Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot tracing of the adventure movies it borrowed from

David Weinberger sez, "An amazing video from StooTV shows the first 13 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark paired with identical shots from 30 different adventure movies made between 1919 and 1973. Yup, that’s how culture works ... at least if we let it."

Raider of the Lost Lawsuits


  1. We’ve known for quite a while that Lucas is just a talentless hack riding on the skills of others (Star Wars Ep 4), but what does this say about Spielberg? He’s always been more interesting since he seems to have a modicum of talent that Lucas never had. Brilliant cynical thief like Steve Jobs?

    1. Lucas used to be good, but the biggest problem is that he got lazy. Look at the behind the scenes shots of the Prequels, how he directs from a chair in front of monitors, not really paying attention, a whole “yeah, whatever” attitude. The George Lucas of American Graffiti lost his hunger, and now we just have the Lucas of Howard the Duck.

      1. George Lucas has only directed six feature films: THX-1138, American Graffiti, SW 4, 1, 2 and 3.

        1. Lucas didn’t get lazy because he lost the knack for precision directing; he never had it – and that’s OK. SW fell apart because he lost his editor. A director in Lucas’ style needs an editor who will make him take stuff out. Without that… you get Phantom Menace.

      2. Lucas ‘lost his hunger’ because THX-1138 was such a disaster that it almost destroyed American Zoetrope. He felt really guilty about the fact that his friends almost ended up unemployed and Coppola had to direct big studio projects to bail out the company, so he decided he would make feel-good Saturday morning popcorn movies in future. Hence, American Graffiti, Star Wars, etc.

    2. It’s always been a controversial opinion of mine; but I’ve never liked Spielberg.  I like some of his films, but I don’t think he really brings much to them.  I don’t think I’ve watched one one of his films and thought, ‘wow, you could really see Spielberg’s influence in that’.

      He’s just a name on a poster; one that attracts good cinematographers, actors, producers etc., etc.  I’m confident that if you could (in an impossibly isolated way) remove him from the equation and replace him with someone just as generic his films would be exactly the same.

    1. That’s the excuse of every plagiarist who’s ever been caught. Either be good enough at remixing it like Rodriguez or Tarrantino that it’s something new or acknowledge it in the credits like a decent creative commons remixer or human being.

      1. Man, that Mona Lisa sucks. There were other guys painting smiling chicks sitting down and looking at them before Leonardo da Vinci. But he gets all of the credit. Fuck Leonardo da Vinci! He sucks!

        1.  Did you just seriously compare Star Wars to the Mona Lisa and George Lucas to Leonardo da Vinci?

          No, go ahead, I have nothing more to say there.

          1. I agree that his comparison was inapt, however, maybe Lucas is actually a godfather of remix culture, and comparison to Shepherd Fairey might be more apt?

          2.  More to the point, we have plenty of other evidence that Leonardo was a genius, and zero evidence that Lucas is anything other than a f@#$ing brilliant hack.

            Unlike Spielberg, who I do think is quite talented.

          3. No, only you are. I had to look up the comment tree to see you bemoaning Star Wars in a thread about Raiders of the Lost Ark to see you are one of these spastic  fanboys who believes nothing is original, believes anything that is derived from something else is a rip-off and—on topic—believes in the case of this video that it’s being posted as “j’accuse!!!” evidence of grand theft, when it’s really just a fannish bit of cinema archeology that connects the sources of an homage to the homage itself.

            Which is all to say, grow up and get over it. The main thing I compared is your mentality to what it deserves to be compared to: Nothing.

        2. Leonardo never sued for copyright violations at least.  “Hey, you can’t steal what I stole!”

      2. Well, notice that it took thirty movies to rebuild this. When Raiders first came out, it was praised as a remix, a homage on the old serials. In fact, that’s how it was marketed! Many of the poses and shots were recognisably iconic. If you ask me, that’s part of why Crystal Skull had problems, since it was stuck between the old Indy style and paying homage to the 1950’s movies with the Cold War paranoia and monster ants and whatnot, and wasn’t what people came to expect.

