On Oct. 5, 1969, comedy changed forever. It was the day The Monty Python Flying Circus was first broadcast by the BBC, earning critical acclaim for its satirical humor that was unlike anything the world had seen before.
Monty Python’s success encouraged the production team to dabble in movies, too, which are fondly remembered as seminal works of comedic film. They were written by the likes of John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Terry Jones. Here, we’re ranking our top 5 best Monty Python movies.
5) Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
The Meaning of Life was the group’s final movie, one that went back to their sketch comedy routes. It features eight standalone stories, though each explores the meaning of life in various ways. It’s a darker affair than those that came before it, with more violent and gross moments than what was seen up until then, including the iconic scene in which Mr. Creosote eats until he starts non-stop vomiting, which is both grotesque and highly amusing at the same time.
Generally speaking, The Meaning of Life showcased Terry Jones’ and Terry Gilliam’s improvements as directors during Monty Python’s run. The duo’s first movies, for example, were shot with only simple camera movements as if they were recording theatre on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, while in The Meaning of Life, jokes are often made much funnier via the use of more advanced camera techniques and editing.
4) Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Monty Python’s live show at the Hollywood Bowl was a concert to rival The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix for fans of the troupe. By 1980, Monty Python was already massively famous, and this show was an opportunity to see them live, where they performed some of their most famous Flying Circus sketches and songs.
The most successful and brilliantly funny sketches on this show were The Argument Clinic, The Lumberjack Song, The Ministry of Silly Walks, and The Argument sketch. The success of this special proved there was an appetite for Monty Python on stage, and that would lay the ground for Broadway’s hit Monty Python’s Spamalot.
The film demonstrates the troupe’s talent to vary their most famous sketches, improvising and adding to them off the cuff in uniquely special ways. The live performances were a glimpse at the troupe’s wonderful chemistry, especially in moments when each member is clearly holding back from bursting with genuine laughter.
3) And Now for Something Completely Different
Monty Python’s Flying Circus started everything, creating a whirlwind of creative, unique ideas connected by surreal animated drawings and making them the funniest thing ever.
And Now for Something Completely Different is the troupe’s first film and consists of some of the better sketches of the show’s first two seasons. The movie was done to be an easier entry point for American audiences on what the Python’s did and were about (in 1971, watching a British comedy series wasn’t as easy as login into your Netflix account).
And Now for Something Completely Different was thought of as an introduction piece on the comedy troupe, showing all their comedic sensibilities, using some of their most famous yet unique sketches so that people could see what Monty Python was made of.
From The Funniest Joke in the World to The Dead Parrot Sketch, or Self-Defence Against Fruit, all the scenes prove their silliness, their love for jokes with cultural knowledge, and the absurdities people will do to get things right.
Surprisingly, the film was a bomb, and the Python’s incursion into America’s funny bone wouldn’t come until years later.
2) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
This was Monty Python’s first narrative-led film, in which they used the Arthurian legend to create one of the most absurdly funny films ever made. King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail provides the perfect excuse to find whimsical adventures (sketches) all across England, which are outrageous, silly, and downright hilarious.
From the first scenes, it’s clear the comedians are having an absolute blast and embracing the silliness to the max. Their horses, for example, are just coconuts banged together to make horse-clopping noises; while later in the film, Sir Lancelot the Brave recruits a new knight of the round table, Sir Robin the not quite so Brave as Sir Lancelot!
There just aren’t any bad ideas in this film, which starts at funny and ends at hilarious, and there are plenty of iconic scenes that are still quoted in pop culture today. From the Knights that go Ni! to The Black Night who will not allow Arthur to pass as he’s only received “a flesh wound,” this movie is a non-stop comedy riot.
After all this time, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is still one of the most famous and superbly-made comedies of all time. Its silliness also makes it the perfect introduction to the comedy group for newcomers. Just be prepared to hear “It’s only a flesh wound!” repeatedly in your head or around your house for the next few weeks!
1) Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Life of Brian is absolutely the best Monty Python movie ever. As with most things in the comedy troupe, it all started with a joke: when they were doing press for Holy Grail, they kept being asked what their next movie was about and Eric Idle snapped and suggested Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory.
Although that idea was scrapped as they didn’t want to make fun of Jesus, they thought the New Testament Era was a great place to tell a new story. The film production initially struggled to gather funding as many saw it as blasphemous, but eventually, in stepped The Beatles’ George Harrison to help finance the movie. Notably, upon its release, it was banned in both Ireland and Norway.
Funnily enough, in the end, the only thing Brian and Jesus have in common is that they were born on the same day, in neighboring barns. This movie perfectly lampoons some of the habits of the era. From who is a prophet and the meaning of religion to the different religious factions that want the same thing but on their terms. Other themes include why only men could be part of a stoning; the influences (good and bad) of Roman occupation, and even if Stan aka Loretta can have the right to have babies even if he doesn’t have a womb.
Life of Brian is certainly the most mature movie the troupe ever did, and one that almost follows the three-act structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end (not a guarantee in Monty Python’s projects), and the trip is hilarious.
Every scene is laugh-out-loud funny, be it the cameo of an alien spaceship, what the Romans brought to their country (especially wine), and the surrealist of endings, with every crucified man singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. It’s an incredible message, for one of the funniest movies ever made, and the best written, shot, and performed by the masters of laughs and the surreal, the one-of-a-kind Monty Python.
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