#10 - "We're Not Sinking! We're Crashing!"
I know this scene is ridiculous. In fact, when it comes to impossible scenes in 'Indiana Jones' films, this is one of the top contenders. The scene, in question, involves a couple of pilots who work for Lao Che (the film's opening villain), ditching Indy, Shorty and Willie to crash. With no parachutes left, and no one knowing how to fly, the trio must now improvise with the hopes that an inflatable raft will save their lives.
The three characters then plummet... a long-ass way, onto a snow-covered mountain (I guess it's okay if they land in snow), and the raft then goes from parachute to toboggan. Eventually, they find themselves on a river, which will lead them to India where they take on the role of the "heroes fallen from the sky". So, one may very well be wondering, if the scene is so ridiculous, then why would it make a list of "best moments"? Well, for as silly as it all is, I just can't deny that it's still a lot of fun to watch. Remembering that this is back when practical effects were the only real way to go, there's a certain "cheese" to this scene that I can't help but appreciate.
This scene is also fairly often talked about nowadays, as it's pretty much in direct competition with the waterfall scene in 'Crystal Skull'. The contest is something along the lines of "most impossible stunt because you'd die twice from it". It's kind of fascinating to think about this scene in another context though. We can suspend our disbelief for a lot of the supernatural elements of these films, but an impossible stunt has us going "oh yeah right". It's a fairly good way for the film to let you know it doesn't take itself too seriously. Unfortunately, however, it might not be enough for some viewers, given the intensity of things to come.
#09 - Indy Gets Brainwashed
Granted, this is kind of a weird one to go with, but I will explain... and it's gonna get kind of deep. I'm not gonna mention any names here, but I know someone (who surprisingly wasn't me) who, when watching this as a kid, was pretty traumatized by the whole idea of losing someone to the "forces of evil" as it were. Nightmares ensued, and I can still remember to this day, this person confiding in me with those nightmares.
So, in a bizarre sort of way, this led to one of my first memorable bonding experiences with someone. We were able to talk out the things that scared us both. Although somehow (and I'll never really get this) I was fine with 'Temple of Doom', I was terrified of a LOT of stuff growing up. I wasn't like my peers, and I couldn't endure horror movies at the time. But enduring this has always given me a sort of sense of pride. It felt good to be able to be the "strong" one for once. But hey, I'm gonna get even deeper with what this represents today.
As someone who is pretty out and shameless about things like my mental health problems, today, this can be seen as representative of any sort of moment where one "loses their mind", so to speak, and we must rely on our loved ones to help us crawl back out of it... in this case, Short Round stabs him with a torch, but all the symbolism is still there. It's a pretty intense scene but, just remember, when watching this, this takes place before 'Raiders', so... he's all right, kid!
#08 - The Poker Game
It is SO unfortunate that this scene happens to run parallel to one of Willie's many freak-outs, as the trio attempt to camp in the jungles of India. But there's a lot to this scene I think goes completely overlooked because the viewer is supposed to be following, and laughing at Willie bumping into all of the critters of the jungle and screaming her face off. It's meant to be funny but honestly, it's really just kind of annoying.
In the meantime, Indy and Shorty are playing some hands of Poker (I think it's Poker), and it's one of those scenes that give us what we need to know about Short Round, as well as developing Indy's character ever so slightly. It's pretty simple - Shorty ends up accusing Indy of cheating, and Indy sort of plays along with it until he discovers Shorty is actually cheating, and the pair exchange a sort of almost father/son moment with each other as Short, realizing he's busted, simple smiles and has a laugh with him about it.
But there's something I picked up here that I didn't quite pick up on before. Willie may be the "Indy Girl" in this, but Indy's love and care go towards Shorty here. This is evident all the way through the film, and it's a good way to show the audience that Indy cares a great deal about the safety and well-being of children, which lends itself to the film later. This realization is actually so refreshing in a way. It all adds to the "hero" element of Indiana Jones, and it's something we didn't really know about him before.
#07 - "Hold On to Your Potatoes!"
Short Round's intro might very well be what helped me get through this otherwise scary movie. As mentioned earlier, for whatever reason, 'Temple of Doom' never really got to me, and I sincerely think it was because I was able to follow this kid through it, along with Indy. His introduction always makes me wanna cheer. In fact, if I ever see this in the theater, I will be that one guy clapping as soon as Ke Huy Quan pops onto the screen.
