Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

This review includes full spoilers. Proceed accordingly. For other movie reviews from me, click HERE:

Dusty: The movie studio never really believed in the Indiana Jones film franchise. They thought they’d found a prize.
Comment: And what did you find, Dusty?
Dusty: Me? Illumination.

This film is the third installment of the Indiana Jones film franchise.

Rating: PG-13
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Jeffrey Boam (screenplay), George Lucas (story & characters), Menno Meyjes (story), Philip Kaufman (characters)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies,
Release Date: May 24, 1989 (United States)
Run time: 2 hour, 7 minutes


via Wiki:

In 1912, a teenage Indiana Jones discovers a group of robbers finding a crucifix owned by Coronado while exploring caves with his Boy Scout troop in Utah. Believing it belongs in a museum, Jones takes the crucifix and evades the robbers to return home. However, the town sheriff arrives and forces Jones to hand it over to the robber’s employer. Years later in 1938, Jones again confronts the employer off the Portuguese coast, recovering the crucifix and escaping.

After returning to the United States, Jones learns that his father Henry has disappeared while searching for the Holy Grail. Walter Donovan, his father’s financial backer, tasks Jones with finding both Henry and the Grail. Jones receives a package containing Henry’s diary, which includes his research on the Grail, and travels to Venice alongside Marcus Brody to meet Henry’s associate Elsa Schneider. Beneath the library where Henry was last seen, Jones and Schneider discover a catacomb containing an inscribed shield which reveals that the path to the Grail begins in İskenderun (Alexandretta.) The two are subsequently attacked by a mysterious group who reveal themselves to be the secret Order of the Cruciform Sword, dedicated to protecting the Grail. After saving the group’s leader Kazim, he informs Jones that Henry is being held at a castle in Austria. Jones entrusts Marcus with a map from the diary detailing a route to the Grail and sends him to İskenderun to rendezvous with their old friend Sallah. Discovering their rooms have been ransacked, Jones reveals the diary’s existence to Schneider before they sleep together.

In Austria, Jones and Schneider infiltrate the castle, discovering it to be under Nazi control. Jones finds Henry and tries to escape, but surrenders after Schneider is held captive by the Nazis. She reveals herself to be a Nazi collaborator, and Jones and Henry are tied up and learn that Donovan is also working with the Nazis. After arriving in İskenderun, Marcus is captured by the Nazis as well. Schneider returns to Germany, while Jones and Henry escape the castle before traveling to Berlin to retrieve the diary. After recovering it from Schneider, Jones and Henry flee on a zeppelin before evading two Luftwaffe planes pursuing them.

Arriving in Hatay, Sallah reveals to Jones and Henry that the Nazis have also traveled there using the map. While they are following the trail, the Nazis are attacked by the Order but defeat them. Henry takes advantage of the distraction to try and rescue Marcus but is captured; Jones attacks the Nazi convoy in response and is eventually able to destroy it with help from Henry and Marcus. Jones, Henry, Marcus and Sallah proceed to a temple containing the Grail, where they observe the Nazis attempting to overcome the temple’s traps before being captured. Donovan forces Jones to find a way for them by mortally wounding Henry. With the help of the diary, Jones overcomes the traps and finds a room with many cups and an ancient knight, who explains that only one cup is the true Grail. Donovan enters the room, dying by rapid aging after drinking from the wrong cup, before Jones identifies the true Grail and saves Henry. Schneider falls to her death when she attempts to leave with the Grail, causing the temple to collapse. Jones and his companions manage to escape, riding off into the sunset.

My Review

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has always been my favorite film from this franchise and it remains so after this review. Crusade is exactly what Hollywood escapism should be, delivering adventure (the ultimate treasure hunt) and a lot of action (Indy fights the Nazis, flies a plane, sneaks into and out of a castle, gets a book signed by Hitler, finds an ancient grave beneath a library, and drinks from the Holy Grail after proving himself worthy to a 700 year old Knight.) Where I think Crusade surpasses Raiders is that it has more heart. We finally learn Indy’s backstory and we get to witness not only the reconciliation he has with his father, but also an adventure that the two go on together. This movie is not cynical, or embarrassed by its own plot. It’s an invitation to be part of something bigger than yourself and you’re encouraged to do that with your family. When it’s over, just like an American fairy tale, Indiana Jones, his father, and their friends ride off into the sunset together.

It’s a perfect close to a near perfect trilogy.

The end.


