In the episode The Raiders Minimization of The Big Bang Theory Amy ruins Raiders of the Lost Ark for Sheldon by making the following claim:

Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren't in the film it would turn out exactly the same.


If he weren't in the movie the Nazis would have still found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up and all died... just like they did.

Well, the Ark ending up in the warehouse (probably) wouldn't have happened without Indy, but aside from that, would Belloq and the Nazis have met the same fate even without Indy's meddling?

My question:

  • Is Amy's assertion correct, did Indiana Jones play no role in the outcome of the story?
  • 3
    They would certainly have needed longer to find the Ark, given that their staff was of the wrong length and they digged at the wrong place (but then again, without Indy they might have gotten the correct medallion from Marion in Nepal right away). Other than that Amy might not be too wrong, yet this doesn't ruin the movie for me, since it is still as entertaining as before, given that most of the time Indy is improvising anyway and quite often just wins by luck. So who cares if he really saved the day or not. But good question, of course.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 18:45
  • 12
    The dude in the bazaar with the sword, from his perspective of the story, disagrees. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 20:27
  • 2
    The Ark ending up in the warehouse is definitely Indy's doing, and it's super important, the outcome of the whole story! So Indy's involvement is hugely meaningful. Because of Indy, neither the Germans nor the U.S. gets the Ark (the U.S. has it but it's lost forever among their artifacts). Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 20:38
  • 2
    For the biggest question - "Could the Nazis have used the Ark of God to take over the world?" - the answer would seem to be No. Even before they opened it, the way it burned away the Nazi symbol on its crate suggests very much that God had no intention of letting them use it as a "good luck charm".
    – mwfearnley
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 13:28
  • 1
    @mwfearnley I agree with you. Opening the crate would have been lethal to the nazis whether Indy had intervened or not.
    – Alfred
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 22:32

8 Answers 8


I don't believe Amy is correct, and it relates to a scene that isn't in the movie. We know that the nazis had the wrong length staff because they only had one side of the head piece. Other posters have argued whether or not the nazis obtain the head piece from Marion without him...let's assume they do...

I don't remember where I heard this but there's a scene that's not in the movie. The second side of the head piece contains more info than just the 'correct' staff length. Also written on the back side are instructions not to look into the Ark...this is how Indy knows to 'KEEP YOUR EYES SHUT' when the Ark is opened. Indy learns this when he and Sallah have the head piece translated...don't know why this was left out of the movie...bad dates, maybe.

Anyway, without Indy, either a) they never find the ark because they don't get the head piece without him, or b) they obtain the ark with the complete head piece but aren't killed by it because they have the instructions not to look at it.

Sorry, Amy.

  • 2
    Very reasonable deduction indeed. And here's the info about the deleted scene with the head piece instructions by the way: movies.stackexchange.com/q/4104/49.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 17:20
  • 17
    I like this answer, although one could argue that since the scene wasn't in the movie it doesn't count. - But it makes me wonder whether Belloq/the Nazis would have heeded the warning. Their motivation was different from Indy's.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 12:59
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    Knowing that looking at the opened Ark could be a bad idea is something Indy could readily have learned from other sources -- the Bible, for example. So it might boil down to nothing more than reverence vs. ignorance / greed.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 9:33
  • @DevSolar: Yes, that's exactly the point. Indy knows this because he is learned and 'smarter' than everyone else. He's a heroic researcher. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:54

I too was asking myself this question, and had to go back and watch the movie over again. Here's how I see the movie turning out without Indiana Jones' presence.

Regardless of whether Indiana led the Nazi's to Marion, they would have found her anyways. They already knew that Abner Ravenwood had the amulet, like the U.S. Army Intelligence officers told Indiana at the beginning of the movie. Marion is Abner's daughter, so it's only logical that they would have gone to see her eventually.

During the scene at Marion's bar, the Gestapo interrogator, Major Toht, would have tortured and most likely killed Marion, and would have obtained the amulet. Since the fight between Indiana and the bad guys would not have happened, her bar would not have caught fire. That combined with the Nazis already having the amulet, Major Toht wouldn't have gotten burned by the amulet (which is how the Nazis only got one side of the amulet), and thus would have looked in the right place. The Nazis would have gone on to open the Ark just as they did and every one would have died, just like Amy says. Finally, the Ark would have been left at the site where they opened it for someone else to discover, so who knows what would have happened after that. You could say Hitler would have sent more Nazis to investigate, or maybe the U.S. would have found it and suffered the same fate.

The one major thing here is that if you at any point remove Indiana from the story, the Nazis would have killed and/or tortured Marion. So, for that, Indiana Jones is still a hero!

As for how Indiana Jones got the Ark off of the island, the answer isn't really revealed in the movie, but the most logical conclusion I have is that he stole the submarine that the Nazis used to travel to the island.

Note: I don't remember where I saw it (might have been in TBBT), but there was a comment that without Indiana Jones, the Ark would have been opened in front of Hitler. That's not true, because when they get to the island, Belloq gives a speach about making sure that it was "the one true Ark" before handing it over to Hitler (for fear of what Hitler would do to them if it wasn't). So, he would have opened it before it got to Hitler anyways.