At the beginning of the film, Indy and Willie make a daring escape, falling through some awnings and into the back seat of a car. Said car is a 1934 Duesenberg Auburn convertible being driven by a young kid. When Indy tells him to "drive!", Shorty hits us with one of my favourite lines from the movie, "Okie dokie, Dr. Jones! Hold onto your potatoes!" Then, with great enthusiasm, Shorty becomes the wheelman for Indy and Willie during an otherwise intense car chase. You can't help but love how much fun the kid is having behind the wheel.
To top it all off, there's a hilarious bit that still gets to me to this day when Shorty tries to get a rickshaw to move out of his way. In failing to do so, Shorty just says "okay, you asked for it!" and drives into the rickshaw, lifting the incredibly confused driver up into the air. Watching this as a kid, I saw a hero in Short Round almost as much as I saw a hero in Indy, himself. And this hero was much closer to my age, and we see later that he can definitely hold his own in a fight. He's one character I kind of wish came back into Indy's world... but there's still time!
#06 - Indy to the Rescue
After Indy, Shorty and Willie stumble on the Thuggee ceremony (which will be mentioned later on the list), they go through a series of nightmarish events but, ultimately, survive it all. However, they're far from being done. At one point Willie says "let's get the hell out of here", and although they have the opportunity to just save themselves, Indy responds the way he should with "Right. All of us!" And with that, Indy goes back to rescue the enslaved children.
As I mentioned in the 'Raiders' moments, every one of these films has its own special music which helps make each one a little unique. For my money, the best time to hear this music is from this particular scene, as it offers up a sort of heroic tone of determination. Top off the great new score from John Williams, you get this image of Indy emerging from the dust, silhouette style, and it just gives the viewer goosebumps. It's definitely one of Indy's more heroic moments, whatever your thoughts on the film may be.
Spoiler alert, he (with the others' help) does save the day, and it's incredibly satisfying to see a literal swarm of freed slaves running through the palace and essentially trashing it as they go. The lot of them are headed back home to their families to be reunited, and give this otherwise terribly dark film a happy ending. This moment also marks the beginning of the last half-hour of the film, which is essentially action scenes all the way through. I mean, when you reach this point, hold onto your pota-- ah well, you get it.
#05 - Indy's Crushing It!
As we get closer to the end of this movie, it does involve quite a long and drawn-out climax that's stitched together with a bunch of different scenes. Say what you will about the quality of 'Temple of Doom', but its final sequences are a hell of a lot of fun to watch. And what 'Indy' movie would be complete without the gruesome death of a big brute that Indy has to fight. In 'Raiders', it was the mechanic, and here it's a slave overseer, credited as "Chief Guard".
Indy once again ends up going one-on-one with a big guy, and they end up fighting on a conveyer belt. "Chief" ends up getting some assistance from the brainwashed Maharaja through the use of an Indy-shaped Voodoo Doll they just happened to have handy. But Indy soon gets some assistance from not only Shorty but surprisingly, Willie, who starts just hucking rocks at the big brute as a distraction and even hands Indy a weapon of sorts. Just when it looks like Indy is losing because of the damn doll, Shorty manages to get to it just in time.
Indy springs up, starts kicking ass, and eventually makes the lug drop a big rock on his own head. The guy's garbs get caught, and he is sent back into the rock crusher. Indy even tries to save the man from this terrible fate, again, showing the "hero within". It all boils down to a great fight and the gruesome death of someone we all felt kind of deserved it. And guess who played him? The same guy as last time! That's right, Pat Roach (again, not the guy from 'Trailer Park Boys') comes back here for round two! I mean between a propeller and a rock crusher, will this guy ever learn that he can't go one-on-one with Indiana f*cking Jones?... and his friends?
#04 - The Suspension Bridge
I've already mentioned that the last half hour of this is pretty much just straight-up action, but it all leads to this intense climax involving Indy, Shorty and Willie being surrounded by the Thuggee, who are being led by Mola Ram, who has come for the final fight. Surrounded and desperate, Indy says something in Chinese to Shorty, we see Shorty nod, and start wrapping his hands into the rope bridge.
When Willie asks what's going on, Shorty simply says "Hang on, lady, we're going for a ride!" and at that point (if we didn't already get it by Indy raising a sword) we know he's gonna cut the bridge, sending a bunch of these guys plummeting into a crocodile-filled lake (although apparently, alligators were used for this). Meanwhile, the three, along with Mola Ram and a few leftover henchmen, hold on tight and "Tarzan" themselves to the side of the cliff, using the bridge now as a ladder to climb up and get back to safety.