        What Spielberg did then really was no different than what Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino is doing today.

        1. That was pretty much what I was going to say.  

          In many of the Indy scenes, the companions pieces are clearly cut from several different films.  All this does if prove that Lucas and Speilberg used well established troupes and cliches for that genre of film. 

          I think the shot with Indy examining the poisoned arrow shows the real skill – while the other films had similar shots, the composition of the shot in Indiana Jones is much better.

          Still, the piece is really interesting to watch and must have taken an age to put together.   

        2. Completely agreed, especially the Tarantino/Rogriguez comparison. Raiders never pretended to be anything but a modern knock-off on the old serials; is a younger generation just late to the party?

        3. Yeah, with enough time, you could do this for virtually any movie.  It’s neat, but its not like it proves a damned thing about anything.

    2. Agreed.

      To be fair, I think at least 25% of those shots are common to any production on the same theme. To expect otherwise is like being outside on a hot day, and expecting people NOT to comment on the heat.

      1. I ignored it because while Leonardo was a goddamned genius in his own right , Lucas’s genius is in synthesizing other people’s tropes for commercial gain.

        Edit: Sorry, knoxblox, it wouldn’t let me reply to Spadaro – it just replied to you instead. Must be a depth limit.

        Sorry, K

      2. Each shot is a chapter. He’s ripping chapters out of other peoples books,  polishing them, and stitching them together.

        Homage? Only if you own up to in in the Collecter’s Edition DVD extras.

        1. David Bordwell notes that each shot is 4.3 seconds. Averaged over the film’s 115 minutes– that’s 1600 chapters “ripped out of other people’s books”– which would make for an awfully choppy book.

          No. Putting aside the fact that Spielberg directed and George Lucas produced, I think you’re just looking for an excuse to malign Lucas– who after all, did manage to get Star Wars (1977) made.

  2. A great job, a herculean task to be respected. But I’m pretty sure you could replicate any book using only pairs and triplets of words from other books.

  3. For anyone who has no idea that Lucas pretty much stole everything (which takes a certain amount of genius to synthesize properly which cannot be denied, even though most of it was pushed on him by outside people for Ep 4) and

    I really think Star Wars is a huge win for the entire concept of Creative Commons. Lucas is a very bad writer and director who nevertheless managed to create the Star Wars Universe, which I love in the hands of Bioware, by copying everything from previous writers and directors and meshing them together into something fascinating – because other people forced him to. And I’m okay with that, because the end result is epically awesome even though scientifically and ethically bankrupt. I realize all that, but I am still having a hell of a good time in Lost Republic Online.

      1.  Yes – less offensively, what I should have said is that there are people who are very good at creating, and people who are very good at remixing. Lucas is 100% the latter, and it annoys me far too much when people think it’s the former because they haven’t seen Shadow Fortress or whatever. This is my failing.

        The deeper problem here is when you get someone who gets a swollen neck and think they’re good at creative rather than remix-  You end up with Ep 1-3 and Crystal Skull. You need to honestly know what you’re good at. He should have kept borrowing to make some glorious synthesis instead of thinking he could create something original and nuking the fridge. Again, Grindhouse is a great example here.

      2. In the later SWs he lacked an editor.

        He was married to one of the best editors in Hollywood when “new hope” came out. She cut and edited..and the only person that could have told him “no, honey…don’t do that”.  Edit, cut..remove, cull it down make it flow.

        After he was surrounded by ‘yes men’. He was unleashed and made the films crap and the result is very muddled.

        1. I half remember reading that during the filming for Star Wars, Ford said to Lucas “You can write this stuff, but we sure can’t say it” (or something along those lines).  

          I think with the prequels, Lucas needed people to pull in his excesses and he didn’t have them. 

