Four Lions

Four Lions
A black crow with a bomb attached to its chest
Directed by Chris Morris
Produced by Mark Herbert
Derrin Schlesinger
Written by Chris Morris
Jesse Armstrong
Sam Bain
Starring Riz Ahmed
Kayvan Novak
Nigel Lindsay
Arsher Ali
Adeel Akhtar
Cinematography Lol Crawley
Edited by Billy Sneddon
Distributed by Optimum Releasing
Drafthouse Films
Release dates
  • 23 January 2010 (2010-01-23) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • 7 May 2010 (2010-05-07)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £2.5 million[1]
Box office £6.9 million[2]

Four Lions is a 2010 British black comedy film, directed by Chris Morris in his directorial debut, and written by Morris, Sam Bain, and Jesse Armstrong.[3] The film is a jihad satire following a group of homegrown terrorist jihadis from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The first ever stage production of Four Lions will be performed by Oxford University in February 2017 and will take place at the Michael Pilch Studio at Balliol College


A group of radicalised young British Muslim men aspire to be suicide bombers. They are Omar (Riz Ahmed), who is deeply critical of Western society and imperialism; his dim-witted friend, Waj (Kayvan Novak); Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a bad-tempered and extremely rash white convert to Islam; and the naive Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who tries to train crows to be used as bombers. While Omar and Waj go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, Barry recruits a reluctant fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali). The visit to the training camp ends in disaster, with Omar misfiring a rocket backwards that kills fellow jihadists; however, he uses the experience to assert authority on his return to Britain.

The group begins acquiring materials for making improvised explosive devices but disagree about what to target. Barry wants to bomb a local mosque as a false flag operation to "radicalise the moderates", but Omar considers this idiotic. Faisal suggests blowing up a branch of the pharmacy chain Boots, but Omar states it is a not a worthwhile target. Hassan allows an oblivious neighbour (Julia Davis) into their safe house; the group think they have been compromised and transport their volatile explosives to a new location in grocery bags. Faisal accidentally trips in a field while carrying the explosives and blows up. This causes a row among the remaining four, who disband; but they reconcile, and Omar decides to target the upcoming London Marathon.

Wearing mascot costumes to conceal their explosives, they prepare to attack. Waj expresses doubts about the rectitude of the plot, but Omar convinces him to go ahead. Hassan loses his nerve and tries to alert nearby police officers, but Barry detonates his bomb using a mobile phone, killing Hassan. This causes the police to search for the remaining three.

Omar realises he has led an unwitting Waj into something he does not want to do and tries to change his mind. Police attempt to shoot Omar as he mingles with other runners but, instead, shoot a bystander dressed as a Wookiee. Omar eventually contacts Waj from his mobile phone but is attacked by Barry, who swallows the phone's SIM card. However, Barry begins to choke on it, causing a passer-by to carry out the Heimlich manoeuvre and detonate his bomb.

Waj is cornered by police and takes a kebab shop hostage. Omar then borrows a phone and attempts to talk him down, but his call is interrupted when the police raid the kebab shop, in which they kill a hostage whom they mistake for Waj. Confused, Waj detonates his bomb, destroying the place. Distraught, Omar walks into an empty pharmacy and blows himself up. In an epilogue, it is revealed later that the police have arrested Omar's innocent Muslim brother as a terrorist; that they deflect responsibility for shooting the bystander; and that Omar and Waj killed Osama Bin Laden when Omar misfired his rocket in Pakistan.



