Indiana Jones

31 Hidden Details You May Have Missed In The ‘Indiana Jones’ Film Franchise

Paramount Pictures

When it comes to the greatest blockbuster movie franchises of all time, we’d rank Indiana Jones right up there with Star Wars. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ ode to 1940s adventure serials produced some of the best films of the 80s and introduced audiences to one of the most iconic heroes in movie history in its titular adventure-seeking archaeologist (it still kind of blows our mind that Harrison Ford gets to be both Han Solo AND Indiana Jones).

Though the franchise’s legacy was tarnished somewhat by an ill-advised fourth movie, the first three films are certified classics and each one contains a variety of standout moments and choice one-liners. With Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford returning to shoot a fifth Indiana Jones film set to release in 2021 (please, please be good!), we thought it might be fun to take a look back at all four previous films (yes, we’re counting Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – it’s not great but it’s not terrible either) and their treasure trove of Easter eggs and hidden details you may not have uncovered.

31. Star Wars Connections (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Considering Star Wars creator George Lucas co-created Indiana Jones alongside Steven Spielberg – not to mention that the film was produced by Lucasfilm – it’s no surprise that Lucas found a way to throw in some callbacks to a galaxy far, far away in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The first Easter egg appears at the beginning of the movie just after Indy escapes from the rolling boulder chamber with the golden idol in hand. The sea-plane he escapes in has a serial number that reads OB-CPO, a subtle reference to the characters Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO.

The second Easter egg is a two-parter and appears in the Well of Souls scene. When Indy and Sallah are getting ready to remove the stone lid off the sarcophagus containing the ark, there’s a wall of hieroglyphics behind them that depicts Princess Leia inserting the Death Star plans into R2-D2, as well as the appearance of C-3PO and R2-D2 mere moments later on a golden pillar in the same room. And if you want to get really obscure with it, some of the weeds in the later Well of Souls scene with the snakes were brought over from the Dagobah set of The Empire Strikes Back.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

30. Indy Never Loses His Hat

As an homage to the classic serials of the 1940s that heavily inspired the character, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made it so that Indiana Jones never loses his hat in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The heroes of those 40s serials kept their hats on their heads through pretty much any assault and this was done for continuity reasons and also because it was unbecoming of a gentleman to be without his hat in certain situations.

However, Raiders is the only Indiana Jones movie in which this happens, as each subsequent movie uses it as a running joke and the character loses his hat at least once in The Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

29. Indiana Jones: Professor Playboy

Indiana Jones is pretty much the worst university professor ever, as he spends so much of his time punching Nazis and digging up sacred relics that it’s practically a small miracle when he actually shows up to teach a class. However, it doesn’t seem like his students really seem to mind, with the female ones, in particular, being infatuated with Indy’s striking good looks, as illustrated by the way they swoon over him in Raiders of the Lost Ark’s only classroom scene.

This theme was meant to be explored further in the later scene when Brody goes to Indy’s house to discuss the mission, as Dr. Jones greets his colleague wearing a very posh outfit. This is because in the original script, Indy was supposed to be entertaining a young woman in his bedroom, as a way of personifying him as a worldly playboy, not unlike James Bond. However, the woman’s appearance was cut by Spielberg, who felt that giving Indy this persona just didn’t fit his character.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

28. “Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?”

Indiana Jones encounters his biggest fear in Raiders of the Lost Ark: being sealed in a tomb infested with deadly snakes, resulting in one of the film’s most intense sequences. Of course, CGI wasn’t really an option back in 1981 so the filmmakers used real snakes for the scene (the producers reportedly scoured every pet shop in southern England to snatch up as many as possible). However, when it came time to film, Steven Spielberg realized that they still didn’t have enough snakes, so he had hoses cut into snake-like lengths and if you look closely, you can spot which ones are real and which are fake.

Another interesting detail in the scene is that the shots of Marion’s legs aren’t actually those of actress Karen Allen but rather snake handler Steve Edge. Apparently, Allen’s stunt double refused to work with the snakes, so Spielberg asked if Allen would be willing to do it instead and had him shave his legs and put on a dress. Fun fact: unlike Indy, Harrison Ford is not afraid of snakes (and even if he was, filming a scene with hundreds of them would have been a good way to face that fear head on!).