          That said, I had hoped that with Crystal Skull, Speilberg and Ford would have acted to reins on the Lucas ego, but clearly not.  Although I think Crystal Skull is better than the Star Wars prequels and upon a second watch… it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. 

          1. Um, monkey vine chase scenes? fridge nuking? alien prayer circles that turn into tornadoes? indiana jones needing geritol?  the last crusade was bad enough. crystal skull buried it six feet under. i mourn for you that you suffered through it twice.

  4. Dear everybody that is shocked by this… what you see above is not odd. It’s so normal that is has a name. Many names actually, depending on the medium, but in this case your Film Appreciation 101 professor would probably refer to it as The Language of Film (a good film prof can even say it with the capital letters).

    Scroll down the BoingBoing main page a little and read part of the comments on all the  copyrighted works that should have come into the public domain this year. There is a lot of talk about shared culture.

    What you see above is shared culture.

    A director trying to evoke a specific look and feel for a particular shot duplicating parts of a previous work that successfully managed the feat? That’s the job. And it’s hard. Just look at the little clip above. In order to craft one of the finest opening sequences in the history of film Speilberg had to call upon dozens of prior works spanning over a half century of film. Then he had to pick out the tricks that he needs to sell each moment, most of which last only a couple of seconds.

    Certain shots work. Some work because we have been trained to respond to them. Some work because they play on ancient visual tricks and queues that were old when the Renaissance artists were using them. These get noted and used again… and again… and again. They form a language. If you want to create this feeling, use this type of shot. It you want to get the audience ready for upcoming action use that. To hint or indicate that a particular character is a villain or hero or not to be trusted, frame them like this or that.

    A language. And Spielberg (for all his other faults) is one of the best speakers that has ever worked the industry. Another director who speaks Film impressively well is Michael Bay. It’s one of the reasons that his films are so damn watchable despite being so damn bad.

    1. There’s the language of film which will create a certain number of ‘obligatory shots,’ and then there are identical bits of business, like the big rolling rock, that are another thing altogether.

      1. In a movie that was an intentional homage to previous movies, it’s exactly the same thing.  People seem to be acting like Spielberg and Lucas pretended this film was cut from whole cloth.

    2. I know what you are saying about the language of film, of the visual image, and of the ongoing correspondance between artists, even through time.

      That said, I feel it is one thing to create a visual echo, and another thing to rewrite lost works frame for frame and accept accolades for your higher inspiration. I never had any idea that the first 15 minutes of the movie are shot for shot copied from just a few other sources. This sort of thing is what the DVD extras should be about.

      The works cribbed from were probably in the public domain by the time the 80’s rolled around. Too bad we’ll all be dead before Lucas’ works are so unprotected.

    3. …Michael Bay. It’s one of the reasons that his films are so damn watchable…

      You must be on way better drugs than me.

    4. I beg to disagree. Micheal Bay is the Edward Bulwer-Lytton of cinema. He is good at inventing cliches but none of his works are really memorable—beyond the aforementioned cliches, of course.

      EDIT: what I mean to say is that Michael Bay may master the language, but that does not make him into a storyteller.

    5. Well said. I would add that it also has a legal name; scenes a faire. That legal principle protects this language of films from spurious copyright claims that might try to silence it. It’s an important concept in copyright law that I think everyone should understand.

    6. Was with you till you said “impressive” and “Michael Bay” in the same sentence..  Great points otherwise!

  5. Everything old is new again. Hindsight is 20/20.

    Tropes, tropes, tropes. How many ways are there to tell the heroic story? We think from point a to point b, we read from left to right, we see and scan an image for content in fixed and repetitive patterns.

    It’s always just a little bit of history repeating. And it’ll never happen to us.

  6. The point of that video was not to say that Lucas and Spielberg are hacks, but to point out the fact that creativity builds on and is influenced by what others have done before. That we shoulden’t be fighting that with crazy laws.

    1. > That we shouldn’t be fighting that with crazy laws.

      You missed one little bit. Q: on what side of the law are Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg?

