Indiana Jones

10 Favorite Indiana Jones Cues

In my “9 on the 9th” post last week listing my favorite John Williams scores, I was asked in the comments, “No love for Indy?” While I don’t adore the Indiana Jones movies, or their scores, as much as some film music fans, far be it from me not to acknowledge their craft, their popularity, and their place in film music history.

Everyone has their favorite Indiana Jones score. I’d pick RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for the simple reason that it’s the best film in the quartet and I’ve lived with the score longer. And oddly enough, I prefer the original MCA LP sequencing. The extra music that was added to later CD releases, while certainly welcome, diluted the impact of the score.

If you ask most other fans, they’ll probably list TEMPLE OF DOOM as their favorite score. For years, the message boards were filled with pleas for an expanded domestic release of the score on CD. (The original LP version had only been available as a Japanese import CD). With the arrival of the 5-CD INDIANA JONES – THE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION last fall, fans got their wish. Even with the wealth of material, complaints were still leveled at that superb set: music still left off, re-edited cue problems, and remastering issues. I was happy to have all the scores in one place and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the set.

Unfortunately, you won’t find any cues from last year’s KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. The score contains some great musical set pieces and Williams showed that he hadn’t lost any of his versatility, but the score felt like second-tier Indy.

To me, Indiana Jones has always spelled fun and adventure. These cues reflect that.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom soundtrack
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade soundtrack

10. Anything Goes (TEMPLE OF DOOM)

I can hear the cries of horror emanating from Indy disciples even as I type this. Why “waste” a slot on a non-original Williams tune? Because it shows off Williams’ arranging and orchestration genius, perfectly capturing the aura of classic movie musicals as well providing a fond reminder of his earlier work, like the Oscar-winning FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (without the Hebraic harmonies). Besides, it’s Cole Porter in Cantonese! How could I resist? Just try and keep from tapping when the orchestra goes into the dance break.

9. Short Round’s Theme (TEMPLE OF DOOM)

Adding the character of Short Round to the sequel to RAIDERS was like adding the Ewoks or Jar-Jar Binks to the STAR WARS franchise: unnecessary and detrimental. Obviously Williams saw much more in the character than I do. This is a truly heroic theme that deserves a far better fate than being attached to that annoying little half-pint.

8. Desert Chase (RAIDERS)

From its opening French horn whoops, this is one action cue that doesn’t let up. The brass and the drums are relentless throughout as your blood pumps faster and faster. You’ll hear echoes of this track in “The Jungle Chase” in CRYSTAL SKULL. But nothing tops the original.

7. Keeping Up With the Joneses (LAST CRUSADE)

The staccato woodwind theme and the playful afterbeats provide the Joneses with a humorous counterpoint to the dark brass theme. The strings later swell with an elongated rendering of the Joneses’ theme that shows off the kind of string writing that is pure Williams.

6. The Map Room: Dawn (RAIDERS)

All this sequence needed was a simple three-note motif, a chorus of awestruck voices, and a thin pinpoint of light crossing the sandy floor in search of a secret. And it’s up to Williams’ music to provide the excitement and sense of wonder in this visually simple, dialogue-less, scene.

5. Slave Children’s Crusade (TEMPLE OF DOOM)

TEMPLE OF DOOM was a much darker sequel to RAIDERS and nowhere is that more evident that in the plight of the slave children. With the theme’s minor key, insistent snare drum, and metallic percussion, this march of the unfortunate is the antithesis to the popular “Raiders March,” and every bit as memorable.

4. The Mine Car Chase (TEMPLE OF DOOM)

The tempo flies along at a brisk clip that reminds me of, well, an out-of-control mine car and Williams gives those poor winds and strings one helluva workout. The rollercoaster visuals made my stomach flip-flop in the theater as Williams brought together many of the major themes in the score. This is one action cue that leaves you breathless.

3. The Basket Game (RAIDERS)

The joy of this track comes from the E-flat clarinet and the rushing sixteenth notes in the strings. Williams wrote many other cues in the Indiana Jones franchise that contained motivic elements of “The Basket Game,” but few matched the sly humor and energy of this track.

