In medieval England, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his servant (Terry Gilliam) solicit help from a group of knights — Sir Lancelot (John Cleese), Sir Robin (Eric Idle), Sir Belvedere (Terry Jones), and Sir Galahad (Michael Palin) — in finding the Holy Grail.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Historical Drama
- Medieval Times
- Monty Python Films
- Royalty and Nobility
- Satires and Spoofs
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “side-splitting comedy by England’s premier comedy troupe” is, “despite a rushed ending”, the group’s “best film to date, the one that made converts out of those… who never watched their cult TV series.” He notes that “we laugh because of the crazy characters, foolish dialogue, and ridiculous incidents that occur, but also because someone… had the gall to make a historical picture with such shoddy production values that all [the] horses are invisible and the sound of galloping steeds is made by… striking coconuts together”. Indeed, given their rather severe budget limitations, it’s genuinely impressive how much of the “look” of medieval England the troupe was able to achieve — complete with “mist, mud, peasants living in squalor, forest lakes, colorful costumes, and castles”.
As Peary notes, the film satirizes, among other things, “the French, homosexuals, communists, [and] kings”, as well as “cowardice” and — most harshly — “senseless British gallantry”. Nothing about the King Arthur legend is left sacred: Sir Robin is revealed to be a cowardly ninny; Sir Lancelot rushes into a massacre without stopping to verify that he’s in the right place; the Black Knight (Cleese) refuses to stop swordfighting despite the loss of one limb after the other. Other humor — such as the infamous “killer rabbit” sequence — is more random and less historically situated, but still stupidly hilarious if you’re in the right mood. While some sequences inevitably fall flat, Monty Python the Holy Grail remains indispensable must-see viewing at least once for all film fanatics. It’s too much of a cult classic to miss.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Excellent use of low-budget costumes, props, and sets
- Peasants complaining to King Arthur about being “repressed”
- An irreverent look at disposal of bodies (both dead and alive) during the Black Death
- King Arthur chopping off the Black Night’s limbs, one by one (“It’s only a flesh wound.”)
- Sir Galahad ignoring the requests of nubile girls — between the ages of 16 and 19 — at Castle Anthrax
- Sir Lancelot nobly but wrong-headedly murdering members of a wedding party in an attempt to save a “damsel” in distress
- The “killer rabbit” sequence
- Terry Gilliam’s animated interludes
- The incredibly silly opening credits
Yes, as a comedic classic and cult favorite. Nominated by Peary as one of the best films of the year in his Alternate Oscars book.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)