Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"If we built this large wooden badger..."

After the success of Monty Python's Flying Circus in the UK and US, the six Ambassadors of Anarchy got the right to make films. This was their second go-round (after And Now for Something Completely Different, which did feature redone versions of several sketches from Circus) and one of their most famous and oft-quoted.

A complete skewering of the Arthurian legend, it tells the story of King Arthur and his attempt to build a court at Camelot (which is, of course, a silly place). Once he assembles his crew (off-screen, mostly), he has a vision of God (or a reasonable drawing of same by Terry Gilliam based on a famous cricket player), informing him that to cement his name in immortality, he must seek the Holy Grail -- the cup used at the Last Supper of Christ, and which caught his blood after the crucifixion. After a long and roundabout search which leads them to the far corners of the Kingdom and past idiosyncratic knights, the world's oldest harem, and a very nasty rabbit, they discover the Grail is supposedly located in a very old castle, which has fallen into the hands of those heathen enemies -- the French.

Those nasty taunting bastards.

Full of random quips, hilarious stand-alone scenes, and the type of comedic anarchy and anticlimax that practically defines British comedy even to this day, the movie was a low-budget success story and has become a Cult Classic over time. It also reveals Michael Palin's versatility, as he plays something like ten roles over the course of the film. He's not alone, of course; the majority of people and about 80% of the lines are from the Pythonites, leading to some interesting blocking and directing decisions. (Watch Lancelot's helmet.)

Or, if you want to be "artsy" about it, see Eric Idle's Broadway adaptation: Spamalot!

Just a side note -- because Terry Jones is, in fact, an Arthurian scholar, this happens to be not just the funniest but the most accurate film adaptation of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur ever made. Some of the humor, in fact, is derived from typical Pythonian spins on events and characterizations from the original tales.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the Trope Namer for:

... and a few others which have been renamed over the years, like Unexplained Recovery (which was once called I Got Better), Sham Ceremony (formerly Farcical Aquatic Ceremony), and The Presents Were Never From Santa (originally Strange Pond Woman).

Tropes used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail include:


  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: The Knights of the Round Table, whose shows are formidABLE, but many times are given rhymes that are quite unsingABLE.
  • Abnormal Ammo: the cow and large wooden rabbit the French fling at the English knights (catapulting animals was a legitimate strategy for fending off invaders back then, but they were usually dead animals meant to spread disease, not actual livestock). The French can do this too, with less preparation.
    • The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: King Arthur can cut through the Black Knight's armour and limbs with ease.
  • Affectionate Parody: Terry Jones is an Arthurian scholar and knew a lot of the source material.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Castle Anthrax.
  • Almost-Dead Guy: Subverted constantly.
    • The "plague victim" who protests that he is not dead. However, both his "caretaker" and the cart bearer eventually have had enough of his whining and kill him anyway.
    • The Running Gag of people getting shot, stabbed, or otherwise injured, and people mourning over them as if they are giving a Final Speech, only for them to protest that they are "getting better".
    • With his dying breath, Joseph of Aramathea carves a message on a cave wall.

King Arthur: If he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve "Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh!," he'd just say it!
Sir Galahad: Perhaps he was dictating.
King Arthur: Oh, shut up.