2. Indy’s Very First Adventure (LAST CRUSADE)

I’ve been known to air conduct the staccato theme (in the privacy of my own home) just to see if I can get the woodwinds in my imagination to play the music as crisply as Williams does. The extended cue that was included in the box set was a welcome surprise. Whether it was the youthful energy of River Phoenix as a young Indy or the sense of playful joy that infuses much of LAST CRUSADE, Williams’ opening track is about as much fun as anything you’ll hear in the series.

1. Flight From Peru (RAIDERS)

This may seem like an odd choice to occupy my top slot, with its pizzicato strings, squawking clarinet, and the sounds of the jungle. But when I first heard that trumpet followed by the full-throttled French horn statement of the “Raiders Theme,” I wasn’t the only person in the theater that felt shivers travel up my spine. A hero was born, in cinema and in film music.

What are your favorite Indiana Jones cues?

  1. Nice list! I applaud your bravery in including Anything Goes and will add my own admission that I find it to be one of the most frequently played tracks from any of the Indy movies in my collection.

    I won’t go into my own list, but I would have ranked Desert Chase higher, maybe numero uno. It’s an amazing cue and, not coincidentally, a brilliant set piece in the movie.

    Okay, a couple more thoughts. I grew into loving Indy’s First Adventure after dismissing that whole score for a few years.
    And Slave Children’s Crusade cries out to be played loud, it’s another strong possibility for the number one slot if I were to make a list…

    1. It’s nice to have the approval for “Anything Goes.” LOL And I agree that Desert Chase is a great set piece. These lists are all so subjective. And almost any track or score can switch places on any give day, except any list that has THE OMEN, which will always be #1 in my book. :)

  2. 10 favorite Jones cues? Ok, this one’s a bit rarified for my taste, but let me be my own devil’s advocate anyway and mention 3 that didn’t make your cut:

    “Escape from Venice” (Last Crusade) — Textbook Williams. Rousing, teasing, playful, bombastic action cue. A frequent go-to track.

    “Bug Tunnel/Death Trap” (Temple of Doom) — For my money, this film’s best sequence. Spielberg and Williams overgild the lily — ROCK!

    “The Temple of Doom” (Temple of Doom) — How do you top a battalion of bugs? Rip a guy’s heart out, immolate his living carcass, and underscore it with craven, relentless, exotic chanting! Yay! Spielberg’s last known moment with both of his testicles, shortly before the PC police lobbied the MPAA to protect their precious angels from the bad man with nasty thoughts. Fortunately, Williams was on board all the way.

    1. What can I say? Your review of the “Temple of Doom” track sparkles as always. :) With accuracy, no doubt!

  3. Well the awesome tracks that would be added maybe:

    “Return To The Village/The Raiders March (Expanded & Film Version)”: For many years the End Credits sequence from all CD’s was barrely cut to 6:12 and The INDIANA JONES Soundtrack Collection has it in 3:12 the other segment but the original segment and maybe longer is the 9:32 version with the unreleased segment, the combination of the Raiders March with Short Round’s Theme is excellent, the best track from Temple of Doom & the most demanded from the fans for the Original Film Version.

    “Raiders of the Lost Ark (“The Raiders March”) 6:04 Version”: The magnificient track from all the saga, the original and untouched track without the weird change at the last segments in the track… The original version and long from Raiders of the Lost Ark only avaible in the original First Version of LP Cassettes.

    “Father & Son Reunited/Don’t Call me Junior (Part 2)”: The other part of Father & Son Reunited, after Indy talks with his father about the Inscription in the Shield of Sir Richard and the epic “Dont Call Me Junior!” makes this unreleased tracks one of the most claimed for release for the fans…

    Sorry for bad english…. Excellents tracks are unavaible and missed… I want to have all the Missing, Expanded, Unreleased, Alternate, Complete and Film versions of all Indiana Jones movies….

  4. I love the end credits theme from Temple of Doom, the version that has the strong harmony though for those who know which one I’m referring. It’s the perfect end score!

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