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

27. So Big, He Had To Be Killed Twice

One of the best fights in Raiders of the Lost Ark happens on the Cairo airfield between Indy and a much bigger German mechanic who ends up being chewed apart by a plane’s propeller. The man who played the mechanic was Pat Roach, a renowned British wrestler who actually shows up earlier in the film as a different character who also dies an unfortunate death. Roach plays the giant Sherpa in Marion Ravenwood’s Nepalese bar who ends up being left to burn to death in the bar as it goes up in flames. Jeez, poor guy.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

26. The Truck Chase

Raiders of the Lost Ark’s truck chase scene remains one of our favorites and unsurprisingly, it was a lot of work to put together. The big stunt, which sees Indy being dragged under and then out behind a moving truck, is actually a tribute to Yakima Cannut’s stunt in John Ford’s classic western Stagecoach (1939). Interestingly, stuntman Terry Leonard failed to pull off the very same stunt the year before in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981), so he jumped at the chance to get another crack at it in Raiders.

However, Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck in some of the shots (and suffered some bruised ribs as a result) and during the entirety of the chase, Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of whom are playing German Soldiers in the scene. Terry Leonard is the truck driver who gets punched out of the cab by Indy, while Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers who hang onto the side of the truck before being knocked off.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

25. Bad German

Unless you’re a native German speaker, you probably didn’t notice anything wrong with the German spoken by the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, it turns out that the actors spoke so poorly that most of their lines had to be dubbed for the German versions of the film (they had very noticeable American accents, with some lines just being flat out wrong). At least the movie got one thing right: Nazis are evil and should be punched in the face.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

24. The Fly

When Indy threatens the Nazis with a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon on the island where the Ark is opened, you can see a fly crawling into the mouth of Paul Freeman (Belloq). What you may not have realized is that the editing deliberately made it look like Belloq swallows the fly, when in fact it Freeman revealed years later that it actually flew away from the instant he uttered the word “bad.” Spielberg noticed the fly in editing and thought it would be funny to cut out a few frames so the fly wouldn’t be shown flying away, making it look like Freeman ate it.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

23. Face-Melting Tone Down

The Indiana Jones series isn’t excessively violent or gory, but the end scene in Raiders in which the Nazis have their faces melted and exploded would seem to contradict this; in fact, this specific scene almost led to the film being given an R-rating. Understandably, Spielberg and co. didn’t want the film to be rated R, but they also didn’t want to scrap the scene either. The way they got around it is by adding layers of fire in front of Toht’s (Ronald Lacey) face to make the scene less-graphic, which evidently worked as the film was classified with a PG-rating.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

22. Star Wars Connection Part 2 (Temple of Doom)

Much like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom also features a few Star Wars Easter eggs. The most prominent occurs following the film’s opening scene, which sees Indy, Short Round, and Willie escapes from armed gangsters in a Shanghai nightclub. As their car speeds past the front of the establishment, you can clearly see that it’s called “Club Obi-Wan” after the iconic Jedi Master.

The next one is purely an audio reference. During the scene where Willie is about to be sacrificed, a sound effect much like a lightsaber being powered-up can be heard when the lava pit doors are opened. Finally, during the minecart chase, Short Round tells Indy to take the left tunnel but he instead takes the right. The left tunnel (safe) is color-coded in blue, while the right (unsafe) tunnel is red, a visual nod to the blue (good) and red (evil) lightsaber colors from the Star Wars films.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

21. Dan Aykroyd Cameo

The Indiana Jones movies aren’t known for featuring extravagant cameos, but Temple of Doom sports a few prominent ones. The most notable is Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd, who shows up for an 18-second cameo following the car chase with Lao Che’s men in the film’s opening sequence.

Sporting a mustache and a terrible British accent, Aykroyd plays a character named “Weber,” who tells Indy that he’s arranged for last minute transportation just before heroic archaeologist, Willie, and Short Round board a plane. Aykroyd and Spielberg had been friends for years, having worked together on Spielberg’s 1941 (1979).

