Today’s Prayer Focus

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Action Adventure
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
May 23, 1984 (wide)
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Relevant Issues
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What is the Occult? Answer

THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

magic and magicians in the Bible

religion of India


sharing Christ with Hindus

an open letter to disciples of Hinduism

What is Monism and Pantheistic Monism? Who believes in Monism? Is it biblical? Answer

MYSTICISM—Can mysticism lead to God? Answer

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Bible Archaeology
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FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Harrison FordIndiana Jones
Kate Capshaw … Willie Scott
Jonathan Ke Quan (Ke Huy Quan) … Short Round
Amrish Puri … Mola Ram
Roshan Seth (Rushan Seth) … Chattar Lal
Philip Stone … Captain Blumburtt
Roy Chiao … Lao Che
David Yip … Wu Han
Ric Young … Kao Kan
Chua Kah Joo … Chen
Rex Ngui … Maitre d'
Philip Tan (Philip Tann) … Chief Henchman
Dan Aykroyd … Weber
Akio Mitamura … Chinese Pilot
Michael Yama … Chinese Co-Pilot
D.R. Nanayakkara … Shaman
Dharmadasa Kuruppu … Chieftain
See all »
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Paramount Pictures
George Lucas
Frank Marshall
Robert Watts
Kathleen Kennedy
Distributor: Paramount Pictures Corp.

The title of this film sends quite a mixed message. “Indiana Jones” makes us think of fun, exciting adventure, but “Temple of Doom” sounds rather ominous and terrifying. Well, this is quite a mixed film. It certainly delivers the fun action and witty script that the other films in the franchise do, but it also delivers a number of infamous scenes that just seem too morbid for an Indiana Jones film.

It doesn’t have the most impressive plot, but that is made up for by Spielberg’s quality in bringing it to life. The sets, scenery, costumes, and, needless to say, John William’s score, all somehow make this movie work, despite its scattered plot and a few dumb scenarios. Amrish Puri steals the show as the Thuggee priest. After a very entertaining encounter in China that leaves Indy not so fortunate, he finds himself escaping to India with a very cute little boy named Short Round, and an annoying, spoiled woman named Willie. When they arrive in India, a starving village pleads for their help in finding kidnapped children. Their quest exposes a barbaric Thuggee cult that has been worshiping in secret for hundreds of years.

A number of films that were released near this one caused people to question the MPA, but this is the main one that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating. After some hard work on the part of Spielberg, the violence was not considered intense enough for an R rating. But many parents were outraged that such a violent film would only be PG, so Spielberg created PG-13 (although this film was never re-rated, and remains PG to this day). In my opinion, even with the PG-13 rating existing, this film should still be rated R.

The most violent scene is a sacrifice in which a priest uses Thuggee magic to pull the victim’s heart straight out of his chest. The victim is then lowered into a lava pit. We also see a bloodied mining machine that had just crushed a villain offscreen. Plus, there are the usual shootouts, fistfights, dead bodies, etc., along with some other bloodless deaths.

There are also a few gross-out scenes not involving violence, which led to controversy about potential racism in the film. Live snakes, huge beetles, eyeballs, and chilled monkey brains are served as delicacies—and this is at a formal Indian dinner, not the Thuggee temple. This is a frankly ridiculous scene, which I’m sure wasn’t intended to start any stereotypes, but was perhaps an unwise decision nonetheless. There is also a scene in which Willie has to crawl through a tunnel filled with comically disgusting bugs. There is also a questionable scene in which Indy is forced to drink a potion that makes him loyal to the Thuggee.

As would be expected, there isn’t much strong language in this film, but I still rate the profanity “Moderate to heavy” because there are several misuses of God’s name (“for christ’s sake,” “oh my g*d”). There are a few uses of d*mn, one of b*st*rd, and one of s**t.

Unfortunately, there is also a scene of sexual foreplay between Indy and Willie. The scene seems like just a time-filler and doesn’t contain or show anything explicit, but is tedious nonetheless. There is some immodesty in a tap dance scene at the beginning, a kiss at the end, and a scene played for laughs in which Indy pushes the breasts of a statue to reveal a secret passage.

On top of all this, not all of the Hindu mysticism is portrayed as evil. To defeat the Thuggee priest, Indy recites an incantation to one of the “good” Hindu gods that causes a magic stone to burn the priest. This is not too prominent, because it takes place in an action scene where all the other priests are being defeated by other means, but it’s still there.

All that said, this film does still glorify the victory of good over evil, and most of the time, this happens through good means. Indy is smart and bold, Willie learns to become those things to some extent, and all the characters work together and risk themselves to save each other and help those in need.

I recommend the Indiana Jones franchise as a whole, but I agree with Spielberg that this is the least of the four. Its content is only age-appropriate for older teens and adults. The fun and triumph are there, but marred by a dark harshness that goes too far, and there are some worldview problems.

Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Moderate to heavy / Sex/nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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