Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
February 2, 2023 9:20 AM - Subscribe

After arriving in India, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is asked by a desperate village to find a mystical stone. He agrees... and stumbles upon a secret cult plotting a terrible plan in the catacombs of an ancient palace. Co-Starring a young Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once) in his screen debut, as Short Round.

Also starring Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Roy Chiao, David Yip, Ric Young, Chua Kah Joo, Rex Ngui, Philip Tan, Dan Aykroyd, Akio Mitamura, Michael Yama, D.R. Nanayakkara.

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Produced by George Lucas, Frank Marshall, Robert Watts. Written by George Lucas, Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz. Edited by George Lucas, Michael Kahn. Score composed by John Williams.

83% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus. Also available for digital rental. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (20 comments total)
Fun story... after making this movie and The Goonies, very young, sweet, naïve Key Huy Quan considered Steven Spielberg and George Lucas his friends... so he invited them to his birthday party. They were away making films, but Spielberg sent him a TV, a VCR, and a big box of movies, and Lucas sent him a literal U-Haul full of Star Wars toys.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:22 AM on February 2 [16 favorites]

I would not have thought this movie had such a high tomatometer score!
posted by supermedusa at 9:30 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

My brother and family friends all loved this movie when we were kids and I still have a fondness for it. We'd do the KALIMAH heart pulling thing to each other or pretend the food at get togethers were chilled monkey brains or snake surprise. I guess looking back the portrayal was hella racist but we were just happy that people that looked like us had screen time in a movie we liked. Some of my Canadian friends of Chinese descent have similar feelings towards Big Trouble in Little China. I've tried to get my kids to watch it but they couldn't even get past the preview on Netflix, although to be fair we probably should watch Raiders of the Lost Ark first.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:45 AM on February 2

As a kid, I had nightmares from the face-melting scene in Raiders, but loved it so much I was really hyped to see the prequel. I realize now that most of what gave Raiders the gravitas I felt was my Catholic upbringing, where God was real and sacred gilt objects conveyed real magic powers. This one just seemed crass and cartoonish in comparison (which I suppose was how Raiders was supposed to be taken). It’s definitely a kids’ movie, more of a theme park ride than an actual film.
posted by rikschell at 12:36 PM on February 2

I re-watched this recently as a middle-aged dude, not having seen it since... maybe high school? Didn't really hold up well for me. Kate Capshaw's character was just as annoying as I remembered, and she really has nothing to do but scream. The whole thing is super racist, of course, and even trying to ignore that, I just didn't find it that fun? As mentioned above, it's very much a kid-level movie.

It also gets touted as having a lot of action, which I suppose it does, but it's very cartoon-y in ways that don't land for me. Possibly related to racism. I also re-watched True Lies and had the same experience. The white protagonists are smart and witty, the swarthy bad guys are all bumbling idiots. It really kills the excitement and supposed humor for me.

That said, the lighting and the direction in the temple scenes it great. Everything looks amazing and is suitably tense and scary, assuming you compartmentalize everything else in the movie. And racist stereotypes aside, I can't help loving Short Round. And also Data in The Goonies.
posted by mrphancy at 1:05 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Nice try, Lao Che!

I loved the beginning of this movie. Also, despite being a little silly at times, I think this movie’s biggest flaw was being released between two almost perfect movies in the same series.
posted by snofoam at 1:50 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

ToD is the Indiana Jones of my childhood. It's the Indiana Jones we had taped off of Cinemax (right alongside Goonies and Return of the Jedi, IIRC) and that I watched again and again with my brother. Raiders is the superior movie, but ToD has a special place in my heart.
posted by Stuka at 2:56 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

I feel that this movie is very much of it's time.
posted by porpoise at 4:41 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]

I think of this as the Monkey Brains one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:32 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]

I was ten when I watched this at a drive-in (double-bill with Footloose). It was a big letdown after Raiders. I revisited it when the DVD was released (early 00's) and it was downright insipid. I won't watch it again.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:20 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

The opening nightclub scene is the best part of this flick. Watched this again last year for the first time in 25+ years. Does not even compare to Raiders.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:17 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]

think this movie’s biggest flaw was being released between two almost perfect movies in the same series.

I went to the theater in Paramus to see this in the afternoon on Ditch Day in highschool. So there's that.

I can't recall where I've heard this, and it could be a Rural Myth, but I remember hearing that Temple of Doom was where George Lucas got to put all the dumb ideas that he pitched for Raiders, but which Spielberg (thankfully) shot down. So, when the sequel came out, George got to fill it up with all his dumb ideas.
posted by mikelieman at 6:27 AM on February 3

More movies need to begin with the end of some previous movie we didn't get to see.
posted by Servo5678 at 7:17 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

I remember hearing that Temple of Doom was where George Lucas got to put all the dumb ideas that he pitched for Raiders, but which Spielberg (thankfully) shot down.

Probably from that script conference for Raiders which afaik is actually real.

There's plenty of bad ideas tossed around in it, but I think vaguely it's the other way around from what you say -- Spielberg was more often going too goofy and Lucas was more often trying to pull things back. (And let's not talk about the part about Marion's age.)
posted by fleacircus at 8:31 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I’m always here to talk about how Indiana Jones is not a lovable scoundrel, but canonically an actual rapist. There is so much garbage in these movies that gets a pass because of Ford and Spielberg’s skills and the time they were made.
posted by rikschell at 11:18 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

Why can't Lucas just do a special edition and change the dialog so that Marion was at least 18 years old? It makes no difference to the story but gets rid of the whole statutory rape angle.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:14 PM on February 3

The opening nightclub scene is the best part of this flick.


I don't know that I have seen it since 1984, but my recollection is that until the moment that the life raft reaches the banks of the river, it is nearly impeccably paced. Then... it gets pretty forgettable at best, embarrassingly racist (even by eighties standards) at worst.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]

I saw this in the theatre as a 6 or 7 year old, and the guy getting his heart pulled out was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen. Not a good vibe; kid me needed the stupid mining cart roller coaster bit to cleanse the palate.
Agreed that the opening sequence is one of the strongest elements. I think because it really nails the series’ premise of ‘30s/40s pulp adventure but upgraded with 80s blockbuster budget and technology’. It feels similar to and hits similar beats to movies of that period. And hoo boy the racism really jumps out on rewatch, which also matches a lot of the source material, but there are some kinds of authenticity we can do without.
posted by threecheesetrees at 5:43 AM on February 5

Personally I'm chalking this entire film up to be "the penance the world had to pay in order for us to get Ke Huy Quan".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

Oh, and what the heck - the story about Quan and Ford running into each other again at a Disney fan event is ridiculously sweet. Ford was there to promote the upcoming Indiana Jones film, and Quan was there because he was going to be joining Season 2 of Loki.

So anyway, Quan was in a separate waiting room backstage when one of the fan staff said "oh, hey, Harrison Ford is actually outside in the hallway if you wanna say hi." And I'll let Quan take it from here:
So I walk out and I see him about 15 feet away talking to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, they're there to promote Indy 5. And as I walk close, my heart is pounding. I'm thinking, 'Is he gonna recognize me? The last time he saw me, I was a little kid.'

As I get closer, he turns and points his finger at me, and he has that classic, famous, grumpy Harrison Ford look. I go, 'Oh my gosh, he probably thinks I'm a fan and he's gonna tell me not to come near him.' But he looks and points at me and says, 'Are you Short Round?' Immediately, I was transported back to 1984, when I was a little kid, and I said, 'Yes, Indy.' And he said, 'Come here,' and gave me a big hug.
You've seen the picture, but it's too adorable not to look at again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]

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