Study Guide

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Introduction

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Introduction

Release Year: 1984

Genre: Action, Adventure

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, George Lucas (story)

Stars: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw

You've seen all the movies. You've played all the video games. You've even assembled all the LEGO sets. No, we're not talking about Saving Private Ryan… although we can see how that film might come to mind. It also has Spielberg in the director's chair, Nazis, and internal organs shockingly made external.

But today we're talking about a franchise with a little more merchandising power: the one starring Indiana Jones, butt-kicking archeologist extraordinaire.

When we last saw Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), he'd come face-to-melted-off-face with a gaggle of Nazis during a struggle for a mystical artifact. It was almost as violent and thrilling as the last Black Friday sale we went to.

But for Indy's second adventure, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, we're sent a year into Indy's past. No, Dr. Jones hasn't found a time machine. (Shh, don't give George Lucas any ideas.) Even though it was made after Raiders in 1984, Temple of Doom is a prequel, set a year before Indy hunts down the Ark of the Covenant.

In 1935 Indiana Jones finds himself in India (no relation) looking for the sacred Sankara stones. Along the way, he'll encounter a secret cult, an out of control mine cart, and a heart-stopping human sacrifice ritual.

Because this is a prequel, not everyone from the first film is back. Our creator and director, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, resume their seats behind the camera. (This was actually Spielberg's first ever time directing a sequel) And Harrison Ford, who we didn't think could get any studlier, decided to develop a Body by Jake before picking up Indy's whip for yet another adventure.

This one has about 25% more shirtlessness. You're welcome.

But writer Lawrence Kasdan has been replaced by husband/wife duo Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. Love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Indy trades romantic banter with blonde bombshell Willie Scott, played by Kate Capshaw. He also has a young Chinese sidekick named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) who can drive a car and toss off one-liners with the best of them.


It sounds fun on paper, but Temple of Doom wasn't quite the sequel people had been wishing for. Plot confused incoherent the critics. Oops: we mean, the incoherent plot confused critics. The country India thought the film was so racist, they refused to let Spielberg film within their borders. And some scenes are graphically violent for a PG-rated picture, prompting outrage from parents who believed it should have been rated R for really-really-gross.

In fact, Indy's biggest accomplishment turned out not to be the recovery of the Sankara stones, but the formation of the PG-13 rating. Spielberg agreed that his film was too dark for a PG rating, but not risqué enough for an R, so the middle-ground of the PG-13 was invented later that year. (Source)

However, the film was a commercial success, spawning another sequel in 1989 (yay!) and yet another installment in 2008 (boo!). And despite all the controversy, the film has had a lasting effect on not just adventure cinema, but video games as well. Every game you've ever played a mine cart level was pretty much inspired by Temple of Doom. (Source)

Despite the mixed opinion about this movie, one thing is unanimous: Indiana Jones is an action hero for the ages. No matter how you feel about Temple of Doom as a whole, at some point during this thrill ride, you'll have a whip-cracking good time.

What is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom About and Why Should I Care?

The first and third installments of Indiana Jones receive near-unanimous love. The fourth one…well everyone wishes it would be blown up in a nuclear explosion without an invincible refrigerator protecting it. (Source)

But Temple of Doom— the most divisive Indiana Jones film—gets Indy fans talking. Some think Temple of Doom is the best Indy film. Others think that anyone who likes it must be under the black spell of the Kali Ma.

It's not like the film has one or two scenes that cause a schism amongst fans too wide for even Indy to swing across on his whip. The whole dang movie inspires debate. It begins with a musical sequence. It has a crazy amount of violence and gore. It's darker than the circles around Mola Ram's eyes.

And it has certain scenes that are either culturally insensitive, or downright racist, depending on where you stand. Like an Indian Maharaja using a (Afro-Caribbean) Voodoo doll. Or the bad guys being Indians who oppose British Colonial rule, and the good guys…being white Americans. Or the "traditional Indian feast" consisting, not of delicious curries and chutneys, but Snake Surprise and chilled monkey's brains.

But face it: no matter how you feel about the plot and characters, the movie has some of the most iconic action sequences on film, like the mine cart chase and the climatic bridge battle. The suspense is pulse-quickening, and the action is breath-taking.

So once you catch your breath, you need to decide which side of the chasm you're on. Is this Temple worth worshipping as a classic, or should it be tossed into a lava pit never to be seen again? Watch it again and choose a side.


