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Movie Legends Revealed: Alternate Ending For Raiders of the Lost Ark?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was an alternate ending filmed for Raiders of the Lost Ark that was cut from all U.S. prints of the film for fear it would be offensive to U.S. film-goers.

One of the most fun aspects of living in the DVD/Blu-Ray/YouTube generation is that so many never-before-seen pieces of pop-culture history are now available to us, whether as extras on DVD/Blu-Ray collections or just as clips that pop up out of nowhere on YouTube. The recent Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures box set, for instance, has a partial alternate version of the classic fight between Indiana Jones and the Sworsdman. While in the released film Indy famously just pulls out his gun and shoots the guy, that shortened version resulted from Harrison Ford being physically unable to continue the original, much more elaborate scene in which Indy fights him off only using his bullwhip (it appears likely some intestinal issues played a major role in Ford’s inability to complete the sequence as written). The box set shows what little they filmed of the original version. There are other notable deleted scenes, of course, including one that explained how Indy was able to survive atop the Nazi submarine toward the end of the film (he ties himself to the periscope with his bullwhip). However, one is most famous for the fact that it doesn’t actually exist!

Raiders of the Lost Ark tells the tale of archaeologist Indiana Jones racing around the world to find the lost Ark of the Covenant, the ancient chest said to have contained the Ten Commandments. The Nazis want the Ark because they believe it will make their army unbeatable (the movie is set in 1936). The United States wants to prevent the Nazis from obtaining the relic, and Jones goes along with the government because he knows it’s a priceless artifact. Eventually, the Nazis capture the Ark, although things do not end well for them.

Earlier in the film, the Ark is being transported in a crate labeled (in German, of course) “Property of the German Army,” along with the emblem of the German Army (not a Swastika, as many remember the scene having). While in the crate, though, the Ark burns off that emblem. It’s debatable as to why the Ark does this, exactly (the most popular theory is that it is evidence that the Ark belongs only to God and is responding to attempts to claim ownership over it).

At the end of the film, when Indiana Jones has delivered the Ark to the U.S. government, he’s assured that the government has “top men” examining the Ark. The film then reveals, though, that the government has simply placed the artifact in a crate labeled

ARMY INTEL 9906753


and the film ends with the crate being carted into a warehouse. As the camera pulls back, you see the warehouse is gigantic, indicating the government is keeping a whole lot of things secret.

It is a great ending, but many fans believe it was not the original. Reader Hector G. specifically asked about a common urban legend regarding an “Australian version” of the film’s ending that shows the U.S. Army logo being burned off, just like the German Army emblem was.

However, first off, as noted above, the crate has the above stenciled on it, but besides a stamp, that is it. There is no U.S. logo to burn off of the crate.

Secondly, and much more importantly, the scene does not exist. It is not in the film’s final continuity guide, and it is not in the film’s final dialogue script. It appears in no versions of the script. And, obviously, the most important aspect of it all, no one has ever actually shown it to exist. The legend has been repeated for years now (including “It is on the Region 4 DVD version of the film!”) without anyone ever showing a screen cap or a clip of the scene. As noted in the beginning, we live in an era where it is relatively simple to share information, and if such a clip actually existed, someone would have shared it by now.

It is certainly true that occasionally movies are slightly altered for release outside of the United States, but this is not one of those occasions.

The legend is…


Thanks to the amazing Indiana Jones website,, for valuable help in debunking this legend. If you have even the slightest interest in Indiana Jones, you’ll love their wonderful web site. Also, thanks to Hector for suggesting this legend!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!


  • SniktSnakt

    I remember the Marvel Comics adaptation of RAIDERS showed in one panel Indy tying himself to the periscope of the Nazi sub.  I always wondered why that was in there…

  • John Green

    Someone needs to re-watch the film. The swastika in the emblem on the crate is precisely what is shown being burned off. The camera shows the whole emblem, the eagle on top of the swastika, then it zooms in tight on just the swastika as it begins to burn.
    Here’s a screenshot (the camera pushes in even tighter):

  • Puly1333

    That´s the end of the movie that I saw on the Argentinian TV back in the day…

  • darthtigris

    I despise urban legends.  Even more, I despise how so many are so eager to believe them and even criticize me for debunking them with facts (  I despise urban legends …

  • guest

    Huh. As a kid, I thought that the government decided that the best way to protect the Ark was to hide it in a big government warehouse where nobody would be able to find it even if they wanted to. I mean, really, look at how many times people try to loot Project Pegasus.

