Why Steven Spielberg’s ‘Indiana Jones’ Sequel Was Banned in India

1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced audiences to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones. It didn’t take long for the character to become an icon. Director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas, and Ford reunited three more times over the years, most recently in 2008. But one of their Indiana Jones films proved to be so controversial that it was banned from India. Here’s the movie in question and why it received such treatment.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones reaches for a treasure in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
Harrison Ford | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Indiana Jones is a beloved cinematic hero

Prior to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford was best known as Han Solo in Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy. And for most actors, the chance to spend time in the “galaxy far, far away” would be enough to define their career. But Indiana Jones has even eclipsed Han Solo as Ford’s signature character. And it’s easy to see why the hero is so beloved.

Besides Ford’s rugged good looks, Indy boasts an exciting double life. At his day job, he’s a buttoned-down professor. But when he’s not in the classroom, Indy is scouring the globe for rare artifacts, armed primarily with a whip. Fans flocked to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, turning the movie into a popular franchise in its own right. Nevertheless, its sequel never made it to India.

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Why India banned Steven Spielberg’s sequel

1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom courted controversy with its violence, famously contributing to the creation of the PG-13 rating. But India had a much more specific grievance with the film, namely its depiction of its own culture. Although Spielberg had hoped to film in India, the movie’s script — which leans into negative stereotypes of the nation and its people — prevented that from happening, Vogue reported.

The movie features human sacrifices and monkey brains as a local delicacy. Moreover, Temple of Doom depicts the cult-like villagers as worshipping the god Kali. The film makes Kali out to be more demonic. Yet, according to Express, the entity is devoted to change and empowerment. And since Spielberg reportedly refused to change the script, the movie filmed in Sri Lanka instead. India never released it to its theaters.

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‘Indiana Jones 5’ will likely avoid controversy

Given how India is reflected in Spielberg’s movie, it stands to reason the government might take offense. However, Spielberg himself has acknowledged his own displeasure with the movie as a whole. He later made Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to redeem the franchise. And many feel he undermined it yet again with 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Naturally, Indiana Jones 5 could give the series another chance to bounce back. Ford returns in the title role, this time with James Mangold (Logan, Ford v Ferrari) directing. Spielberg will serve as an executive producer. Besides Ford, the movie will co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Toby Jones, and Antonio Banderas. The untitled Indiana Jones 5 hits theaters on July 29, 2022.