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees
    • Launching/dropping dead animals and other nasty things was a real tactic in siege warfare.
    • Also, those guys in the monks robes who walk around chanting in Latin and hitting themselves in the face with boards? They were called flagellants.
      • As flagellant sects go, their behavior, as odd as it is, is extremely mild.
  • Amusing Injuries: the Black Knight's limbs being lopped off in his duel with King Arthur. "You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you! I'll bite your legs off!"
  • Anticlimax
    • The surprise ending to the British attack on the French castle. The reason why they didn't go through with the whole fight is because they ran out of money and time, and couldn't film the whole thing. So they just said "Everyone went to jail".
    • The Death of the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh may count.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The message carved by Joseph of Aramathea giving the Grail's location.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: You didn't think that was real Swedish, did you? Seriously? We're disappointed in you.
  • Attack! Attack! Retreat! Retreat!
    • Where Arthur's Battle Cry quickly breaks down into a rather disorderly call for retreat: "Run Awaaay!", when the French counterattack by launching farm animals at the attackers.
    • Also the tactic used against the killer rabbit.
  • Animator Existence Failure: Played for laughs "when, suddenly... the animator suffered a fatal heart attack. The cartoon peril was no more."
  • Badass Adorable: The Killer Rabbit.
  • Bait and Switch Credits: See them all here.
  • Baleful Polymorph: "She turned me into a newt!" "A newt?" *Beat* "I got better."
  • The Bard: Sir Robin's minstrels, one of whom sings "Brave Sir Robin Ran Away".
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Prince Herbert's escape attempt.
  • Better Than It Sounds/Film: "King Arthur on a low budget. With many original additions."
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Latin chorus sung by the monks while hitting themselves on the head with a two-by-four (a film-friendly version of self-flagellation). It's a real prayer and has been put to music many times, most famously by Bach. The line uttered by the monks translates to Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest, grant them thine eternal rest. However, when one factors in the satirical nature of the film, it's not really that far-fetched to assume that what they're trying to say is: "God, give them a break already!"
  • Black Knight
  • Bloody Hilarious
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The French Knight, each time he confronts King Arthur and his knights.
  • Boom Stick: Wielded by Tim the Enchanter in his first scene (right before the confrontation with the Rabbit of Caerbannog).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall
    • In a deleted scene, Dingo turns and talks to the audience.
    • "Look! There's the old man from Scene 24!"
    • Patsy: *when referring to Camelot* "It's only a model"
  • Brick Joke: "African or European swallow?"
    • The swallow joke comes up at least three times after the initial scene. Bedevere arrives on screen releasing a swallow with a coconut tied to it, the narrator goes on about how many swallows'-flight away Arthur and Bedevere are from Galahad and Lancelot, and of course the above counter-question at the Bridge of Death.
    • The murder of the historian.
    • The credits. All of the credits guys were sacked, meaning there were no end credits.
  • Brown Note: The Knights Who Say "Ni". Later King Arthur uses the sacred word "Ni" himself. And the evil word: "it".
  • Burn the Witch
  • Catch Phrase: King Arthur -- "Oh, shut up!"
    • Also "Jesus Christ!" and "Run away!"
  • Celibate Hero: Sir Galahad, though not for lack of trying.
    • He might have succeeded if it wasn't for that meddling Launcelot.

Launcelot: We were in the nick of time! You were in great peril.
Galahad: I don't think I was.
Launcelot: Yes you were, you were in terrible peril!
Galahad: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
Launcelot: No, it's too perilous.
Galahad: It's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can!
Launcelot: No, we've got to find the Holy Grail. Come on!
Galahad: Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?
Launcelot: No. It's unhealthy.
Galahad: ...Bet you're gay.
Launcelot: Am not!

  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Inverted. The French are constantly getting the drop on the English knights.
  • Chekhov's Gag
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Halfway through the film, a historian appears to summarize the next part of the plot and is murdered. Later, Arthur, Sir Bedevere, and Sir Lancelot are stopped on their quest and arrested for his murder.
    • Arthur's overheard information about swallows and coconuts. Used to launch someone off a bridge.
  • Chosen One: Subverted. An anarcho-syndicalist peasant doesn't think it's enough to be king just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.
  • Coconut Superpowers
    • The horses are just the serfs following their knight, clapping two halves of a coconut together.
    • When the knights are hurled from the Bridge of Death, the actor is just crouched down, and then standing up real fast.
  • Collectible Card Game
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment
    • The Knights of Ni and King Arthur using the Brown Note "Ni!" to hurt people.
    • Also, apparently the punishment for lighting the "Grail-shaped" beacon at the Castle Anthrax is for the offender to be tied to the bed and spanked. And after the spanking, the oral sex!
  • Credits Gag
    • "Swedish" subtitles, Richard M. Nixon, møøse, llamas, and mass firings.
    • The latter most of which carries on into the end credits. (Or lack thereof.)
  • Cryptic Conversation: Scene 24.
  • Dark Age Europe

Brother Maynard: Three is the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four thou shalt not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

    • This sounds exactly like an oral tradition (where repetition helped cement things in memory) that got transcribed exactly when it got written down. See above about Terry Jones being a history geek.
  • Derailed for Details: In the opening scene, King Arthur's attempt to summon the Lord of the local castle derails into a discussion of how exactly King Arthur acquired a coconut shell in Medieval England, and ends with an argument over the migratory patterns of swallows.
  • Deranged Animation: The various intercut scenes, like with the Black Beast of AAAAAAARRRRGGGHH!, are animated in Terry Gilliam's signature deranged style.
  • Determinator: Deconstructed, figuratively and literally, by the Black Knight scene.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The ending where Arthur's army is arrested by modern-day police.
  • Didn't Think This Through
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: God to King Arthur.

