Set in the year 1935, the film opens in Shanghai, China, where famous blonde American nightclub singer Wilhelmina "Willie" Scott (Kate Capshaw) of Club Obi-Wan is singing an English/Chinese version of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" - a lavish, sultry, and bizarre production number bathed in reddish smoke, reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley choreography.
Famous archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is in the audience at the table of Chinese crime boss Lao Che (Roy Chiao), demanding payment (a large and precious diamond) for his services in obtaining Lao's royal ancestor - the "remains of Nurhachi, the first Emperor of Manchu Dynasty" - his cremated remains are in a jade urn.
Willie: Aren't you gonna introduce us?
Lao Che: This is Willie Scott; this is Indiana Jones, a famous archaeologist.
Willie: Well I always thought that archaeologists were always funny looking men going around looking for their mommies.
Lao Che: So it's true? You've found Nurhachi?
Indiana: You know I did. Last night one of your boys tried to get Nurhachi without paying for him.
Kao Kan holds his bandaged hand.
Lao Che: You have insulted my son.
Indiana: No, you have insulted me. I spared his life.
Indiana: [to Lao Che] I suggest you give me what you owe me... or 'Anything Goes!'
Indy drinks his martini, Lao Che's henchmen laugh as he holds up a vial.
Willie: What's that?
Lao Che: Antidote.
Indiana: To what?
Lao Che: [matter-of-factly] The poison you just drank.
Kao Kan: [laughing] Too much to drink, Dr. Jones?
The hood double-crossed him - he then bargains to exchange the life-saving antidote for the diamond. An epic melee breaks out in the nightclub involving revolvers, machine guns, a struggle to obtain the diamond and the antidote vial (both being kicked around on the floor), ice cubes, and black and white balloons everywhere.
Indiana: [meeting on the floor] The antidote!
Willie: Where's the diamond?
Willie (with the vial) and Indy escape behind a giant rolling brass gong, and jump from a window of the multi-storied building to an awaiting luxury car/taxi below.
Driving the car is Indy's diminutive ten year-old Chinese sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan).
Short Round: Wow! Holy Smoke! Crash landing!
Indiana: Short Round, step on it.
Short Round: Okey dokey, Dr. Jones.
The kid turns his cap around.
Short Round: Hold on to your potatoes!
Willie: For crying out loud, there's a *kid* driving the car!
Indiana: Relax, I've been giving him lessons.
Indy is groping desperately down Willie's dress.
Indiana: Where's the antidote?
Willie: Oh, listen, I just met you! Oh, I'm not that kind of girl...
Short Round: Hey, Dr. Jones, no time for love. We've got company.
The chase continues through Shanghai's narrow streets and back alleys as they are fired upon. At the airport, the threesome board a Pan American Airways propellor plane, believing it was bound for Siam.
However, it is actually Lao's air-freight plane piloted by his hoods.
Willie: So what are you supposed to be, a lion tamer?
Indiana: I'm allowing you to tag along. So why don't you give your mouth a rest. Okay doll?
Willie: What do you mean "tag along"? Ever since you got into my club, you haven't been able to take your eyes off of me.
Indiana: Oh, yeah?
Indy tugs his hat down over his eyes, and falls asleep.
As they sleep in the back of the plane during the flight, Lao's pilots dumps fuel from the plane and then parachutes to safety ("No one's flying the plane!" Willie screamed).
Willie goes to the front of the plane, and sees the cockpit is empty.
Willie: Oh, no... oh, no...
She runs back and starts shaking Indy awake.
Willie: Mister! Mister! Oh, Mister, wake up!
Short Round: [waking up] You call him Dr. Jones, doll!
Willie: Okay, Dr. Jones! Dr. Jones, wake up!
Willie: You know how to fly, don't you?
Indiana: Um, no. Do you?
To save themselves, Indy transforms an inflatable emergency rubber raft into a parachute.
