Is it just me, or is Indiana Jones a jerk?

(Image credit: Paramount/Lucasfilm)

Turning up like a bad penny wherever there are ancient spoils to snaffle, Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford) is not just a terrible archaeologist. He’s a terrible person. 

As an “obtainer of rare antiquities”, he gallivants around the world wantonly destroying historic sites and stealing shiny things to put in a museum. That’s not archaeology, it’s looting. At least Lara Croft is upfront about raiding tombs.

Despite climbing out of the window when teaching gets too tough, Indy is adored by his female students. But they better beware: he goes through women faster than Henry VIII, and with only a marginally better survival rate. Having seduced Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Marion (Karen Allen) as a teenager (“I was a child!”), he repeatedly wrecks her life in pursuit of personal glory. 

In the very first scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom he literally threatens to stab Willie (Kate Capshaw) with a fork. He’s comparatively nicer to Elsa (Alison Doody) in The Last Crusade, but perhaps that’s because the actor in question was a quarter of a century younger than Ford. Really, it’s little wonder that the Sultan of Madagascar (as we discover in Temple of Doom) wanted to cut off his dick…

(Image credit: LucasFilm/Paramount)

For Indiana Jones, other people are just collateral in his race to “fortune and glory”: he even, irony of ironies, takes his 11-year-old driver/sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) – and what’s that about? – to destroy a child-slavery ring. 

Whether he’s bringing a gun to a swordfight or a plane to a fistfight, he never plays fair, and you can see in his eyes that he genuinely enjoys hurting people: the bullwhip, let’s not forget, is a sadist’s weapon. Frankly, as far as I can see, the only real reasons he’s considered a hero are because of Harrison Ford’s rugged charisma, and because he’s fighting the Nazis.

But even when it comes to the Ark of the Covenant, it’s Indy that’s the raider, not them. “True, the Nazis were trying to find the Ark so they could destroy the world,” says archaeologist Marcello Canuto. “But methodologically and legally, they were in the right.” When experts compare you – unfavourably – to history’s biggest villains, perhaps it’s time to hang up the whip, years and mileage be damned. Or is it just me?

Each month our sister publication Total Film magazine argues a polarising movie opinion and gives you the opportunity to agree or disagree. Let us know what you think about this one in the comments below and read on for more.

Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.