Raiders of the Lost Ark proved a monumental success in the summer of 1981. Launching the Indiana Jones franchise, it captivated audiences with its globe-trotting sense of scope, well-shot action and adventure, and convincing period detail. The movie was inspired by adventure serial films of the ’30s and ’40s – movies that featured lots of buried treasure, jungle settings, and adventure.
In turn, Raiders of the Lost Ark revived the popularity of the old-school adventure genre and inspired a slew of films that looked to capitalize on its newfound popularity. Many were not great, but these are the ones worth watching.
10 The Mummy (1999)
While technically a remake of the 1932 film starring Boris Karloff, The Mummy shares little in common with its predecessor apart from the key story. And this iteration is far more Indiana Jones-esque in style, complete with a sandy setting in Egypt, buried and long-lost treasure, and a similar time period (in this case, 1926). As Rotten Tomatoes writes, “The Mummy became the Indiana Jones for a new generation.”
The costumes and set design also share many similarities with the Indiana Jones films, and the movie contains a lot of supernatural-based action with an overall theme of disturbing things that should not be disturbed. Perhaps it wasn’t directly inspired by Indiana Jones, but there’s no doubt that it shares some of the franchise’s DNA.
9 Tomb Raider (2018)
One of the best video game movies, 2018’s Tomb Raider is based on the game franchise of the same name starring English archaeologist, Lara Croft. And the Tomb Raider series of video games were likely directly influenced by the Indiana Jones franchise.
Like Jones, Lara Croft is a professional archaeologist who hunts for long-buried treasure and pillages ancient locations filled with dangerous puzzles, hidden traps, and weapon-wielding goons. The 2018 film is aided by a great jungle setting and the magnetic Alicia Vikander in the role of Croft.
8 The Goonies (1985)
One of the quintessential ’80s films, Richard Donner’s The Goonies is a time-tested classic with an outstanding cast, a thrilling sense of adventure, and a nostalgic eye for childhood escapades. Like Indiana Jones, The Goonies concerns the race for a long-lost treasure between two factions – the Goonies and the Fratelli crime family.
In this case, the buried treasure hails from a 17th-century pirate named One-Eyed Willy. The movie is basically Indiana Jones starring children, and with pirate treasure instead of a Biblical relic. It’s also interesting to note that The Goonies stars Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, who rose to prominence playing Short Round in The Temple of Doom just one year earlier.
7 Jumanji (1995)
In 1995’s Jumanji, Robin Williams broke typecasting by playing a troubled man who has been trapped inside a board game for over 20 years. While not containing a buried treasure or an adventure to find a relic, Jumanji nevertheless shares many similarities with the adventure genre that Indiana Jones helped revitalize.
The movie contains many dangerous obstacles typically found in exotic adventure movies, including crocodiles, stampeding rhinos, swarming bees, rampaging monkeys, giant mosquitoes, man-eating plants, and enormous spiders. It’s essentially Indiana Jones set in suburban America, and some of the same animals – including crocodiles and monkeys – can be found in the Indiana Jones movies as well.
6 The Rundown (2003)
A modern adventure classic, The Rundown features great action and hilarious comedic interplay between Dwayne Johnson and Sean William Scott. Most of the film takes place in the remote and dangerous jungle, as a bounty hunter is sent to Brazil to retrieve the son of his client.
The setting and style of action bear many resemblances to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, including a scene where characters swing by vines and encounter monkeys in the trees. It also concerns the hunt for a golden artifact called “O Gato do Diabo,” which of course, brings to mind the opening sequence of Raiders.
5 Romancing The Stone (1984)
Few movies capitalized on the success of Raiders and the newfound popularity of the adventure genre quite like Romancing the Stone (even though the script was written before Raiders was released, according to the Los Angeles Times). The movie was released just three years later and concerns a romance novelist who embarks on a jungle adventure with a charming bird smuggler. Much of the story takes place in the exotic jungles of South America and contains a hunt for a treasure called El Corazón.
Critics immediately noted its numerous similarities to Raiders (and some Reddit users still regard it as an “Indiana Jones rip-off”), but it nevertheless received positive reviews for its thrilling sense of adventure and nostalgic tone that harkened back to the classic serials of the ’30s and ’40s. It may have been written before Raiders was released, but there’s no denying that Raiders‘ incredible commercial success helped lead to its production and widespread popularity. It came out in the midst of a craze, and it worked flawlessly.
4 Finding ‘Ohana (2021)
A perfect movie for end-of-summer vibes, Finding ‘Ohana takes place in Oahu, Hawaii, and concerns the hunt for a lost treasure. The Indiana Jones franchise never went to Hawaii, but the jungle setting shares many similarities with those found in Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
And of course, the lost treasure aspect of the film speaks for itself, as that is a classic trope of the Indiana Jones franchise. Finding ‘Ohana honors Hawaiian culture and tradition, while simultaneously thrilling audiences with an old-school adventure story. Critics have also noted the obvious similarities between the two, with Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com writing, “The people who made this movie are clearly big fans of Indiana Jones and The Goonies, and parents in the audience will appreciate some references.”
3 The Jewel Of The Nile (1985)
Romancing the Stone was an enormous critical and commercial success (owed in large part to the adventure craze of the time), resulting in the creation of a sequel.
Released just one year after its predecessor, The Jewel of the Nile takes the action from the jungles of South America to the hot, sandy, and barren deserts of Africa. In this way, the series is the reverse of the Indiana Jones franchise, as Raiders took place in the desert and Temple of Doom in the jungle. It further proves the close association that the two franchises share.
2 National Treasure (2004)
The bizarre story involves lost treasure, exotic locations, and elaborate puzzles hiding secret rooms and artifacts (all Indiana Jones staples) while also mixing in bits of conspiracy theory, secret ciphers, fraternal and military organizations, and the American Revolutionary War. Cage’s Benjamin Franklin Gates is one of the greatest Indiana Jones successors, and the film provides a fantastic sense of scope and adventure.
1 Duma (2005)
Duma is a different story than an Indiana Jones movie, honoring character work over straightforward action and adventure. The story concerns a young boy named Xan who befriends and gets into dangerous adventures with a cheetah, whom he names Duma.
The desert setting of South Africa may remind viewers of both Raiders and The Lost Crusade, and the film contains a lot of thrilling action in the vein of Indiana Jones, like making a desert sailboat out of a broken motorcycle, getting trapped in a diamond mine, and facing both dangerous African wildlife and insects. It’s a touching family feature with great lessons and stirring action sequences, and it will immediately remind viewers of a more humane, more touching Indiana Jones.