      Try for once to base your own creativity on their work and see for yourself.

      You probably would not get past a promotional website for your work, before studio’s lawyers would flood you with cease and desist letters.

      1. I diden’t miss that, it is well known Hollywood is fighting for weird copyright laws all over the place.
        That’s the point of the video, they have been doing what they themselfs claim is wrong all allong.

        That doesn’t make them hacks though, just misguided. It is okay to remix things, it is okay to be inspired by and reference other peoples work.

  7. Those guys looked back at the old serials of the 30s (that they loved), refurbished them, and sold them to a new generation.

    What would be the equivalent thing from our past to refurbish and resell today that would work? Probably nothing that isn’t already in development.

  8. Umberto Eco wrote re: Casablanca, “Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.” 

  9. there’s a lot of talk about star wars and indiana jones here. but what about thx 1138? could the same comparison be made with that film?

  10. Related, my buddy did a shot-for-shot stop-motion remake of the first 6 or 7 minutes of Raiders.  I love it!:

  11. Clearly Hollywood has gone rogue for a long time. I say soon as SOPA comes operational it should be summarily blocked entirely, all funds cut off, bank accounts frozen and distribution of their vile pirated material prohibited.

    1. Clearly Hollywood has gone rogue for a long time.

      It’s been claimed that Hollywood started rogue: film-makers went west, not only for the sunshine and the landscapes, but to evade the oppressive licensing of the Motion Picture Patents Company, which had an effective monopoly on the film manufacturing and projecting industry.  The Wikipedia article makes thought-provoking reading in the light of some of today’s patent and licensing fights.

      1. Mandatory reading for everybody remotely interested in current struggles.

        I’ve long since observed that the copyright antics of the MPAA/RIAA (stronghold on distribution and licensing, control of distribution channels, DRM to enforce their business monopoly etc.) are aimed at maintaining their stranglehold on the market. By rights they should’ve been burried under antitrust-cases so deep, they’ll do nothing else for the remainder of their life then walk from one courthouse to the next.

  12. Most of the scenes from the old flicks are so short that you can’t really say it’s copying. It’d be like pulling page numbers from the Encyclopedia Britannica for every word in Moby Dick. It really only looks like it’s borrowing heavily in a few places, like the whip and fedora, rubbing the chin, the idol, and the rolling ball, all key pieces of the scene, but wasn’t that the point of George Lucas’ films? Bringing back the fun of the old theater by reintroducing the adventure characters of his youth with better filmmaking techniques and music? Your “at least if we let it” comment sounds like you’re trying to be better than those people who enjoy the movie for it’s own sake. I’d rather watch Indiana Jones than those older flicks because it’s a better movie experience because of the better production quality. If you feel there are better stories and ways of presenting them that could be done without relying on tropes, then tell them instead of showing disdain for what _ is_ being made.

    1. Your “at least if we let it” comment sounds like you’re trying to be better than those people who enjoy the movie for it’s own sake.

      I agree with much of what you said, but not this.  The comment is from the original post, which is titled “Raider of the Lost Lawsuits”; I’d parse it simply as an expression of frustration at the repressive effect of plagiarism lawsuits.

    2. You’re being far too reasonable. We’re here to lynch Lucas and Spielberg – not recognise a very masterful mashup work by Stoo and a corresponding awareness of trope and idiom on the part of Messers L & S.

    3. I took the “at least if we let it” comment as meaning that you can create something great when laws don’t prevent you from drawing on old ideas. Not at all negative in my opinion.

      But I agree that many equivalences here are due to clever editing and probably coincidental. I mean, seriously, scenes of people walking on a trail will always look similar.

      1. I took the “at least if we let it” comment as meaning that you can create something great when laws don’t prevent you from drawing on old ideas. Not at all negative in my opinion.

        Thank you.  I think a lot of commenters are inferring something Cory isn’t implying.

  13. “All artists steal, but true artists give back a thousand fold”
    Marcel Duchamp

    That being said, Indiana Jones is a bit shit.