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

20. Cameos Continued

In the very same airport scene in which Dan Aykroyd appears, there are some other pretty big cameos, though they’re much more difficult to spot. In the background of the scene, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, producer Frank Marshall, and his wife (and current Lucasfilm president) Kathleen Kennedy play a group of missionaries. Here’s a better look at the group from a newspaper clipping:

19. The Skies Less Travelled

Every Indiana Jones film features the iconic map travel sequence, in which a red line details Indy’s flight pattern. As it turns out, Temple of Doom is the Indiana Jones movie with the shortest red line travel, as it only shows Indy and his party flying from Shanghai to the Himalaya Mountains. There’s also a glaring geographical mistake during this sequence, as the plane is shown flying over the Great Wall too far north of the direct path shown from Shanghai to India.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

18. No Snake Handling, Please

For someone who hates snakes so much, Indiana Jones sure finds himself coming into contact with them a lot. In fact, Temple of Doom is the only movie in the series in which Indy does not make physical contact with a snake, although there is still a scene that features one and references his fear. After Winnie mistakes a snake for an elephant trunk, she grabs it and tosses it aside, but the look on Indy’s face makes it clear that he’s quite disturbed by the reptile’s presence.

17. Lord of the Flies?

During the sacrifice ritual, Mola Ram repeats the chant of “Maaro maaro sooar ko, chamdi nocho pee lo khoon.’ The literal translation from Hindi is “Kill, Kill the pig, flay his skin, drink his blood,” which is closely reminiscent of the “Kill the beast! Cut its throat! Spill its blood!” chant the boys in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies adopt after hunting and brutally killing a pig.

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16. Star Wars Again (The Last Crusade)

Another Indiana Jones film, another round of Star Wars Easter eggs. The Last Crusade is surprisingly light on Star Wars references compared to the rest of the series, containing only one noticeable Easter egg (though there very well could be others that we didn’t spot). A subtle musical cue occurs with The Last Crusade’s villain Donovan. When his wife comes into his study to tell him that he’s neglecting his guests, the Imperial March (a.k.a. Darth Vader’s theme) can be heard playing on the piano in the background.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

15. Indiana’s Age Confirmed (Sort Of)

The Last Crusade opens with an exciting flashback sequence which sees a teenage Indy (played by the late River Phoenix) rescuing the Cross of Coronado from grave robbers in Utah. The scene is set in 1912 and the story proper begins in 1938, so we could guesstimate that Indy is in his early 40s.

It wasn’t until the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles a few years later that Indy’s birth year of 1899 was confirmed, making him 39 during his quest to find the Holy Grail. The only real issue with this is that this would make Indy only 13 during the 1912 scene, which creates a bit of a disconnect given that River Phoenix was around 18 when he would have filmed those scenes.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

14. Bond, James Bond

Sean Connery was always Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play Indiana Jones’ father, as an inside joke referencing the fact that he and George Lucas had originally conceived of the character as a very Bond-like figure. Fittingly, The Last Crusade is filled with many actors who played roles in Bond movies, including John-Rhys Davies, Alison Doody, Stefan Kalipha, Julian Glover, Pat Roach, Michael Byrne, Vernon Dobtcheff, and Eugene Lipinski. In another nod to 007, the gun used to shoot Connery’s Henry Jones Sr. is a Walther PPK, which of course is the same model Connery used while playing James Bond.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

13. Truth

Near the beginning of the film when Indiana Jones is teaching his class, he utters the remark, “If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.” This is a clear nod to Ford’s own college days, as he was a Philosophy major at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, and Dr. William E. Tyree was one of his professors there.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

12. Dust Up

During the motorcycle chase scene, you can clearly see dust flying in the faces of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, which wouldn’t be notable if it weren’t for the fact that there’s not supposed to be anybody in front of them. The reason for this is because there actually was a vehicle in front of them – specifically, the vehicle carrying the camera filming the scene. If you look at all the shots filmed from the side, there is no dust.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

11. That’s A Funny Looking Seagull

When Professor Jones, Sr. scares a flock of seagulls away to fly up and stop the Nazi plane trying to shoot them, the birds are actually pigeons and not seagulls, as seagulls cannot be trained. So if you look closely at the scene, you will not only notice that the seagulls are in fact pigeons, but that many of the birds are not real at all.

Rather, several hundred tin-birds were used in the background shots of the seagulls striking the plane and for the close-ups, Industrial Light & Magic dropped feather-coated crosses onto the camera. The only reason it’s hard to notice is because of the scene’s quick cuts.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

10. Authentic Nazi Uniforms

There are a ton of extras dressed up as Nazis during the Berlin book-burning scene and believe it or not, most of those uniforms were authentic World War II uniforms, not replicas. Costume designer Anthony Powell obtained a cache of old uniforms found in Germany to be used in the film.

