With the return of Indiana Jones to the big screen, there's been a lot of talk about everyone's favorite Indy flick. I've been surprised to learn that the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is almost unanimously accepted as the best movie by critics and fans alike. I guess I'm surprised by this because I've seen Raiders the least, and the subsequent movies (The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade) the most. In fact, I watched Raiders in its entirety for the first time just a few weeks ago. Can't tell you why I never got around to seeing the first half of the movie until now.
I realize that my viewing balance is way off here, but I'm still going to make the case that The Last Crusade is the best film in the now-quadrilogy (casting aside the less acclaimed but highly enjoyable Temple of Doom and the lukewarm Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for the moment).
I think the biggest reason that people are naturally fond of Raiders is because of the inherent advantage it has in being the first film. It's original, which is why the first movie in any series is almost always better than its sequels (Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Godfather, Part II being exceptions). I agree that Raiders is a great film; it's classic. But The Last Crusade is epic.
With the unique opening flashback of Indy's first adventure, the more frequent globetrotting, the diverse entourage of supporting characters (including Sean Connery's memorable role), and even John Williams' classic score, The Last Crusade is on another level.
But these many layers aside, what elevates this film above the rest is the stronger spiritual weight and intriguing mythology that encompasses Indy's quest for the Holy Grail. There's more of a personal connection as we journey with Indy through the multitude of dangers and trials that he must survive in order to recover the Grail. The stakes are higher and the triumphs are bigger.
There's no topping the Cup of Christ.