Life of Brian (1979) / Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Life of Brian (1979) / Monty Python’s Life of Brian

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“Only the true Messiah denies his divinity!”

A man (Graham Chapman) named Brian — born in the Roman Empire on the same day as Jesus Christ — becomes involved with the revolutionary People’s Front of Judea, and is mistaken as a messiah by eager crowds of would-be followers. Will his mother (Terry Jones) or his new girlfriend (Sue Jones-Davies) be able to save him from certain crucifixion?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt
  • Biblical Stories
  • Black Comedy
  • Historical Drama
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Monty Python Films
  • Revolutionaries

Comedy troupe Monty Python’s follow-up after the success of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) was this irreverent cult classic, beloved by many and infamous for the controversy it generated both before and after its release (and into recent years). To name just a few of its credentials as a “banned and blacklisted” film, its funding was pulled a few days before production was set to begin (George Harrison stepped in to help); several countries (including Ireland and Norway) banned or limited its screening upon release; rabbis and nuns picketed its opening in New York; and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gave the film an “O” for Offensive rating, offering the following summation:

Monty Python movie about a hapless fellow named Brian, a contemporary of Jesus, who is mistaken for the Messiah and eventually crucified by the Romans. The nihilistic, anything-for-laughs thrust of director Terry Jones’s comedy deliberately exploits much that is sacred to Christian and Jewish religious tradition. Especially offensive is the mocking parody of the crucifixion scene.

Yes, there is much to be offended by in Life of Brian: it’s a satire which truly leaves nothing sacred, and that’s the point. Its sharpest attacks are made on the mobs of worshipers who insist Brian is their messiah, and who turn his every word and action into a literal sign from God; and on left-leaning revolutionary groups which end up competing against each other for the ability to break free from Rome, while conceding that Roman imperialism actually brought quite a few positive elements to their lives. (“All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”) Not all the humor here will work for all viewers, naturally; I’m not a fan of the running gag about Pilate’s lisping, for instance, or amused by the Roman names such as “Biggus Dickus” and “Incontinentia Buttocks”. However, there’s plenty here to enjoy on repeat viewings — including but not limited to the classic closing ditty (“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”).

Note: Be sure to check out IMDb’s Trivia page for plenty of interesting facts about the making of this film, as well as Wikipedia’s in-depth overview and analysis; I’m sure the DVD commentary is worthy, too (though I haven’t listened to it yet myself).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many classic, laugh-out-loud scenes

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s GFTFF.


  • Cult Movie
  • Historically Relevant

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Life of Brian (1979) / Monty Python’s Life of Brian

  1. A no-brainer must-see, one which rewards on multiple viewings.

    Personally, I love this film from start to finish and can’t fault a single sequence (nor would I be able to choose a favorite scene, since I’m too fond of all of them). It’s a pure comic gem!

    ~even if some of it is crude. And I don’t feel any of it is intended with disrespect. I find it amusing that the film ignited such rancor and backlash among certain church groups. (…Sigh. Church groups.)

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