Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 American action–adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is the second installment in the Indiana Jones franchise and a prequel to the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, featuring Harrison Ford reprising his role as the title character. After arriving in North India, Indiana Jones is asked by desperate villagers to find a mystical stone and rescue their children from a Thuggee cult practicing child slavery, black magic and ritual human sacrifice in honor of the goddess Kali.
Executive producer and co-writer George Lucas made the film a prequel as he did not want the Nazis to be the villains again. After three rejected plot devices, Lucas wrote a film treatment that resembled the film’s final storyline. Lawrence Kasdan, Lucas’s collaborator on Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned down the offer to write the script, and Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz were hired as his replacements, with the screenplay partly based upon the 1939 film Gunga Din.
The film was released to financial success but initial reviews were mixed, criticizing its violence. However, critical opinion has improved since 1984, citing the film’s intensity and imagination. In response to some of the more violent sequences in the film, and with similar complaints about Gremlins, Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system, which it did within two months of the film’s release, giving it the very first PG-13 rating.
In 1935, Indiana Jones narrowly escapes the clutches of Lao Che, a crime boss in Shanghai, China. With his 11-year-old Chinese sidekick Short Round and the nightclub singer Willie Scott in tow, Indy flees Shanghai on an airplane that, unbeknownst to them, is owned by Lao. While the three of them are asleep on the plane, the pilots parachute out, and they leave the plane to crash over the Himalayas while dumping its fuel. Indy, Shorty, and Willie discover this and narrowly manage to escape by jumping out of the plane on an inflatable raft, and then riding down the slopes into a raging river. They come to Mayapore, a village in northern India, where the poor villagers believe the three to have been sent by Shiva to retrieve the sacred sivalinga stone stolen from their shrine, as well as the community’s missing children, from evil forces in the nearby Pankot Palace. During the journey to Pankot, Indy hypothesizes that the stone may be one of the five fabled Sankara stones that promise fortune and glory.
The trio receive a warm welcome from the Prime Minister of Pankot Palace, Chattar Lal. The visitors are allowed to stay the night as guests, during which they attend a lavish but grotesque banquet given by the young Maharaja, Zalim Singh. Chattar Lal rebuffs Indy’s questions about the villagers’ claims and his theory that the ancient Thuggee cult is responsible for their troubles. Later that night, Indy is attacked by an assassin, leading Indy, Willie, and Shorty to believe that something is amiss. They discover a series of tunnels hidden behind a statue in Willie’s room and set out to explore them, overcoming a number of booby-traps along the way.
The trio eventually reach an underground temple where the Thugs worship Kali with human sacrifice. They watch as the Thugs chain one of their victims in a cage and slowly lower him into a ceremonial lava pit, burning him alive. They discover that the Thugs, led by their high priest Mola Ram, are in possession of three of the five Sankara stones, and have enslaved the children to mine for the final two stones. As Indy tries to retrieve the stones, he, Willie, and Shorty are captured and separated. Indy is whipped and forced to drink a potion called the Blood of Kali, which places him in a trance-like state where he begins to mindlessly serve the Thugs. Willie, meanwhile, is kept as a human sacrifice, while Shorty (who was also whipped) is put to work in the mines alongside the enslaved children. Shorty breaks free and escapes back into the temple where he burns Indy with a torch, bringing him back to his senses.
After fighting off the guards and defeating Chattar Lal, Indy stops Willie’s cage and cranks it out of the pit just in time before it has a chance to enter the fire, while Mola Ram escapes. Releasing Willie from the cage, Indy retrieves the Sankara stones, and they go back to the mines to free the children, but Indy is caught up in a fight with a hulking overseer. The Maharaja, who is also under the Thugs’ control, attempts to cripple Indy with a voodoo doll. Shorty spars with the Maharaja, ultimately burning him to free him from his trance. With his strength returned, Indy kills the overseer. The Maharaja then tells Shorty how to get out of the mines.
The trio escape from the temple in a mine cart, being chased by the Thugs, while Mola Ram dumps water in the tunnels in an attempt to drown them. After barely avoiding the flood and coming above ground, they are again cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river. Using a sword, Indy cuts the rope bridge in half, leaving everyone to hang on for their lives. After Mola Ram declares the stones are his, Indy utters an incantation which causes them to glow red hot. Two of the stones fall into the river, while the last falls into Mola Ram’s hand, burning it. Indy catches the now-cool stone, while Mola Ram falls into the river below and is devoured by hungry crocodiles. The Thuggees then attempt to shoot Indy with arrows, until a company of British Indian Army riflemen, summoned by the Maharaja, arrive and open fire on the Thuggee archers. Indy, Willie, and Shorty return to the village with the children and give the missing stone back to the villagers.
- Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones: An archaeologist adventurer who is asked by a desperate Indian village to retrieve a mysterious stone and rescue the missing village children. Ford undertook a strict physical exercise regimen headed by Jake Steinfeld to gain a more muscular tone for the part.
- Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott: An American nightclub singer working in Shanghai. Willie is unprepared for her adventure with Indy and Short Round, and appears to be a damsel in distress. She also forms a romantic relationship with Indy. Over 120 actresses auditioned for the role, including Sharon Stone. To prepare for the role, Capshaw watched The African Queen and A Guy Named Joe. Spielberg wanted Willie to be a complete contrast to Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark, so Capshaw dyed her brown hair blonde for the part. Costume designer Anthony Powell wanted the character to have red hair.
- Amrish Puri as Mola Ram: A Thuggee priest who performs rituals of human sacrifices. The character is named after a 17th-century Indian painter. Lucas wanted Mola Ram to be terrifying, so the screenwriters added elements of Aztec and Hawaiian human sacrificers, and European devil worship to the character. To create his headdress, make-up artist Tom Smith based the skull on a cow (as this would be sacrilegious), and used a latex shrunken head.
- Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round: Indy’s eleven-year-old Chinese sidekick, who drives the 1936 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster which allows Indy to escape during the opening sequence. Quan was chosen as part of a casting call in Los Angeles. Around 6000 actors auditioned worldwide for the part: Quan was cast after his brother auditioned for the role. Spielberg liked his personality, so he and Ford improvised the scene where Short Round accuses Indy of cheating during a card game. He was credited by his birthname, Ke Huy Quan.
- Roshan Seth as Chattar Lal: The Prime Minister of the Maharaja of Pankot. Chattar, also a Thuggee worshiper, is enchanted by Indy, Willie and Short Round’s arrival, but is offended by Indy’s questioning of the palace’s history and the archaeologist’s own dubious past.
- Philip Stone as Captain Philip Blumburtt: A British Indian Army Captain on a routine inspection tour of Pankot and the surrounding area. Alongside a unit of his riflemen, Blumburtt assists Indy towards the end in fighting off Thuggee reinforcements.
- Roy Chiao as Lao Che: A Shanghai crime boss who, with his sons, hires Indy to recover the cremated ashes of one of his ancestors, only to attempt to kill him and cheat him out of his fee, a large diamond.
- David Yip as Wu Han: A friend of Indy. He is killed by one of Lao Che’s sons while posing as a waiter at Club Obi Wan.
- as Zalim Singh, the adolescent Maharajá of Pankot, who appears as an innocent puppet of the Thuggee faithful. In the end, he helps to defeat them.
- D. R. Nanayakkara as Shaman: The leader of a small village that recruits Indy to retrieve their stolen sacred Shiva lingam stone.
Actor Pat Roach plays the Thuggee overseer in the mines, Roach had previously appeared as a mechanic and the Grand Sherpa in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg, Lucas, Marshall, Kennedy, and Dan Aykroyd have cameos at the airport.