With the sad news that Sean Connery passed away at the age of 90, I was suddenly struck by all his performances that made an impression on me. While many would likely point to his time as James Bond as his most influential work, I grew up watching him play Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on repeat. He had so many great moments in that film, many of which still bring a smile to my face. So, in honor of his legacy, here are some of my favorites.
Henry Jones Bashing Indiana Jones Over The Head With A Vase
About a quarter of the way into the movie, Indiana Jones has reached the castle on the Austrian and German border where his father, Sean Connery's Dr. Henry Jones, is being held. Indy finds a way in by swinging across a rooftop and crashing through a window. Henry Jones, believing it to be “one of them,” takes a vase and bashes it over Indiana Jones’ head.
What’s great about this moment is when Sean Connery starts analyzing the vase rather than his own son’s head. He’s distraught that he ruined a 14th century Ming Dynasty historical vase before being relieved that it’s a fake, not caring much about his son’s injured head. This is a perfect setup to their relationship, with great dialogue thanks to Tom Stoppard. But Sean Connery’s performance as a distant father and a scholar more concerned for historical antiquities is brilliant. He establishes both the humor of the character, but also how seriously he takes his area of study.
Indiana Jones Realizing Henry Jones Had Also Slept With Dr. Elsa Schneider
Shortly after Indiana Jones is betrayed by Dr. Elsa Schneider, he confronts his dad and says, “How did you know she was a Nazi?” Calm and controlled, Henry Jones replies, “She talks in her sleep.” It doesn’t take Indiana Jones long to figure out what that means.
It’s fair to say this is one of the more awkward moments in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Still, Sean Connery’s casual and unashamed performance makes it humorous and reveals another small side to his character. I also can’t help but wonder if this is a nudge-nudge moment to Sean Connery’s time playing James Bond.
Henry Jones Gasping In Shock At Indiana Jones Killing Nazis
Not long after Indiana Jones comes to rescue his dad, several Nazis enter with machine guns, demanding they hand over Henry Jones’ Grail Diary. Henry Jones scoffs, mocking the Nazis for believing Indiana Jones would be stupid enough to bring the diary all the way back. Of course, Indiana Jones did just that. But, instead of handing it over, Indiana Jones seizes a machine gun and guns down the Nazis. Henry Jones, in absolute shock, says, “Look what you did. I can’t believe what you did.”
This sets up a clever juxtaposition between Henry Jones and Indiana Jones, one against violence and the other perfectly fine with it. But, it’s really Sean Connery’s gasps of surprise and his fatherly disapproval that sells this dynamic in their relationship. The way he expresses it, you can just imagine he still sees Indiana Jones as the young boy he raised, not the adult man who kills people.
Henry Jones Not Understanding Why Indiana Jones Won’t Get In The Boat
In this scene, Indiana Jones and Henry Jones are on the run from Nazis, having just escaped the castle. Indiana Jones sees a boat and says, “Great, more boats.” He gets in a boat and starts it up, looking like he’s going to get away in it. He doesn’t, though. As the boat floats away, Henry Jones says, “What about the boat? We’re not going on the boat?”
This is a small, yet funny moment that highlights an important part of their relationship. Sean Connery's character is kind of a helpless child at this point, which is slightly antithetical to his former roles as an action star. He doesn't really know what's going on and is following his son's lead. Sean Connery performs this humorous role effortlessly and with great aplomb.
Henry Jones Looking Displeased With His Son’s Reckless Driving
The motorcycle chase scene ranks pretty high as one of my favorites in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s fast-paced, exciting and you get to see Indiana Jones joust with a Nazi. You may not have noticed it, but that’s not really why the motorcycle chase scene is so good. It’s, again, because of Sean Connery’s killer performance as Henry Jones.
In the scene, Indiana Jones is having the time of his life while Henry Jones sits in the sidecar. Henry Jones is not happy and every time Indiana looks at him with a smile on his face, Henry Jones gives him a scowl. Anyone can do a motorcycle chase scene. Not everyone can use a scene like that to propel the relationship of two characters without saying much of anything, and that's in large part thanks to Sean Connery’s performance. Only moments before, Sean Connery was the helpless child playing for comedic relief, but now that's changed. He's the disappointed father, unimpressed by his son's reckless violence. Sean Connery may also have been a bit nervous with Harrison Ford’s driving in real life, which could have bled into the performance.
