The Correct Order To Watch The Indiana Jones Movies  

You may know the catchphrase: If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. And it's true. No film series better embodies the spirit of pure, plucky, boyish adventure quite like the story of Dr. Henry Jones Jr., an archaeologist who's dashingly handsome, handy with a bullwhip, really good at punching Nazis, and, perhaps most importantly, never gives up even when the odds are stacked against him. Across five films and 40 years, Harrison Ford brought the iconic character to life, defining a unique brand of plucky cool for several generations of film fans. Simply put, only James Bond gives Indy a run for his money in the "greatest action hero in movie history" contest.

Maybe you knew all of that. Maybe you didn't. In any case, you're reading this article because you need to know which order to watch the Indiana Jones films and want an expert opinion. For some of you, this question comes from a beginner's status — you've never seen these films and since they don't have numbers in the titles, you genuinely have no idea where to start! Meanwhile, seasoned fans may want to know if there's a preferred order to watch these movies because, yes, one of them happens to be a prequel, set before the events of the other films.

Don't worry. There's an easy answer to all of your questions. You've come to the right place.

The production order is the way to go

If you're an absolute nerd (like us), the release order of the Indiana Jones movies can be slightly deceptive, for reasons we'll get to in a moment. If you're new to the films, the titles offer no guidance on the order they came out. So here you go. A handy little list for your future use:

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
You will sometimes see the title of the first film listed as "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." This title only entered our realm when the original trilogy of films hit DVD for the first time, and someone in the marketing department thought this was a good idea. It was a bad idea. No one calls it that. Everyone just calls it "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Be one of the cool kids and just stick with the original title.

In addition to the five films, there is also the TV series "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," which ran for two seasons and 28 episodes from 1992 through 1993. Although often entertaining, this series is wildly inconsistent and frequently contradicts the established canon of the films. It's best viewed as a curiosity after you've seen the core films, with you picking and choosing which bits you think actually apply.

The Temple of Doom dilemma

Alright, now time to answer the question actually proposed by that headline. In short, you should watch them in order of release, at least the first time you view the series. After all, while some folks will argue that "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is the most purely fun of the whole series, a viewer can't fully appreciate its many character revelations (and humorous touches) unless they are first familiar with the character and his world. Similarly, "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" is very much an epilogue — it hits harder if you have a history with Indy and his friends, and have actually been on a couple of journeys with him.

And no, you shouldn't skip "Indiana and Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal" skull." Bad movie? Yeah. As bad as some folks say? No. Still worth seeing so you can be a proper completionist and be able to actually participate in conversations about it? Indeed.

That brings us to the final question, and the one that creates all the film nerd chatter. What does one do with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," the second film produced but the first film chronologically? ("Raiders" takes place in 1936 and "Doom" takes place in 1935.) Although some folks may think chronological is the way to go ... they're wrong, sorry. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is a much better film than the divisive, intentionally unpleasant "Temple of Doom," so folks trying to introduce Indy to friends for the first time, or going on this adventure for the first time themselves, should put the strongest foot forward. Plus, "Temple of Doom" is less of a prequel and more of a second adventure told out of order, capturing the scattershot vibes of the old school movie serials that inspired director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas. Going back in time is a feature, not a bug.

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