What is the worst Indiana Jones movie? For many, it would be the fourth instalment in the franchise, the Cold War era, alien exposing, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. However, in Steven Spielberg’s opinion (a valid one given he has directed all four movies in the franchise thus far) his least favorite is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. According to Slashfilm, the director isn’t shy about this opinion either.
For those needing a refresher, Temple of Doom is the second Indiana Jones movie — the darker, grittier PG-13 installment. It’s The Empire Strikes Back to Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Star Wars. This fun family adventure comes along with torture, voodooism and hearts being ripped from the bodies of the living. Cheery stuff, and it is this grim nature that is the source of Steven Spielberg’s disdain for the film. Way back in 1989 the infamous director told the Sun-Sentinel: “I wasn’t happy with the second [Indiana Jones] film at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist. There’s not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom.”
It goes without saying that Poltergeist is a horror movie, one that Steven Spielberg penned the screenplay for, so he has every right to compare it to Temple of Doom. And it is likely no surprise then that he has a dislike for Temple of Doom if in his eyes it’s more horrific than a horror movie. Place Temple of Doom alongside its counterparts and it does stick out slightly, especially when you stack it up against its successor The Last Crusade — a film full of witty and whimsical moments between on-screen father/son pairing Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. It would seem that others have a dim view of The Temple of Doom as well, whilst they don’t rank it below Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, both Collider and Movieweb rank it in third place in the franchise. In other words, on the lower end of the ‘Indy’ spectrum.
Another issue that plagues The Temple of Doom is its perceived negative connotations toward race and culture. The film is cited by some as promoting ‘white saviors’ as well as making a mockery of Indian culture. The issues surrounding the depiction of Indian culture in the film even drew the attention of the Indian Government, who took a disliking to the film in such a way that production reportedly moved to Sri Lanka. If Steven Spielberg disliking the film isn’t enough for fans to trust it’s the worst Indiana Jones movie, then perhaps that is more than worthy of putting them off.
Fans often cite Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the worst movie in the franchise and Steven Spielberg has been more than clear that Temple of Doom is a dud. By that math, that gives the Indiana Jones franchise a 50/50 hit rate on the positivity spectrum. Hopefully, that balance can be tipped in favor of the good with the approaching fifth Indiana Jones movie. Proving age is just a number, Indiana Jones 5 features the return of Harrison Ford as the titular hero with Logan director James Mangold helming the project. The movie is in post-production following the wrapping up of principal photography some months ago and features new faces such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Let’s hope the combination of James Mangold, a Hollywood legend in Harrison Ford and a fast-rising star in Waller-Bridge warms Spielberg’s heart more than Temple of Doom.