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Indiana Jones Villain Deaths Ranked

The following article includes descriptions of violence.

Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic action heroes of all time, with his trademark fedora, whip, and six-shooter accessorizing his barrel-chested physique. As a treasure hunter, archaeologist, and all-around adventurer, Indy's escapades frequently pit him against history's greatest villains, including World War II-era Nazis, 1950s Russian Communist soldiers, a Thuggee cult, and Chinese gangsters, just to name a few.

On his adventures, Indy is frequently placed in situations where he must kill or be killed. Luckily, Dr. Jones knows how to protect himself. He's skilled with his fists, guns, and all manner of improvised weaponry, allowing him to consistently beat the odds and survive even the most dangerous adventures. Over the course of the four movies, many villains are not so lucky, meeting gruesome fates either at Indy's hands or via more supernatural methods. These are the grisliest deaths in the "Indiana Jones" films.

15. Getting your brain overloaded by an entire cosmos of alien knowledge

The aliens, or interdimensional beings, from "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" are akin to cosmic archeologists. As Indy himself states upon seeing their collection of items from across world history, "Knowledge was their treasure." Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) wants that knowledge for herself and pays the price for her hubris. After reuniting the lost Crystal Skull with its body, she is "rewarded" with an influx of all the knowledge the aliens have amassed over their unknown eternity, and it's too much for her fragile human mind to handle.

As her brain is overloaded with cosmic information, she begs for it to stop, but the interdimensional collective scowls at her as she is ultimately disintegrated by the overwhelming flow. Much of the aliens' motivation and character is open to interpretation, but it's likely they knew Spalko had killed many of the Ugha tribesmen who had been living peacefully in Akator for generations; having her die such a brutal sci-fi death was possibly her punishment for killing the denizens of their kingdom.

14. Getting eaten by crocodiles in the Temple of Doom

In the climax of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," Indiana Jones finds himself trapped on a rickety rope bridge with Thuggee cultists approaching from both sides, including their evil leader Mola Ram (Amrish Puri). Never one to admit defeat, Indy tells his allies Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) to hold tightly to the ropes; then he raises his sword, preparing to bring it down on the rope and tear the delicate bridge in half. His one-liner remains one of the coolest utterances in the history of cinema: "Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali. In hell."

As the bridge collapses, multiple Thuggee cultists plummet to the river below into the jaws of a family of crocodiles who kill them without mercy. While Mola Ram himself initially holds on for his life, the power of the Sankara Stones and his obsession with possessing them proves to be his undoing. While struggling with Indy over the stones, he eventually falls to his death, though not before scraping his flesh against the side of a mountain. As he's literally torn apart by the crocs, the famous "Wilhelm Scream" puts an exclamation point on his definitive demise (via The Kennedy Center).

13. Getting killed by the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nuclear blast

Back in 2008, when "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was first released, much ballyhoo was made over the first act of the film, which sees the now middle-aged adventurer climb into a lead-lined refrigerator to survive a nuclear explosion. Scientists pointed out the numerous ways this would not save Indy from certain doom, but they all leave out one important detail — he's Indiana Jones.

Regardless of one's opinion on "nuking the fridge," it's worth noting that Indy isn't the only person impacted by the bomb; a squad of Russian agents try to escape the blast radius in their car, but to no avail. In fact, the last thing they see before the nuclear devastation consumes them is a refrigerator flying past them at terminal velocity, propelled by the initial detonation. As the refrigerator is miraculously thrown outside of the immediate danger zone, the Russians' car is obliterated, with its occupants turned into anonymous irradiated stains in the Nevada desert.

12. Getting run over by a Nazi tank

The climactic battle of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" involves horses, trucks, and a tank. Indiana Jones must rescue his father (Sean Connery) and Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) from the tank operated by Colonel Vogel (Michael Byrne), the leader of this film's Nazis operating under orders from Hitler himself to kill Indiana Jones. Throughout the epic chase, there are no shortage of exceptional kills, including the moment where Indy shoots three Nazis with one bullet. But a few stand out as particularly gruesome, and they all involve Nazis getting run over by the tank.

At one point, a car is accidentally pinned to the front end of the tank, effectively blocking its main cannon. Unconcerned with the concept of friendly fire, Vogel orders the tank gunner to fire, launching the car off of the tank. He then orders the tank driver to run over the car, killing any possible survivors who may reside within. Elsewhere during the chase, Indy is fighting off Nazis on top of the tank when one falls onto the tread, causing him to get squished by the armored vehicle. A similar fate nearly befalls Henry Jones Sr., but Indy is able to use his whip to save his father from becoming a Jones pancake.

11. Getting impaled on a Raiders of the Lost Ark booby trap

As a rule, most of Indiana Jones' adventures feature him stumbling into some kind of ancient tomb, usually protected by booby traps. Inevitably, when Indiana comes across one of these booby traps, he finds that he's not the first to attempt to navigate these perilous paths of death. There's always at least one dead body attached to the trap.