  • Brick Hill

    Um… I’m Australian. I watched it in the cinema when it was released. It happened. Just bc it hasn’t since been released on DVD proves nothing. Anyone located an original Australian print of the film?

  • Alex

    The one that disturbs me is the one about Jamie Lee Curtis. Yikes, if true.

  • Khonsurises

    Another Aussie here.  Yep, I saw that scene, too.

  • Excronimuss

    Another Aussie, I’m sure I remember it too.

  • idolhunter

    Sorry Brian it does exist. I watched in cable tv right here in Manila, Philippines about 2-4 years ago. I only forgot if it was HBO or Star Movies that showed that version where the Ark burned the logo in the crate it was placed in, then the zooming out shot showing the US is keeping a lot of crates in a large warehouse.

  • Jet Auto Jerry

    I swear that i remember him tying himself when originally seen back in the day and when I just saw the liminted I-Max release I was wondering where it was.  Maybe I was confusing the comic, but I don’t think so.

  • Kevin Quinn

     They found the Ark of the Covenant; Christ tomb, Crucifixion site and the Ark of the Covenant found buried under a trash pile at the foot of Skull Mountain.

  • Inotropic

     That old warehouseman must have shown real dedication, pushing a smoldering box down the aisle and around the corner while the camera zoomed out.

  • Bill Olson

    I, too, saw it, returned the next day with 4 friends and we ALL SAW IT
    AGAIN! That was during it’s first week’s showing in Portland, Oregon.

    I bought and played the DVD, I was very surprised to see that the
    scene had been deleted. We all thought it was one of the better scenes
    in the whole movie.

    It’s amazing that this ‘clown’ and others,
    would rather swear I’m lying, than to even consider the possibility that
    they could be wrong! The repeated insistent denial and the act of
    cover-up, complete with an “urban-legend-website” and “debunking” video,
    all serve to DRAW attention TO the issue, not away from it! Why, and
    to whom, does it matter so much?

    Shakespeare said it best:
    “The lad[y] doth protest too much, methinks”

    one thing to remove a controversial scene that offends the government.
    But this elaborate cover-up is overkill. Now I’m really curious. I
    really wonder, what is the whole story behind this desperate

  • Bill Olson

    Your silly sarcasm is unfounded and arrogant.

    >>>The “old” warehouseman pushed the crate into it’s place in the pallet rack and then left the scene.
    >>>Then, after all the credits had rolled by, and after the curtains had closed, in the image, now projected on the curtains, we saw the writings burn away, just before the screen went to black.

    >>>That’s why I never leave a movie early… I would have never seen that special scene at the very end!

  • Inotropic

    Shouldn’t you be arguing with folks who insist it’s a pre-credits scene, or folks who insist it’s mid-credits scene, or folks who insist a flag stencil was burned?

    Or expend your energy finding evidence of any removed Raiders scene anywhere?

  • Truth

    I saw the scene too at the movie’s opening in Connecticut — right after the credits. No doubt at all it was a US logo being burned off. Went back soon afterwords to see the movie again and the scene was gone.

    Sorry — this urban legend is true.

  • Cine A Phile

    I saw this movie in the US as a very young adult when it first came out and I obsessed over it for two psychologically powerful reasons: firstly I was latently, efficaciously in childhood LOVE with Harrison Ford’s wry wit, hilarious acting and great looks, and secondly I was a religious NUT, I mean totally brainwashed, indoctrinated Jesus freak when I was 14, and for these reasons I obsessed over this movie, watching it dozens of times for hidden meanings and hidden pleasures of cinematography. Moreover, my youthful religious zeal and vast ignorance took for face value the existence of the Ark, never bothering to reference an encyclopedia and fact check– Understand the mind of this nutty religious 14yr old: I actually believed the ark as it was represented in the movie was in fact the REAL thing, borrowed and bartered for use in the movie, and so when the ark was boxed up and placed in a warehouse of nearly limitless size and obscuring capacity, I was struck dumb and felt real physical pain at the thought of Gods covenant, THE symbol of Gods love for his chosen people, swallowed up by millions of identically shaped boxes. I could not fathom why God would strip the only identification off of the crate that would lead men to a tangible understanding of his supreme divinity and power. Why would he let the Ark fall into ambiguity and darkness, rendered indistinct and hidden from me by his own will? It frustrated me to no end to think I was never in my lifetime going to see the actual ark. (So to recap, I can say with absolute certainty that, just as God “erased” the US stencil, just as he had burned off the Nazi markings, so had Mr.Lucas burned in my brain the memory of the two crate scenes, and erased a portion of my faith in God). Now of course this is a completely subjective anecdote to the argument, but it ought to be a compelling one nonetheless, if you can believe how insanely, contextually impacted I was by these scenes so many years ago. You can’t make this s%*t up! Cheers!

