years old. The year was 1981(?) and my dad took me to go see it at Southgate theater in Milwaukie, Oregon. I had bugged my mom to see it so much that I finally wore her down. Her feelings were if he gets scared, he gets scared. It was one of the greatest movie experiences ever and on the way home my dad and I talked about the Ark of the Covenant and the power of God. There are too many things to list why it is my favorite movie of all time but I would have to say the horseback and truck chase is my favorite part. Not sure how many times I have seen it, but I can recite many of the lines. My wife and I even used the Raiders march as our wedding recessional. I love this movie and Indiana Jones is still my hero.

Happy Birthday, Indy and Raiders. May you forever bring excitement and thrills to all your viewers past, present, and future. “It’s not the years…it’s the mileage.”

Mick Silva:

Must have seen this one more than any other movie. But this is how I know that when the wrath of God comes, you will live if you close your eyes.

Buckeye Jones:

When did you see it for the first time?

Probably 2 or 3 weeks after it opened. I know I saw Clash of the Titans (which opened on the same day) before seeing Raiders.

Where?

Century Theatres on Arden Way in Sacramento.

With whom?

With my dad.

What was your first impression?

Rick Bennett (via Twitter):

my mom & dad checked me out of school & drove me 60 miles to see it on opening day (small town kid). I laughed harder than than I had ever laughed when he shot the guy with the sword. The entire theater erupted. I still can’t wait for that scene.

First film to knock Star Wars out of its #1 position as my favorite film.

Nathan Scoggins:

I actually was a late arrival to Raiders. I remember going to kindergarten in the fall of ’82, and everyone in my class had these homemade Raiders of the Lost Ark maps that they would use during recess, and I had no idea what they were talking about.

I forgot all about it until two years later, when my dad told me that he and mom were going to see another movie with Han Solo, and I asked precociously, “Wait — Han Solo? Or Harrison Ford?”

It would be another two years before I would finally be deemed old enough to watch the original Raiders, but it has since never lost its hold on me.

When I finally got the chance to see it, it was as though I finally was let on the secret — but, unlike most secrets, this one was actually worth knowing. That boulder! Those snakes! That dress!

It’s still a movie that, if it’s airing somewhere on TV, I will stop and watch. George, Steven, and Larry Kasdan created the ultimate action/adventure hero, and (KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL notwithstanding) he has yet to be topped.

Want to add your recollections? Email them to me at joverstreet@gmail.com.

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