The apex of the Action Blockbuster and it's all downhill from there. Much like 2001, it reinvigorated a genre by perfecting it to the point of making everything else pale in comparison. Sure it's no Citizen Kane or Sansho Dayu but last time I checked neither of those have a fan remake that took years of dedication. That's the passion this film exudes. What the old serials were for Spielberg, this classic is for many.
One aspect that's so fascinating about "Raiders" is how the first 10 minutes are devoted to building Indy up as a supremely capable hero - only for the filmmakers to spend the next 100 minutes deconstructing that very notion by revealing Indy's opportunistic streak, frequent incompetence, past destructive relationships, and regularly bathing Harrison Ford in shadows while his rival Belloq sits in the light.
For the first time since 1981 I have seen this in theaters--this time a new 35MM 4K restoration of the original negative, this time at the historic Texas Theater, and this time with my daughters, who both loved it! What an incredible experience.
You can try as hard as you like, but no one will ever be able to find a hidden or intellectual commentary here, the way you can in, say, North By Northwest or RoboCop. So in all honesty, it must be admitted that Raiders is not "about" anything—except the triumph of an innocent sense of wonder, which Spielberg evokes so vividly and reverently, and which today's blockbusters can scarcely attempt. A masterpiece.
I remember seeing this in the theater when I was 6 and it still holds up damn well as both a collection of great scenes and an actual story. The most worthwhile and fun way to develop a crippling fear of snakes that I can think of.
The Last Crusade is probably my personal favorite of the Indiana Jones series, but even I have to recognize that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best of the bunch. It's easy to forget that, ultimately, movies are meant to entertain. Raiders of the Lost Ark does that in spades.
The unselfconsciously imperialist mindset underpinning the Indiana Jones films can't fail to tarnish them and there are several moments in Raiders that I cringe at. Nonetheless, it's hard not to marvel at the brio with which Spielberg carries the whole thing off. Some of the scenes remain unparalleled in their audacity and Ford's belated confirmation as an A-list star is warranted. Easily the best of the four films.