Indiana Jones Complete Movie Timeline Explained
Movie News

Indiana Jones Complete Movie Timeline Explained

A complex timeline has developed with the Indiana Jones movie franchise, which began in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and with flashbacks to Indy being a teenager, time travel, and prequels, the Indiana Jones movie timeline jumps around a lot. The Indiana Jones movies span more than 30 years in real-time, and a little more than 20 years in-universe — not counting the historical events addressed in each Indiana Jones installment. With most of the franchise set during the 1930s and later picking up in the 1950s, the Indiana Jones movie timeline has grown to become highly complex — but the Indiana Jones movie release order is easy to pin down:

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAYSCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

  • 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • 1984: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • 1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • 2008: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • 2023: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones’ history stretches further and deeper than the movies, however. The Indiana Jones movie timeline doesn’t account for the numerous novels and comics, as well as a ’90s television show based on the Indiana Jones character. This makes things even more complex, but what’s important is that all of these additional materials from the Indiana Jones world cover Indy’s childhood, teenage, and young adult years. At the start of the first film in the franchise, which, chronologically speaking, is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom — Indy is 36 years old. Here’s how the rest of the Indiana Jones movie timeline plays out.


How To Watch The Indiana Jones Movies In Chronological Order

Indy on the bridge in Temple of Doom

  • 1935: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • 1936: Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • 1938: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • 1957: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • 1969: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

As all over the place as the Indiana Jones movie timeline is, the chronological order of the movies is almost identical to the release order. However, there is one exception, as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the second Indy movie, is a prequel and set one year before Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indy movie. This might come as a surprise given that the Indiana Jones movie isn’t clearly a prequel. No ado was made about the year the movie is set, and given that it isn’t based around a historical event, it was never easy to pin down when the movie takes place.

Indiana Jones Pre-History

An Alien looks directly into the camera in Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Each Indiana Jones adventure is based on a historical event or, in the case of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a very fictional event involving aliens. This means key parts of every story happened centuries before Indy’s birth. These are key prehistoric dates in the Indiana Jones movie timeline as well as the character’s backstory.

  • Unknown: Aliens arrive in the Akator region of the Amazon, giving local tribesmen incredible amounts of knowledge. The tribes build the city of Akator in tribute to the alien explorers and accumulate a vast amount of gold and other treasures.
  • 1400 BC: The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments handed down by God and carried by Moses and the Hebrews through the desert, is created.
  • 1095: Sir Richard, a knight in the First Crusade, and his men find the Holy Grail in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon. One of the knights remained with the Grail and was discovered by Indy centuries later.
  • 1546: Francesco de Orellana disappears looking for Akator.
  • 1872: Henry Jones Sr. is born on December 12 in Scotland.
  • 1899: Henry Jones Jr. is born on July 1. He changes his name to Indiana during his childhood in memory of his beloved dog.
  • 1907-1920: As seen in the ’90s prequel show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Indiana travels with his parents across the world for his father Henry’s work from the age of 8 to 21. During his continent-spanning travels, Indiana often finds himself wrapped up in a new mystery or adventure. Essentially, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles laid the in-universe foundation for the kind of thrill-seeking archeologist he would eventually become.
  • 1912: Indiana has an encounter with a man in a Panama hat who attempts to steal a golden crucifix belonging to Coronado. During this encounter, he gets his famous chin scar after using a whip for the first time. His mother dies during this year, too.
  • 1926: Indiana gets romantically involved with Marion Ravenwood, the daughter of his mentor, Abner Ravenwood.

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones on a bridge holding a whip and sword in and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The Year: 1935

  • Shanghai: Indiana flees the city after escaping the clutches of a local crime boss, Lao Che. He escapes with nightclub singer Willie Scott and the 12-year-old boy who would become Indiana Jones’ beloved sidekick Short Round. The three stow away on a plane out of the city, believing they’ve made it out of Lao Che’s grasp, failing to realize the plane is owned by Che. Che’s men dump fuel and parachute out of the plane, leaving Indiana, Willie, and Shorty to perish. The three make a narrow escape, taking a life raft, jumping out of the plane, and riding it down the river into an Indian village.
  • Mayapore, India: Indiana, Willie, and Shorty all find safety in the village. They learn from the villagers that children have been disappearing, which they believe is connected to the disappearance of a sacred Sankara Stone. They are directed to Pankot Palace by the villagers after being told the stone was taken from a temple in the area.
  • Pankot Palace: When they arrive in the village, Indiana questions the Pankot Palace Prime Minister, Chattar Lal. Lal rejects the idea that evil forces near Pankot Palace are the reason the Mayapore children are being stolen. Instead, he claims the Thuggee cult is behind the disappearances of the children and the Sankara Stone. In an underground temple Indy watches as the Thuggee sacrifice a human to the goddess Kali. It’s revealed the Thuggee are using the stolen children to mine for the final two stones to complete the set of five Sankara Stones, which Indiana earlier hypothesized were the same fabled stones that would bring fortune and glory.
  • Jungle: Indiana retrieves all the Sankara Stones and the stolen Mayapore children, as Mola Ram and the Thuggee pursue them through the jungle. Mola and Indiana struggle for control of the stones on a narrow rope bridge. Indiana remembers that invoking the name of the goddess Shiva turns the stones white-hot – as Indiana does this, Mola Ram tries taking one of the stones. Mola Ram’s hand gets burned, causing him to lose balance and fall with most of the Sankara Stones down to the river, where crocodiles shred Mola Ram’s body to pieces.
  • Mayapore, India: Indiana, Willie, and Shorty return to Mayapore, giving the children back to their families and the one remaining Sankara Stone still in their possession. As for what happened to Short Round after Temple of Doom, a 1980s comic tie-in provides an answer. In Marvel Comics’ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Indiana takes Short Round back to the U.S. to enroll him in boarding school.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Indiana steals a golden idol in Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Year: 1936

