On This Day: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Starring Harrison Ford Premieres in 1981

by Emily Morgan

Little did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg know that when they joined forces to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, they would create a cinematic masterpiece that fans would return to 40 years later. 

That’s precisely what happened 40 years ago to the day when the film premiered on June 12, 1981. On that day, Lucas and Spielberg first introduced fans to Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, and his whip-cracking, snake-hating, and obsession with treasure hunting. 

The film proved to be a massive success, becoming the highest-grossing film of that year, raking in over $200 million. After the film’s achievement, the two decided to follow Raiders of the Lost Ark with three sequels. Yet, Raiders remains in a class all by itself. 

Although Raiders and its subsequent follow-ups have become cult classics, it took some convincing to make the film.  After the unprecedented success of Star Wars in 1977, Lucas traveled to Hawaii to steer clear of any potential negative reception. Once there, he invited Spielberg and asked him if he would head up the action film. Luckily for us, Spielberg fell in love with the concept and agreed. 

Lucas then pitched the film to all the major studios, requesting a budget of 20 million dollars. As a result, nearly every studio rejected the opportunity. Finally, Paramount picked up the movie under the condition that they would hold the rights to the sequels. To save money, production churned out the film as fast as possible. 

“I just got it right down to the bone, right down to what I absolutely needed to tell the story I wanted to tell. On Raiders I learned to like instead of love. If I liked a scene after I shot it, I minted it. I didn’t shoot it again seventeen times until I got one I loved,” said Spielberg about filming Raiders

The Return of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Now, fans of the Indiana Jones universe have more reason to be excited: Indiana Jones 5 is officially coming. With filming beginning in June, the film was initially going to be the reunion. Harrison Ford is reprising the lead role, Steven Spielberg directing, and George Lucas executive producing.

Since its initial announcement in 2016, there have been more changes with James Mangold now directing. However, Spielberg will remain the “hands-on” producer.

According to Producer Frank Marshall, no one can take on the role of Indiana Jones like Harrison Ford, meaning he’ll appear in the upcoming sequel. Even Ford himself has said that no one else can play Indiana Jones apart from him: “When I’m gone, he’s gone. It’s easy. Get it in [your head].”

While other casting details get worked out, we know that Indiana Jones 5 will arrive in theaters on July 29, 2022, pending further delays.