For instance, the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" has Indy searching alongside Satipo (Alfred Molina) for an ancient golden idol, following in the footsteps of fellow adventurer Forrestal, who went missing in the area one year prior to Indy's arrival. Eventually, Indy and Satipo trigger a trap, revealing Forrestal's corpse impaled on sharp spikes. Later on, after betraying Indy, stealing the golden idol, and trying to escape the temple on his own, Satipo suffers the exact same fate. Indy sees the bloodied body, his face frozen in a state of shock, a grisly discovery for the next generation of would-be treasure hunters.

10. Getting devoured by ants in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

"Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" features a thrilling fight involving the physically imposing Igor Jijikine as Colonel Dovchenko, a Russian soldier who nearly ends Indiana Jones' adventure forever before suffering that film's most graphic on-screen death. Dovchenko's fight against Indy is a classic bare-knuckle brawl consisting of two hunky guys taking turns punching each other with all their might, with the added twist being the presence of a giant siafu ant colony. The flesh-eating insects form a makeshift boxing ring around the two combatants, thanks to Professor Oxley's (John Hurt) use of the Crystal Skull to control their impulses.

Eventually, the fight goes Indy's way, and as he delivers the knockout blow to Dovchenko, the tall Russian collapses into the pile of ants. The ants swarm him, crawling all over him and even into his mouth as they carry him to their anthill. Overall, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is the least overtly violent of the Indy movies, but Dovchenko's genuinely unsettling death sequence more than makes up for the general lack of bloodshed.

9. Driving a tank off the side of a cliff in the Last Crusade

The previously-mentioned tank chase sequence from "Last Crusade" ends with Indiana Jones and Vogel fighting atop the latter's heavily armored tank, which just so happens to plummet off the side of a mountain. In the nick of time, Indy manages to escape the armored vehicle, but Vogel is not so lucky and remains in the tank as it careens over the edge.

An impressive visual effects shot features Vogel screaming as the tank plummets toward the camera, and the impact is shown in the next shot, with a life-like dummy of actor Michael Byrne being tossed around like a ragdoll as the tank crashes to the ground. Of course, since Vogel was a full-tilt believer in Nazi ideology, none of the heroes mourn his death, though they briefly believe Indy didn't make it off the tank in time to avoid a similar fate. Naturally, Indy shows up battered but still alive, and when his hat (which was lost in the tank scuffle) lands at his feet, courtesy of a conspicuous gust of wind, he musters the strength to continue their quest for the Holy Grail.

8. Getting skewered with a flaming kebab

The opening act of "Temple of Doom" is set at Shanghai's Club Obi-Wan, named after a character from producer George Lucas' other big franchise featuring Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones is poised to make a deal with the vile gangster Lao Che (Roy Chiao), trading the ashes of Emperor Nurhachi for an equally priceless diamond. However, Lao Che betrays Indiana Jones and poisons his drink, offering the adventurer a new deal: He'll give Jones the antidote to the poison in exchange for Nurhachi and the diamond. At this point, the waiter draws a gun and reveals that he's the adventuring archeologist's ally, Wu Han (David Yip). Unfortunately, before he and Indy can renegotiate, Wu Han is shot by Lao Che's son, Chen.

After Wu Han dies in his arms, an enraged Indy grabs a nearby flambé skewer and throws it at Chen. The image of the criminal impaled by a flaming spear of meat is enough to give anyone chills, and that's before you even hear his blood-curdling scream. The combination of Wu Han's tragic death and Indy's immediate and brutal revenge set the tone for "Temple of Doom" as the darkest and most violent Indiana Jones adventure ever.

7. Failing The Breath of God Test

The final act of "Last Crusade" features the Jones group and the Nazis at the hidden Grail Temple, where they must complete three tests in order to reach the treasure. The first of these, The Breath of God, has the Nazis stumped, as all of their Hatay "volunteers" thus far have been killed by the trap.

The viewer gets to follow the last of these soldiers as they attempt to navigate the trap. After the high-flying action of the tank chase, this sequence feels straight out of a horror movie, as the soldier takes uneasy steps toward his inevitable death by decapitation. It's only when Indiana Jones himself goes in that the solution is revealed. As conveyed in his father's "Grail Diary," the test is one of faith and knowledge of God. The name of the test, The Breath of God, is the clue. According to the diary, "only the penitent man will pass," as "the penitent man is humble before God."

At the last second, Indy realizes he must kneel, and as he does, a sharp sawblade passes overhead, the same blade that decapitated everyone else. A second one emerges from the floor and nearly kills Indy, but he's able to roll forward to evade the tricky trap and get one step closer to the Holy Grail.

6. Choosing the wrong Holy Grail

Upon completing the Grail Temple's tests, Indy leads the Nazis to the final resting place of the Holy Grail guarded by the Grail Knight (Robert Eddison), a centuries-old guardian who has gained eternal life from the fabled Cup of Christ. He presents Indy and Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), the leader of this film's band of Nazis, with a room full of ornate chalices and challenges them to one final test — choosing the correct Grail. Drinking from the true Grail will grant eternal life, while choosing incorrectly ... will not.

Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) chooses a bejeweled goblet for Donovan, which he sees as befitting for a "King of Kings." However, when he drinks from it, he ages hundreds of years in a matter of seconds before turning to dust, leaving only his Nazi lapel pin intact. The effect used to achieve Donovan's death was a breakthrough in technology, utilizing computer compositing effects that have since become standard in the industry.

The Grail Knight, upon witnessing Donovan's grisly demise, remarks, "He chose poorly."

5. Getting killed by a flock of seagulls

While Indiana Jones and his father are fighting Nazis (for family bonding purposes) in "Last Crusade," they come up against a German fighter plane, which drops a bomb that destroys their car. Outgunned and unable to flee, Indy is stumped as to how he's going to survive this encounter. However, his father comes up with a plan; he approaches a flock of seagulls and uses his umbrella to chase them away — right into the path of the pursuing plane.

The entire group of birds crash into the Nazi plane, breaking through the glass and gumming up the propeller to the point where the pilot loses control and crashes into the side of a mountain. While played for comic effect, the idea of being mauled by birds before being consumed by a giant explosion is nothing to laugh about. Not to mention, Dr. Jones didn't just kill the Nazi, but dozens of seagulls.

As he returns to his son, the elder Jones remarks, "I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne; let my armies be the rocks, and the trees, and the birds in the sky."

4. Getting squished by a Temple of Doom rock crusher

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is brutal and scary for children in its first half, but that's only so the second half can be a cathartic release of righteous justice as Indy saves the children from the Thuggee cult and dismantles their operation, one jaw-breaking uppercut at a time. Still, his rampage is nearly cut short when he goes up against a plus-sized Thuggee cultist, played by Pat Roach.

The massive tank of a man is able to shrug off most of Indy's attacks, but our hero is eventually able to get the upper hand, with a little help from Short Round. Did we mention they're fighting on a conveyor belt leading toward an industrial rock crusher? Indy endures extra hits from a supernatural voodoo doll utilized by the brainwashed Little Maharaja of Pankot (Raj Singh), but at the last moment escapes from the conveyor belt. But the Thuggee is not so lucky as his sash gets caught, dragging him down into the machine and reducing him to nothing but a smear of blood. Even Indiana Jones himself has to look away at the carnage.

3. Getting chopped by a plane propeller

Pat Roach suffers not one, but two of the greatest deaths in Indiana Jones history. In Indy's debut adventure, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Roach plays a musclebound Nazi engineer working on an experimental plane. He fights Indy in single combat while the plane's propeller looms ominously in the background of the battle.

Interestingly, Indy doesn't really win the fight; he only manages to survive. While he gets a few good hits in, even breaking the Nazi's nose with one particularly perfect punch, he's outmatched. In the end, Indy is on the floor, with the engineer standing above him ... blissfully unaware that the plane has begun to move, and that the propeller is inching toward him. With a devilish smile on his face, Indy turns around and covers his face to protect him from the inevitable shower of blood. The engineer turns around just in time to get eviscerated by the propeller. While the kill itself isn't directly depicted, the massive blood spatter on the cockpit of the plane makes his fate perfectly clear.

2. Getting your heart ripped out and then consumed by lava

While not a villain, the victim of the Thuggee human sacrifice has to be included here, since it's one of the single most memorable deaths in cinematic history. Mola Ram, the leader of the Thuggee cult, sacrifices an unnamed man to the Goddess of Death, Kali. Or at least these Thuggee's twisted and unorthodox version of Kali, per NPR.

Mola Ram reaches into the man's chest and pulls out his heart. The man is then slowly lowered into a pit of boiling lava as Mola Ram raises his arm to show the crowd the still-beating organ. As the man is consumed by fire, the heart bursts into flames. The supernatural barbarism shocks even Indiana Jones, who has no scientific explanation for the impossible spectacle he just witnessed. 

1. Suffering the wrath of God himself in Raiders of the Lost Ark

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" revolves around the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant, the box God gave Moses carrying the Ten Commandments and God's very own power. As the Nazis, led by Major Toht (Ronald Lacey) and Indy's archeologist rival Dr. Belloq (Paul Freeman), greedily open the Ark, they learn firsthand that the power of God is not something to be controlled.

Ghostly apparitions emerge from the Ark, possibly to judge the people who dared open it. The spirits quickly turn vengeful and unleash their power on the Nazis in a magnificent display of God's wrath. Streaks of lightning lash out from the Ark, instantly killing the dozens of soldiers gathered for the ritual, while the three men who dared stand closest to the Ark suffer even worse fates. Colonel Dietrich's (Wolf Kahler) face is drained of life and implodes in a bloody mess, Toht's face literally melts off of his skull while he screams in pain, and Belloq's head explodes in a geyser of gore. Fun fact: Flames had to be superimposed over the image to avoid giving the film an R-rating, via Inside the Magic.

Indiana Jones and his ally/love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) only survive because they refused to look at the spirits that emerged from the Ark, and were thus not privy to God's judgment.