Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Ending Explained – What happens when the Ark is opened?

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark Plot Synopsis

In 1936, a professional archaeologist, Indiana Jones, sets off to find the Ark of the Covenant, a priceless booby-trapped Biblical artefact. Jones’ path to the Ark proves tougher than he imagined as his adventure turns deadly quickly.

The Nazi army is eyeing the Arc to turn themselves invincible, however Jones isn’t ready to let that happen despite biting the dust on several occasions. He goes the distance, but does he go far enough?

Why is Indy after the Ark?

In the US, while Jones is teaching an archaeology class, he is informed that two army agents want to speak with him about his former teacher, Abner Ravenwood. The officers inform Indy that a massive excavation is underway in Egypt – carried out by the Nazi forces.

Jones believes the Nazis must be after the Ark of the Covenant which Hitler believes holds the key to making his army invincible. Consequently, Jones is hired by the officers to find the Ark before Hitler’s army lay a hand on it.

What is the truth of the Ark?

The Ark of the Covenant was built by Hebrews for Moses to hold the stone tablet which he inscribed the Ten Commandments on. According to Indy, Ravenwood is the only man who can help the discover Ark.

Since Ravenwood has been living in Nepal, Indy travels to Nepal in search of answers – as does Nazi agent, Arnold Toht.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

What happens in Nepal?

Jones meets with Ravenwood’s daughter, Marion, his ex-girlfriend, who now runs a restaurant and bar. He learns that Ravenwood is no more and Marion runs a restaurant and bar. Jones inquires about the medallion to the Staff of Ra, a device capable of precisely locating the Ark.

As Jones leaves, Arnold Toht arrives and prepared to assault Marion in a bid to obtain the medallion. Jones returns, and the scuffle escalates into a dangerous firefight. The entire bar starts burning down, and when Toht advances to grab the burning medallion, the face of it is burned into his hand.

Marion joins Indie and the two leave for Cairo, Egypt.

What happens in Cairo?

Jones and Marion meet Jones’ friend, Sallah who reveals popular French archaeologist and Jones’ rival, Rene Belloq has joined hands with the Nazis. He also informs Jones that the Nazi army is in the process of making the medallion – copying the image branded into Toht’s hand. Despite Nazi force’s advancements in excavation, Jones is certain they won’t be able to recover the Ark without the medallion. Sallah adds he knows an Imam who is an expert in deciphering ancient texts and suggests they should meet him.

Later, in the bazaar, the two are attacked by a group of armed Arabs. Though Jones manages to fend them off, Marion is seemingly killed leaving Jones distraught.

Sallah takes Indie to Imam who gives his interpretation of both sides of the medallion: first, the warning against human intervention into the mysteries of the Ark and second, the correct measurements of “Staff of Ra” to find the Ark. The information helps Jones and Sallah to deduce that the Nazis are excavating the wrong location. Guided by correct information, the two leave to uncover the Ark.

Does Jones find the Ark?

During the infiltration of the excavation site, Jones is astonished to find Marion alive in the well of souls. However, he realizes in order to free her he will have to reveal his presence to the Nazis. Jones and Sallah go on to dig out the Ark, a cryptic golden chest.

However, just as Sallah hoists himself out, Belloq arrives and seizes the Ark. Belloq leaves leaving the two alone in a chamber full of snakes. Despite it seeming impossible, Jones and Marion pull off the escape and soon capture the truck carrying the Ark.

Jones arranges for the Ark to be sent to London through a tramp steamer. However, once again the Nazis capture the Ark along with Marion in a U-boat. Refusing to give in, Jones ambushes Belloq’s men but is made to surrender. Seeing the Ark, Belloq feels an urge to open in.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

What happens when the Ark is opened?

Belloq, who wants to test the power of the Ark before taking it to Hitler, opens the Ark without any knowledge about its effects. Jones asks Marion to close her eyes so as to avoid making direct contact with the energy of the Ark.

In an instant, the enigmatically powerful energy, flames, and spirits released from the Ark kill Belloq, Toht, and the entire Nazi army present. Miraculously, Jones and Marion find that their binding have been undone.

For his discovery of the Ark, Jones is rewarded by the U.S. government. And the Ark is taken to a secret warehouse.

What does the ending mean?

The question is why the U.S. government did not make use of the Ark’s power for international benefits. And why did Indy hand it to the government in the first place?

Well, the reason lies in Jones’ approach. Jones decided to discover the Ark so that it is not found by the Nazis who were planning to exploit its power to dominate the world. He never longed for the Ark, in fact all his efforts were meant to save its honor. And, when he took it back home, the U.S. kept it in secrecy as it was always supposed to be.

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