Thirty years ago on May 23, 1984, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom debuted at the box office. The prequel to the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark was the second offering in the franchise produced and co-written by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg.
Temple of Doom is the precursor to the modern summer blockbuster. Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Upshaw, and Jonathan Ke Quan, the film accumulated a then record-breaking $45.7 million in its first week and went on to gross $333 million worldwide. Its fast start out the gate made Temple of Doom 1984’s third highest grossing film in North America behind Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters.
Ironically, despite big numbers at the box office, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom only garnered lukewarm reviews. Even Spielberg himself wasn’t happy with it. During an interview for The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the Documentary he said, "Temple of Doom is my least favorite of the trilogy. I look back and I say, 'Well the greatest thing that I got out of that was I met Kate Capshaw. We married years later, and that to me was the reason I was fated to make Temple of Doom."
There were arrows fired at Temple of Doom before it was ever made. Spielberg and Lucas initially wanted to film in North India and the city of Amer Fort, but were denied permission by the government who found the script to be racist and offensive. The Indian government demanded script changes, rewrites, and a say on the final cut, but the filmmaking duo balked and eventually shot on location in Kandy, Sri Lanka instead. Hated for being disrespectful to the Hindi religion, the film was criticized for obsessive violence, as was illustrated when antagonist Mola Ram pulls the hearts out of his victims.
There were many who had a problem with the film back then. But the one-time razor sharp edges of that criticism have since been smoothed out and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom now stands as a fan favorite, cult classic still enjoyable to watch, 30-years later.