  • Stoshy

    How does Indy survive on top? Well, it should be known that those diesel submarines from back in the day, never fully submerged. Only when attacking did they submerge themselves. At night, they would remain surfaced to avoid sonar.

    Indy would be fine in this fictional scenario.

  • Politically Incorrect

    Sorry but you’re wrong. The scene DID exist and I saw it three times in the theater (USA) in 1981. It was not an alternate ending it was simply a scene that came after the final credits. The credits roll and when they are done the ark is again shown on the screen. Very slowly the government crate housing the ark begins to smolder and turn black on one spot, burning from the inside out. The scene then fades to black and the movie is over. I’m not sure why it was cut but is was there. Has anyone ever asked Steven Spielberg about it? Just because YOU never saw it doesn’t mean it never existed. It did.

  • D

    Hello Ladies and Gents, I must insist the “hidden label” ending is 100% real.
    I know this because I saw it more than a few times when I was younger, and it went something like this:
    It was the last scene of the movie, approx 25 seconds long… the camera zooms into the wooden box right after the person who stacked it goes away.
    You catch a little bit of the person leaving, he’s in blue overalls. The frame pans in slowly, and some creepy low level hum begins, sounding much like the earlier noise when the Nazi label was burned over, and the audience CLEARLY sees some otherworldly force remove/alter the information on the box– not by burning the info but by obfuscating the identification; making it become anonymous amongst all the other boxes above and below it.
    Once the label disappears/changes, the mysterious sound stops and the camera then pans out, revealing the enormity of the warehouse– the audience then understands the intention of “God”, as he has made locating the correct box among the hundreds of thousands of identical-looking boxes next to impossible. By doing so the power has been hidden again, and in keeping with the folklore, awaits its discovery far into the future once the next time the Israelites need the Ark to help them out of a situation like in the book of Exodus.

    I REMEMBER THIS FINAL SCENE like I remember my own middle name!!!

  • Minerva

    I remember that final scene too, and discovered only tonight that it wasn’t in the DVD version. I was living in Massachusetts when the movie came out, and it’s likely that I initially saw it in a first-run theatre. I just watched it again tonight, for the first time in decades, and sat all the way through the closing credits in anticipation of seeing the US army stamp burn off again. AND IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! Dang it!!! I talked about it with several people afterward, but none of them had ever watched all the way through to the end of the closing credits, so I looked it up when I got home. And I’m sorry Brian, but I did NOT wait for that scene again, find out it wasn’t there, come home and look it up on the internet, and learn that a bunch of other people also remember seeing it, only to be told by some know-nothing urban legend debunker that it never existed in the first place. *sheesh*

  • Minerva

    The burn starts at the Nazi symbol, in the close-up scene, but when you see the crate again later the entire image is burned off.

  • JohnGreenArt

    The article says “not a Swastika, as many remember the scene having.” My post and image was in response to that, which clearly shows the Swastika burning. The rest of the crate can burn as much as it wants, but the article says there was no Swastika.

  • Minerva

    Oh, there certainly was a swastika. But it was only part of the stamp. And the entire stamp burned off, not just that part (tho the movie cut to the next scene before the burn finished.) Brian seems to think there was nothing relevant to burn on the US Army crate, because it used words to declare ownership instead of a logo. You can think of that scene lightheartedly as just a little treat for viewers who stay through the credits, but it actually changes the meaning of the film. And it kind of creeps me out that they removed it, post-release, because it implies that someone was actively suppressing the idea that G*D wouldn’t want the ark to be owned by the US military either. But maybe it only looks sinister in retrospect, given the rise in power of US religious extremists over the past generation.

  • JohnGreenArt

    My reply was not in support or dispute of this supposed deleted alternate ending.

    I was only disputing the “no swastika” part of the article, which is clearly incorrect.

  • Minerva

    Understood. And you are correct that the author is wrong on that point as well.