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The Entire Indiana Jones Timeline Explained

Few could have imagined when Indiana Jones first burst into our collective consciousness with 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that he'd become a figure of almost mythical proportions, spawning an entire universe that would still be going strong over forty years later. Certainly not director Steven Spielberg, who told the New York Times upon the movie's release that the script looked so overwhelming that he'd decided to just make ”a real good B-plus film. I decided not to shoot for a masterpiece, but to make a good movie that told George's story very well." 

It just goes to show how incredible a character Indiana Jones is, because despite Spielberg's best efforts, a masterpiece is what he got. Since that first film, Indy's gone on to star in three more movies, with a fifth on its way. He's appeared in video games, comic books, a series of novels, and even had his own ABC show in the early '90s ("The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"). He's fought Nazis, Soviets and grave robbers, and his villains have become almost as famous as Indy himself. 

Though not all fans may realize it, the world of Indiana Jones is far more expansive than the films, and it can take some work to sort through his life. Of course, it doesn't help that the movies aren't quite in chronological order. But that's why we're here to help set his timeline in order and explain Indiana Jones' sometimes messy life. 

1872 - 1899 — The Jones Family

Much of who Indiana is came, for better or worse, from his parents. His dad, Henry Walton Jones, Sr. was born in 1872 in Scotland, while his mother, Anna Mary Jones, was born to a wealthy family in Virginia. Indy's dad seemed to have a volatile life from the beginning, admitting to his son in the 1996 TV movie "Young Indiana Jones: Travels with Father" that he ran away from home a time or two.

Henry Sr., though, was smart as a whip, and in time he attended and graduated from Oxford University. This is where, according to "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Henry met and befriended Marcus Brody, who'd go on to hire Indiana at Marshall College and even accompany the Jones men on their quest for the Grail. That is, when he wasn't getting lost in his own museum. 

Henry and Anna met and fell in love after he graduated from Oxford. They moved to Connecticut and Henry became a professor of medieval literature. With that background, it's no wonder the senior Jones became obsessed with the Holy Grail. His Grail Diary began, according to "Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide," back during his college days as little more than a composite of all the literary myths and legends that pointed, or so the professor believed, towards the Grail's location. It took decades to grow into the roadmap so desperately sought by the Nazis. Then finally, on July 1, 1899, Henry Walton Jones Jr. was born. 

1908 - 1910 — Young Indiana Jones

Henry Jones Jr. didn't keep his name for long. His parents made the mistake of introducing him to the new family dog, an Alaskan Malamute when the tot was still in the crib. Henry was so enamored with the dog that, by the time he was six, according to "The Ultimate Guide," he'd adopted the dog's name, Indiana, as his own.

Part of Indy rejecting his own name, though, came from him wanting out from under his father's shadow. The two never got along great, with Anna Jones doing her best to act as a calming force as the three of them traveled the world on a lecture circuit. Those travels, from 1908 to 1910, made up the earliest years of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." The circuit took the Jones family from Egypt's Valley of Kings and Tangiers, Morocco, to Vienna and Beijing. 

Indy was practically the Forest Gump of the archeological world, even when he was a kid. His first adventures involved meeting Thomas Edward Lawrence, who Indy just called "Ned." History, on the other hand, would remember him as Lawrence of Arabia. Indiana also ran across Howard Carter, the archeologist who discovered King Tut's tomb, and later, befriend Teddy Roosevelt himself in Kirinyaga in "British East Africa," a territory that encompassed Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar and Tanzania. Is it any wonder that the boy would decide to go his own way and become an archeologist, rather than follow in his father's literary footsteps?

1912 — The Boy Scout

Indy's relationship with his father was always strained — so much so that an entire adventure of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" revolved around his mom urging the two Henrys to spend time together and bond. The family worked for its first 13 years, but barely. When Anna died in 1912, Indy and his father struggled to even communicate. It didn't help that Henry moved them from Princeton to Utah, which is where they were living in the opening of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

This is where we really see much of Indiana (played by the late River Phoenix) as we'd come to know him emerging at the tender age of 13. The precocious Boy Scout came upon a group of thieves pilfering the Cross of Coronado and he took it upon himself to get it back. After all, it belonged in a museum. During this mini adventure, Indiana cracks his first whip trying to tame a lion after falling into the big cat's train car, and gains his crippling fear of snakes after falling into a snake pit.

In the end, Indy even gains his trademark fedora, given to him by one of the thieves as an admission of respect for his young adversary. That fedora's even more impressive, knowing that Indy's managed to hold onto it for decade after decade, through countless adventures and near-death experiences. Or maybe he just liked the way it looked so much, he's replaced it a few hundred times.