Willie: We're not sinking, we're CRASHING!
The aircraft begins to sputter and lose altitude, and then goes into a tailspin. They are forced to abandon the plane over the Himalayas to avoid crashing.
They land on a sloped, snowy mountaintop and use the float as a tobaggan to sled down the steep incline. The yellow dinghy plunges off a steep cliff into wild river rapids - where the raging river takes them to the base of the Mayapore hills in East India.
They are guided by an elderly shaman, Sajnu (D.R. Nanayakkara), to the ominous, burned-out, desolate, cursed village of Mayapore.
The village is filled with poor and starving villagers, where they are informed that at Pankot Palace ("with the power of the Dark Light"), there is a new maharaja.
"It is that place kill my people...The evil start at Pankot, then like monsoon it moves darkness over all country...They came from palace and took Sivalinga from our village" - the village's strange, sacred, and precious mystical stone.
A Shiva lingam (possibly one of the five lost Sankara stones "with magical properties") has been stolen from their shrine, and the village has been under a curse of famine and misery ever since. The Shaman insists Shiva brought Indy and gang there to help them . . .
Indiana: We weren't brought here. Our plane crashed.
Willie: [nodding and smiling] It crashed.
Shaman of Maypore: [laughing] No, no, no. We prayed to Shiva to help us find the stone. It was Shiva who made you fall from sky. So you will go to Pankot Palace... and find Shivalinga... and bring back to us. Bring back to us. Bring back to us.
Outside, the Shaman continues the village's tragic story: The village's wells dried up and the river turned to sand.
The crops were swallowed by the earth and the animals laid down and turned to dust.
A fire set in the fields was a diversion, allowing the evil Maharaja's men to steal the village's children.
Indy isn't convinced and only wants to hurriedly get to Delhi to return to his university teaching in America, until he hears about the stolen children and witnesses the appearance of an escapee from the evil palace - a weakly boy named Ranjit.
He surmises the stolen stone might be one of the five fabled Sankara stones, meaning "fortune and glory" and changed his mind: "We're going to Pankot Palace."
They travel through the jungle and other tropical landscapes to Pankot Palace via elephants and with the assistance of local guides.
After getting dumped into a pond . . .
Willie: [crying] I was happy in Shanghai! I had a little house, and a garden! My friends were rich, we went to parties all the time in limousines! I *hate* being outside!
Willie angrily splashes the water]
Willie: [gasps] I'm a singer! I could lose my voice!
Indiana: I think we'll camp here tonight.
Indiana: Willie, Willie, Willie. What kind of a name is that? Is it short for something?
Willie: Willie is my professional name, Indiana.
Short Round: Hey, lady! You call him Dr. Jones!
Indiana: *My* professional name.
Willie is freaking out over the creatures of the jungle.
Indiana: [on Willie's incessant screaming] The biggest trouble with her is the noise.
Indy and Shorty are playing cards . . .
Short Round: I'm very little! You cheat very big!
Outside the palace perimeter, a ghastly, bloody Shiva shrine scares off the guides and elephants.
Forced to walk to the palace, they are welcomed by Prime Minister Chattar Lal (Roshan Seth) and British Captain Phillip Blumburtt (Philip Stone) of the Indian Army, there on a "routine inspection tour."
Chattar Lal: I should say you look rather lost, but then I can't imagine where in the world the three of you would look at home.
Indy makes introductions . . .
Chattar Lal: Dr. Jones, the eminent archaeologist?
Willie: Hard to believe, isn't it?
Indiana: Shorty, where's my razor?
And then they meet His Supreme Highness - the 13 year-old Maharaja of Pankot Zalim Singh (Raj Singh).
Willie: THAT'S the maharaja? A *kid*?
Short Round: Maybe he likes *older* women.
During conversation, a grotesque banquet feast is served: snake filled with live eels, giant fried tandoori beetles, and eyeball soup.
Willie: Give me your hat.
