When you think of the best archaeologist in movies, you probably picture Indiana Jones, but there are a slew of others.
In 2021, Simon Stone’s star-studded period drama The Dig had one of the better IMDb and Metascore ratings of all the Netflix originals released that year (7.2/10 and 73/100, respectively). Both Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan play archaeologists who are sent to Sutton Hoo in 1939 to excavate the site of a medieval burial ground.
Archaeology movies have been made since the 1930s, when Boris Karloff starred in the Mummy films. While archaeology continues to be featured in horror films, it has been reimagined in a number of different subgenres.
10. Scarlett Marlowe – As Above, So Below (2014)
In John Erick Dowdle’s 2014 horror adventure, As Above, So Below, Welsh actress Perdita Weeks plays Scarlett Marlowe, an archaeology scholar who has to put her theory into practice when exploring the horrifying catacombs beneath Paris in John Erick Dowdle’s 2014 horror adventure.
The Philosopher’s Stone is rumored to be hidden in the labyrinthine catacombs, which are designed after the seven levels of Hell. Scarlett is driven to find it. However, the further she travels through the catacombs, the more in danger she becomes.
9. Benjamin Gates – National Treasure (2004)
Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is an archaeologist and historian in the high-budget National Treasure series on a vast search for the Templar Treasure.
Ben forms a ragtag team to go on a cross-country scavenger hunt after receiving hints from his grandfather (Christopher Plummer). To make matters more difficult for himself, Ben has to deal with his disapproving father (Jon Voight) and a cowardly sidekick (Sean Bean) who is out to steal the Declaration of Independence.
8. Basil Brown – The Dig (2021)
Oscar-winner In The Dig, Ralph Fiennes plays archaeologist Basil Brown, a self-taught archaeologist in England who is tasked with excavating the ancient Sutton Hoo gravesite’s remains.
Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), a widow and owner of the Sutton Hoo grounds in Suffolk, England, hires Brown to dig up the crypt and find out what’s inside it in 1939. Excavation of valuable items suggests the presence of royalty as Brown works, but after an accident on the job, he begins to spend more time with Edith than he intended.
7. Lara Croft – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
However, Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider films remains iconic as any modern-day cinematic archaeologist in spite of being based on a fictional video game character.
Additionally, Jolie is a perfect fit for the role of badass, gun-toting, backflipping explorer out to find an ancient artifact that has the power to control time, which is being played by Alicia Vikander in a reboot of the film. As she travels the world, Croft encounters perils, traps, and villains along the way.
6. Dr. Daniel Jackson – Stargate (1994)
Stargate, the sci-fi action adventure film directed by Roland Emmerich, is a first-of-its-kind fusion of the futuristic cosmos and ancient Egypt. Excavation of a mysterious teleportation pod in Egypt serves as the story’s starting point.
When Col. Jack O’Neill (Kurt Russell) and archaeologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader) find the pod, they agree to get in and travel through time and space to a planet where the natives worship the Egyptian Sun God, Ra.
5. Evelyn Carnahan – The Mummy (1999)
When it comes to the spotlight, it is the brilliant but bumbling Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) who uses her archaeological acumen to survive The Mummy.
The fun-filled adventure series reinterprets the mythic lore of the Boris Karloff-starring Mummy films of the 1930s. Rick and Evelyn are forced to fight for their lives when the reanimated corpse of High Priest Imhotep, cursed by the Pharaohs, is unleashed on the world.
4. Percy Fawcett – The Lost City Of Z (2016)
The Lost City of Z by James Gray is based on the true story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a famous British explorer and surveyor who set out to discover a thriving jungle metropolis in South America in the 1920s.
Fawcett battles through oppressive heat, cannibalistic locals, deadly mosquitoes, false information, crew strife, and more to find the lost paradise. Before going missing in 1925, Fawcett put his own life in jeopardy by carrying out his mission while also risking the lives of those close to him.
3. Lankester Merrin – The Exorcist (1973)
Even though his actions in The Exorcist’s Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow) make him one of the worst cinematic archaeologists, he cannot be excluded from the list.
Merrin is on her way to Iraq to take part in an archaeological dig when William Friedkin’s horror classic gets under way. During his investigation, he comes across a demonic relic named Pazuzu, which sets off a chain of events that culminates in the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair).
2. Elizabeth Shaw – Prometheus (2012)
With his 1979 masterpiece Alien, Ridley Scott’s 2012 film Prometheus serves as a de facto sequel to Emmerich’s blend of ancient Egypt and intergalactic travel.
Archaeologist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is played by Noomi Rapace in the film, and she is a complex character who believes in both science and religion. An ancient star map found in Scotland in 2089 points to a distant moon where humanity’s origins are said to have begun, and Shaw and her partner Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) follow the map to find it. The bad news is that she and her team are about to meet a hostile alien race.
1. Indiana Jones – Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is, without a doubt, cinema’s greatest archaeologist. Indiana Jones has already been through four films’ worth of peril as he seeks to find the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple of Doom, the Holy Grail, and the Crystal Skull of Atlantis. Jones will embark on a new mission in 2022. This one will be even more dangerous.
Ford’s Indiana is one of the most endearing fictional characters ever created, thanks to his charisma and trademark charm. Additionally, George Lucas, the man behind the story and the character, and director Steven Spielberg deserve praise for consistently churning out top-tier pop culture fare.