The Indiana Jones franchise turns 40 next year, and to mark the milestone event, a brand new movie will hit theaters. Harrison Ford is returning as the titular archaeologist, but Steven Spielberg appears to be handing the reins over to another director. Who knows what to expect from the next outing, but it should be a fun, pulpy adventure nonetheless.
Throughout the years, however, other Indy movies have been discussed that could have resulted in more screen adventures for the archaeologist. Granted, maybe it’s for the best that a couple of these proposed movies didn’t happen, but for the most part, they actually sound quite good. And besides, most of them would have turned out better than The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Indiana Jones movies that could have been.
A Supernatural Horror Movie
The Indiana Jones movies boast some scenes that wouldn’t seem out of place in a horror film (the face-melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example), but this movie would have pitted the hero against an ominous threat. Written by Diane Thomas of Romancing the Stone fame, the story followed the archaeologist through a haunted castle, but those are the only details about the project that are known at this time. In the end, though, Spielberg vetoed the idea because he’d just produced Poltergeist and didn’t want to repeat himself with something similar.
Indiana Jones and the Monkey King
Before The Last Crusade came to fruition, George Lucas toyed with this idea for the third movie. Chris Columbus was hired to write the script, and he came up with a story that featured ghosts, Nazis, pirates, gorillas, undead armies, pygmies, and peaches that could bring people back to life.
The story begins with Indy getting into a battle of wits with the ghost of a dead nobleman in a haunted castle, but the cusp of the tale takes place in Africa, as Indy searches for a lost city where the Fountain of Youth is located. Upon arrival, though, he crosses paths with the Monkey King, gets killed and resurrected, and engages in a game of chess where the pieces are humans who disintegrate after being eliminated from the game.
The idea was ultimately shelved after Lucas and co. deemed it too far-fetched and unrealistic, not to mention problematic and stereotypical in regards to its portrayal of African people. Still, an Indy movie from the writer of Gremlins does sound fascinating, no matter how off the rails it would have been.
Indiana Jones and The Lost Continent
Information about this one is scarce, but the assumption is that the film would have seen Indy on a journey to find the lost city of Atlantis. The video game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis — which was released in the ‘90s to much critical acclaim — was viewed by some as a precursor to a new movie. Still, in the end, those rumors amounted to nothing more than speculation.
Indiana Jones and the Saucermen from Mars
In the ‘90s, George Lucas began developing an idea for a fourth movie in which Indy would have faced off against Russian spies and aliens. The script was initially written by Jeb Stuart, but Jeffrey Boam, who penned The Last Crusade, inherited those duties later on.
In this one, Indy becomes smitten with a linguist who is conducting research on a mysterious cylinder. However, she disappears on their wedding day, and he tracks her down to a secret military facility where he learns that she’s been investigating UFOs. Shortly after, though, a spaceship appears, and it doesn’t take long until they find themselves having close encounters of the third kind.
The project was canned due to the release of Independence Day, another movie that revolves around an alien invasion scenario. However, aliens did make their way into the franchise eventually with The Crystal Skull, showing that anything is possible in this universe.
Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods
This is the most disappointing project to never see the light of day. Written by Frank Darabont, this was Spielberg’s preferred choice for the fourth movie, but Lucas wasn’t a fan of his drafts, which prompted him to hire David Koepp to write the film that became Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Darabont’s script borrowed elements from The Saucermen from Mars, though the alien invasion stuff wasn’t as heavy-handed. The story took place in the 1950s and followed an Indy who was past his prime, and rumor has it he also had a daughter. However, after coming into possession of a crystal skull, he sets off to find the City of the Gods to discover its secrets, which brings him into contact with extraterrestrial beings who anoint him as their chosen one.
Some of Darabont’s ideas found their way into The Crystal Skull, but this one will go down in history as a case of wondering what could have been. All because one important person wasn’t a fan of a script, even though his peers thought it was excellent.