Indiana Jones ‘The Sword Fight’ Scene Shouldn’t Have Happened

Fact: Indiana Jones ‘The Sword Fight’ scene from the first Harrison Ford Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981, was never supposed to happen. Jones was never supposed to shoot the swordsman in Cairo.

Harrison Ford is an American actor who has played some of the best roles on Hollywood. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a timeless adventure film that has captured the hearts of moviegoers since its release in 1981. The movie not only gave rise to one of cinema’s most beloved action heroes, Indiana Jones, but it also showcased the dedication and resilience of the actor behind the iconic character, Harrison Ford. Behind the scenes, Ford faced various challenges, including battling dysentery during filming and influencing a memorable scene that famously quipped “Do not bring a knife to a gun fight.” 

In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was supposed to have a long sword fight with the black masked swordsman in Cairo. Why did the scene change? Did Harrison Ford get dysentery? Yes. The reason the take never progressed was because Harrison Ford got dysentery during the shoot of the movie. Ford stated in a Q&A hosted by Hero Complex’s Geoff Boucher,

raiders of the lost ark sword fight

“I had chosen to eat native food, unlike Steven who went to Tunisia with a steamer trunk full of Spaghettios, and I had suffered mightily for that. I was no longer capable of staying out of my trailer for more than it took to expose a role of film, which was 10 minutes, and then I would have to flee back there for sanitary facilities.”

Filming “Raiders of the Lost Ark” took the cast and crew to exotic locations that added an authentic touch to the adventure. However, it also brought unexpected challenges. During the Tunisia shoot, Ford fell seriously ill with dysentery. Despite being bedridden for several days, his determination to finish the film remained unwavering. His resilience and commitment to the project inspired the entire crew, and they rallied around him during his recovery.

One of the most memorable moments in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark sword fight scene occurs when Jones faces off against a menacing swordsman in Cairo’s bustling market. Originally, the script called for an elaborate fight sequence, showcasing Jones’ impressive sword-fighting skills. However, due to Ford’s dysentery-induced weakness, attempting such a physically demanding scene was out of the question.

indiana jones the sword fight scene

In a stroke of brilliance, Ford suggested a clever alternative. Instead of engaging in an elaborate fight, Indiana Jones nonchalantly draws his revolver and shoots the swordsman, dismissing him with an endearing smirk. The scene perfectly captures the essence of Indiana Jones as a quick-witted hero who prefers brains over brawn.

What is saddening by the whole stunt was that the individual playing in the raiders of the lost ark character, the swordsman, had trained a lot so that he could showcase his skills. It was hard for Harrison Ford and Spielberg to let him down.

“But this guy had trained and trained and trained, and we had to tell him that he was gonna die.”

Ford spoke with Steven Spielberg explaining that he just simply could not do that long of a take, and if there was any way to shorten the scene. The only remedy for this scene was if Indiana Jones took out a gun and ‘just shot the guy’. None of the crew knew that this change had been made. When the scene took, the entire crew on scene were laughing hysterically. That scene is regarded as the best scene in the entire movie.

Another memorable aspect of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is the witty and memorable lines delivered by Harrison Ford. One such iconic line occurs during a confrontation with a menacing adversary wielding a large machete. In the original script, the adversary showcased his skills with the weapon in an attempt to intimidate Jones.

However, Ford felt that Indiana Jones would be smarter than to engage in a direct fight with someone wielding a massive blade. Thus, he improvised the now-famous line, “You know what? You’re right,” and promptly shot the adversary, avoiding the dangerous encounter altogether.

Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a testament to his talent, dedication, and quick thinking as an actor. Despite battling dysentery during filming, he persevered, leaving an indelible mark on the world of cinema. The alteration of the iconic sword-wielding scene and the creation of the memorable “do not bring a knife to a gun fight” line exemplify Ford’s creative prowess and his profound understanding of the character he brought to life.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” remains a classic adventure film cherished by audiences of all ages. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones continues to inspire new generations of fans, reminding us that true heroes are not just defined by their physical strength, but also by their wit, resilience, and ability to overcome challenges with unwavering determination.


INDIANA JONES AND THE BIRTH OF A CLASSIC SCENE BY KEVIN CRAVEDI. (n.d.). MovieViral | the Home of Movies, TV Series, Sci-Fi, and Superheroes. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from

The Iconic Role That Made Harrison Ford Physically Ill. (2021, December 11). Looper.

Harrison Ford Recalls Weird Way Steven Spielberg Avoided Getting Dysentery Filming Raiders of the Lost Ark. (n.d.). Movies. Retrieved July 27, 2023, from

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