Short Round: [takes his cap off] Why?
Willie: [taking the cap] Because I'm gonna puke in it!
Short Round quickly tugs the cap back.
Eel Eater: Are you not eating?
Willie: I had bugs for lunch.
Indiana: Captain Blumburtt was just telling me something of the interesting history of the palace; the importance it played in the mutiny.
Chattar Lal: It seems the British never forget the mutiny of 1857.
Captain Blumburtt laughs.
Indiana: Yes, well you know I think there were other events before the mutiny going back a century - back to the time of Clive that are more interesting.
Chattar Lal: And what events are those Dr Jones?
Indiana: Well, if memory serves me correctly this area, this province was the centre eventuity of the Thuggee.
Chattar Lal: Dr Jones, you know perfectly well that the Thuggee cult has been dead for nearly a century.
Blumburtt: Yes, of course. The Thuggee was an obscenity that worshipped Kali with human sacrifices. The British Army Knights did away with them.
Indiana: Well, I suppose stories of the Thuggee die hard.
Chattar Lal: There are no stories anymore.
Indiana: I'm not so sure. We came from a small village; peasants there told us Pankot Palace was growing powerful again because of some ancient evil.
Chattar Lal: Village stories, Dr Jones. They're just fear and folklore; you're beginning to worry Captain Blumburtt.
Blumburtt: Not worried, Mr. Prime Minister, just erm... just erm... interested.
Indiana Jones: You know, the villagers also told us Pankot Palace had taken something.
Chattar Lal: Dr Jones, in our country it's not usual for a guest to insult his host.
Indiana: I'm sorry. I thought we were talking about folklore.
Blumburtt: What exactly was it they say was stolen?
Indiana: A sacred rock.
Chattar Lal: [he laughs dismissively] Hah! You see, Captain? A rock.
Indiana: Something connected - the villager's rock and the old legend of the Sankara stones.
Chattar Lal: Dr Jones, we're all vulnerable to vicious rumour. I seem to remember that in Honduras you were accused of being a grave robber rather than an archaeologist.
Indiana: Well, the newspapers greatly exaggerated the incident.
Chattar Lal: And wasn't it the Sultana Madagascar who threatened to cut your head off if you ever returned to his country?
Indiana: No, it wasn't my head.
Chattar Lal: Then your hands, perhaps?
Indiana: No, it wasn't my hands... it was my . . .
Indy looks down at his groin.
Indiana: My misunderstanding.
Eel Eater: Ah, dessert! Chilled monkey brains.
When retiring after the palace dinner, Indy pays Willie a visit . . .
Indiana: I've got something for you.
Willie: There's nothing you have that I could possibly want.
Indy turns and uncovers a plate of fruit, Indy takes a bite from an apple. Willie runs over and begins to devour the fruit.
Willie: You're a very nice man.
There is a brief romantic scene of confrontational dialogue between Indy and Willie (involving "mating customs, love rituals, primitive sexual practices").
Indiana: Wear your jewels to bed Princess?
Willie: Yeah... and nothing else. Shock you?
Indiana: Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist.
However, they break into an argument . . .
Indiana: You know what your problem is, Princess? You're too used to getting your own way.
Willie: And you're too proud to admit that you're crazy about me, Dr. Jones!
Indiana: If you want me Willie, you know where to find me.
Willie: Five minutes. You'll be back over here in five minutes.
Indiana: I'll be asleep in five minutes.
Willie: Five. You know it, and I know it.
Indy storms off. . . Cutting between Indiana and Willie's rooms . . .
Willie: [looks at her clock] Five minutes...
Indiana: [looks at his] Four and a half...
Indiana: "Palace slave"...
Willie: "Nocturnal activities"...
Indiana: *I'm* a conceited ape?
Willie: "I'll tell you in the morning"...
Indiana: I can't believe this.
Willie: He's not coming.
