Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s simply a perfect action/adventure movie. It spans 5 countries, but never loses focus. Every scene builds on the one before it, as things grow more interesting, more exciting, scarier, funnier.
The film is more subtle in its subversion of cliches and conventions so stereotypical of the genre, however. Indiana Jones is nothing like what we expect a leading man in a blockbuster, much less an action hero, to be. He has no background in combat or heroism, he’s a university professor who only knows how to defend himself because people keep trying to rob and kill him. He’s a coward, best known for is fear of snakes, and the famous scene where he shoots the sword-fighter. You can see the exhaustion in Harrison Ford’s eyes, because he did all his own stunts in the movie. He looks like the average person would look if they had to do in real life the things actions heroes do in movies.
This continual exasperated expression that seems to say “Do I have to?” helps the film avoid glorifying violence to the same extent so many other action films do. Indiana Jones is no badass, he’s a single somewhat wimpy guy going against an army in a desperate attempt to stop the Nazis from weaponizing the very wrath of God. His love interest flirts with the villain. It helps that the villain is the one guy in the whole movie more cowardly than Indiana Jones. I don’t think he every directly commits an act of violence against anyone in that whole movie. But he’s got an army behind him, and Indiana Jones just barely survives every new challenge. Then, at the final confrontation between the hero and villain, which in any other action movie would be a huge fight scene, Indiana Jones triumphs over the Nazis by standing still and closing his eyes It’s one of the few actions movies in which knowledge saves the world, rather than violence.