At the time, the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade script was the perfect end to a trilogy. Now, download the third script in the series and learn how theme and character dictate an adventure. And deal with your daddy issues.
Cinema is about creating inspiring stories out of universal issues. It's about welcoming viewers to small and large stories by appealing to the audience's inner turmoil. Today we're dissecting a movie that does that all so well...
The Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade script is one of the greatest adventure movies of all time. Because at its heart it's really about fathers, sons, and the daddy issues we all hold near and dear to our hearts.
It doesn't matter if you love or hate your father, this movie script presents the story in a way that transcends all.
Today we're going to take al oot at the story of creating the screenplay, some key scenes, theme, and talk about how the trilogy should have ended here.
So let's dive into Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! Feel free to share this article with your Dad.
Who wrote the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade script?
Development of the movie was tumultuous from the beginning, with Lucas and Spielberg unsure where Indy should travel next. In 1985, Chris Columbus wrote a draft that had Indy headed to find peaches that were the secret to eternal life. Lucas wanted to do a grail story but Spielberg thought Grail-lore would alienate viewers.
More drafts were commissioned. Columbus even had one that took place in Africa and had a character named The Monkey King resurrect a dead Indiana, but Spielberg thought the representation of Africans was regressive.
As you know, all writing is rewriting. Spielberg wanted to start over, so he asked Columbus to scrap those characters and focus on a draft that brought Indy's Dad into play. If you're a Spielberg fan, you know his parent's divorce greatly affected a lot of his work. And he wanted to talk about it.
Columbus' final draft took the father-son story far, but still didn't nail the plot. Menno Meyjes took over the rewrites. His version took place in Mexico and was about Montezuma's death masks. It wasn't what they wanted but they say the nugget of a father-son story and ran with it.
So Spielberg brought in Jeffery Boam to take a stab at the story. Boam brought it back to the original grail story and allowed them to get Sean Connery attached. But it wasn't quite there yet.
Tom Stoppard was hired to come on and do a dialogue pass as a script doctor. Spielberg would later say almost every line of dialogue in the movie, including Connery's quips, was written by Stoppard.
Finally, they had the script. It was time to shoot.
Daddy Issues and Theme
As I mentioned in the opener, Last Crusade deals with Indiana Jones and the problems he has with his dad. What's nice about this movie is that it doesn't try to retcon the other two. All it does it reveal, little by little, moments of Indy's character and choices that have been inspired by making his father proud. This undercuts the masculinity of the character and makes him into a boy who wants Daddy's affection.
This so successfully subverts character archetypes and makes this a fresh sequel that could have felt stale by the third Indiana Jones movie.
What's even deeper about this quest for the grail is that it sort of sets Henry Jones up as God and Indiana up as Jesus. But that might be digging into it too deeply into film theory.
The point is, when you have the theme, you can write every scene based on following its lead.
Let's look at some examples.
The Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade script library scene
What I love about Indiana Jones movies and scripts is that they always do an excellent job of plant and payoff.
My favorite is of the old adage "X marks the spot." In act one, we hear Indy tell us that X never marks the spot. But as they patrol the library and work out his father's code from the grail diary, we get a different answer.
Look how this discovery is written on the page. It takes us through all the emotions in Indy's head, and the writer is giving us a wink and a nod to everything he said earlier.
The other thing so special about this library scene is how it balances the tone of humor and drama. Tone can be a hard thing to nail in film genres. Spielberg never wanted this series to feel unrealistic, but he wants it to be fun and wish-fulfilling as well.
Case in point, the "stamp" part of this scene is perfect.
Breaking a hole in the floor of a quiet library would require too much of a suspension of disbelief. The way to cover for it is to trick the librarian that they're making the noise they heard in the background.
The solution is a simply timed joke that allows us to cover up a small plot hole with a joke that's fun and interesting. It also sets the tone for what is to follow and remind us that anything can happen in these movies.
The Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Tank Scene
Speaking of anything can happen, what about a chase in a tank?
When I was a kid, there was nothing better than this chase scene to me. It does such an adept job of handling an entire ensemble cast without losing the heartbeat of the story.
The cliff's edge provides a time lock within the scene. We have to save these characters because the literal end of the line is quickly approaching. That cliff makes even an exciting tank scene more intense. And it really leans into the adventure genre tropes of big set pieces with life and death at stake.
And check out how part of it looks on paper.
The action is split out, we always know which character's we see, and it's written in a sparse but descriptive way that lets our imagination take over.
The Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Holy Grail scene
Finally, I want to take a gander at the culmination scene of this movie. The Holy grail scene. It's funny knowing Spielberg wanted to avoid the grail at the beginning of the development process because this movie so perfectly fits inside the father and son story.
Indy can only find the true grail because of everything his father taught him. Also, he's trying to stay alive and to keep his father alive as he helps him complete his life-long quest.
This multi-layered read on this scene only makes the villain's death and our triumph more powerful.
Again, these could be lots of exposition in these scenes, but look how simple it is on the page. The beauty of the journey isn't in the complications, it's in one simple choice that defines good and evil at its heart.
What's next? Read the Up script!
Had enough Dad issues and want to talk about love and loss? Then it's time to feast your eyes on the Up script.
The Up script crushed our hearts in the opening five pages, only to spend the next ninety-five putting it back together. Let's look at some lessons for the script - click the link to learn more!