  • Peru: Set after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the Indiana Jones movie timeline, the first scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark sees Indy dodging multiple traps to retrieve a golden idol from an ancient temple. As he is leaving, Indiana is confronted by rival archeologist René Belloq. Indiana surrenders the idols to Belloq, and Belloq leaves.
  • Bedford, Connecticut: Indiana Jones returns to work as a professor of archeology at Marshall College. He is approached by two Army Intelligence officers, who tell him the Nazis are pursuing Indiana’s mentor, Abner Ravenwood, who is in possession of a headpiece known as “the Staff of Ra” – which the Nazis believe will lead them to the mystical city of Tanis in Egypt. Indiana theorizes the Nazis are in search of the Ark of the Covenant, which would give the Nazi army incredible power.
  • Nepal: After learning the Abner is dead and that Indiana Jones heroine Marion Ravenwood has the headpiece, Indiana travels to Nepal to find her. Indiana locates Marion in a tavern – but not before a group of Nazis finds her first. A gunfight breaks out and Indiana and Marion narrowly escape with the headpiece.
  • Cairo: Indiana and Marion head for Cairo where they meet Sallah. Sallah tells them Belloq and the Nazis are digging for the “Well of Souls” which they believe will take them to the Ark. Indiana and Marion piece together that Belloq and the Nazis are digging in the wrong place. Indiana and Sallah infiltrate the Nazi campsite and attempt to use the headpiece to help get into the Well of Souls. The Nazis come upon them, take the Ark for themselves, and try to seal them in the chamber. They escape with the Ark during a high-speed car chase, and all three get aboard a tramp steamer bound for London.
  • On an island in the Aegean Sea: A Nazi U-boat intercepts the tramp steamer, with Belloq emerging and taking the Ark, Indiana, and Marion captive. Belloq brings them to an island in the Aegean Sea so Belloq can test the powers of the Ark before presenting it to Adolf Hitler. Out of the Ark springs angels of death, which kill Belloq and the rest of the high command. Indiana and Marion close their eyes to avoid looking at the angels and being killed (which led to the fan theory that Indiana Jones himself was one). The Ark then seals itself shut.
  • Washington, D.C.: Indiana and Marion bring the Ark back to the U.S., where the government takes possession of it for further research. Curiously, despite Indiana’s prior experience activating the magical Sankara Stones, Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark initially dismisses the Ark’s supposed powers as superstition and Indiana’s attempt to get into the Well of Souls shows him beginning to shed off the skepticism, and he finally accepts the fact supernatural entities exist in the 1981 movie. It’s one of the few plotholes in the Indiana Jones movie timeline.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and Dr. Henry Jones tied together surrounded by fire in The Last Crusade