  • Was it abundantly clear what was going to happen once the Ark was opened? Or was it unknown? I think this is completely relevant because while Indy may not have directly affected the fates of those unlucky Nazis, he did try to protect the world from the threat of the Ark and what it could contain.
    – user978
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 15:55
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    @NickAugello Well, I don't think it was really clear, apart from that it would be dangerous, yet the Nazis thought it would be only dangerous to their enemies and not to themselves, too. I'm not sure Belloq and the Nazis would have opened that thing had they known what would happen. "he did try to protect the world from the threat of the Ark" - Of course he did try, but the question asks if he also did.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 15, 2013 at 8:30
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    I disagree with the part about not being opened in front of Hitler. There was a plane waiting to take the ark straight to Berlin, the fact it ends up on the UBoat is only due to Jones' interference. This was no doubt one of a hundred items they'd fetched, do you think they tested them all before sending? It was only the continual competition with Jones that suggested this might really be something and made them want to test it first. Maybe had they survived they would have thought twice about sending on, maybe they'd have used it them selves for their own World domination plan... Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 11:13

Aside from the Would the Nazis have found Marion without Indy? issue mentioned in the other answers, there also the matter of getting the Ark to Germany:

After the Ark of the Covenant was recovered, Dietrich planned to transport the treasure back to Germany in a plane, ...

        Flying Wing [IndyGear.com]

  • Indy's plan was to "hijack" the plane, but the attempt failed and resulted in the destruction of the plane.

  • This prompted the Nazis to change their plan. They loaded the Ark onto a truck so they could drive it to Cairo and fly it out from there.

  • Indy managed to take over the truck and thus the Ark ended up on the Bantu Wind instead.

        Bantu Wind


  • Without Indy's interference the Ark would have never been transported to island, because the original plan was to simply fly it to Germany.
  • 2
    It is never explicitly stated in the movie that the plane was going to Germany, let alone directly to Germany (without making any pitstops first), and even after they put it on a truck they only explicitly state they're going to Cairo. Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 16:21
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    @druciferre - In the script it says: Have it put on the truck. We'll fly out of Cairo. - In an earlier scene Dietrich says to Belloq: The Fuhrer is not a patient man. And using the technologically advanced "Flying Wing" instead of an ordinary plane seems to suggest they wanted to get the Ark to its destination (Germany seems very likely) as fast as possible.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 19:30
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    You've only proven my point that they never explicity state the final destination. Given Belloq's big speech once they get to the island about making sure it's "the one true Ark" and going well out of their way to take the Ark to a specific location on the island, I think it far more likely Belloq always intended to take it to the island. Either way, whether it was going to Germany, or the island, it seems clear Belloq would have opened before giving it to Hitler. Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 23:30
  • 3
    If going to the island to open the Ark had been the plan all along, then Belloq wouldn't have had to "play" Dietrich then and there. (I don't think Belloq actually cared about dissapointing the Fuhrer, but he knew Dietrich would)
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 10:58

Here's something funny to think about...the very beginning of Raiders. When Indy hunts down the golden Idol within the cave of just about every obstacle imaginable. Belloq is fresh on his heels which leads me to believe that if Indy never got to the Idol first, navigating the treacherous landscape, then Belloq and his spear wielding minions would have tried to navigate the cave, thus might have certainly ended Rene's life. Or held him captive for the rest of his days. So yes, Indy is intensely important, if he never got the idol, then Rene might have never made it to any of the adventure. And perhaps..the Arc would have never been found at all.

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An alternative interpretation of your question "Is Amy's assertion correct, did Indiana Jones play no role in the outcome of the story?

Answer: It really depends on what you refer to as the "story".

If what you call as the story is "the ultimate fate of the ark", then one can make an argument one way or another. However, if the true story of the movie is "the ultimate fate of the protagonist" (i.e. indiana jones), then his presence is not only essential, it is the movie!

All other inquiries about his relevance to the "fate of the ark" are moot point. In my honest opinion, the true story is that of the character (i.e. Indiana Jones), not the fate of the device (i.e. the ark). Therefore, from this perspective, Amy is wrong.

  • Well, Amy does specify what she means by "story" (see the quotes in the OP). - Of course, one can sidestep the question by saying "that isn't the "true" story."
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 13:04

The main question to answer this question is: Did Indy lead Belloq to Marion? If he did, then Belloq would never have found the headpiece of the staff and thus the rest would not have transpired, thus Indy was quintessential to them finding the Arc. Indy did inadvertently lead Belloq and Dietrich there. Belloq knew Indy would know where to find the headpiece to the staff. Because of this, Amy Farah Fowler was wrong to play with Sheldon's head like this ... but it did make for a good story line!


The real thing to note here is not that Indiana Jones was pointless but rather that he risked life, limb and even career to be the hero when he was not required. If that does not prove how heroic and awesome he was in the movie nothing does. Also, without Indy than Marion would die in all possible outcomes.

  • 1
    "If that does not prove how heroic and awesome he was in the movie nothing does." - Yeah, still that wasn't the question at all.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 21:02

Without Indiana Jones, Marion would have perished. He told her not to look. As with Lots wife at Sodom and Gamorah, she would have looked. I'll bet this was one of Steven Spielburg's additions to the script.

  • 12
    "she would have looked." - She probably wouldn't even have been there at all, killed or left alone in Nepal right at the beginning.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 20:24

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