Indiana: She's not coming. . . . I can't believe I'm not going.
An assassin (Pat Roach) intrudes and unsuccessfully attempts to strangle Indy. Indy races back to Willie's room. She thinks he's returned for a night of passion. He places his hands on a statue of a bare-breasted goddess.
Willie: I'm right *here*!
The hero searches around and discovers a fake wall, opened by pushing the statue, that leads to a secret dark passageway.
He enters with Short Round into a cavern . . .
Short Round: Feels like I step on fortune cookie!
Indiana: It's not fortune cookies. Let me take a look.
Indy lights a lighter to find bugs crawling all over the place.
Short Round: That no cookie!
Trapped in one of the chambers that was booby-trapped, sharp spikes from both the ceiling and floor begin to converge on them.
Willie hears their screams for help ("We're in trouble") and reluctantly comes to help rescue them ("Bet I get all dirty again")
Willie: There are two dead people in here!
Indiana: There's gonna be two dead people in here! Hurry!
Indiana: Willie, we-are-going-to-DIE!
She saves them from death by releasing a handle, but she accidentally sets off the same trap she just sprang.
Short Round: It wasn't me! It's her!
They all still manage to escape the death-trap chamber through another opening.
After twisting through tunnels, they uncover a subterranean Temple of Doom, and from a concealed distance, observe - in horror - a Thuggee religious cult ceremony to appease the Hindu goddess Kali.
A large statue of the bloodthirsty goddess Kali holds three glowing sacred stones in its altar (within the eye sockets and nose of a giant skull). One of the stones is the one which was taken from the village. The ritual is led by demonic high priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri).
Mola Ram rips the still beating heart out of a human sacrifice victim (Nizwar Karanj) and holds it up in his right hand.
Mola Ram: Ab, uski jan meri mutti me hai! AB, USKI JAN MERI MUTTI ME HAI! (Now, his life is in my fist! NOW, HIS LIFE IS IN MY FIST!)
The screaming victim remains alive . . .
Sacrifice Victim: Om Namha Shivaye, Om Namha Shivaye, Om Namha Shivaye... (Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...)
He is lowered into a red-hot magma pit where he is incinerated, along with his flaming heart still in Mola Ram's hand.
According to Indy, the rocks were glowing according to legend: "When the rocks are brought together, the diamonds inside them will glow."
Willie: You're gonna get killed chasing after your damn fortune and glory!
Indiana: Maybe. But not today.
When the temple is vacated by the worshippers, Indy decides to retrieve the three sacred Sankara stones from within the altar below the statue. He also spies upon an underground mine, where enslaved (kidnapped) children are employed as mine workers to dig for the remaining two stones.
Indy and Short Round are captured by Thuggee guards and thrown in a caged-cell together.
Afterwards, Indy is brought before Mola Ram - who describes his evil cause: to use children as diggers in the mine to locate the other two sacred stones hidden in the catacombs - in order to release their power.
Mola Ram: The Thuggees will be all powerful...Soon, Kali Ma will rule the world.
Indy spits blood back in his face . . .
Mola Ram: You dare not do that.
While his mouth is forcibly held open, the blood of Kali is poured into Indy to put him under an evil spell and nightmarish crazed trance ("The black sleep of Kali Ma") - and he begins to serve the High Priest (who also had placed the 13-year old Maharaja under the same spell).
Meanwhile, Short Round is forced to work in the mines with other children. At the temple pit before the Kali statue, Willie is bound and readied for sacrifice.
Indy is in a trance chanting ("Kali Ma protects us. We are her children. We pledge our devotion to her with an offering of flesh - and blood").
Indy serves Mola Ram in preparations for Willie's death - to lower her in a metal cage into the hot magma pit.
Willie: [being lowered over a sacrificial pit] I'm not going to have anything nice to say about this place when I get back!
Short Round daringly cuts off his own chains and is pursued through the mines to the temple's sacrificial pit.
