Brazil

  • Directors: Terry Gilliam
  • Producers: Arnon Milchan, Joseph P Grace
  • Writers: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Actors: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a low-level government employee, often daydreaming of saving a beautiful maiden. One day he is assigned the task of trying to rectify an error created by a government mishap, causing the incarceration of a Mr. Harry Buttle instead of the suspected terrorist, Harry Tuttle. When Sam visits Mr. Buttle’s widow, he discovers Jill Layton (Kim Greist), the upstairs neighbor of the Buttles, is the same woman as in his dreams. Jill is trying to help Mrs. Buttle find out what happened to her husband, but has gotten sick of dealing with the bureaucracy. Unbeknownst to her, she is now considered a terrorist friend of Tuttle for trying to report the mistake of Buttle’s arrest in Tuttle’s place to bureaucrats that would not admit such a mistake. When Sam tries to approach her, she is very cautious and avoids giving Sam full details, worried the government will track her down. During this time, Sam comes in contact with the real Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), a renegade air conditioning specialist who once worked for the government but left due to the amount of paperwork. Tuttle helps Sam deal with two government workers who are taking their time fixing the broken air conditioning in Sam’s apartment.

However, it is quickly revealed this happy ending is all happening inside Sam’s head when in front of the idyllic scene, two faces come into view staring at the camera, that of Jack and of Mr. Helpmann (Peter Vaughan), who as Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information is the system’s highest official we see in the film. What they are looking at, as they now realize, is Sam having become insane at Jack’s hands. Jack gives up trying to torture Sam, and Sam is left with a smile on his face, humming “Brazil” as Jack moves Mr. Helpmann in his wheelchair away from the scene.

A Fish Called Wanda

  • Directors: Charles Crichton
  • Producers: Michael Shamberg
  • Writers: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime
  • Actors: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson

George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his right-hand man, Ken Pile (Michael Palin), a beleaguered animal lover with a bad stutter, plan a jewel heist and bring in two Americans to help: an alluring con artist, Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a “weapons man”, Otto West (Kevin Kline). Wanda and Otto are lovers pretending to be siblings so that Wanda can work her charms on George and Ken. Wanda and Otto plan to betray Ken and George after the heist, and vice-versa. Wanda, it later transpires, is also planning to betray Otto.

After the robbery, Wanda and Otto betray George to the police, intending to take all the loot for themselves, but discover that George and Ken have moved the loot to a new location. Wanda decides to seduce George’s unhappily married lawyer, Archie Leach (John Cleese)[1] to find out where it is. Meanwhile, Ken is charged by George to silence a key witness, and Otto exerts his energies in fits of jealousy over Wanda and Archie and of impatience with Ken and Britain in general. Otto’s interference, and other incidences of bad luck, lead Wanda and Archie’s liaisons to go disastrously wrong.

There is subsequent confusion and slapstick. For example, in various attempts to kill the witness, the animal-loving Ken accidentally instead kills her three Yorkshire Terriers one by one. The witness eventually suffers a fatal heart attack when her third Terrier is killed. The title is derived from the name of Ken’s favorite tropical fish, which Otto eats alive, to Ken’s distress, during the farcical torture scene.

Archie and Wanda gradually fall in love and the movie ends with those two leaving the country with the jewels[2]. Ken finally has his revenge on Otto by running him over with a steamroller (which he somehow survives). Title cards reveal their futures: “Archie and Wanda were married in Rio, had seventeen children, and founded a leper colony. Ken became Master of Ceremonies at the London Sea World. Otto emigrated to South Africa and became Minister for Justice.”

