Why Batman and Indiana Jones Seem to Face Off at the Box Office So Often
Indiana Jones and Batman have had movies open against each other in 1989, 2008, and 2023. Here is why they tend to face off at the box office.
Super Bowl 2023 featured plenty of trailers for upcoming movies, but two that stood out were The Flash which featured Michael Keaton as Batman and the other being Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the latest entry in the popular franchise with Harrison Ford returning as Indiana Jones. Both Indiana Jones and Batman are some of the biggest box office draws in Hollywood and are known the world over, so the prospect of these two icons facing off at the box office has many people excited. Yet this is far from the first time the two franchises have competed at the box office. Both 1989 and 2008 saw an Indiana Jones and Batman movie released in the same summer.
Take a look back at every time Indiana Jones and Batman have gone head-to-head at the box office and how they were received by audiences. Also, examine the similarities and differences between these two heroes and how each reflects a different aspect of heroism that audiences gravitate to.
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade vs Batman
The summer of 1989 marked the first time Indiana Jones and Batman went head-to-head at the box office. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opened on May 24, 1989, and went on to become the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. A beloved entry in the franchise and seen as an improvement over the previous film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, for many, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade seemed like the end of the character’s story, and would be for 19 years.
Tim Burton’s Batman, on the other hand, was the beginning of a franchise, and what a beginning it was. Batman changed the blockbuster landscape forever and took film marketing to a whole new level. Audiences loved Indiana Jones but 1989 was the summer of Batman in what is known as Batmania. At the time the movie broke opening weekend records and while Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was the highest-grossing film worldwide, Batman beat it at the domestic box office and was the highest-grossing movie based on a DC Comic…until 19 years later when Indiana Jones and Batman would face off once more.
2008: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull vs The Dark Knight
Nearly two decades after their first cinematic showdown, Indiana Jones and Batman went head-to-head at the box office once more, this time in the form of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight. The circumstances this time were a little different. Batman had multiple film incarnations and was now in the phase of a reboot series with Christian Bale playing Batman. Just like the first time around this was a Batman movie with him facing off against The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, whose tragic death before the movie’s release made The Dark Knight the event movie of the summer. Yet Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were equal to The Dark Knight in terms of anticipation. The film was the first time Indiana Jones had been on the big screen in 19 years and some guessed that the return of a cinematic icon would win out over another Batman movie.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened on May 21, 2008, and it was a box office hit and earned positive reviews among critics though fan reaction to Crystal Skull was divided. The movie grossed $790 million worldwide and was the second highest-grossing movie of the year worldwide. The Dark Knight, however, took the top spot of the year, grossing over $1 billion at the worldwide box office and receiving glowing reviews from fans and critics alike. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and Heath Ledger posthumously won Best Supporting Actor. The movie’s exclusion from Best Picture and the backlash forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science to expand the Best Picture nominees from five to ten films.
2023: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny vs The Flash
34 years out from their first box office showdown and 15 years since they last went head-to-head at the box office, history repeats itself with Indiana Jones and Batman being featured in summer movies released in the same year. This time it is a real throwback to 1989 as Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones is once again facing off against Michael Keaton’s Batman, with both making grand returns to their iconic characters.
Michael Keaton is not starring in a Batman movie, but instead is a supporting character in The Flash which is a multiverse adventure. Keaton’s Batman has been very prominent in the film’s marketing and Warner Bros. is hoping the audience’s excitement for seeing the actors return will help overshadow the headlines surrounding star Ezra Miller. Meanwhile, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is set to be the final Indiana Jones film with James Mangold stepping in as the director. Instead of opening on Memorial Day weekend like the two previous Indiana Jones films, the latest one opens on June 30, just two weeks after The Flash.
Why These Two Heroes Tend to Face Off at the Box Office
The fact that there have been three summer movie seasons that have had Indiana Jones and Batman facing off at the box office is certainly notable. While it isn’t entirely out of the ordinary for franchises to come out around similar times (The X-Men and Fast and Furious films both had entries released in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2019), there is a fascinating dichotomy between Indiana Jones and Batman.
Both are characters that have roots in pulp adventures of the 1930s, as Indiana Jones is inspired by the Saturday matinée action serials, while Batman is a comic book character that originated in the time period and even had movie serials. Indiana Jones is very much an action hero of the 1980s, one based on the power of the movie star playing him ,while Batman is an icon of the 1990s and modern era, where it is less about the person playing the hero and more about the brand recognition. Many actors have played Batman, but Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. Both are heroes without otherworldly powers, but Indiana Jones is very much an everyman, while Batman is a billionaire who can come up with any gadget he wants. Indiana Jones is always just barely hanging on in a fight while Batman has the upper hand. These are two of cinema’s most beloved heroes, and they have been entertaining audiences for decades. Now audiences get a chance to see them on the big screen again.