Morris spent three years researching the project, speaking to terrorism experts, police, the secret service, and imams, as well as ordinary Muslims, and writing the script in 2007.[4][5] In a separate interview, he asserts that the research predated the 7 July 2005 London bombings:

It was an attempt to figure it out, to ask, "What's going on with this?" This [the "War on Terror"] is something that's commanding so much of our lives, shaping so much of our culture, turning this massive political wheel. I was wondering what this new game was all about. But then 7/7 hit that with a fairly large impact, in that we were suddenly seeing all these guys with a Hovis accent. Suddenly you're not dealing with an amorphous Arab world so much as with British people who have been here quite a long time and who make curry and are a part of the landscape. So you've got a double excavation going on.[6]

The project was originally rejected by both the BBC and Channel 4 as being too controversial. Morris suggested in a mass email, titled "Funding Mentalism", that fans could contribute between £25 and £100 each to the production costs of the film and would appear as extras in return.[7] Funding was secured in October 2008 from Film 4 Productions and Warp Films, with Derrin Schlesinger & Mark Herbert producing. Filming began in Sheffield in May 2009.[8][9]

Morris has described the film as a farce, which exposes the "Dad's Army side to terrorism".[10] During the making of the film, the director sent the script to former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg. Begg has said that he found nothing in the script that would be offensive to British Muslims. The actor Riz Ahmed also contacted Begg, to ask whether the subject matter was "too raw". When the film was completed, Begg was given a special screening and said that he enjoyed it.[11]


The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010[12] and was short-listed for the festival's World Cinema Narrative prize.[13][14] Introducing the film's premiere, Morris said: "I feel in a weird way that this is a good-hearted film. It's not a hate film, so I would hope that aspect would come through."[15]

The UK première took place at the National Media Museum as part of Bradford International Film Festival on 25 March 2010,[16] and was followed by a nationwide release on 7 May.[17][18]

Despite its acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, Four Lions failed to find a distributor in the US for nine months, until the newly formed Drafthouse Films picked it up. The film had a limited release in the US on 5 November 2010.[19]

Home media

Four Lions was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on 30 August 2010, and in the US on 8 March 2011.


Critical response

Four Lions received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" score of 82%, based on 126 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "Its premise suggests brazenly tasteless humor, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth."[20] Metacritic gives the film a score of 68 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[21]

The Daily Telegraph wrote that "[Chris Morris's] evocations of the claustrophobic mundanity of the Muslims' lives, their querulous banter, their flimsily pick 'n' mix approach to the Koran all feel painfully, brilliantly real."[22] The Daily Express rated Four Lions 4/5 and praised the performances in particular, calling the film "brilliantly cast with all the actors displaying sharp comic timing and both [Riz] Ahmed and [Kayvan] Novak also bringing out the touching humanity of their characters."[23]

Upon its screening at Sundance, the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter gave the film extremely positive reviews, the latter describing the film as "a brilliant takedown of the imbecility of fanaticism" drawing comparisons with This Is Spinal Tap and The Three Stooges.[24]

Amongst the reviewers that gave the film negative and mixed reviews were Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times, who called the film a "spectacular miss"[25] and The Guardian's Jeremy Kay, who wrote "as a satire on terror, Four Lions seems to be a missed opportunity".[26] Andrew Pulver, also writing for The Guardian, gave the film a more favourable review, stating that "Chris Morris is still the most incendiary figure working in the British entertainment industry."[27]

The UK premiere at the National Media Museum in Bradford was followed by a question and answer session with Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, three of the principal actors, and two of the producers. Morris stated that he does not find the film at all controversial and that attempting to cause controversy is "one of the most boring things you can do".[28] Morris also gave a talk introducing the film at a summer 2010 screening at Latitude Festival in Suffolk.[29]

Box office

Despite an initial release on just 115 screens across the UK, the film was successful at the box office on its opening weekend, generating the highest site average of all the new releases (£5,292) and making a total of £609,000. According to the Official Top 10 UK Film Chart (7–9 May 2010), Four Lions was placed at sixth, behind Iron Man 2, Furry Vengeance, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hot Tub Time Machine, and The Back-Up Plan.[30] Due to its popularity, Optimum Releasing increased the number of screens showing the film to 200.[31]

As of 8 August 2010, Four Lions grossed £2,932,366 at the UK box office.[32]

As of 24 February 2011, Four Lions the worldwide gross was US$4,658,570.[33]


Time Magazine rated the film as among Top 10 movies of the year 2010.[34]

The lead actors, Kayvan Novak and Nigel Lindsay, were both nominated for Best Comedy Performance in Film at the British Comedy Awards 2010. Kayvan Novak went on to win the award, thanking all his "brothers" — referring to his fellow actors in Four Lions.[35]

At the BAFTAs 2011, Chris Morris won the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.[36] He beat competition from The Arbor, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Monsters, and Skeletons.

