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Raiders of the Lost Ark

George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford introduced the world to the world's most famous archaeologist with this peerless smash hit action adventure.

Ford plays an adventurous archaeology professor who embarks on a quest for the Ark of the Covenant (which contained the tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments, apparently), and comes up against villainous Nazis, supernatural forces, and a whole heap of snakes.

The film was the brainchild of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who wanted to film a modern version of the Republic adventure serials that thrilled him as a child. Drafting in fellow zeitgeist-grabbing baby boomer Steven Spielberg to direct, they originally cast Tom Selleck in the lead role. But his commitments to Magnum PI prevented him taking the role, so they handed it to Ford.

The structure of the modern big action film can be directly traced to Raiders' relentless stream of edge-of-your-seat action scenes intersped with witty character touches. Although rarely has the film been topped for its deft combination of these two elements.

Spielberg's involvement apparently came about as a result of his desire to make a James Bond - until then the model for the classic action film. But Lucas took him aside and said something to the effect of "Forget that, let's make our own Bond film".