Indiana Jones movies ranked, including Dial of Destiny

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.Disney

With Indiana Jones 5 releasing worldwide this week, we’re ranking the action-adventure movies from worst-to-best, including Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

The new movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and hits cinemas in the UK tomorrow, before releasing in the US on Friday. Making now the perfect time to take stock of all five flicks.

Co-created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – and played by Harrison Ford – Indy is an archeologist adventurer who made his movie debut in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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Since then he’s top-lined a prequel and two sequels, with the final instalment out this week.

Ranking the Indiana Jones movies from worst to best

We’ve already posted a detailed explainer on where to watch the Indiana Jones movies, with the movies currently streaming on Disney+ and Paramount+, and available to rent and buy pretty much everywhere else.

While head here to find out how to watch all five flicks in release order or chronological order.

But to watch them in order of quality, this is the Indiana Jones movies ranked from worst-to-best.

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5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2007)

There might be some debate concerning the order of the top three. But until Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny joins these ranks, there’s no doubt what the worst Indiana Jones movie is.

First, the positives: Cate Blanchett is superb as fantastically camp villain Irina Spalko. Harrison Ford and Karen Allen have lost none of their spark in the electric scenes where Indy and Marion passionately bicker. And the action – when it’s practical – is breathtaking.

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The film got criticized for the nuclear fridge (which – fun fact – is cribbed from an early draft of Back to the Future) and alien subplot. But they aren’t much more far-fetched than the supernatural shenanigans in earlier installments.

But Ray Winstone – and especially John Hurt – are terrible in the movie. Shia LeBeouf just doesn’t work as Indy’s son Mutt, meaning it’s no surprise he’s nowhere to be seen in Indy 5. And the reliance on computer-generated effects ruins some of the film’s most important sequences.

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A highlight of Indiana Jones movies are the wild stunts and spectacular action. But here the reliance on digital elements in those scenes means Indy suddenly looks fake, which is catastrophic to the movie. And that’s before they add CG-monkeys to the mix…

4. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the first film in the franchise to be directed by someone other than Steven Spielberg. With James Mangold taking over the reins. And while the Logan helmer does a solid job, Dial of Destiny does seem to be missing a little of the Spielberg magic that makes the previous entries that much more memorable.

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The film kicks off with some dodgy de-ageing effects bringing 1944 Indiana Jones to life. Then the rest of the film plays out in 1969, with Indy a very different character, living alone in a tiny apartment, drinking too much, and paying the price for the many bones he’s broken and bullets he’s taken.

But an encounter with goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) sends him on a new adventure, that in classic Indy-style, means a race against time to beat the Nazis to a potentially magical artefact.

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Here’s what we said about Dial of Destiny in our 3-star review: “There’s a real irony and poignancy in Indy’s quest to rewind the clock to find this Dial of Destiny and Ford’s grizzled charm, and genuine affection for his character shines through in every scene. He’s also in incredible shape for his age and though he’s running and jumping around less than in previous instalments (at times he’s almost Waller-Bridge’s sidekick), you totally believe that Indy can still duck and dive with the best of them. As Indy himself once growled, ‘It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.’

“Then there’s the grandstanding, go-for-broke final act. Without giving any specific spoilers it’s maybe the first time in the whole movie where the story aims for something completely new. It’s a jump that some audiences will hate in the way the Crystal Skull aliens took many people out of that film, and the Indiana Jones world in general – which is strange for a series that had already unleashed the wrath of God, magical stones, and an immortal knight.

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“For this reviewer, the film’s climax felt original, daring and, ultimately, hugely moving: given the Archimedes theme, it’s a real ‘Eureka!’ moment. For all Dial of Destiny’s flaws, and whether Disney attempts to continue the series with Helena taking on the mantle, this feels like a fitting end (and please, let it be the end this time) to one of the most iconic characters in modern movies and the star who brought him to life.”

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

It gets tricky from here-on-in. Temple of Doom is a sequel that was really a prequel, and divided audiences with its violence and grimly dark tone. Which is saying something when the film’s predecessor included a man’s face melting while the heads around him explode.

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Temple of Doom features the best Indiana Jones opening sequence, the ‘Anything Goes’ musical number a true classic. And one of the most exciting action sequences in the shape of that cart chase through underground mines.

But the casual racism that underpins proceedings makes it a tough watch. While going from kick-ass heroine Marion drinking her way through Raiders, to damsel in distress Willy screaming her way through Temple was a step backwards for the franchise. Then there’s the heart-ripping, and the child slaves, and did we mention all that racism?

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So while the highs are high in Temple of Doom, the lows are very low, making this the third best Indy movie.

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Based on current evidence, the third Indiana Jones is also where the franchise should have finished. Pretending the darkness of Doom didn’t happen, Last Crusade gets back to basics, with Indy punching Nazis as he endeavours to stop them drinking from the Holy Grail.

The film kicks off in swashbuckling fashion via an inspired flashback. River Phoenix plays young Indy embarking on an early adventure, and picking up the character’s trademarks in a way that doesn’t seem trite or contrived.

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But what makes Last Crusade sing is the inclusion of the protagonist’s Dad – Dr. Henry Jones Sr. As well as being based on the cliffhanger serials of their youth, Indy was Lucas and Spielberg’s answer to James Bond. So casting Sean Connery in the role of his Dad was inspired; the actor bringing humour and gravitas to the role, all while stealing scenes from Harrison Ford.

The film builds to a memorable climax, and ends with father and son riding off into the sunset in emotionally satisfying fashion. Which is probably where the series should have stopped.

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1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the all-time great blockbusters, largely because every aspect of the production – both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera – works in bringing the story of Indiana Jones to life.

Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as the archaeology teacher who moonlights as a treasure-hunter; one who is brave and resourceful one minute, and terrified – usually of snakes – the next. The result is a very likeable, very human hero.

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The script – by Lawrence Kasdan – is filled with sharp dialogue that harks back to the screwball comedies of yesteryear. The story – about a race to locate the lost ark of the covenant – makes for a pulsating, globe-trotting adventure. While the villains are Nazis trying to take over the world, and who doesn’t hate Nazis trying to take over the world?

Raiders is ultimately an action movie however, and on that front it truly excels. From the boulder run at the beginning of the movie, to the bar-fight in Nepal, to that spectacular chase through the streets of Cairo, we’re watching director Steven Spielberg at the height of his powers, collaborating with some of the best stunt-people in the business.

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The result is a film that’s filled with superb action, high adventure, sly humor, and supernatural wonder, all of which makes Raiders of the Lost Ark the best Indiana Jones movie of them all.

Updated on June 27, 2023 with Dial of Destiny review.

For more Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny info, check out the below articles:

Indiana Jones 5 review | Cast and characters | What is the Dial of Destiny? | Number of Indy movies | Helena Shaw explained | Soundtrack and songs | Indiana Jones streaming details | Dial of Destiny runtime | Lance of Longinus explained | Where is Indy’s son? | Filming locations | How to watch the Indy movies in order | Is Short Round in Dial of Destiny? | Ranking the Indiana Jones movies | Villain explained | Does Dial of Destiny have a post-credits scene? | Best Easter Eggs | Ending explained | Deaths in Dial of Destiny? | Will there be an Indiana Jones 6?

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