Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Plot: Renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, Dr. Indiana Jones, is hired by the U.S. Government to find the Ark of the Covenant, which is believed to still hold the ten commandments. Unfortunately, agents of Hitler are also after the Ark. Indy, and his ex-flame Marion, escape from various close scrapes in a quest that takes them from Nepal to Cairo.
The scene in Cairo in which Indy shoots the giant swordsman was originally intended to be a long, choreographed fight scene featuring Indy's whip versus the Arab man's saber. But at the time Harrison Ford was suffering from dysentery after three months of filming in Tunisia, couldn't face the three additional days of filming and suggested that this much shorter version should be tried instead. Ford approached Spielberg and said: "Why don't I just shoot the son of a bitch?"
During filming in Tunisia, nearly everyone in the cast and crew got sick, except director Steven Spielberg. It is thought that he avoided illness by eating only the food he'd brought with him: a lot of cans of Spaghetti-O's.
The monkey raising his paw and saying (in his own language) "Heil Hitler" was thought up by George Lucas and is one of Steven Spielberg's two favorite scenes (in the video box set, he says his other favorite is the "where doesn't it hurt" love scene on the ship). In Empire magazine, Frank Marshall said that they got the monkey to do the Nazi salute by putting a grape on a fishing pole and getting the monkey to reach for the grape, which was dangling just out of camera range. This took about 50 takes before it actually looked like a Nazi salute. Voice-artist Frank Welker provided the chattering sounds for the monkey, including the "Sieg Heil"-like chirp that the monkey gives when it raises its paw in salute. (Welker later provided similar monkey chatter for Abu, the spider monkey in Disney's Aladdin (1992).)
Alfred Molina's first credited screen role. His first scene on his first day of filming involved being covered with tarantulas.
The original name of the lead character in the script was Indiana Smith. His name was changed to Jones on the first day of production. Indiana came from Lucasí dog, an Alaskan malamute named Indiana. The big, hairy pup was also the inspiration for Chewbacca from Star Wars.
In filming the Well of Souls sequence, the producers scoured every pet shop in London and the South of England for every snake they could lay their hands on. Hence there are snakes that are identifiable from many different geographical areas. However, once all the snakes were on set, it became clear that there were not nearly enough of them, so Steven Spielberg had several hoses cut into lengths, and these were used as well. A sheet of glass separates Harrison Ford and the arched (and highly dangerous) cobra when he falls in. The snake actually did spray venom onto the glass.
Tom Selleck was Steven Spielberg's second choice for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was his first, but George Lucas objected, since Ford had been in both American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Selleck was not able to take the role because he was committed to Magnum, P.I. (1980). However, that series did not go into production until Raiders' filming had already wrapped. Selleck was in fact in Hawaii waiting for the series to start as the final scenes to be filmed (the opening sequence) were being shot in Hawaii. "Magnum" did an episode called "Legend of the Lost Art" that parodied "Raiders", complete with hat, whip, booby traps, etc.
Harrison Ford did most of the stunt work himself, including the scene in which he is getting dragged behind the truck. He sustained several bruised ribs from the stunt and later said "if the stunt was dangerous, we wouldn't have done it."
A fiberglass boulder 22 feet (7 m) in diameter was made for the scene where Indiana escapes from the temple. Steven Spielberg was so impressed by production designer Norman Reynolds' realization of his idea that he gave the boulder a more prominent role in the film and told Reynolds to let the boulder roll another 50 feet (15 m)
Originally mechanical snakes were going to be used in the Well Of Souls sequence, but it was decided that they looked too fake so they opted for real snakes instead.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas argued over who Indy's companion should be. One idea was that she was to be a Nazi spy. After discarding that idea, they couldn't decide if they wanted the character to be Indy's former mentor, or an old lover. It was Lawrence Kasdan's idea to combine the two ideas, by making her the daughter of Indy's teacher. The idea of Indy traveling together with a Nazi spy was re-used for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
The submarine pen on the island where the Ark is taken, and finally opened, is not a set, but in fact an actual German U-Boat pen left over from World War II in La Rochelle, France. Producer Robert Watts was amazed at how preserved the submarine pen was (even down to the graffiti on the walls) that he described it as "an actual set in existence".
In a 2001 "making of" special, it was revealed that the effects used in the three antagonists' rather gruesome deaths (Dietrich, Toht, and Belloq) were a vacuum machine, heat gun with time-lapse photography, and shotgun, respectively. When the movie was submitted for an MPAA rating, it was given a rating of "R" because of the exploding head. In order to lower the rating, flames were superimposed over this image. The result was the appearance of a head exploding behind a dense curtain of flames. The rating was lowered to "PG" (at the time, the PG-13 rating did not exist).
Indy's famous line to Marion while in their room on the Bantu Wind - "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage" - was ad-libbed by Ford.
Indiana Jones never loses his hat because it was thought that such a thing would cause problems with continuity. It eventually becomes a running joke through the series. Though at the end of Raiders while on the Bantu Wind and the Ark alter, he doesn't have his hat with him.
The opening scene in the lost South American temple is partly based on a classic Disney Ducks adventure helmed by the legendary artist Carl Barks, many of whose comic books have inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Exploring a lost temple, Donald Duck, his nephews, and Scrooge McDuck must evade a succession of booby traps - flying darts, a decapitating blade, a huge boulder, a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water, etc.
The hieroglyphics in the Well of Souls include engravings of R2-D2 and C-3PO. They can be seen on a post to the right of Indy and Sallah as they remove the Ark
The whole idea for the film came up at a hotel in Hawaii called "Mauna Kea Beach Hotel", while George Lucas (who was escaping what he thought would be a disastrous opening of Star Wars) and Steven Spielberg were taking a holiday. They were both making a sand castle and decided they wanted to produce and direct an adventure film based on the 1940s serials. After their trip, they got together and developed the script with Lawrence Kasdan.
The last scene of the entire movie, where we see the Ark in the crate carrying away in a huge warehouse is a reference to the classic Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Where we see a similar scene, also near the ending.
When Belloq is yelling at Indy on the island from down in the canyon, you can see a fly crawling about his face. He doesn't flinch, nor does he make any attempt to shoo it. It eventually ends up in his mouth, and he still doesn't react. In editing they removed the few frames where the fly flew off, in order to give the impression Belloq ate it