God: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel! If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
Arthur: Sorry--
God: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's "sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy". What are you doing now!?
Arthur: I'm averting my eyes, oh Lord.
God: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms -- they're so depressing. Now knock it off!

  • Damsel in Distress: Subverted.
  • Dope Slap: King Arthur to Sir Bedevere and the King of Swamp Castle to Prince Herbert.
  • Double Entendre: "She's rich, she's beautiful, she's got huuuuge... (suggestive gesture) tracts of land."
  • Double Take: The French soldier when he sees the Trojan Rabbit.
  • Downer Ending: Arthur gets arrested by (modern-day) police officers in connection with a trans-temporal murder committed by his knights earlier in the picture. Plus, Arthur and his knights are likely innocent. The "famous historian" was murdered by a knight riding a REAL horse, whereas Arthur's knights only simulate horseriding with pantomime and coconuts.
  • Drop the Cow: "Fetchez la vache!"
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Subverted.

Lancelot: O Fair One, behold your humble servant Sir Lancelot of Camelot. I have come in answer to your mess-- oh, I'm terribly sorry!

  • The Dung Ages: Remember, Arthurian scholar. This was actually one of the first movies to show that conditions back then weren't like what they showed you in the movies. The corpse collector is able to identify Arthur as a king specifically because "he hasn't got shit all over him."
  • Dying Clue: "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the castle of AAAAaaaaaargh." Of course, it turns out the castle is actually called "AAAAaaaaaargh".
  • Eat Dirt Cheap: Parodied. The Constitutional Peasants are seen gathering dirt and filth in the same way one would harvest crops.
  • Eat the Dog: Robin's minstrels.
  • Everyone Join the Party: At the end, hundreds of soldiers show up literally out of nowhere.
  • Explain, Explain, Oh Crap: Trojan Rabbit, approximately thusly:

King Arthur: What happens next?
Bedevere: Well, now, uh, Launcelot, Galahad, and I wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French by surprise -- not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!
King Arthur: Who leaps out?
Bedevere: Uh, Launcelot, Galahad, and I, uh, leap out of the rabbit, uh, and, uh.... (looks around at who are very obviously still standing next to him, and besides which are now openly facepalming) l-look, if we built this large wooden badger...


Frenchman: I'm French! Why do you zink I have zis outrrrrageous accent, you silly king-a?!
Frenchman: I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

  • Gag Boobs: Huge... tracts of land.
  • Gag Sub: The opening credits and those on a DVD release.
    • For the record, the DVD Gag Sub is actually entirely composed of lines from William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2. It's marketed on the DVD as being "For People Who Did Not Like The Film." Only it isn't Henry IV. It's just the film's lines put into more Shakespearean terms.
      • Actually, all the lines are FROM Henry IV. They're just not in Shakespeare's order, and some are just fragments of lines, chosen to fit the lines actually spoken in the film.
  • Gainax Ending: Details in the spoilers for Chekhov's Gun above.
  • Genericist Government
  • Get It Off Me!: You know the scene. "We'll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit's dynamite!"
  • Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: The Dreaded Black Beast of AUGH, although we don't think it's from space.
  • Girl in the Tower: Parodied. First, it's a guy, and it only gets worse from there.
  • God: Shows up to give Arthur and his knights the task of finding the Holy Grail. He hates it when people grovel or avert their eyes, and thinks the psalms dedicated to Him are depressing.
  • Grail Quest: As to be expected in a movie that mentions the Holy Grail in its title. Although the plot of the movie is a typically Pythonian Random Events Plot almost entirely driven by the Rule of Funny, Galahad's encounter with Castle Anthrax, its inhabitants, and the temptations they offer is a perfect example of the kind of challenge found on the original Grail Quest, starting right from the "Grail-shaped beacon" used to lure him in. (Which only makes sense, because Graham Chapman, as we have noted elsewhere on the wiki, was an Arthurian scholar and made sure that the movie was accurate as well as funny.) The only break from the pattern is the team of knights that rescue him from the castle -- in a proper Grail Quest challenge, Galahad would have had to overcome or fail on his own merits and actions.
    • And ultimately, Arthur demonstrates his worthiness to pass the final barrier to the Grail castle with knowledge he gained in literally the first scene of the film.
  • Groin Attack: The Black Knight does it to the Green Knight while fighting him.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Swamp Castle guards.
  • Hand Signals: Several examples
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbanog.
  • Having a Blast: Tim the Enchanter.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: A guard in the first "Prince Herbert" scene.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: On his first encounter with the French Knights, there is an exchange where Arthur offers to let their leader accompany him on the quest for the holy grail. The Frenchman replies "Well I'll ask him, but I don't think he'll be very keen. He's already got one you see!" Arthur tries to break in, but is chased away and forgets about the exchange. At the end of the film, It turns out Castle Aarghhh is the same Castle the French were in, though Arthur approaches from the other side, across a lake this time, so he didn't recognize it at first.
  • High-Pressure Blood
    • King Arthur's duel with the Black Knight.
    • And in the scene with the Rabbit.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The bridge-keeper attempts to invoke three questions before letting them cross (which are relatively easy... If you aren't indecisive). If they fail (either by not knowing one of the others or simply being indecisive with one of the questions), they are hurled down a fiery crevice. When Arthur gets his turn, specifically when he gets to the third question (about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow), Arthur actually asks for clarification as to whether he meant an unladen African swallow or an unladen European swallow. The bridgekeeper then admits he doesn't even know, with predictable results.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Go, Sir Lancelot, you psychotic berk! Chop that castle down with your sword! Aversion, though, in that this was how Lancelot actually acted in Malory and other early sources. "Mentally unstable berserker prone to stress-induced fugue states" doesn't even begin to cover him.
    • Rather more specifically, this scene is a parody of the rescue of Guenevere near the end of Morte d' Arthur.
  • Hollywood Torches: Appear during the Camelot, Castle Anthrax, Swamp Castle and Cave of Caerbannog sequences.
  • Hugo Award: Nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1976.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Robin's minstrels.

And they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels, And There Was Much Rejoicing. 'Yaaaaay'

"'Tis a fair cop..."

    • Ask a philosophy teacher about the logic used in the witch sequence. If anything can teach you deductive reasoning, that will.
    • One of the tracks on the soundtrack album is an alleged philosophy professor analyzing the very thing. He concludes that sex is better than logic.
  • Intermission
  • Invisible Backup Band: Pops up whenever Herbert mentions wanting to sing.
  • "I Want" Song: Defied. The lord of Swamp Castle keeps stopping his son from doing it until a later scene, which turns into a Crowd Song.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: John Cleese's taunting Frenchman hangs a lampshade. Further played with when one of the French knights actually does speak French (or uses commonly known French words), and the other Frenchmen don't understand a word.

Frenchman #1: C'est un cadeau!
Frenchman #2: Huh?
Frenchman #1: It's a present!
Frenchman #2: Oh! Oui, un cadeau!
Frenchman #1: Oui! Oui! Allons-y!
Frenchman #2: What?
Frenchman #1: Let's go.
Frenchman #2: Oh!


Galahad: Bet you're gay!
Lancelot: ... No I'm not.

    • This, however, becomes subverted in Spamalot, where Lancelot really is gay.
    • In the screenplay on the DVD, the other knights look knowingly at Lancelot.
  • Multiple Head Case: The three-headed giant whose heads bicker amongst themselves.
  • The Musical: Spamalot
  • Never Say That Again: Ni!
    • Turned around on the knights, later. They are drained of their will by the word "it".
      • Oddly enough, the knight says it at the top of the scene with no harm done, but then hits himself with it for damage during the fadeout.
  • No Ending
  • No Party Like a Donner Party:

In the frozen land of Nador, they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels, and there was much rejoicing.