1916 - 1919 — The War Years

Four years pass and Indiana grows from idealistic teen to ... slightly older idealistic teen. He can't shake his tendency to stumble upon the greatest historical figures of the 20th century, though, and during his "Spring Break Adventure" (by now, you probably noticed that "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" were pretty spot-on with their episode names) in New Mexico, he and his cousin Frank are kidnapped by Mexican Revolution general Pancho Villa. 

While there, he meets and becomes fast friends with Belgian Rémy Baudouin and by the end of the adventure, the two decide to join the fighting in World War I. Indy's had better ideas. In "Trenches of Hell," he lies about his age and adopts the name Henri Défense. "Henri" and Rémy get a firsthand taste of the trench warfare at Flanders and witness the horrors of the Battle of Somme. By the time they move on from Europe to Africa, they've had just about enough war. 

When they find a treasure map on the body of a dead soldier in "Treasure of the Peacock Eye," they figure it's time for fortune and glory by finding the fabled diamond named, as one might guess, the Eye of the Peacock. They don't succeed, but in the end, Indy realizes it's time to get back to his life in America and fulfill his ambition to become an archeologist. He's let greed get in the way of his dreams and ideals for too long.

1920 - 1926 — University Studies

After returning from the war, Indiana resumes his schooling, studying archeology at the University of Chicago. Over the course of several episodes of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," Indy meets everyone from his roommate Elliot Ness, to reporter Ernest Hemingway and hoodlum Al Capone. Indy also first meets René Belloq during this time, according to "The Ultimate Guide Book." The two competing archeologists go on to clash a number of times over the years, so that by the time they run into each other in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," they're all but mortal enemies.

But perhaps most importantly for Indiana, as we learn in "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," this is when he first meets Harold Oxley and studies under Marion Ravenwood's father, Abner. Abner was a treasure hunter and archeologist obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant long before the Nazis ever tried searching for it. Indiana was his favored student.

Abner becomes something of a father figure for Indiana at this point, a pattern that the archeologist repeats over and over again throughout his life. When his relationship with his actual father was as strained as Indy's, it's no wonder that he searched out replacements everywhere he went. That surrogate relationship comes to a close however, after Indiana woos Marion. Their relationship collapses in less than a year and the fallout costs Indy not just Marion, but also Abner and Oxley. At least, for a time.

Temple of Doom — 1935

By the time of Indiana's first film adventure (chronologically, at least) the archeologist is already a seasoned adventurer. By 1935, he'd been traveling the world for over a quarter of a century. Though he was later a teacher at Marshall College, in 1935, he was a professor at Princeton. The Indiana Jones we first meet in Shanghai is already a capable pro with allies all over the world — allies like Wu Han and Short Round.

Indiana was in China, having tracked down the priceless Eye of the Peacock once more. That was the diamond he was after, according to "The Ultimate Guide," at the beginning of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Local crime lord Lao Che had it, and Indy apparently just couldn't let go of his obsession. At least now he wanted to preserve the artifact, rather than profit off of it. Then things go horribly, horribly wrong. 

For one thing, Indy doesn't get the diamond. Instead, Wu Han is murdered, lounge singer Willie Scott tags along much to Indiana's annoyance, and their plane goes down in the mountains of India after being sabotaged by Lao Che. But really, that's all in a day's work for Indiana Jones ... though tackling child slavery, a murderous, brainwashing Thugee cult, and a cult-leader capable of tearing hearts out with his bare hands ends up being a bit more than the norm. But just a bit. At least Indiana and Willie find love. For about a year. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark — 1936

Though "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is the second film in the timeline, it was the first of the series. This movie started it all, building the world, setting the tone and pitting Indiana against the Nazis for the first time. Indy was ahead of the times, punching Nazis years before his own country ever decided to take them on, and even before World War II officially started in 1939. 

Both Willie and Short Round are gone by now with no explanation. It makes sense, seeing as how they hadn't been created yet, but it's frustrating from a continuity standpoint. But Willie and Indy must have parted on decent terms since he has a framed photo of her in his home in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." And Short Round, according to "The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones" released in 2008, follows in Indy's footsteps and tracks the Eye of the Peacock down in 1957.

In "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Indiana is contacted by the U.S. government after they learn the Nazis are interested in Indy's old mentor, Professor Ravenwood. They're after the Ark of the Covenant and Indy heads out to beat them to the punch. In the process, he reconnects with Marion and battles it out with Belloq one final time, before ending the film a bit wiser about the power of the artifacts he searches for. If you're not careful, they could melt your face off. 