Henry Jones Asking Indiana Jones What They Should Talk About
After several exhilarating and action-packed events, Indiana Jones gets a quiet moment with Henry Jones. They’re on a zeppelin having dinner when Indiana Jones airs some of his grievances with Henry Jones’ parenting. So, to deflate Indiana’s complaining, Henry Jones simply asks, “What do you want to talk about?” Indiana Jones is speechless.
This moment itself is perfect, highlighting an all-too-common dysfunction between fathers and sons. But there’s something about the way Sean Connery delivers that line that makes the moment so much better. Any other way to deliver that line and it doesn’t have the same impact, but leave it to Sean Connery to give it something a little more.
Henry Jones Having No Idea What He’s Doing Inside A Cockpit
Henry Jones is a scholar, not a fighter. This is clear when he doesn’t know what “eleven o’clock” means and grabs the machine gun and starts firing all over, missing every time and shooting their plane’s tail by mistake. Without skipping a beat, he turns to Indiana Jones and says, “Son, I’m sorry. They got us.”
What’s interesting at this moment isn’t just the humor, but also the slight character change. Up to this point, Henry Jones had been mildly antagonistic to Indiana Jones, pushing back and challenging him. But suddenly, Henry Jones doesn’t want to let his son down and shows that by blaming it on the enemy instead.
Henry Jones Destroying A Plane With An Umbrella And Some Birds
Indiana Jones and Henry Jones are on the beach. Indiana Jones is out of bullets and a Nazi fighter plane is headed straight toward them. Suddenly, Henry Jones has a revelation, taking his umbrella and using it to scare the flock of seagulls on the beach. The scurry of birds takes to the skies, resulting in the plane being destroyed.
From Sean Connery’s “tooktooktook” sound he makes to scare the birds to his casual stroll back to Indiana after his victory, the moment is pure and powerful thanks to Sean Connery’s performance. Sean Connery basks in the victory by cheerfully saying to Indiana Jones, “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne. ‘Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky.’”
Henry Jones Thinking His Son Is Dead
Indiana Jones and the goose-stepping Nazi known as Vogel fight on top of a tank headed straight for a cliff. The tank careens over the edge, plummeting Vogel to his death and taking Indiana Jones with him. Henry Jones and the others look over the edge, believing Indy had died. In this emotional moment, Henry Jones says, “I lost him and I never told him anything…” But shortly after, Indiana Jones climbs to the surface and joins them. With surprising joy, Henry Jones embraces his son and says, “I thought I’d lost you, boy.”
This is the ultimate turn for these two characters. It took Indiana Jones’ possible death to reveal to Henry Jones’ failures as a father. Sean Connery’s authentic, emotional and convincing performance strikes a perfect balance. From the shock on his face to the horror in his voice and the dread you can hear in each word, Sean Connery nails this moment. It still gives me chills, and I’ve re-watched it countless times.
Henry Jones Reasoning With His Son
After Dr. Schneider takes the Holy Grail and crosses the seal, a chasm opens, causing her to plummet to her death. Indiana Jones falls too, but Henry Jones grabs him by the hand. Indiana Jones believes he can grab the Grail, but Henry Jones pleads with him for his other hand. Up to this point, Henry Jones had been calling him Junior, but in this emotional scene, he calls him Indiana, convincing him to let the Grail go.
This is undoubtedly one of the best scenes in the movie, fully completing Henry Jones’ arc from a distant father to a loving one. And again, Sean Connery takes it over the finish line with a calm, serene look on his face and a warm, fatherly tone in his voice when he says, “Indiana.” And that’s all he needs to say to his son to convince him that the Grail doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the one thing Sean Connery’s character ever wanted, but instead, he chose his son.
Sean Connery is so solid in this movie, and in some ways, he saves it from being “just another Indiana Jones” movie. It also helps that he and Harrison Ford had wonderful chemistry. It’s a shame that he hadn’t returned for another installment. There are countless moments, both big and small, for Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I chose the ones that have always stuck out to me, but which moments have mattered most to you? Let us know in the comments!