The Indiana Jones franchise practically defined the action adventure genre, and its movies have delighted fans for generations. However, to many, it would appear that the series never managed to improve upon the original film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, it’s only the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, that even comes close to living up to Indy’s first outing, because it’s by far the best sequel.

The original trilogy of films remains well-loved. However, it would seem that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and its aliens were the beginning of the end for the franchise. After The Last Crusade, everything began to fall apart for Indy, including any semblance of tonal consistency. However, even the follow-up to Raiders, the prequel Temple of Doom, couldn’t deliver a comparable experience.

Though sequels should stand on their own, there needs to be something that carries over between films. It’s not enough to simply put the same character in a new situation and recreate similar set pieces. The best sequel is one that understands the balance between repetition and innovation, and for Indiana Jones that’s The Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade Is The Best Sequel Because It Adheres To Raiders Of The Lost Ark’s Spirit

Why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the best sequel - Sean Connery and Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Put simply, The Last Crusade is the only sequel to continue the themes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both films concern artifacts of religious importance, and pit Indiana Jones against Nazis attempting to exploit them for personal gain. In both films, it’s Indy’s dedication to his vocation and his faith that see him triumph. However, the more important part of the sequel’s consistency is in the characterization of its protagonist.

In both Raiders and The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones finds himself outsmarted by the villains. In both films, he’s manipulated into helping the Nazis recover the artifact, and in many ways is shown to be something of a bumbler compared to his adversaries. Other films in the series portray Indy as more of a classic action hero – daring, bold, and seemingly infallible. This style of storytelling is far less satisfying, as it makes the protagonist feel almost superhuman.

It’s in its treatment of Indiana Jones himself that The Last Crusade becomes the best sequel. It’s the only one that feels close to the original’s portrayal of the character, and it also matches up a few of its major narrative beats. By switching up just enough to keep the formula fresh but without making fundamental changes to the character, The Last Crusade is the only sequel to be truly worthy of the franchise.