The Last Crusade — 1938

By 1938, Marion and Indiana had experienced another falling out that was apparently bad enough that she never told him about their son, Mutt. But that was a problem for another movie. Indy's father, Henry, was this movie's problem. The elder Jones had been obsessing over the Grail for over four decades by now — far longer, even, than Indiana had been alive.

In all that time he'd been keeping a diary — his Grail Diary — dating back to his time in Oxford. Back then, the search for the Grail was little more than a hobby, but by 1938 it was all-consuming. That obsession caught the eyes of the Nazis (though Henry didn't realize it when hired by art collector Walter Donovan to find the Grail). They were back to their old tricks trying to collect objects of power and twist them to their own perverse use.

When Henry does realize what's going on, he ships his diary off to his estranged son, and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" kicks into full force. Indy picks up his father's quest — ostensibly only to find his dad, but he'd be lying if he didn't admit that the archeological quest didn't give him a thrill. As does the lovely-but-deadly Elsa Schneider. By the end of their adventure, fighting Nazis has become a heartwarming family pastime, the Grail has been found and lost (perhaps forever now) and the Jones men seem to finally reconcile.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — 1957

After nearly 20 years, Indiana finally returned to the big screen in 2008, but the gap between when we last saw Indy — our Indy — isn't quite as long as between the third and fourth movies. Harrison Ford makes one appearance as a bearded, older Indiana in an episode of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." "Mystery of the Blues" starts and ends in 1950, at which time Indy recounts while on the run from thugs (as he usually is), why a saxophone he finds holds such fond memories of New Orleans for him.

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was the first film to come out since "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" and they own that fact. The film makes subtle references here and there to Indy's younger days, like when Mutt learns about Indy riding with Pancho Villa. 

This film's adventure starts as another missing persons case. But rather than searching for his father — who had passed away by 1957 — Indiana went off looking for his university friend, Harold Oxley and former flame Marion Ravenwood. Over the course of his quest, Indy is forced to help the Soviets in their search for the crystal skulls and finally learns that Mutt is his and Marion's son. Indy's older, wiser, and a bit more introspective, but he's still up to the challenge of taking down the bad guys, rescuing his loved ones and coming face to face with the "extra-dimensional" forces at the heart of this tale.

Indiana Jones 5 — 1960s?

While we aren't entirely sure where in Indy's timeline the as-yet-untitled fifth film will take place, there's been plenty of speculation that it's going to be in the '60s. That seems like a safe bet, since Indy's mostly been allowed to age with Harrison Ford, and by the time the film comes out, 15 years will have passed since "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Though if filmmakers allow the full amount of time to pass from 1957, that would put it in the '70s.

Still, fans point to a tweet from director James Mangold that seems to back up the '60s idea. He writes that he's "mentally living in '60s NYC right now cause that's where all the movies I'm working on take place." And since the fifth Indy film is one of those movies, it seems to be a pretty clear signal that it, too, is taking place then.

Shia LaBeouf's Mutt is out, but though there's been no word that Karen Allen's Marion will be returning, the actress has been coy about the question in the past, telling Movieweb that "Ooh you might [see Marion again.] I don't know ... time will tell!" It does look like, however, the Nazis are back as DigitalSpy reported after video footage from production was released. There's always something cathartic about watching Indiana Jones tearing through the fascists.

Old Indy — 1992 - 1993

It's not entirely clear how long Indiana Jones lives, but according to "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" he's still alive and well into the early '90s. Well, mostly well. At some point in the last 30-some years he lost his right eye and had to start wearing an eye patch. This is the Indiana who narrates most of the show's adventures, providing bookends to each story. 

There's no mention of Mutt (since he hadn't been created yet), but it looks like Shia LaBeouf's character wasn't an only child because Indy does have a daughter. He also has grandkids Spike and Lucy and great-grandkids Annie and Harry. The man is in his 90s, after all. We never find out what his daughter's name is — she's only credited as "Old Indy's Daughter" — but we do know that he has a cat named Henry. So that's something.

And this is where, as far as we know right now, the timeline of Indiana Jones concludes. Though he's still a relatively spry 94-year-old when last we see him, it's probably safe to say that he's gone by the 2020s. Otherwise Indiana would be over 120 years old, and unless he found the Fountain of Youth (which, honestly, is more plausible for him than any other character fictional or otherwise), that's a bit extreme. Then again, he did once take a sip from the Holy Grail.