Life of Brian

  • Directors: Terry Jones
  • Producers: John Goldstone
  • Writers: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
  • Genres: Comedy
  • Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Brian Cohen is born in a stable a few doors from the one in which Jesus is born, a fact which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. They manage to put up with Brian’s boorish mother Mandy until they realise their mistake. Brian grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea, even after learning his father was a Roman Centurion – Naughtius Maximus – who raped Brian’s mother (“You mean; you were raped?”, “Well, at first, yes”). While attending Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he becomes infatuated with an attractive young female rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People’s Front of Judea (PFJ), one of many factious and bickering separatist movements who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans (see Political satire below). The group’s cynical leader Reg gives Brian his first assignment: He must scrawl some graffiti on the wall of the governor’s palace. Just as he finishes doing this, he is confronted by a passing centurion who, in disgust at Brian’s faulty Latin grammar (“Romanes eunt domus”, or “the people called ‘Romanes’ they go the house”), forces him to write the grammatically correct message (“Romani ite domum” or “Romans, go home”) 100 times. By dawn, the walls of the fortress are covered in text. When the Roman guards change shift at daybreak, the new guards try to arrest Brian, but he manages to slip away with the help of Judith.

Instead, Pilate is just fed various names intended to highlight his speech impediment (Very well. I shall wewease Wodewick,. Biggus Dickus then attempts to take control of the situation by reading out the prisoner list, but the combination of his severe lisp and every prisoner having a name starting with S (e.g. Samson the Sadducee Strangler) causes the assembled hordes collapse to the floor in laughter at the spectacle. Pilate eventually orders Brian’s release, but (in a moment parodying the climax of the film Spartacus), various crucified people all claim to be “Brian of Nazareth” – one man stating “I’m Brian and so’s my wife” – and the wrong man is released. Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as one by one his “allies” (including Judith) step forward to explain why they are leaving the “noble freedom fighter” hanging in the hot sun. Condemned to a long and painful death, Brian’s spirits are lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break out into song with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  • Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
  • Producers: Mark Forstater, Michael White
  • Writers: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
  • Genres: Adventure, Comedy
  • Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

King Arthur (Chapman), along with his faithful servant Patsy (Gilliam), is recruiting his Knights of the Round Table throughout England. He is frustrated at every turn by such obstacles as anarcho-syndicalist peasants, a Black Knight who refuses to give up in a fight despite losing both his arms and legs, and guards who are more concerned with the flight patterns of swallows than their lord and master. Finally he meets up with Sir Bedevere the Wise (Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (also called “the Chaste”) (Palin), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, who nearly stood up to the fierce dragon of Angnor, almost stood to the vicious chicken of Bristol, and personally wet himself at the Battle for Badon Hill (Idle), “and the aptly-named Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film” (a picture of Palin’s infant son). They declare themselves the Knights of the Round Table. When “riding” to Camelot (by strutting and banging two coconut halves together), they are given a quest by God (represented by an animated photograph of legendary cricket figure W. G. Grace) to find the Holy Grail.

They encounter a castle with a Frenchman who randomly taunts them with names like ‘Daffy English knnnnnniggits’ and odd insults such as, “I fart in your general direction!” and “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”, together with some mangled Franglais, notably “Fetchez la vache!” (Fetch the cow). The Knights then retreat, weathering a barrage of livestock and executing a poorly thought-out plan to sneak into the castle while concealed within a crudely built giant wooden rabbit (a Trojan Rabbit) which the French throw back at the knights. Arthur decides that he and his knights should search for the Grail individually. After they split up, Sir Robin travels through the dark Forest of Ewing with his favourite minstrels, and encounters a Three-Headed Giant, Galahad follows a Grail-shaped light to the perils of Castle Anthrax (the girls of which are very interested in being spanked and having oral sex with him), Sir Lancelot massacres a wedding at Swamp Castle, and Arthur and Bedevere encounter the dreaded Knights who say Ni, who demand a shrubbery as tribute. They each overcome or avoid their individual perils in a variety of ways, then reunite to face a bleak and terrible winter, the happenings of which are told in the form of a Gilliam animation. Next they venture further to a pyromaniacal enchanter named Tim, who leads them to a cave guarded by a killer rabbit.

One of the running gags in the film is the frequent breaking of the fourth wall, the separation between the action on screen and the production offscreen is blurred; for example, the aforementioned “old man from scene 24” and the death of the animator. Others include: