Indiana Jones Complete Movie Timeline Explained

Indiana Jones Movie Timeline Header

The complete timeline of the Indiana Jones film franchise, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Indiana Jones Movie Timeline Header

A complex timeline has emerged over the course of the Indiana Jones movie franchise, which first began in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Helmed by director Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford in another career-making role (in addition to playing Han Solo), the Indiana Jones movies span more than 30 years in real time, and a little more than 20 years in-universe – that is, if you don’t count all the historical events which lie at the heart of each Indiana Jones installment. With most of the franchise set during the 1930s and later picking up in the 1950s, audiences follow Indy as he travels across the world in order to find and preserve the world’s greatest treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Despite the Indiana Jones sequels never really measuring up to the original film, the Indiana Jones movie timeline has grown to become highly complex – but the Indian Jones movie release order is easy to pin down:


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: the yet-unnamed 5th Indiana Jones movie

Indian Jones’ history stretches further and deeper than the movies, however. The cinematic Indiana Jones 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 George Lucas’ Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Indy is 36 years old. Here’s how the rest of the timeline for Indy’s adult years play out, as well as what happened before Indiana Jones was born.

Related: Where To Watch Every Indiana Jones Movie Online (Not Disney+)

Indiana Jones Pre-History

An Alien in Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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

Unknown: Aliens arrive in the Akator region of the Amazon, giving local tribesman 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. Fun fact: the Raiders of the Lost Ark villain Arnold Toht – the Nazi agent who wanted to claim the Ark – was supposed to be a cyborg, an idea which George Lucas shut down. 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 ’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.

Related: The 1 Rule Indiana Jones 5 Must Stick To (That Crystal Skull Broke)

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The Year: 1935

Shanghai: Indiana Jones flees the city after narrowly escaping the clutches on a local crime boss, Lao Che. He manages to escape with a 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. What they fail to realize is the plane is owned by Lao Che. Lao Che’s men dump fuel and parachute out of the plane, leaving Indiana, Willie, and Shorty to perish. The three once again make a narrow escape, taking a life raft, jumping out of the plane, and riding it down the river into the village of Mayapore, India. 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. Notably, this is the part of the movie timeline which contains most of the Indiana Jones franchise’s racist mistakes. 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. Indiana, Willie, and Shorty venture into an underground temple where they believe the Thuggee worship in hopes they might be more answers. Instead, they watch 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 which would bring fortune and glory. Indiana Jones, Willie, and Short Round are captured and separated by the Thuggee, led by high priest Mola Ram. Eventually, Shorty escapes his captors and gets to Indiana, who was forced to drink a potion called the Blood of Kali, making him highly suggestible by Mola Ram. 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 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. 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 Comic’s The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Indiana takes Short Round back to the U.S. to enroll him in boarding school.

Related: How The Indiana Jones Movies Prove Indy Isn’t A Hero

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Year: 1936

Peru: Indiana Jones dodges 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 up with Indiana’s friend, Sallah. Sallah tells them Belloq and the Nazis are digging for the “Well of Souls” which they believe will take them right 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. 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. However, 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 proceed to kill all the Nazis. 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 fiery heat of the angels of death kills Belloq and the rest of the high command. The Ark then seals itself shut. Indiana and Marion bring the Ark back to the U.S., where the government takes possession of it for further research.

Related: The Raiders Of The Lost Ark Plot Hole That No One Ever Notices

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 the Last Crusade. Venice: Indiana takes colleague Marcus Brody to Italy with Henry’s Grail diary, which he received days earlier. He meets Dr. Elsa Schneider, who was 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 go to the Turkish city of İskenderun. They 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: Indiana saves Marcus and Henry from the clutches of the Nazis after Henry, too, was briefly kidnapped by them. Indiana, Henry, Marcus, and Sallah follow the Nazis to the Grail site.The pair follow Elsa and another Nazi conspirator. The Nazi conspirator fatally wounds Henry, 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. The “Immortal Indiana Jones” fan theory is rooted in this scene, as Indiana drank from the Grail first before saving Henry. 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: 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. Unfortunately, this compelling plot point ultimately leads to Crystal Skull’s sci-fi/alien problem – even though it hinted that the 2008 sequel would be going back to the franchise’s archeology/history-inspired roots, as Oxley’s riddles are revealed to be the code to Akator’s coordinates. 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 past all the booby traps leading down into the belly of Akator’s largest building. In one room, they discover vast amounts of treasure. In another room, they find ancient alien skeletons, which is when Crystal Skull breaks from Indiana Jones tradition by injecting sci-fi into the narrative. Spalko arrives on the scene, having been left a trail of transceivers thanks to Mac, who is still working with the Soviets. Spalko takes the skull from Indy, but then the extraterrestrial cranium gets teleported via telekinesis back to the skeletal system it was removed from centuries prior. Spalko steps forward, hoping receive the alien’s accumulated knowledge for the Soviet Union. She’s overwhelmed by the alien’s power though, 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 Indiana Jones was fired earlier and no context is given as to why he was rehired, this is largely considered to be Crystal Skull’s biggest plot hole.

Related: How Indiana Jones’ Daughter Became Mutt Williams

Indiana Jones 5

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

The Year: 1969

The Indiana Jones timeline continues in the yet-unnamed fifth Indiana Jones movie, which is reported to be set 12 years after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Leaked set photos from filming in Scotland, UK. The set photos showed a heavy Americana aesthetic from the late ’60s, including vintage cars and fashion, anti-Vietnam War and Nixon protest posters, parade bunting to celebrate the Apollo mission. That said, while it’s all but confirmed that Indiana Jones 5 will take place in 1969, it should be noted that this could just be one part of the entire film, which could also fill in more of the franchise timeline through flashbacks or flash forwards. With the franchise branching off into sci-fi in the last movie, there are also rumors that Indiana Jones 5 could involve time travel, suggesting massive reveals regarding – or possibly even changes to – the canonical Indiana Jones timeline. In any case, the fifth and presumably final Indiana Jones movie is slated for theatrical release on June 30, 2023 – 15 years after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Next: Indiana Jones 5’s Biggest Problem Is Following Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Key Release Dates

indiana jones 5 poster

Author: Jack Cook