10. The Anything Goes/Shanghai Chase Opening to Temple of Doom
You’re going to see a few more ‘opening scenes’ on this list, as each of the first three Indiana Jones films begin spectacularly. Temple of Doom may be the odd man out here – as it is in most respects – with an introduction that includes a lavish song-and-dance number, Indy in a suave white tuxedo, an encounter with Shanghai gangsters, and a massive 1940s shootout. It plays like Steven Spielberg’s pitch reel to direct a James Bond movie, and is a completely counterintuitive introduction to an Indiana Jones sequel.
Fitting for Temple of Doom, the most baffling entry in the franchise, don’t you think?
Yes, a film as off-the-wall wacky as Temple of Doom deserves an opening this cuckoo-bananas. It’s the perfect way to start the movie, and remains one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. As strange as it may be, the introduction is so self-assured and confident in its own zaniness that I cannot help but love it. Every time I watch Temple of Doom, the scene gets me pumped, even if it has literally nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
9. The Origin of Young Indiana Jones in Last Crusade
Flashing back to show us a young Indiana Jones should not, by conventional logic, work. Lesser characters have had their mysticism removed by dramatizing their childhood years, and Indy – an icon so completely defined by Harrison Ford’s rugged, irreplaceable presence – should be no exception.
But Spielberg fully commits to the bit, building a legitimately interesting origin story that seems completely in line with the Indy we know and love. One cannot, of course, credit the late River Phoenix enough for his work here, as he bravely steps into Ford’s shoes without missing a beat. I can actually believe this boy would grow up to become the Indiana Jones. It’s a little slice of movie magic, one the franchise is infinitely richer for.
And unlike the Temple of Doom opening, this prologue actually ties in directly to the plot and themes of Last Crusade. It establishes Sean Connery’s character, Henry Jones Sr., as a loving but neglectful father, and shows what kind of relationship Indy had with his Dad as a boy. Last Crusade is a wonderful movie, and this tremendous opening sequence starts it off on the right foot.
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