It gets intense here, especially when Mola Ram starts dropping his own people just to thwart Indy. But we also get another great scene of Indy's hidden knowledge here (like knowing to close his eyes if he ever saw the Ark get opened), and seemingly harnesses the powers of the Shankara stones to his own advantage. It's pretty damn cool, and the intensity of the scene builds, even after the bridge robe is cut. It's classic edge-of-your-seat material, to be sure.
#03 - A Banquet of Oddities
Even without seeing this, many know about the banquet at Pankot Palace, where we see an array of supposed delicacies served to the three guests who don't quite have the stomach for it, although the idea of the food doesn't seem to phase Indy much. Throughout the meal, they are served a variety of odd things that would make the typical North American vomit in terror. We damn near see Willie do exactly this, but luckily, all the gross stuff here is the food.
Let's see what we've got on the menu, shall we? Today, Pankot is hosting the Guardian of Tradition Dinner, consisting of Gently Roasted vanAhira (roasted boar, complete with its roasted offspring), Coiled Wrigglies ("Snake Surprise"; aka a big-ass sake stuffed with eels), Cristpy Coleoptera (fresh beetles, still in their shell), Soup of the Head (The eyeball soup in the accompanying picture), and for dessert, Primate Parfait ("Chilled Monkey Brains"). But for as nasty as it all sounds, apparently, it was all made of some pretty tasty stuff. For example, if memory serves, the monkey brains were actually just Jello.
The scene has gone down in cinematic history as probably one of the best "gross-out" scenes of all time. Personally, I always had fun with this scene, showing people this movie and seeing what their reactions were to it. It just makes me think of things like Halloween parties where you played that game involving having to touch "eyeballs" but they were grapes or thick spaghetti "hair". I've always appreciated gross out stuff as long as its innocent fun, which this quite honestly is.
#02 - The Minecart Chase
As another section of the action ride that is the last half-hour of the film, Indy, Short and Willie attempt to escape from the Temple of Doom and the Thuggee army via mine cart. The whole thing becomes a fairly ridiculous and rather deadly rollercoaster ride, as the trio constantly fights off other carts full of Thuggee thugs in the process. When you really look at it, there's plenty to question about the scene... but why spoil this for yourself?
I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly sure that this scene is altogether improbable (and I'll stand corrected if someone who knows better says otherwise). To put it another way, the game 'Donkey Kong Country' supposedly took its minecart levels from this premise. And if I'm honest, the mine cart tracks do not look much different here than they do in the game - suspended high, often above a pool of lava, and going at breakneck speeds. But honestly, this is one moment I find it easy to throw reality out the window.
The fact of the matter is that this scene adds some much-needed fun and action after things like the Thuggee Ceremony, and witnessing Indy get more or less "possessed" (possessed/brainwashed, I dunno what exactly to call it). Much like the raft scene, it is kind of hard to un-see some of the models and dummies used for the scene, but it's still some edge-of-your-seat fun that hasn't really been attempted to be duplicated. For my money, watching this scene is just as fun as playing the levels in 'DK Country'.
#01 - The Thuggee Ceremony
If there is one thing everyone knows about 'Temple of Doom', it's that some unfortunate soul gets his heart ripped out. This scene represents a LOT for me on a personal level, but it's also quite historical, and had a bigger impact on film as a whole than most moments in the series. I'm talking, this is up there with the opening scene to 'Raiders' in as far as how influential it has been. I mean, right off the bat, 'Mortal Kombat' fans will be reminded of Kano's fatality.
The scene in question goes like this. Indy, Shorty and Willie find a secret tunnel that leads them to the "Temple of Doom", where the first thing they witness is a Thuggee ceremony. This involves some poor guy in a cage, and Mola Ram taking his beating heart out of his chest. The man survives this process and is lowered into a pit of swirling fire while Mola Ram chants, and we see the rapidly beating heart catch on fire as he laughs maniacally. By the way, this is rated PG, and that's what makes this so historical.
Though this was released as a PG film, it, along with 'Gremlins', contained certain scenes of scary intensity for the kids. Afterwards, a new rating had to be created, which we now get as PG-13. But if you want a fantastic example of what you could get away with back in the day with PG, this is a great place to turn. Nowadays, something like this would be a solid PG-13 with parents strongly cautioned. On that not, however, I have Spielberg to thank for allowing me to take some of my first real footsteps into the horror genre with this. It's also a fine example of something that bothers me more now than it did back then, which means, it holds up pretty well in the "scare" category.