I really enjoyed the long opening sequence featuring a young River Phoenix playing Indy. We learn the origin of Indy’s whip and hat, we learn he has always believed artifacts should be kept in museums, and we learn he has always played fast and loose with his own safety. This whole scene could easily have been a big misfire but it worked exceptionally well and it gave this entire movie a different feel than its predecessors. The other Indiana Jones movies are about something he is doing. This film is about who he is.

The sets and background were incredible. The scene in the library is fabulous, including especially the big reveal of the “X” on the floor. I also loved the beautiful Utah desert landscape in the movie’s opening flashback scenes, and the awe-inspiring Petra as the movie ends. For that matter, I loved pretty much everything about the sets, costuming, and cinematography for Indy’s grail tests.

I don’t understand the people who live their lives, not hoping desperately to meet someone like this and have him dub you “wise.”

There is probably no movie prop I would like to own more than I would like to own the official Grail Diary.

The best aspect of the film is the father-son relationship between the two Jones boys played by Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. The two actors are amazing together. I am happy that there were only ever three Indiana Jones movies, and that the franchise went out on such a high note. I think this movie said all that the character of Indiana Jones had left to say. But if they ever had actually made another one, I would have loved to see more of the interactions between these two actors, in those two roles. It was a lot of fun.

Before any of you leave any comments…

They never happened.


This movie is great, but you should not go into it expecting that it makes perfect logical sense. Should a seven hundred year old Knight be able to speak modern English? How did three brothers build and dig the contraptions and tests for would-be Grail-getters? How is Indy able to get into Berlin so easily, undetected? You have to make the leap that if the Holy Grail is real, and if a Knight can be 700 years old, then maybe those questions don’t matter.

One particular oddity in the movie, that stood out ot me, is the use of “Jehovah” as the name of God during the second Grail test. The name did not come into use by Christian scholars until about the 13th century. In the Hebrew, God’s name is the Tetragrammaton – YHWH. For most of history, during the periods when the name is allowed to be spoken at all, the vowel sounds added to those consonants produced the name “Yahweh.” In the late Middle Ages, though, scholars began applying the vowel sounds from the world Adonai to those four letters – creating the world Yehowah. When that word was Latinized, it became Jehovah. Either the Grail Knights were very cutting edge, as to current scholarship, or this is a bit of a flub by the movie (whose audience at the time would have been accustomed to hearing Jehovah used as God’s name.) Interestingly, since the movie came out, the prevailing scholarship on this topic has returned the assumed vowel sounds to the earlier “Yahweh.” Whether the name is Yahweh or Jehovah, don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how the three brothers dug and constructed that puzzle.

Final Thoughts:

This is a tremendous movie, with an enormous amount of action and adventure, balanced by plenty of heart and funny lines, too. Harrison Ford was born to play this character and to my surprise, Sean Connery was perfectly cast as his father. Crusade is perfect escapism, as it helps you to remember that the world still has mysteries to solve, treasures to find, and and that maybe the biggest treasure of all is finding out under pressure that you have good moral character and a father who loves you.

Previous Indiana Jones film reviews:

+ Raiders of the Lost Ark
+ Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

7 thoughts on “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

  1. Thank you for this! I loved your accurate explanation of “Jehovah” from combining YWH consonants and Adonai vowels (I learned this from a fabulous seminary professor who also worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, translating Hebrew to English for portions of the NKJV at Oxford). I agree this movie is a great combo of history and story-telling. Your allusion to their father-son relationship, what a significant observation. I’m intrigued to watch this again.

    1. Thank you for your comment! It’s a great movie. I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection between Biblical/Christian mythology and the actual reality of certain objects (Holy Grain, Spear of Destiny, Stone of Destiny, Shroud of Turin, etc.) The name of God stuff jumped out at me on this viewing because I had studied it somewhat recently.

      If you watch the film, I hope you enjoy it!

  2. “whose audience at the time would have been accustomed to hearing Jehovah used as God’s name” I believe I heard/read somewhere that they thought about using Yahweh but when they asked someone “normal” about it they said that Yahweh sounded like a “made-up Star Wars name”

    1. I had never heard that explanation but that was my guess. Sometime over the last 20 years, after hundreds of years of it being the other way, Yahweh has come back into vogue among Christians and Jehovah has somewhat faded in usage. Maybe Jay-Z caused that. Back when I was a kid though, I only ever remember hearing Jehovah used. On the plus side, the movie gives us the great line “in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah starts with an i” and knowing that made me feel like a legit scholar forever after.