Indiana Jones and the Cold War

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released in 2008, was set in 1957. With the fifth movie in the series set to be released in 2019, let’s assume there’s a similar 11 year gap between Crystal Skull and Indy 5. That puts it in 1968, which provides a some fascinating opportunities for locations and plot.


The focus of American politics in 1968 was, of course, Vietnam. The war there was escalating and the CIA were active across the region in attempts to provide support to US allies and undermine their adversaries. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were political and military hot spots for the US and USSR during this time.

The region also has a rich cultural history that’s reflected in it’s many Hindu and Buddhist temples. Probably the most famous of these, Angkor Wat, dates back to the 12th century and has been used as a location for multiple movies; it was a location for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a character that has a direct lineage to Indiana Jones.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The CIA’s activities in the region included their secretly owning  Air America, a passenger and cargo airline that was a front for their operations in Laos. This allowed them to move people, supplies and munitions across a region where US military could not legally operate. The CIA were also, at this time, active in Tibet as they worked to undermine the Chinese government’s occupation.

The American Sector, Berlin, 1968

The Cold War

Vietnam was a focal point primarily for America and, from a global perspective, the cold war was being fought. 1968 saw the Prague Spring, where an attempted uprising in Czechoslovakia was brutally crushed by Warsaw Pact forces. Spy agencies from across the globe were playing a cat and mouse game in East and West Berlin.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in Moscow in 1968. This was an agreement between several of the major nuclear and non-nuclear powers to attempt to stem the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that did not already have them.

Chasing down treasures and clues across the globe is an established part of any Indiana Jones movie, and the politics of 1968 provide so many great backdrops for espionage, intrigue, adventure.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the power of the Ark itself was an analogy for the competing race between the US and Germany to develop nuclear weapons. If the Ark, seized by the CIA and put into the hands of their “top men”, was incorporated into the Manhattan Project, then it would be a fitting conclusion to the movies if the fifth and (presumably) final outing saw Indy exploring lost temples and evading spies while saving the world from a nuclear threat.


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