Raider’s of the Lost Ark – The Hero’s Journey Breakdown

Ordinary world

Indiana Jones is an archaeologist, adventurer and a Professor.

Call to Adventure

He’s contacted by Government Agents to retrieve the Arc of the covenant. Hitler is also after it and he has a head start. (Also note: there is a long introduction with the rolling stone and the chasing natives etc, so when they come back to America, there’s a quick scene to establish he’s a professor and then they meet the Government Agents)

Refusal of the call

The refusal comes in the form of a warning by Brody.

“For nearly three thousand years man has been searching for the lost Ark. That’s not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets. It’s like nothing you’ve ever gone after before”

“Ha ha ha what are you trying to do Marcus? Scare me, you sound like my mother.”

Supernatural Aid

Indy is an experienced hero, he doesn’t need a mentor. His code of honour is his guide.

Belly of the whale

Rescuing Marion and fighting the Nazis for the first time in her bar as it burns to the ground. Although he was nearly killed at the start, this is his first taste of death on this adventure.

Crossing the First Threshold

Going to Egypt

The Road of the trials

Indy teams up with Sallah and  the Nazis come after them. They abduct Marion and Indy thinks she’s killed.

Meeting with the Goddess

It’s easy just to call Marion the Goddess as she’s his love interest but I don’t think she really inspires him to be any more heroic than he would be if she was in the story or not. Indy is more dedicated to the noble aspirations of his profession.

Woman as Temptress

Marion as the Temptress?

When Indy finds Marion alive, his first thought is to rescue her and get out of there. But he doesn’t do this because if he did the Nazis would search for her and destroy any chance he has of recovering the Ark. So he resists this temptation and leaves Marion tied up so he can continue on the journey.

Belloq as the Temptress?.

Belloq “You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”

He serves as the Shadow of the hero. The dark version of what Indy could be.

Later when Indy has the chance to destroy the Ark, Belloq calls his bluff and gives him the opportunity to destroy it. But he can’t. Would the true hero be able to destroy the Ark so the Nazis can’t get it but in doing so, rob himself of it?


Indy learns the secret location of the Well of souls and the location of the Ark of the covenant. He’s gained a new level of knowledge. A gift from the Gods

Atonement with the Father

He has a fear of snakes; he must overcome this fear in order to recover the Ark. Atonement often is a section where the hero has to overcome fear.

Ultimate Boon

Indy has recovered the Ark of the Covenant.

The Magic flight

The chase sequence, which starts off on horse back and then trucks, then dragged behind the truck. He recovers the Ark but then the Nazis capture the Ark again and Indy hitches a ride on the periscope on the submarine.

Rescue from without

The Ark is opened and all the bad guys are killed.

Rescue from without can sometimes come dangerously close to Deus Ex Machina. Does it here? Did Indy earn the right to survive or was it a random unearned gift from the Gods? Indy knows to keep his eyes shut (from a deleted scene in the film “If you look at the Ark when it is opened you die”) Give thoughts in the comments below.

The crossing of the return Threshold

Back in America

Master of two worlds

He’s defeated the Nazis, his nemesis and recovered the Ark.

Freedom to live

He lost the Ark to his own government but he’s got the girl.


The Apotheosis, atonement, Ultimate Boon, Magic Flight, and Rescue from without sequence is a perfect example of the Hero’s journey in action.

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