Short Round: Indy, I love you.
Short Round purposely burns Indy with a fiery torch thrust painfully into his side.
Short Round: Wake up, Indy! You're my best friend! Wake up, Indy!
This causes him to "wake up" from the crippling "black sleep" spell. One of Mola Ram's guards is about to kill Short Round.
Indiana: Wait! WAIT! He's mine!
Indy grabs Shorty and holds him over the pit]
Indiana: [winks at him] I'm all right kid.
Indy save Willie at the last minute from being roasted alive.
Indy, Willie and Short Round are able to take the three Sankara stones and free the enslaved mine-working children (who stormed the palace).
They also break the spell controlling the young maharaja (who was dispatched to get support from Captain Blumburtt's military forces).
During an exciting, rollercoaster-like mine-cart chase, the threesome attempt to make their way out of the underground chambers while hotly pursued by the Thuggees. Mola Ram's followers release a gigantic tidal wave of underground cistern water into the mine's passageways to flood them out.
Propelled by the rushing water to an open tunnel exit, they emerge onto a small ledge on the side of a massive rock-cliff face.
After scaling the crumbling wall to escape the water pouring out of it, their only means of survival is a rickety rope bridge above a crocodile-infested river gorge that is guarded by Ram's Thuggees.
Indy finds himself trapped in the middle of the rope bridge.
Indiana: Oh, shit.
Indy threatens to drop the Sankara stones into the gorge . . .
Indiana: You want the stones, let 'em go!
The Thuggees stop, uncertain. Willie smirks at Mola Ram.
Indiana: Let 'em go!
Mola Ram: [laughs] Drop them, Dr. Jones! They will be found! You won't!
Indy shouts to Shorty in Chinese. Short Round, wide-eyed, nods and wraps a rope around his arm.
Short Round: Hang on lady, we going for a ride!
Indy raises his sword, and Willie realizes . . .
Willie: Oh... my... God! Oh my God... Oh my God...
She wraps a rope around her arm.
Willie: Is he nuts?
Short Round: He no nuts, he's crazy!
Indiana: Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali... in Hell!
Indy cuts the bridge rope with a machete, leaving everyone dangling.
Most of the villains fall to their deaths. Indy fights against Mola Ram for possession of the three stones in his satchel. Indy invokes a chant repeatedly, as Mola Ram is trying to get the stones.
Indiana: You betrayed Shiva!
The chant causes the stones to glow red hot in the bag. Two of the stones fall into the river, and the third burns Mola Ram's hand as he grabs for it, but he is forced to let go and falls to his death into the river where he is consumed by the hungry crocodiles.
Indy catches the cooled stone and is able to climb to safety. The Thuggees are subdued by the arrival of British Army riflemen.
The group return to the revitalized village of Mayapore, accompanied by the missing children, and restore the sacred, magical, powerful stone in its rightful place on the small altar.
Willie: [about the Sankara Stone] You could have kept it.
Indiana: Nah, it would of just been another rock collecting dust.
Willie: Yeah, but it would have given you your fortune and glory.
Indiana: Anything can happen. It's a long way to Delhi.
Willie: No, thanks. No more adventures with you, Dr. Jones.
Indiana: Sweetheart, after all the fun we've had together?
Willie: If you think I'm going to Delhi with you, or anyplace else after all the trouble you've gotten me into, think again, buster! I'm going home to Missouri where they never feed you snakes before ripping your heart out and lowering you into hot pits! This is NOT my idea of a swell time! . . . [to native] Excuse me, sir. I need a guide to Delhi. If you could...
As she walks away, he ropes her around her waist with his bullwhip, pulls her close to him, and attempts to kiss her - although they are doused with water from a baby elephant's trunk.
Short Round: Very funny. Very funny.
Indy and Willie start to kiss again.
Short Round: Uh-oh!
The camera pulls back as they are joyously surrounded by village children after a more successful smooch.