  • The Pig Pen: The villagers compared to Arthur, since "...he hasn't got shit all over him."
  • Poirot Speak: The Frenchman.
  • Prayer of Malice: Parodied; the heroes pray for God not only to defeat their enemies, but to "blow them to tiny bits, in Thy Mercy".
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Holy Grail, but the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is treated as one.
  • Quote Mine: So much so, that it's experienced Hype Backlash in the last few years.
  • Red Shirt: Bors, Gawain and Ector. They appear suddenly and without introduction before The Rabbit of Caerbannog and they are promptly dispatched. (Of course, in Malory and the Vulgate Cycle these are three of Arthur's most prominent knights - Terry Jones having a bit of fun with the traditions again?)
  • Rewriting Reality: The knights escape a cartoon monster when the animator dies of a heart attack.
  • Riddle Me This
  • Rope Bridge: Subverted, in that it doesn't break.
    • Graham Chapman got so drunk, he was absolutely terrified this would happen. So a stunt double ripped off his clothes and strutted across the bridge. You might notice how strangely determined the guy looks when doing this.
  • Rule of Funny: The driving force behind all technology in the movie. Why else would the French have their catapults already aimed at the Britons, but unloaded? How else would one explain the existence of the Holy Hand Grenade?
  • Rule of Three
    • The counting of the Holy Hand Grenade. "Five is right out."
    • Also, subverted. The third castle in the swamp fared even worse than the first two. But the fourth one stayed up.
    • Further subverted in a scene cut from the ending sequence: The old man from scene 24 appears -- for a third time, of course -- as Arthur is about to board the boat to the Grail castle and intones, "He who would cross the Sea of Fate must answer these questions twenty-and-eight." Arthur just picks him up and throws him in the water before getting into the boat.
    • Arthur just just can't seem to say the number three. It happens again at the Bridge of Death.
      • "We've lost Bors, Gawain, and Ector, that's five..."
    • The three questions in the Bridge of Death skit.
  • Running Gag: Swallows and coconuts come up way too often in this movie, as do people not dying and the number three.
  • Scare Chord: during the Knights Who Say Ni scene.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Lots of it, especially the coconuts argument.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • Shout-Out: The Trojan Rabbit (Trojan Horse) and Lancelot's squire Concorde (the jet), among others.
  • Shown Their Work: See above.
  • Siege Engines: Both Arthur's army at the end of the movie and the French knights.
  • Smoke Out: A Smoke In when Tim the Enchanter teleports from a distant mountaintop.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: The Chekhov's Gun Arthur overhears.
  • Sophisticated As Hell
    • Brother Maynard reading the Holy Hand Grenade instructions.

Brother Maynard: ... who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.

    • An anarcho-syndicalist peasant.

Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!

  • Shaped Like Itself: The historian's name is given as 'A Famous Historian'.
  • Sorry I Left the BGM On: Prince Herbert and his father.
  • Spank the Cutie: The women in Castle Anthrax try to get Sir Galahad to do this. Unfortunately Sir Lancelot thinks it's too perilous.
  • The Stinger: Subversion -- a black screen and two minutes and forty seconds of repetitive organ music.
  • Stealth Pun: The ending. It's a cop-out.
  • Stone Wall: Parodied with the Black Knight. He has all his limbs chopped off, yet still boasts that he's invincible.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: God is visibly annoyed with the Knights' reverence.
  • Storming the Castle: Three times: when they try to storm the French castle early on, when Lancelot attacks the castle by himself and when Arthur's army charges the French-controlled Grail castle at the climax.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Tim the Enchanter, to the point of interrupting the knights mid-sentence for no purpose but pyrotechnics.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: "You make me sad."
  • That Poor Cat: Subverted, as the cat is on-screen every time someone makes it complain.
  • That Was the Last Entry: Parodied with the inscription about the Castle of AAAAaaaaaargh.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The Black Knight kills the Green Knight by throwing his sword through his helm's eye slot.
  • Time Passes Montage: The seasons passing segment, subverted in that the seasons are deliberately mixed up by the end.
  • Troll Bridge: The Bridge of Death scene.
  • Trope Overdosed: Yes and No. Given that this movie was the Trope Namer for many of the listed tropes on this page, meaning that some of these gags and phrases were not only made popular but created by this movie, Monty Python And The Holy Grail is only trope-overdosed in retrospect. Back when the movie premiered (in 1975), it mainly was 91 minutes of (often ground-breaking) weirdness.
  • Trust Me I'm a Doctor: Both Doctor Piglet and Doctor Winston try to assure Sir Galahad that they are doctors during his stay at Castle Anthrax.


  • Unexplained Recovery: The former trope namer, from the "Burn the witch" scene.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Lancelot when he's Storming the Castle.
  • Unusual Euphemism: A man in the movie wants his son to marry a woman so he can inherit her father's property, but the son is unwilling. He tries to convince him with a couple of reasons, ending off with how she has "Huge... tracts of land," with a gesture that is less suggestive of real estate and more suggestive of womanly curves.

"Let me sample a little peril"

French Knight: I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal-food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

Now go away or this page shall taunt you a second time-a.