The 1989 Stephen Spielberg film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was the third film and was intended to be the final movie in the franchise.
It furthers the story of the fedora wearing Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, as he pursues antiquities around the globe while harassed by assorted bad guys and Nazis. This movie introduces Indy’s father played with great finesse by Sean Connery.
The opening sequence shows a young Indiana Jones fighting grave robbers for possession of a conquistador’s cross. After an exciting and funny running battle he finally has it. With the grave robbers hot on his heels he bursts through the door of his house expecting sanctuary. His father is there only facing away, head down, absorbed in his own research, total unaware of Indy’s predicament. He doesn’t even lift his eyes from his documents to acknowledge the chaos of his son’s entrance. His distraction is so great he is unaware of his need for protection.
Beyond the action scenes and good versus evil elements this is also a father and son picture. The Joneses are archetypes of the father and son common to all fathers and sons. To follow the archetypal element further in the opening scene: The son’s interest (archeology) does not interest the father, who is caught up in his own passions. How many fathers unwittingly overlook or discourage their sons whose interests diverge from their own? In any case, Indy likely knows from past experience his father is not going to back him up. (A common father betrayal). In the end the prize is taken from him and given to the mysterious man in the Panama hat, never to be seen again.
Before they depart the leader of the grave robbers, impressed with Indy’s bravery, gives him his fedora, which will become his trademark. He tells the boy, “You may have lost the battle but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” This stranger passes on something his father cannot: A message that boys need to learn how to deal with disappointment and good things (like the fedora) can come out of something bad. It also says that boys need important men in their lives who can see them more clearly than their own fathers.
Years later, the adult Indiana follows his father on a quest to find the Holy Grail. The Grail being the cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper. It is rumored to give eternal life to whomever drinks from it. Indy meets a mysterious young woman he later finds out has also slept with his father. Here is an example of the competitiveness that shows up between fathers and sons. It can derail the closeness and trust boys need to develop for their adult relationships to flourish. Is the elder Jones trying to express his virility with bedding the much younger woman or prove to himself and his son that he “still has it?”
The final scenes take place in the Temple of the Holy Grail. After the bad guy Donavan shoots the elder Jones to give Indy a compelling reason to retrieve the Grail. Seeing that his father will soon die he springs into action and navigates through the various booby traps to locate the sacred cup.
He encounters the knight who has been guarding the chalice for seven hundred and finds out that immortality is granted only within the confines of the temple. Once someone who has drunk from the Grail leaves the temple they are again mortal.
Holding the healing waters in the chalice he makes his way to his father and lovingly washes his wound and gives him the life-giving water to drink. His relief and happiness at his father’s revival reveals the depth of his love for his father. An emotion sons and fathers have a hard time expressing.
Finally, as the temple collapses the Nazi double agent, Elsa, reaches desperately for the chalice but ultimately falls to her death rather that grasp the safety of Indy’s hand.
Soon Indy is compelled to get the Grail before it slides into the abyss. As he desperately reaches his father is trying to pull him up. He exclaims to the elder Dr. Jones, “I almost have it!” Seeing that his son is inches away from death and reaching too far he replies, “Let it go son!” Indy complies and they make their way out of the temple to safety.
This scene suggests something that sons need and often do not get from their fathers: A clear message that they have done enough. That they are good enough even if they do not accomplish all that they have set out to do. It is an embrace of the concept of “good enough.”
The film ends with the classic “riding off into the sunset.” The setting sun itself a metaphor of the ending of somethings and holds the possibility of new adventures to come. Through their adventure together the father and son have forged a closer bond. Their future together may hold more closeness and mutual acceptance. What an uplifting message for men to hold onto along with the action scenes so popular with male viewers.