See also


  1. "Key Concepts : The British Film Industry: Four Lions (2010, Warp Films)".
  2. "Four Lions (2010) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  3. Richardson, Jay (25 January 2009). "The prolific writing trio behind Peep Show and The Thick Of It tell why they're pushing the mainstream so close to the edge". The Scotsman. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  4. Chris Morris (25 November 2007). "The Absurd world of Martin Amis". The Observer. London. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  5. Fraser, Nick (24 January 2010). "Four Lions: How satirist Chris Morris fixed his eye on ideology and bombers". The Observer. London. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  6. Brooks, Xan (1 May 2010). "Chris Morris: 'Bin Laden doesn't really do jokes'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  7. Moats, David (13 October 2008). "Chris Morris announces Jihad Film / Needs money". The Quietus. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  8. "Chris Morris directing something on The Moor this lunch". Sheffield Forums. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  9. "Set Shot From Chris Morris' Four Lions". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  10. Roberts, Geneviève (6 January 2009). "Wannabe suicide bombers beware: Chris Morris movie gets go-ahead". The Independent. London. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
  11. Akbar, Arifa (30 April 2010). "The Diary: Moazzam Begg; Justin Adams and Juldeh Camar; Lisa Jewell; Election Drama; Colm Toibin". The Independent. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  12. "Chris Morris's terrorist comedy premieres at Sundance". BBC News. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  13. Aftab, Kaleem (25 January 2010). "First Night: Four Lions, Sundance Film Festival". The Independent. London. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
  14. "2010 Sundance Film Festival announces films in competition". Sundance Film Festival. 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  15. Wilkinson, Amber (17 February 2010). "Roaring into controversy?: Chris Morris on his inspiration for suicide bomber comedy Four Lions – and why he isn't worried about the press". Eye For Film. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  16. "Four Lions – Bradford International Film Festival 2010". National Media Museum. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  17. "Four Lions Sundance diary". The Guardian. London. 6 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  18. Chang, Justin (24 January 2010). "Four Lions Review – Read Variety's Analysis of The Movie Four Lions". Variety magazine. New York. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  19. "Chris Morris Interview". AV Club. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  20. "Four Lions". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  21. "Four Lions". Metacritic. Flixtser. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  22. Sandhu, Sukhdev (6 May 2010). "Four Lions, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  23. "Four Lions: film review and trailer". The Daily Express. London. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  24. "Sundance 2010: 'Four Lions' is scary funny". The Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
  25. "Sundance film festival". Financial Times. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
  26. Kay, Jeremy (25 January 2010). "Chris Morris's Four Lions: a mixed dish that fails to satisfy". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
  27. Pulver, Andrew (25 March 2010). "Four Lions review". The Guardian. London.
  28. "Chris Morris Four Lions UK Premiere BIFF 2010". YouTube. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  29. Walters, Ben. "Chris Morris pushes Four Lions but America fails to bite". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  30. Gant, Charles (11 May 2010). "Four Lions has roaring weekend at UK box office". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  31. "Four Lions screenings doubled despite calls for ban". BBC. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  32. "UK Box Office: 6 - 8 August 2010". UK Film Council. 6–8 August 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  33. Four Lions at Box Office Mojo
  34. "The Top 10 Everything of 2010". Time. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  35. "British Comedy Awards 2010". The BCA. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  36. "Film Awards Winners in 2011". Bafta. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
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