Parents were outraged about the violence in Temple of Doom. (Racism and objectification of women, though, that's fine.) Not wanting future films to be rated R, because that would limit the box office appeal, Spielberg called up Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA. Yes, Stevey boy had his phone number. Together, they came up with the PG-13 rating, ensuring the profitability of violent blockbusters for years to come. (Source)

Who you gonna call? Dan Aykroyd. The character with the terrible accent who helps Indy onto the plane in Shanghai, and then is never seen again, is played by none other than Dan Aykroyd. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg also appear in the background of this scene. Hey, if Spielberg is back there, who's directing this thing? (Source)

We're not sure what character actor Pat Roach did to anger Spielberg and Lucas, but they love killing the man in these movies. Roach plays the overseer squished to death by the rock crusher in the mines. Roach also plays the man chopped to bits by a helicopter propeller in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Source)

We guess Shanghai in the 1930's counts as a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Why the Star Wars reference? Because the club Indy escapes from in the opening scene is called Club Obi-Wan, named after Mr. Kenobi from that other major movie franchise. (Source)

Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, which is a fan favorite, Temple of Doom is a not-popular second installment in a franchise that once was a trilogy. Even Spielberg and Lucas hate Temple of Doom. The film reminds both Spielberg and Lucas of dark times in their lives, as their relationships with women were crumbling. If they treated their ladies the same way Indy treats Willie, no wonder those relationships didn't last. (Source)

Remember the scene where Willie says, "I hate that elephant"? Well, Harrison Ford hates that elephant too. Injuring his back riding elephants, Ford was out of commission for a large part of the shoot. His stuntman, Vic Armstrong, filmed many of Ford's scenes while the actor recovered. (Source)

There are more practical effects in the film than you might suspect. No, no one actually got their heart pulled out on camera. But the raft falling from the plane was filmed in one take. And the crew actually built the rope bridge seen at the end of the film and destroyed it. That was also done in one take. Pretty impressive. (Source)

Seeing someone's heart getting ripped out? No problem. Children getting whipped. Sure, why not? But the original title of the film was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death. That was deemed too intense for viewers and changed to Doom during production. (Source)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Resources


Website of Doom
While you can't pretend Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn't exist, you can check out videos and clips from the film at the official site.

Raiders of the Lost Scenes
Fansite The Raider has info on scenes deleted from the Temple of Doom. Maybe they didn't have enough doom?


By the Book
Judging by Goodreads reviews of the official movie novelization you're better off just watching the movie a few more times.

Articles and Interviews

Yep, It's Cool
Spielberg isn't a guy who is easy to talk to. In lieu of a current interview, Quint from Ain't It Cool News dug up a classic 1984 interview with Mr. 'berg from American Cinematographer magazine.

Beards of Doom
We think there's an interview in this book from 1984, but we're too distracted by Spielberg and Lucas's facial hair to tell.

A Round with Short Round
Jonathan Ke Quan talks about his first film role ever and where he's gone since escaping the Temple of Doom.

Heart Breaker
Why talk to Harrison Ford of Steven Spielberg when you can talk to the real star of the film: Nizwar Karanj, who played the guy whose heart was ripped out by Mola Ram.

Laying the Smack Down
Although Temple of Doom is 85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, some of the 15% rotten reviews are really rotten. People magazine said that showing this film to your children is a "cinematic form of child abuse." Ouch.


How'd They Do That?!
Go wild with a six-part Making Of series with all the swords, whips, and flaming hearts you can handle.

With This Stunt, I Thee Wed
Many of the stunts in the films, including Temple of Doom, were performed by a husband and wife stunt duo. The couple who jumps from buildings together, stays together.


Loose Canon
Film critics debate whether or not Temple of Doom should be considered part of Indy canon, or jettisoned from public consciousness. How would they get rid of it? Make us all drink the blood of Kali?

Fame and Fortune
Christopher Joyce dissects Indiana Jones, and how he might just be "archelogy's worst nightmare."

Ask Us Another
Spoiler alert: Temple of Doom is used as a clue in this round of puzzles on "Ask Me Another."


What's Bugging You?
The spiny leaf insect, or extatosoma tiaratum, from the bug cave is kind of cute once you get to know it.

Nice Figure
Not that Indiana Jones is realistic, but these "Adventure Heroes" figures are a little ridiculous.

Leggo Our LEGO
If you thought Mola Ram was a blockhead, you'll love his LEGO minifigure.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...