Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a 1989 adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg from a story co-written by executive producer George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford in the title role. It co-stars Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Julian Glover, Alison Doody, River Phoenix, and John Rhys-Davies. It is the third film in the Indiana Jones franchise and has Indiana searching for his father who was kidnapped by Nazis while looking for the Holy Grail. Worldwide, the film was the highest grossing movie of 1989.


The prologue depicts a young Indiana Jones in 1912 as a Boy Scout in Utah, battling grave robbers for the Cross of Coronado (an ornamental cross belonging to Francisco Vásquez de Coronado). As the foiled grave robbers give chase, Indiana hides in a circus train, in the process using a whip, scarring his chin, and gaining a fear of snakes. Although he rescues the cross, the robbers tell the Sheriff that Indiana was the thief, and he is forced to return it, while his oblivious father Henry is working on his research. The leader of the hired robbers, dressed very similarly to the future Indiana, gives him his fedora and some encouraging words. In 1938, an adult Indiana is on the robbers' ship, the Coronado, off the Portuguese coast, retrieving the Cross and donating it to Marcus Brody's museum.

Afterwards, Indiana meets the wealthy Walter Donovan, who informs him that Indy's father has vanished while searching for a clue to the location of the Holy Grail, using an incomplete stone tablet as his guide. Indy receives a package which turns out to be his father's Grail Diary in which he recorded all his findings and clues towards the Holy Grail. Understanding that his father would not have sent the Grail diary, his father's life's work, to him unless he was in trouble, Indiana and Marcus travel to Venice. There they meet the beautiful and mysterious Dr. Elsa Schneider who had been working with Indiana's father. Using clues in Henry's diary, Indiana and Elsa search the ancient catacombs underneath the library where Henry was last seen. The catacombs are filled with oil slicked water several feet deep and infested with rats. Inside is the tomb of Sir Richard, a knight of the First Crusade, whose shield holds a complete version of the half-tablet which Henry Jones had found.

The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a secretive religious order that protects the Holy Grail, sets fire to the oil in the catacombs to kill Indiana and Elsa. Indiana overturns Richard's sarcophagus so that he and Elsa can take refuge underneath it from the flames, and emerge from a sewer grate in Venice outside the library. Indiana and Elsa commandeer a motorboat to escape, managing to fight off all but the cult's leader, Kazim, during the ensuing chase. Jones convinces Kazim that he is looking for his father, not the Grail, and Kazim reveals that his father is being held in a castle near the Austrian-German border. Indiana finds his father, but they are betrayed by Elsa and Donovan, who worked with the Nazis to stage Henry's kidnapping, so that Indiana would solve the mystery of the Grail for them. Meanwhile, in İskenderun, Hatay, the Nazis capture Brody, to whom Indiana had given the map for safekeeping.

Indiana and Henry are tied up, but escape and travel to Berlin to retrieve Henry's diary, which contains the clues to evade three booby traps guarding the Grail. At a Nazi book burning rally, a disguised Indiana corners Elsa and forces her to return the diary to him. Indiana and Henry travel on a Zeppelin, but Indy realizes the Nazis have caught up to them when the Zeppelin changes course. They escape the ship by taking an attached fighter plane, evading Nazi fighters. Henry accidentally shoots out the tailfin, and they crash land. They steal a car, causing one Nazi plane to be destroyed when it follows them through a tunnel. On a beach, Henry uses his umbrella to stir up a flock of seagulls, which strike the second plane, crashing it. The Joneses meet up with Sallah and travel to Turkey to confront the Nazis, who have captured Brody. Meanwhile the Nazis gain crucial support from the Turkish governor of the Republic of Hatay, who gives them camels, horses, provisons, an armed escort, desert vehicles, and a tank in exchange for a Rolls Royce. The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword attack the Nazi caravan, but are defeated. Henry attempts to rescue Brody from the tank wherein he is being held, but is himself captured, whereupon Indiana jumps onto the tank and rescues the captives before it drives off a cliff. The others believe Indiana is dead until he climbs up the cliff, where he emotionally reunites with his father.

The Joneses, Sallah, and Brody reach the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, the site of the temple housing the Grail. The Nazis capture them in the temple, where Donovan shoots Henry, forcing Indiana to retrieve the Grail so as to heal his father's fatal wounds. Guided by the diary, Indiana circumvents the deadly booby traps, reaching a room where a knight of the First Crusade, kept alive by the power of the Grail, has hidden it among many false cups, while Donovan and Elsa follow. The knight informs them that, if they wish for the Grail, they must choose wisely for it, for while drinking from the true Grail will bring them everlasting life, a false Grail will take it from them. Elsa identifies a golden, bejeweled cup as the Grail, and Donovan impatiently drinks from it. Realizing the Grail is false, Donovan dies, aging rapidly into dust.

Indiana picks out the true Grail, a plain cup with a gold interior, worthy of a humble carpenter (Jesus), and drinks from it, whereupon the knight advises him that he has chosen "wisely". Indiana fills the Grail with water and uses it to heal Henry. Despite a warning from the knight not to let the Grail go past the Great Seal in accordance with the Law of God, Elsa tries to leave with the Grail and the interior starts to collapse. She loses her balance at the edge of a newly-formed crevasse; despite Indiana's attempts to lift her, she greedily reaches for the Grail and falls into the abyss. Indiana loses his footing and finds himself in the same situation, with his father keeping him from following the same fate as Elsa. He also tries to get the Grail, until Henry says simply, "Indiana, let it go".

Realizing that this is the first time his father has referred to him as an individual (rather than condescendingly calling him "Junior"), and that his father values his son over the Grail, Indiana takes his father's hand. The Grail and the old knight are left in the ruins as the Joneses, Brody, and Sallah escape the crumbling temple. Afterward, Henry reveals that Indiana was the family dog's name, much to Sallah's amusement, and that Indiana's real name is Henry Jones, Jr. All four then ride off into the sunset.



After the release of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Steven Spielberg decided to complete the trilogy in order to fulfill his promise to George Lucas and "to apologize for the second one". He turned down Rain Man and Big to make the film. The filmmakers returned to previously possible concepts of the Monkey King and a haunted castle. Chris Columbus wrote these into a script entitled Indiana Jones and the Monkey King (which used a haunted castle as its prologue).

Then Lucas suggested the Holy Grail. Spielberg had previously rejected it as too ethereal, and because he associated it too much with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Then he came up with telling a father-son story. He thought, "The Grail that everybody seeks could be a metaphor for a son seeking reconciliation with a father and a father seeking reconciliation with a son." Harrison Ford concurred, "It outfoxes the sequel syndrome." Lucas later acknowledged writing Jones's father into the story was good, because he realized the Holy Grail was not as strong a plot device as he first believed.

Lucas came up with the opening flashback of Indiana as a teenager. Menno Meyjes, who worked on The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun with Spielberg, co-wrote the story with Lucas while Jeffrey Boam wrote the script. Tom Stoppard polished the dialogue.


Filming began on May 16 1988, with a budget of $36 million, shooting in Venice, Almería, Jordan, Austria, Germany, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Texas. Filming began in Almería, Andalusia, Spain, where the tank fight was shot. Spielberg had originally planned the tank fight to be a short sequence shot over two days, but he drew up storyboards to make the scene an action-packed centerpiece of the film. In Sean Connery's words, "The invention just went on and on." It took two weeks to film the entire ten-minute sequence. Two tanks were built for the scene. A smaller version consisting only of the tank's upper half was used for close-ups of the fight. The plane chase was shot in Majorca. When filming the seagulls striking the plane, the birds did not fly. After a ruined take, Spielberg decided to use doves instead. They went to Guadix, Granada to film Brody's capture.

After a total of three weeks in Spain, filming was conducted at Elstree Studios for ten weeks for various interior scenes, including the Venice catacombs, shots of Indiana battling Kazim near a propeller, the German airport, and the Zeppelin. Suffering in an overheated studio, Ford and Connery shot much of the Zepplin table conversation while wearing no pants. 2000 rats were specially bred for the catacomb sequence, so as to keep out disease, and mechanical rats were also used. Locations in the UK included Tilbury Docks in Essex (for the boat chase); Royal Masonic School for Girls, Hertfordshire; Stowe School, Buckinghamshire (the Nazi rally); and the Royal Horticultural Society (the interiors of Tempelhof Berlin Airport).

Shooting in Venice began on August 7, 1988. The crew took over the Grand Canal for the boat sequences, and the San Barnaba di Venezia served as the exterior for the fictional Venetian church-turned-library. They also shot at Piazza San Marco and Doge's Palace. They shot at Mayen, Germany, for the interiors of the castle, before moving to the ancient city of Petra, which stood in for the temple of the Grail. The crew and cast became guests of King Hussein and Queen Noor.

River Phoenix shot his scenes in September, three weeks after main filming wrapped, at Arches National Park in Utah and on railways in Colorado. The film's final shot was filmed at Clyde, Texas. After viewing a rough cut, Spielberg added the motorbike chase which was shot at Mount Tamalpais, near Lucas Valley.


  • Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones: The intrepid archaeologist and adventurer who seeks to rescue his estranged father.
    • River Phoenix played the 13-year old Indiana. He had acted opposite Ford in The Mosquito Coast. Ford personally recommended Phoenix for the part, citing that of all the young actors working at the time, River Phoenix was the one who looked the most like him when he was around that age.
  • Sean Connery as Professor Henry Jones: Indiana's father, who cared more for looking for the Grail than for raising his son. Spielberg suggested Connery as Henry Jones, feeling no one else but the first James Bond could pull off the role. Connery initially turned it down, as he was only twelve years older than Ford, but he relented. Being a student of history himself, Connery began to reshape the character into somebody who was a match for his son, remarking to Spielberg, \"Look, whatever Indy'd done my character done and my character has done it better\".
  • Denholm Elliott as Dr. Marcus Brody: Indiana's bumbling colleague. Elliott reprised the role as Spielberg sought to recapture the tone of Raiders of the Lost Ark, following his absence in the darker Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Having stayed in America in Raiders, Brody accompanies Indiana on the search for his father and is shown to be out of his depth, therefore acting as comic relief.
  • Alison Doody as Dr. Elsa Schneider: An Austrian professor who is in league with the Nazis. She seduces both of the Joneses in order to trick them.
  • John Rhys-Davies as Sallah: A friend of Indiana and a professional excavator living in Cairo. Like Elliott, Rhys-Davies's return was another attempt to recapture the spirit of Raiders.
  • Julian Glover as Walter Donovan: An American businessman who sent the Joneses on their quest for the Holy Grail. Donovan works for the Nazis and desires immortality.
  • Michael Byrne as Colonel Vogel: A brutal Nazi colonel.
  • Kevork Malikyan as Kazim: The leader of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, an organization that protects the Holy Grail.
  • Robert Eddison as the the Grail Knight who guards the Grail. He drank from the cup of Christ during the Crusades and is immortal as long as he stays away from the marked entrance.
  • Michael Sheard as Adolf Hitler: The Nazi leader, who literally bumps into a disguised Indiana during a book-burning rally. Not realizing that he has encountered Indiana or that he is holding the Grail Diary, he casually opens the diary to a random page, autographs it, and gives it back to Jones.

Ronald Lacey, who played Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, cameos as Heinrich Himmler. Wrestler Pat Roach, who played five roles in the last two films, makes a short cameo in this film as the Nazi who accompanies Vogel to the Zeppelin.

Release and reception

The film opened in 2,327 theaters in North America. The Last Crusade is estimated to have grossed over $197 million in North America and $474 million worldwide. These sales figures put the film second to Batman in North America and first globally for 1989. The film was also well received by critics. Film critic Roger Ebert praised the early scene depicting the youthful Indiana Jones as a Boy Scout with the Cross of Coronado (pictured), comparing it to the "style of illustration that appeared in the boys' adventure magazines of the 1940s", saying that "Steven Spielberg must have been paging through his old issues of Boys' Life magazine … the feeling that you can stumble over astounding adventures just by going on a hike with your Scout troop. Spielberg lights the scene in the strong, basic colors of old pulp magazines. It later earned a 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing and also it received nominations for Original Score and Sound, but lost to The Little Mermaid by Alan Menken and Glory respectively. Sean Connery received a Golden Globe nomination.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released on laserdisc and VHS in 1990 and 1999, and on DVD in October 2003 where it was packaged with the previous two films in the series: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was re-released in May 2008 with special features not seen in the previous 2003 DVD edition.


Rob MacGregor wrote the official tie-in novelization that was released about the same time as the film in 1989. Ryder Windham wrote another novelization released in April 2008 by Scholastic to tie in with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Hasbro released toys based on the film in July 2008.

Video games

In 1989, Lucasfilm Games released Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game, both based on the film. In its era, the adventure game is generally considered one of the best of its genre, right along with Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which are all also produced by Lucasarts. There are also two completely different games for the NES called Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with no subtitle to differentiate the two versions. The newer game of that title is a port of the action game, while the older game was a different action game. There was also an Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade game released for Game Boy and Game Gear.

The last part of the video game Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures, released in 1994 by JVC for Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System, is based entirely on the film. Several sequences from the film are reproduced (the biplane dogfight and battle in the tank against Vogel for example). LucasArts and Factor 5 developed the game.

In 2008, LucasArts published Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, which features all three of the original films, and roughly follows the plot of each, but with some creative license to make it more family friendly and fit into discrete levels.




External links

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