Study Guide

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Introduction

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Introduction

Release Year: 1989

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Jeffrey Boam

Stars: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott

What's the coolest trip you've ever taken with your parents? Fishing at the lake? Disney World? An especially eventful trip to Target?

Whatever it is, aim higher.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, our hero and his father, Henry, travel across three continents in pursuit of the Holy Grail—the Cup of Christ that grants everlasting life to whoever drinks from it. Suck on that, Space Mountain.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third film in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, opened on May 24, 1989, and pulled in $11,181,429, making it the first movie to put more than $10 million worth of butts in seats on its first day in theatres. After its record-setting opening day, the film went on to rake in over $474 million worldwide. The film, which once again starred Harrison Ford (duh), Denholm Elliot, and John Rhys-Davies, also introduced audiences to a new character: Indiana's father.

If you think bringing Indiana's dad into the mix was a big deal, you'd be right. No ordinary actor would do, so producer George Lucas (Star Wars, Labyrinth) and director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) brought in Sean Connery to fill the role of Henry Jones, Sr. That's right: James Bond himself.

With a production budget of $48 million, Last Crusade was filmed across three continents, and a hefty chunk of that budget went toward creating the thrilling action set-pieces that the Indy franchise is known for. We're talking about airplane fights, fiery Nazi castles, speedboat chases, catacombs full of thousands of rats, and even a rampaging tank.

Last Crusade isn't all guns and rodents, though. The relationship between Indiana and his dad imports an emotional heft that hadn't yet been seen in the Indiana Jones franchise. The film's funnier than Raiders of the Lost Ark and lighter in tone than the sometimes gruesome Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. With a script by Jeffrey Boam (Innerspace)—and uncredited father-son dialogue punch-ups by Tony-winning playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard—Last Crusade packs a warm, emotional wallop stronger than any punch Indiana's ever landed on a bad guy.

But don't worry. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade doesn't veer into Lifetime movie territory. Everybody's favorite archaeology professor also jumps onto a moving tank from a horse, watches an otherwise healthy dude decompose in under ten seconds, and kicks a whole lot of Nazi tail. This is Indiana Jones, after all.


What is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade About and Why Should I Care?

The Holy Grail. The Ark of the Covenant. The Fountain of Youth.

In adventure movies, the swashbuckling hero is always after something: a treasure, a talisman, some enchanted place or item that'll do something mind-blowingly awesome, like grant everlasting life or release enough money to buy the Batmobile and your own English butler to wash and wax it in your parents' driveway.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the magical item isn't an item an all.

It's Henry.

Sure, Indiana's chasing after the Holy Grail, too, but that's just to stop Donovan from getting it and using it wreak havoc on mankind. He's just being a good citizen. What Indiana's really after, personally, is a relationship with dear old Dad. For Indiana, love equals wealth. Aww.

That's why, unlike Elsa, Indiana lets the Holy Grail go. That's why it means so much when Henry finally calls him "Indiana" instead of "Junior." That's why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for all its incredible action set-pieces, still presents an unusual—and unusually moving—take on the rip-roaring action flick.


Last Crusade's prologue establishes that Indiana got the famous scar on his chin when he clumsily cracked a whip at a circus lion. In real life, Harrison Ford acquired it in a car accident when he was 20. No, a lion wasn't behind the wheel. (Source)

Although he played Harrison Ford's dad in the film, Sean Connery was only 12 years older than his on-screen son. At the time of filming, Ford was 47, and Connery was 59. (Source)

While filming the zeppelin scenes, Harrison Ford and Sean Connery both took their pants off because it was so hot. Really adds a new level of poignancy to their whole father-son chat, doesn't it? (Source)

Although it looks a little silly by today's CGI standards, Donovan's gruesome death scene set a new standard for digital effects back in 1989. It was the first digital composite shot, meaning that they took a bunch of shots of Donovan (Julian Glover) at various points in the rapid-aging process, threw in some puppets for the worst of the decomposition, and then spliced it all together into the final, ghastly shot. (Source)

Turns out Indiana was named after a dog: executive producer George Lucas' Alaskan malamute. He was originally called Indiana Smith, though—until Lucas wisely decided that Jones sounded cooler. (Source)

Ready for your skin to crawl? The production crew specially bred 2,000 rats for the Venice catacombs scene, since regular rats would have carried diseases. But don't worry, rodent lovers: when the catacombs go up in flames, they used 1,000 mechanical rats. (Source)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Resources


Indiana Jones Wiki
Just in case that title doesn't say it all, this is a user-maintained online encyclopedia about everybody's favorite archaeologist named after a dog.
Here's an Indiana Jones fansite that rivals Henry's Grail diary in its comprehensiveness.

Book or TV Adaptation

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
If you've ever wished that Last Crusade's prologue could be turned into an hour-long TV show starring Sean Patrick Flanery as the young Indiana Jones, then, boy, have we got news for you.

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
There have been over 20 Indiana Jones video games produced since 1982. Only a real blockhead wouldn't be charmed by the LEGO adaptation.

Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi
In novels and comic books, Indiana Jones has gone on dozens of missions since the 1980s. This novel is one of several written by Rob MacGregor, who also penned the script adaptation of Last Crusade.

Articles and Interviews

"Revisiting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"
This article from Den of Geek takes a deep dive into Last Crusade, as the author introduces his son to the film.

"How Harrison Ford Made Indiana Jones an Icon"
This Newsweek article details how the actor turned a wise-cracking, whip-cracking archaeologist into a pop culture idol.

The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The film's cast and crew give us the dirt on Last Crusade's production in these behind-the-scenes interviews.

Entertainment Tonight Interviews Sean Connery
Come for the insights from Connery, stay for Leeza Gibbons' totally tubular '80s sweater.

Red Carpet News Interviews Julian Glover
Turns out Donovan and the actor who portrayed him share the same thoughts when it comes to acceptable Grail hunting behavior.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Official Trailer
"For some adventures, one Jones is not enough…"

Young Indy on the Train
Indiana has a roaring good time in the lion car.

Boat Chase
Boat Chase Rule #1: don't go between two boats.

Fiery Escape
The room, the room, the room is on fire.

No Ticket
We bet these Germans will never board a zeppelin without double-checking their tickets again.

An Army of Birds
It's not just the pen that's mightier than the sword: the umbrella is, too.

Siskel and Ebert Review Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert give Last Crusade the thumbs up, thumbs down treatment. Spoiler alert: they disagree.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Theme
Just try not to get John Williams' unmistakable theme stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Go on, we dare you.


The Official Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Movie Poster
The movie's tag line is a total Dad Joke.

Steven Spielberg and River Phoenix on Set
"Hang on, Steve. I thought was supposed to playing a young Han Solo."

Crew Members Adjust the Donovan Dummy
Lookin' good, Walt.

Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and Spielberg on the Castle Brunwald Set
What are they looking at? We're going to guess the pizzas just showed up.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Lobby Card
"This time he's bringing his dad." And his dad looks positively thrilled.

Ford, Spielberg, and Alison Doody with Michael Jackson
What can we say? It was the '80s.

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