The Year: 1938

  • The coast of Portugal: Indiana meets an old foe from his childhood, the Man in the Panama Hat. The two are engaged in a fight on Panama Hat’s boat somewhere off the coast of Portugal. Indiana escapes the fight and takes back the cross of Coronado taken by Panama Hat when he first encountered Indiana more than 20 years prior.
  • Connecticut: Indiana receives word his father, Henry Jones, Sr., has disappeared while searching for The Holy Grail. Henry was using an inscription from a stone table as his guide. Indiana resolves to find his father – played by Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, there’s only a 12-year age difference between Connery and Ford in real life which could somewhat blur the Indiana Jones movie timeline.
  • Venice: Indiana takes colleague Marcus Brody to Italy with Henry’s Grail diary, which he received days earlier. He meets Dr. Elsa Schneider, who is working with Henry to find the Grail. Indiana and Elsa go to the catacombs of a library where Henry was last seen. They find the complete stone table inscription from the tomb of a knight from the First Crusade. The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, sworn to protect the Grail, find out Indiana and Elsa are in the tomb and set the tomb on fire. The pair escapes.
  • Turkey: Indiana and Elsa meet with Sallah. Indiana and Elsa head to a Nazi-controlled castle where they find Henry – but it’s revealed Elsa is working for the Nazis in hopes Henry would lead her to the Grail. Henry tells Indiana the diary is the key to getting past the three traps protecting the Last Crusade‘s Holy Grail, and they resolve to get it from Marcus, who was entrusted with the diary when he and Indiana parted ways in Italy. They learn Marcus has been kidnapped by the Nazis, and the Nazis are forcing Marcus to reveal information from Henry’s diary to lead them to the site of the Holy Grail.
  • Hatay: The Nazi conspirator fatally wounds Henry at the Grail site, motivating Indiana to find the Grail to save him. The tomb containing the artifact is guarded by a 700-year-old knight, still moving thanks to the Grail, which is hidden among many similar chalices. Indiana chooses the right Grail and manages to heal his fatally-wounded father, leading to the “Immortal Indiana Jones” fan theory. The knight warns them the Grail can’t leave the tomb, but Elsa ignores this, causing the structure to collapse. She plummets to her death, but Indiana and Henry make it out alive. Indiana, Henry, Marcus, and Sallah ride off into the sunset.
  • Location unknown: At this point in the Indiana Jones movie timeline, Marion gives birth to Mutt Williams, Indy’s son. Indiana doesn’t find out until 19 years later when Mutt shows up, asking for his help.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Harrison Ford and Shia LeBeouf in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Year: 1957

  • Nevada: Indiana and George “Mac” McHale are kidnapped by a group of Soviets led by Dr. Irina Spalko. They are taken to Area 51 (Hangar 51 in-universe) and ordered to find the body of a mummified alien Irina wants to investigate. Mac reveals he’s a double agent and Indiana unsuccessfully attempts to take the alien body from Spalko. After escaping from Area 51, Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator but is later apprehended by FBI agents. The agents suspect him of working for the Soviets but Indiana denies this.
  • Connecticut: Indiana is forced on an indefinite leave of absence because of the FBI’s allegations. Shortly afterward, Indiana is approached by Mutt Williams, who asks for Indiana’s help in finding Harold Oxley. Oxley was a friend of the Williams family, including Mutt’s mother (later revealed to be Marion Ravenwood); Oxley was also a classmate of Indiana’s at Oxford. Mutt says Oxley sent his mother a letter written in an ancient South American language. Indiana cracks it and figures out the pair must go to Peru. This is just one of the many convoluted plot points that have led many to call Crystal Skull the worst Indiana Jones movie.
  • Peru: Indiana and Mutt investigate the psychiatric hospital where they believe Oxley was held after his search for Akator went awry. After decoding scribbles on the walls of Oxley’s cell, they theorize he was attempting to find the same ancient city – Akator – that Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana sought after in the 16th century. Indiana and Mutt are captured by Soviets after successfully locating Orellana’s grave and discovering a crystal skull buried in his tomb. They deduce Oxley found the skull but ultimately tried to put it back before his disappearance.
  • The Peruvian jungle: The Soviets take Indiana and Mutt to their campsite, where Spalko waits with Mac, Oxley, and, much to Indiana’s surprise, Marion. Oxley is shown to have gone mad, which Spalko reasons was from researching the crystal skull for too long before putting it in Orellana’s grave. Indiana, Spalko, Mutt, Marion, Mac, and Oxley all set off for Akator. During their travels, a fight ensues as Indiana, Marion, Mutt, and Mac try to break away from Spalko. The teams separate, with Indiana and his group getting a head start to Akator.
  • Akator: Indiana and the group successfully make it into Akator’s largest building. They discover vast amounts of treasure and ancient alien skeletons, which is when Crystal Skull breaks from Indiana Jones tradition by injecting sci-fi into the narrative. Spalko arrives and takes the skull from Indy, but the extraterrestrial cranium gets teleported via telekinesis back to the skeletal system it was removed from centuries prior. Spalko is overwhelmed by the alien’s power and dies. Akator begins to self-destruct as it was built on top of the aliens’ now-reactivated spaceship. Indiana, Marion, Mutt, and Oxley make it out alive, but Mac sacrifices himself.
  • 1959, Connecticut: Marion and Indiana get married. Indiana returns to work at Marshall College and is made associate dean. As Indy was fired earlier in the Indiana Jones movie timeline and no context is given as to why he was rehired, this is largely considered to be Crystal Skull‘s biggest plot hole.

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Year: 1969

  • The Indiana Jones timeline continues in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which is set 12 years after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The trailers show a heavy Americana aesthetic from the ’60s, including vintage cars and fashion, anti-Vietnam War and Nixon protest posters, and an action sequence in the midst of a parade to celebrate the Apollo mission. The movie will feature key flashback sequences looking at a previous adventure Indy had during World War II too. This includes de-aging Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and having him take on the Nazis again, and it’ll end the Indiana Jones movie timeline.

Key Release Dates

  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Poster
    Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Poster
    Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny