Monty Python's Life of Brian

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Always look on the bright side of life!


Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me...
You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
Crowd: Yes! We're all different!
Man: I'm not.
Crowd: Shhh!

Monty Python's Life of Brian is a tremendously popular and very funny film by Monty Python, following the misadventures of Brian (played by Graham Chapman), who was born just down the street from Jesus Christ. Dissatisfied with his life as a Jew in Roman territory, Brian attempts to join La Résistance (though mostly because there's a very pretty girl there) and ends up fleeing from the Romans. In the middle of this, he accidentally starts a cult, becomes a Messiah figure, gets captured by the Romans, and is crucified.

Rather than mocking Jesus, the film actually treats the source material with a lot of respect. It just points out that Christianity may have missed the point on some of what Jesus taught. It is not unheard of for the movie to be regarded as an Affectionate Parody by actual ministers, but as always, Your Mileage May Vary on how offended you'll get.

A made-for-TV comedy film, Holy Flying Circus, about the controversy surrounding the film, was released on BBC 4.

See also Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Tropes used in Monty Python's Life of Brian include:

Merchant one: 'Ere, this guy won't haggle!
Merchant two: (shocked) Won't haggle?

    • It must be said that Judaism never explicitly enters into the joke. It's just a play on the idea that merchants want to haggle, and not be paid the full price they first ask for. You can infer this as a reference to Jewish stereotypes, but that's entirely based on interpretation, and likely not what the Pythons had in mind.
  • Animated Credits Opening
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:

Pilate: Who is this "Wodewick" you speak of?
Man: He's a "wobber"!
Other man: And a "wapist"!!
Woman: And a pickpocket!

  • Away in a Manger: Brian is born at the same time as Jesus, in the manger next door.
  • Be Yourself: Not blindly following dogma is a theme of this film, but the Pythons were savvy enough to both recognize this could be a Lost Aesop in all the silliness, and that the trope itself is a built-in Broken Aesop. So they got around both by having a scene where Brian explicitly states the message, and people still screwing the message up. At least, not blindly following dogma you made up yourself because a guy really really seems like the messiah to you.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Repeatedly subverted in the final scene, as Brian's allies show up, group by group, and do nothing whatsoever to save him.
  • Birthday Suit Surprise Party: Brian's girlfriend, an Expy of Mary Magdalene, tries to convince Brian's mom that he is special (while naked, as she had barged in on the two of them). It doesn't work. And earlier when after awaking, Brian opens his blinds...

Brian's mom: He's not The Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!

  • Blinding Bangs: One of Brian's "acolytes", in the Sermon from the Window scene.
  • The Call Has Bad Reception: From his followers' perspective.
  • Camp Gay: Pontius Pilate, and his "vewwy good fwiend" Biggus Dickus.
  • Canis Latinicus: Naughtius Maximus, Biggus Dickus, Incontinentia Buttocks. (The combination "ck" cannot occur in Latin. It should be Biggus Diccus and Incontinentia Buttox.)
  • Cannot Spit It Out: The handicapped prison guard and his Cloudcuckoolander assistant, when the Centurion tries to free Brian. Poor Communication Kills, unfortunately.... Although this later turns out to be Obfuscating Disability.
  • The Cat Came Back: Brian's followers.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Both the aforementioned scene with people missing the message of individuality, and the scene where the centurion corrects Brian's Latin, ignoring the fact that the phrase itself is treason.
  • Corpsing: In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, Pilate speaks of his friend Biggus Dickus, as the guards desperately (and ultimately vainly) attempt to keep a straight face. In reality, the extras cast as the guards were told that it was a serious scene, and if they so much as giggled, they would be fired on the spot. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Country Matters: Reg would've used the word had the censors not demanded he say "klutz" instead. The page features the full uncensored quote.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mandy, Reg, Brian, Mr. Cheeky, Mr. Big Nose, The Old Man at the Stoning, Ben, The Ex-Leper... It's basically a World of Snark.
  • Derailed for Details: Brian's attempt to tell the Parable of the Talents.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Parodied. A low flying UFO passed by just when Brian is about to fall to his death.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The ending, from Brian's perspective.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The crowd starts arguing about whether the sign is the shoe or the gourd. And even if it's a shoe or a sandal.
  • Double Take: The two aliens inside the spaceship do a double-take at the sight of Brian. More exactly, their eyestalks do a double-take.
  • Downer Ending: "Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say: some things in life are bad...." Pretty much subverted by being a very cheery downer ending.
  • Do Wrong Right: The above-mentioned scene with the centurion making Brian change his (treasonous) graffiti to be correct Latin.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Pontius Pilate. It was actually considered sophisticated to have a speech impediment back then. They did their research. So it's even applying Deliberate Values Dissonance to make it funny.
  • Exact Words: How Brian's followers interpret his instructions.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: After Brian is crucified, just about everyone arrives to have a final word with him, never bothering to try and save him.
  • Fan Service: The film features a naked Graham Chapman as well as a naked chick-who-plays-Judith. Amusingly, although Judith is seen for a second or two in front view, there is no risk whatsoever of the viewer actually catching a glimpse of her private parts, as she is blessed with pubic hair of heroic proportions.
  • Flanderization: Pontius Pilate is High Camp? Who knew?
  • Flock of Wolves: The women who dress up as men to go to the stoning. Plus the fact that all the actors playing those women were in fact, men. So you have men pretending to be women pretending to be men.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Though it portrays Jesus in a favorable light, the movie is a pretty harsh deconstruction of society's romanticized view of life in the time of Christ, and of Biblical stories in general. As it points out, the Romans weren't just cruel oppressors with 0% Approval Rating—they did more to improve the Judean people's lives than anyone before them. Conversely, "God's chosen people" had criminal justice that could be just as brutal and unfair as the Romans', and they were never a noble La Résistance—they spent more time getting involved in petty squabbling amongst themselves than they did resisting the Romans. And in any case, having a cult of devoted followers who expect you to solve all of their problems isn't nearly as cool as you would think. And getting betrayed by your friends and "sacrificing" yourself on the cross? It's only inspiring when it's not happening to you!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The graffiti scene is an in-show example. Brian is quickly caught, but the soldiers cared more about the graffiti's bad grammar than the treasonous message it conveyed.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Some women unconvincingly disguise themselves as men, complete with big bushy beards, in order to attend a stoning.
  • Grammar Nazi: The graffiti scene.
  • The Gump / The Zelig: Brian's life intersects with Jesus and he keeps getting mistaken for the Messiah.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A key theme of the movie is many of the hypocrisies and Double Standards present in organized religion and, in a broader context, in society at large. This being a movie by the Pythons, it becomes a rich source of humor as well.
    • In one specific example, the beginning of the movie features a ceremony where a man who used the Lord's name in vain is about to be stoned to death ("All I said was 'that bit of halibut is good enough for Jehovah'!"). However, except for Brian all of the people attending the stoning are women... who, in that women are not permitted to participate in the stoning, are breaking the Jewish religious law just as much as the poor sod they're about to stone to death.
  • I Am Spartacus: Direct Shout-Out, subverted. "I'm Brian! And so's my wife!"
  • "I Know What We Can Do!" Cut: The kidnapping plan.
  • "It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It"

Brian: My God, Mother, you were raped?!
Brian's mother: Well, at first.

  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Really, the film doesn't mock him at all. The closest thing is that the "Life of Brian" is designed to be something that could be mistaken for Jesus' in time.
    • The only joke aimed at Jesus himself is people mishearing his words during the Sermon on the Mount, which is more mocking people for misunderstanding him.
    • A joke then carried one step further on Not the Nine O'Clock News -- clip here, detailed explanation here.
  • Jews Love to Argue: Incidental, with the liberation fronts arguing with each other.
  • Just in Time
    • Subverted, when the Legionary commander arrives at the prison with orders to release Brian, it turns out they've already left.
    • And again when the Crack Suicide Squad arrives to free Brian.
  • La Résistance: The several groups to free Judea from the Romans, and how they suck at it.
  • Large Ham: "We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front..." Played with, making fun of a man for forming the Popular Front.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" compares death to the end of a production from the actors' perspective. It's played at the end of the film.
  • Logic Bomb: The single man in the crowd that claims he isn't an individual.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Brian
  • The Messiah: Brian isn't it. (He's a very naughty boy.)
  • Messianic Archetype: Discussed.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Pretty much the message of the entire film. People obeying someone they mistake for the Messiah and misinterpreting everything he does or says.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Ocelots, jaguars, Swedes, the Welsh.
  • Missed the Call: The Three Wise Men visit Brian's house first by mistake while Following a Star. They have to take their gifts back from Brian's quarrelsome mother.
  • Mistaken for Profound: People thinking Brian is the Messiah.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Brian's whole life, particularly after he decides to pretend to be a prophet in the town square.
  • Mister Seahorse: Discussed. "It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them."
  • The Musical: Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy). A comic oratorio written by Eric Idle and John du Prez, based on The Life of Brian.
  • Never Say That Again: Jehovah!
  • No Ending: Not that you'd really expect one from a Monty Python movie.
  • "No" Means "Yes": Denying he's the Messiah just makes the believers even more certain of Brian's divinity.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country!: They only want the cruel but effective Romans to go home.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The spaceship prop's "exploding" mechanism was powered by exploding cigars and a lightbulb filament (DVD commentary).
  • Oh Crap: One of the guards' face screams of this when Pilate tells that Biggus Dickus "has a wife, you know". The actors playing the guards were specifically told not to laugh, so the reaction is most likely a real one.
  • Only Sane Man: In as much as a Monty Python movie can be said to have a "sane" man, Brian usually fulfills this role. Of the Romans, the centurion played by John Cleese seems to be the only one with his head screwed on straight.
  • Open the Door and See All the People: With Male Frontal Nudity, no less.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise
    • During a stoning, all the women in the group are wearing fake beards in order to participate. There's even a vendor right outside the stoning grounds openly selling these beards.
    • When Brian returns to the People's Front. Seriously, hiding under a rug? They do it a second time when the Romans come to search the headquarters for Brian. They then joke about it when they come back a third time, "You haven't given us time to hide!"
  • Precision F-Strike:

Brian: Alright, I am the Messiah!
Worshipers: Yes! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now...fuck off!
Worshiper: Beat How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

  • Punny Name: Played with.
    • The lead Centurion naturally assumes that the name of Brian's father, "Naughtius Maximus", is a joke name, like "Sillius Soddus" or "Biggus Dickus".
    • The Judean People's Front has a suicide squad. Their mission: commit suicide.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: The stoning, in which the Pythons were men playing women pretending to be men. It gets even more recursive when you consider the fact that some of the women at the stoning are, in fact, played by women attempting to do a man's impression of a woman's voice with actual women's voices. In essence, women playing men playing women pretending to be men.
  • Son of a Whore: Brian
  • Sorry Stan, But You Just Don't Have a Womb: "Where's the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?"
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Always look on the bright side of life!"
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: Brian is continually Mistaken for the Messiah.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: The "crack suicide squad" attempts to save Brian from crucifixion.
  • Suicide Mission: Played for laughs by the "crack suicide squad". They shows up at the crucifixion, their leader cries "Attack!", whereupon all of the members stab themselves and die at Brian's feet.
  • Troll: The guy played by Eric Idle, titled as "Mr. Cheeky", is actually one, starting from igniting the whole "Big Nose" incident, and later dashed Brian's chance to be freed by claiming himself to be Brian for kicks.

"Bloody Romans, can't take a joke."

"...Brought peace?"
"Shut up!"

    • Also an example of Did Not Do the Research as they credit the Romans with stuff they did not introduce to Judaea—wine, for instance had been around for ages (it is mentioned in the very first book of the Bible), religious purity laws covered at least some aspects of sanitation, fresh water systems and public health, and other of the mentioned items had been introduced by previous occupiers such as the Persians (famous roadbuilders) and the Greeks. Either a Funny Aneurysm Moment or Hilarious in Hindsight, the whole routine was a sillier sort of satire directed at far-left groups in the UK during The Seventies who simply didn't know what they were doing, and were spending more time arguing with each other and pointlessly discussing trivial things rather than trying to help people, see With Us or Against Us below. This is pretty much exactly what all the Pythons (who were some flavor of Labour to a man back then) were going for. They were more or less screaming, "What are you idiots doing! You keep at it and that woman is going to win the next election!" Funny thing that: between the completion of the film in January and its release in August, she did. Oops. (John Cleese would later leave Labour for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, doing a Party Political for them in 1987).
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Subverted repeatedly.
  • With Us or Against Us: The resistance groups spend more time fighting each other than fighting the Romans. Brian even calls them out on it.

Brian: We should unite against our common enemy!
Others: The Judean People's Front?
Brian: No! The Romans!

Centurion: People called Romanes, they go the 'ouse?!


And... Always look on the bright side of death! Just before you draw your terminal breath!