15 Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (1989)

Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (1989)

By Tabassom Taghinejad


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a lot of DPD issues all throughout it. The movie came out in 1989 but it was set in the late 1930s. At that time Nazis, were not a huge threat to the world yet, however, their ideologies and influence were growing more severe (McBride). Women’s rights were a lot less common than what we have today. The Indiana Jones franchise is known for having good-looking able-bodied characters for their lead roles. They have had non-white or disabled characters; however, they are either the villain or do not play a large part in the movie’s plot.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a movie about an archeologist and professor name Indiana Jones who goes by Indie for short. He sets out to rescue his father who has been kidnapped and find the Holy Grail on his way (Harper). He must pass through many obstacles to be able to first find his father and finally get his hands on the ultimate treasure. He starts the adventure with a fellow female doctor and, they discover where his father is. Once his father is found, he discovers that the doctor was working with the Germans who had kidnapped his father in the first place. From there he has to escape with his father and go on a dangerous journey to find the holy grail.


In the Indiana Jones franchise, specifically The Last Crusade, white Americans are always viewed as the ideal group. The other groups always seem to have issues of some kind and need help from Americans to resolve those issues. In the movie one of the biggest differences that separated the Americans from German s was knowledge. Even though the Germans were, after all, the historical and valuable artifacts, they were proudly burning books that did not agree with their Nazi values. This was a painful scene to watch for Indie and Dr. Schneider as they were both well-known scholars, and this was not of their nature.


Screenshot from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Alison Doody as Dr. Elsa Schneider (screengrab).


In every movie, Americans are overwhelmingly powerful compared to the enemies. The enemies are hapless Nazis or people of color in undeveloped countries who lack any kind of real resources to defend themselves. These characters are usually portrayed as helpless people who are unable to do anything themselves and rely on others to function. In the Last Crusade, the enemies were white Germans, but even then, Indiana Jones seemed to have more power, connections, and resources than the Germans. The women are usually powerless, but not voiceless.


The Indiana Jones franchise is full of discrimination, and The Last Crusade is no exception. Everyone who is not an American male is portrayed as inferior. Throughout the movie, the people in the undeveloped countries are begging the Americans for food or money and are always dressed in ripped dirty clothes. The women are portrayed as powerless compared to men and ultimately depend on them. In the movie, Dr. Schneider had sex with both Indiana Jones and his father to get information, making her seem like she was desperate to get whatever she can. She had to depend on looks rather than her knowledge to obtain what she wanted, even though she was a doctor in the movie who was very knowledgeable about her field.


Like all movies, the clothing, makeup, and other added appearances were used to convey a message, however, in the Last Crusade, it was mainly used to show who was good and who was bad. The Nazis always wore dark clothing with tight leather and weapon. The women are always well dressed with a full face of makeup no matter the situation. The poor people are always just short of being naked, wearing very little clothing that is very ripped and dirty. They themselves are always dirty as well, however it has a different tone than when Indiana Jones is dirt, which usually means he was being heroic.

I used to watch this movie a lot when I was a child, and I really enjoyed it. Even though I had watched the movie dozens of times, as a child, I never saw anything wrong with how the characters were portrayed. In fact, I thought that this movie was very realistic and that the way the characters acted was how the people they portrayed would have actually behaved. It was not until I watched the movie again recently that I discovered how many things were wrong with the movie. In my opinion, this movie would get a lot of backlash from people if it were released today. Even though the movie is just over 30 years old, a lot has changed in Hollywood when it comes to what is acceptable for the portrayal of people of color and women in movies.


Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, was obviously made for simple entertainment. It was not the most politically correct movie, even in its time. It struggles to properly address any sort of topics that have to do with race, power, difference, or discrimination. This movie was acceptable by the standards of its time, but something similar would not be considered acceptable today. The series had a chance to redeem itself in 2007 but the cast was still all white except the natives, had a mainly male cast and it played on a lot of stereotypes. They may have another chance to resolve these issues since a possible female-led Indiana Jones movie is on the table (Haring).



Bernardi, Daniel, and Michael Green. Race in American Film Voices and Visions That Shaped a Nation. Greenwood, 2017.

Bloodsworth-Lugo, Mary K., and Dan Flory. Race, Philosophy, and Film. Routledge, 2014.

D’Amore, Laura Mattoon. Smart Chicks on Screen: Representing Women’s Intellect in Film and Television. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

McBride, Joseph. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Variety, 24 May 1989.

Harper, Oliver, director. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989) Retrospective / Review. Youtube.com, 16 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgATLXF34tQ&feature=youtu.be.

Haring, Bruce. “Steven Spielberg: It May Be Time For A Female ‘Indiana Jones’.” Deadline, Deadline, 6 Apr. 2018, deadline.com/2018/04/steven-spielberg-it-may-be-time-for-a-female-indiana-jones-1202359604/.


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Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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