movie memories: ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ turns 30

“Keeping up with the Jones” – a reference my parents’ got but I did not.

There were lots of great taglines for ‘The Last Crusade’ but I think my favorite was “The Man with the hat is back. And this time, he’s bringing his Dad.”

‘Last Crusade’ was the first Indy movie I got to see in the theaters. I was 8 years old and already a hardcore Spielberg and Lucasfilm fan – I had all the Star Wars movies memorized, and knew most of ‘Temple of Doom’ by heart. ‘Raiders’, with it’s ghosts and melting Nazis, I had convinced myself, was too scary for me. (My theory is that the first ghost caught me off guard, sort of like the first ghost in ‘Ghostbusters’, which I didn’t watch from the very beginning for a LONG time because that memory of being scared kept me away).

I know we saw this in the theater. It wasn’t my first movie theater experience (I saw E.T. in the theater but have no memory of it except for things my Mom told me later), but I definitely don’t have the strong memories of seeing a movie with my whole family like I do with this one.

This was a world with no spoilers beyond the trailer, unless you searched for them. And by search, I don’t mean hopping on your computer. No, that Apple IIe did NOT have an internet connection just yet, or, at least, no world wide web to post your fan theories to. I’m sure I could have found some magazines with interviews and what not, but, again, 8. So I went into this movie just knowing that I loved Indiana Jones and had no idea what to expect beyond what Drew Struzan’s poster artwork told me.

So the opening sequence with a young Indy was a new idea. I didn’t really know who River Phoenix was so I didn’t see him as anything else but Young Indy. And then this happened:

Henry Jones Jr. gets his fedora and is magically turned into Indiana Jones.

and the movie really got started.

I don’t remember too much else about the viewing experience. Mostly just sitting in silence, probably munching on popcorn because how could you see an Indiana Jones movie without popcorn?

Yet, there is one moment, one scene, that I still remember, deep in my mind, deep in my gut, because of the reaction I had to it. When Donovan pulls the gun on Indy, threatening him to go in and find the Grail. Indy smirks and quips ” Shooting me won’t get you anywhere.” Donovan looks straight at him and says ” You know something, Dr. Jones? You’re absolutely right.” and then…

Donovan pivots ever so slightly and shoot Indy’s Dad.

Right – so I’m 8 years old here. I don’t know movie tropes. I don’t realize that Steven Spielberg doesn’t kill a Dad. I don’t understand that Indiana Jones movies are not going to go that dark. All I know is that Indy’s Dad just got shot. I remember feeling my guts squeeze, the heart stop, and my eyes just filling with tears. I remember my Mom leaning over, sort of giving me a rub on the back and perhaps whispering that it would be okay or not to worry or something along those lines. Something to calm me down so I didn’t lose it completely.

I believe once I saw that Henry was stable and talking, that Marcus was going to hold that little cloth over the wound, I calmed down, hopeful that Indy would save the day.

Of course, there was a happy ending (unless you were a Nazi, but then you don’t deserve one, do you?) and like all good stories, the heroes ride off into the sunset, laughing and smiling, with John Williams’ classic theme playing.

Since then, I have watched the movie many many times. I quote it constantly, especially the classic “No ticket.” line. I could probably act out entire scenes if I needed to. It is perfect from beginning to end. No downtime, no throwaway scenes, all of it important for the story.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s, straddling the Gen-X and Millenial line. I didn’t get to experience Star Wars or the first two Indiana Jones’ films in their initial theater releases, and I’d say this movie marks the end of that Lucas/Spielberg summer domination era in some ways. Speilberg went on to make some fantastic, but heavier, films. Lucas waited another ten years to go back to a galaxy far far away. I’m so glad I saw this in the theater and have this memory, even if it was a bit of a traumatic one. This was the last great summer romp before both creators matured and grew apart.

If you haven’t seen this movie in awhile, sit down and watch it again. Turn out all the lights, pop some corn and settle in. 30 years later, it is still a lot of fun keeping up with the Joneses.

What are your Indiana Jones memories? Please comment or link to your post! I’d love to chat with other Indy fans.

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