Another interesting bit of trivia is that when it came time for the extras to perform the Nazi salute, Steven Spielberg had them all simultaneously put their other arms behind their backs and cross their fingers.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

9. Toht Returns From The Grave (Sort Of)

The memorable Nazi villain Toht had his face melted off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, making a reappearance in The Last Crusade rather difficult. While Toht doesn’t make a return, the actor who played him, Ronald Lacey, does. Lacey has a brief cameo as Heinrich Himmler during the Nazi Berlin parade and fittingly, his friend Michael Sheard plays Adolf Hitler.

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8. Series MVP

We’ve already highlighted his turn as two different villains in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but did you know that along with Harrison Ford, Pat Roach is the only actor to appear in the first three Indiana Jones films? (and had he not passed away in 2004, we can only assume he would have been in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull too).

In Temple of Doom, Roach plays the Chief Guard, while in The Last Crusade, he’s seen running behind Vogel toward the zeppelin. Roach was supposed to have a bigger part, as a scene was filmed where Indiana Jones knocks him unconscious aboard the zeppelin, thus extending a running gag in the series in which Ford’s character knocks down Roach’s characters in each movie. Unfortunately, the scene did not make the final cut.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

7. The Holy Grail Temple

The temple that houses the Holy Grail does exist in real life (though it doesn’t contain the Holy Grail, of course), but it’s not in Alexandretta. The exterior of the temple is in Petra, Jordan and there’s actually no inside to it. Despite having a massive doorway, there’s only a huge empty square room carved from the top-down over two stories high.

The ancient city of Petra was once a teeming metropolis and the capital of the Nabataean culture. A popular trade route to India and China, Petra was abandoned during the Dark Ages and was only rediscovered in 1812. The area is only now a tourist destination largely due to The Last Crusade, as Petra was still largely obscure before the film was released.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

6. And Again, More Star Wars (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

Despite being released nearly 20 years after The Last Crusade, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull continues the series tradition of including at least one Star Wars Easter egg. Set designer Guy Hendrix Dyas included a nod to a galaxy far, far away in his Akator throne room, etching C-3PO and R2-D@ into one of the yellow tiles. In addition, another one of the yellow tiles has an etching of E.T.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

5. The Staff of Moses

In addition to the Ark of the Covenant, another significant religious relic makes an appearance in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s Area 51 hangar scene. Though harder to spot, the Staff of Moses from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) is housed in the hangar and interestingly, this isn’t the first time Indy has encountered it (the staff shows up in the 2009 video game Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings). That being said, it isn’t the exact staff from DeMille’s film, but rather a replica made by the props department.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

4. Good Hit

When the unpopular Mutt Williams is punched in the diner scene, the girl who hits him is none other than Sasha Spielberg, the daughter of Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw. Capshaw, of course, played Willie Scott in Temple of Doom and in fact, that’s where she and Spielberg met.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

3. Doggone It, Mutt

When Indiana first learns Mutt’s name in the coffee shop scene, he mocks him for being named after a mixed breed dog. This is a bit ironic considering that, as confirmed by Henry Jones, Sr. in The Last Crusade, the nickname Indiana was the name of the Jones’ family dog so technically, both Indy and Mutt’s names are canine-related.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

2. Indiana Gives His Students Mixed Messages

During the campus chase scene, Indiana and Mutt crash into the library, where Indiana proceeds to field a question from one of his students regarding research. The professor responds by saying that the best research is obtained by getting out of the library and into the field. Though Indy has plenty of field work under his belt (some might say too much), this bit of scholarly advice actually runs counter to what he tells his students in The Last Crusade.

In that film, Indy says that “Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research, reading. We cannot afford to take mythology at face value.” Perhaps Indy’s changed his philosophy since then? Or perhaps he’s just really eager to get back out into the field and on another adventure!

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures

1. No Guns

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the only film in the franchise in which Indy does not fire his weapon, though Harrison Ford was adamant that he get to use the character’s iconic whip again. While Paramount executives tried to make it so that the weapon was computer-generated due to new film safety rules, Ford deemed that decision “ridiculous’ and proceeded to use the whip. Despite not firing a shot, the film still has a body count of 47, 18 of which are killed by Indiana Jones alone. In other words, guns don’t kill people, Indiana Jones does.

Source: Screenshot via Paramount Pictures
Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)