    1. Go ahead and make it. I have been an artist for over 20 years now and I hear my work compared to a very famous artist all the time. Thing is, I started making my boxes years before I had ever heard of Joseph Cornell. There will always be similar elements between artists (although, I was pretty amazed when I looked closely at some of his collage works and found the exact same pairings of incredibly obscure 19th century woodcuts that he had used also showed up in mine.) Eventually ones own “voice” emerges.  I think there is something to be said for the concept of the Muse. Maybe she just likes to visit certain people more than others, or she visits everyone but only some of us listen.

  14. It’s a shame that StooTV’s lovely piece of work has been co-opted as a straw man like this.

    It’s not exactly a secret that the inspiration for all of the key elements in the movie’s opening came from just two of Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics (‘The Prize of Pizarro’ and ‘The Seven Cities of Cibola’) which Lucas read in his youth. Lucas says as much in the introduction he wrote for the collection of Barks’ work “Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times”.

    1. And the Uncle Scrooge stories have their roots in the search for El Dorado and the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.  There is no such thing as 100% original.

  15. The video is impressive, but not because it demonstrates that Lucas and Spielberg are hacks, but rather that the editor has managed to match the scenes so closely. To do that he’s had to track down 31* films , most of which aren’t exactly going to be in your local VideoEasy (apparently this took over 20 years!). On top of that he’s had to find the scenes that closely resemble what’s happening on Raiders, finally he’s had to splice it altogether (2 years). Obviously the editor is a big adventure film buff. Just as Lucas and Spielberg must have been when they worked on Raiders together.

    As for what it says about Lucas and Spielberg: they’ve managed to remix shots from 31 different films, just for the first 13 minutes of a film just shy of 2 hours long. Additionally it looks like there are quite a few splices and edits going on to get the matching happening so closely as each Raiders scene, seems to be made up of multiple scenes from the other movies. Raiders is no shot for shot remix of any one film or even many films. Its simply been created by taking well used techniques, shots and ideas to create something that works well, and Raiders works exceptionally well. 

    There has never once been a great film, painting, song, photograph, drawing or anything else that did not rely on taking used techniques and ideas and adapting upon them. 

    *The post above says 30, but according to comments from the creator on the youtube page, its actually 31.

  16. The hands-down best film this year is The Artist.  (Please go see it if you get the chance.)It’s a silent, black-and-white movie and almost every shot in it is a reference to other films – even the soundtrack has fun playing this game – and yet the film is fantastic in its own right. 
    And that’s why Raiders works too.  It’s been made by someone who loves the genre such that what they have made transcends it.  This sequence reinforces that.

  17. Wait… so you’re saying that by mixing up shots from a few black-and-white movies that cover the same subject, you can roughly match the beginning of ‘Raiders’? I AM SHOCKED. Look! he’s got some people walking through a jungle and so has this other film! He’s got reaction shots of his protagonist and so has this other film! THE THIEF!

    Spielberg’s just as bad, though. You can create the entire first episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ just by pasting together clips from ‘A Bridge Too Far’ and ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. WHAT A FRAUD.

  18. you are so right.. cause you soooooooo couldnt do this exact same thing with Tarrantino and asian flicks. 


  19. The most depressing thing about your comment is that you felt you had to post here what you think someone should tell the guy who made the clip instead of just posting what you think directly to YouTube where he can read it. Somebody should tell you to get a life.

  20. Thank you for correcting this false idea that this is somehow ‘stealing’ or makes the directors ‘hacks’.

    That being said, if we are going with the speaking metaphor, neither Lucas or Spielberg have anything to say any more and thus their newer films are mundane and forgettable. With Lucas, this is absolutely evident.

    Michael Bay might know every word in the film dictionary but has never had anything to say at all.

    I’m  not saying every movie must be a masterpiece of introspection but I don’t think Bay or Spielberg ever made a movie that challenged a single belief of any viewer. This is why they are so loved since the movies require so little of the viewer.

