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.

Hero’s Journey – Refusal of the call

Refusal of the call

The Hero has received the Call to Adventure but instead of accepting it, he refuses.

This is another way to introduce conflict and reverse expectations for the audience. For example, we know exactly what Rocky is about from the poster and the trailer before we see it but when Rocky is offered the shot at the champ by Jergens “Would you be interested in fighting Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world?” Rocky replies “No.” (Note the B story in the film is the fight the A story is the love story between Rocky and Adrian which is why this refusal happens half way into the film)

In Raider’s of the lost Ark when the Army Intelligence meet with Indiana Jones to give him the Call- Find the Ark of the covenant – Musgrove “Obviously we’ve come to the right men. You seem to know all about this Tannis.” Indy replies “No, no, not really. Ravenwood is the real expert.” But this refusal doesn’t last long, not even to the end of the conversation.

Refusal of the call in two Natalie Portman films which are not as direct as the above examples.


The call to adventure in Thor is for him to replace Odin as king but a refusal of the call in this instance cannot be expressed as Thor having doubt or being afraid or deeming himself not worthy. His character is both courageous and confident. In this example, refusal of the call is represented by the way Thor reacts when faced by his first challenge. Instead of being a ‘wise’ king who doesn’t seek war, he attacks the Frost Giants in direct defiance of his father. Thus he has put the lives of Asgardians in danger and refused the call of being a wise king.

Black Swan

The Call to Adventure arises when lead role for Black Swan becomes available. She’s desperate to do the role, so when the opportunity arises she wants to do it. (No refusal) But during the tryouts she is a brilliant White Swan but cannot perform the Black Swan. She can’t do it, she isn’t able to answer the call, she’s not ready yet for the challenge. Interestingly she puts on lipstick and attempts to seduce the director but instead she feels the director is taking advantage of her and she bites him. Again, she refuses to do what is necessary to get the role. (A clever use of irony comes into play here when that is the exact thing that gets her the role)

Another good use of Refusal of the Call is to use it to create greater conflict for the hero by having him refuse at first but then use something else which forces his hand so he must commit to the journey.

Breakdown of Refusal of the call


Definition – to decline to accept, give or allow something

Synonyms – decline, react, respond, disobey, resist, reject, pass on, bounce, defy, escape, fail


Definition – need, cause for action

Synonyms – alarm, signal, justification, necessity, obligation, scream, signal, peep, roar, awaken, appeal to, summon, warning

Reasons for refusal

1. Not ready

2. Unwilling

3. Unprepared

4. Fear

5. Lacks confidence

6. Unsure

7. Overwhelmed

8. Modesty

9. Secrecy

How to use in your script

Look at the Refusal of the Call stage in your script. -Do you have one? – Does  it suit your hero’s character or have you just put it in because it’s listed as stage and you thought you should put it in? – Is it as creative a refusal as you can possibly make it? – Does it increase conflict? – Do you get anything out of the refusal? – Does it make the task ahead seem harder?