    1. Spielberg went far using the idea of the obsessed hero and lots of slow close-ups of wide eyes.

  21. The same thing could have been done with almost every film (I’m excluding Brakhage and other experimental films). While the language of moving pictures is infinite and still being developed, the recurrence of certain compositions is pretty much inevitable (close ups, medium shots, two shots, wide shots, establishing shots, etc.). I fail to see exactly what is surprising about this. Hell, people have remade the trailer for Batman Begins using exclusively shots from Tim Burton’s Batman, and the result is exactly the same. 

  22. Absolutely disgusted that Spielberg and Lucas based their film on 0.5 second clips of older films, spliced together and faded in and out. I want my money back.

    1. welllllll…  I dunno.  Hunger Games is more Mad Max and Battle Royale was always alittle more North Korea lol

  23. This piece of re-mix isn’t about whether Lucas, Spielberg, Kasdan, and company are talentless hacks. It’s about recognizing that beloved media properties actually stem from a long lineage of earlier efforts. This is one of the ways that art is like science: repeated experimentation, even with minor differentiation, yields results that can be reproduced reliably.

  24. Art needs better provenance we should ask artists to cite sources, especially in publicly funded art. If sources were cited we could do quantitative studies and show how important references and copying are in art.

  25. So, to summarize:

    For a minute and a half we have people walking.  People have walked before, and people have walked on film before.  Then for about twenty seconds, we have explorers looking at ancient rock markers.  Clearly, this has never happened before nor has it ever been featured in any other kind of media.  Then we’re back to people walking for about twenty more seconds before they stop, because they see something off-camera!

    And at this point, I stopped the video(s?) because it was pretty clearly just “Look! these classic functional scene-establishing shots that are tropes in their own right have been used before, albiet with slightly different camera angles and subject matter!

  26. I notice that, typically, nothing in this thread mentions the common thread through a lot of these movies: Lawrence Kasdan.  The writer, you know the guy who makes up the whole story, always seems to get less credit than the focus-puller on the cameras.  I remember that, even back when I was watching Saturday morning cartoons with DC superheros in them, that you could pretty much tell what was going to suck and what was not going to suck by checking if a writer like Kasdan wrote it.  Same thing with “Pinky and the Brain” episodes where I think that the majority of the great episodes were penned by Peter Hastings.

    The same arguments play out in writing too though.  After all, when you right down to it, there are only three basic plots: a man leaves town, a man comes to town, and a swarm of nanobots turns the citizens into a horde of rampaging cyborgs.

  27. this is a strange thing to be outraged about, given that the movie was intentionally made as an homage to early adventure movies and was marketed as such.  i’m pretty sure if you confronted spielberg with this smoking ah-ha, his response would be akin to “well, duh.” 

    this totally makes me want to see the movie again, it’s been a while.  man, harrison ford was hot.

    1. this is a strange thing to be outraged about, given that the movie was intentionally made as an homage to early adventure movies and was marketed as such.

      The outrage is that the people who did this are buying up the government so that they can make laws that make it impossible for other people to do this.

  28. I fail to see how this is a condemnation of Spielberg (not that I have any great affinity for him).

    If I were to make,say, a western movie today, I would find it nearly impossible to avoid mimicking the numerous classic films that defined the genre.  Also, a lot of the shots seem to be fairly standard practices in regards to cinematography, composition, etc.

    The Indiana Jones series was, in my opinion, a beautiful homage to the many adventure films that preceded it.  I had always assumed it was deliberate.

  29. Yakima Canutt.

    I also read a great article years ago that even Yakima’s stunt was first performed by a woman in cereal commercial ads during the silent film era. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I read it nor can I find it, but I swear on George Lucas’s life, I read it and saw the images too, She was dressed just like Indiana Jones, but the stunt was under a wagon/stage coach.  I’m not going to stop until I find her name. 

    The clip doesn’t include Donald Duck comics either.

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