Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

This article is about the film. For the soundtrack of the same name, see Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (album). For the video game, see Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (video game).
Monty Python's
The Meaning of Life

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry Jones
Produced by John Goldstone
Written by
Music by John Du Prez
Edited by Julian Doyle
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 22 April 1983 (1983-04-22)
Running time
  • 90 minutes[1] (Original cut)
  • 107 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $9 million[2]
Box office $14.9 million[3]

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, also known as The Meaning of Life, is a 1983 British musical sketch comedy film written and performed by the Monty Python troupe, directed by one of its members, Terry Jones. It was the last film to feature all six Python members before Graham Chapman's death in 1989.

Unlike Holy Grail and Life of Brian, the film's two predecessors, which each told a single, more-or-less coherent story,[2] The Meaning of Life returns to the sketch format of the troupe's original television series and their first film from twelve years earlier, And Now for Something Completely Different, loosely structured as a series of comic sketches about the various stages of life.

Released on 22 April 1983 in the United Kingdom, The Meaning of Life, although not as acclaimed as its predecessors, was still well received critically and was a minor box office success, grossing almost $15 million on a $9 million budget. The film has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and appears in a 2010 list of the top 20 cult films published by The Boston Globe.[4]


The film begins with a stand-alone 17-minute supporting feature entitled The Crimson Permanent Assurance (directed by Gilliam). A group of elderly office clerks in a small accounting firm rebel against their emotionlessly efficient, yuppie corporate masters. They commandeer their building, turn it into a pirate ship, and sail into a large financial district, where they raid and overthrow a large multinational corporation.

The film proper consists of a series of distinct sketches, broken into seven chapters.

Part I — The Miracle of Birth
The Miracle of Birth Part II — The Third World
Part II — Growth and Learning
Part III — Fighting Each Other
The Middle of the Film
Part IV — Middle Age
Part V — Live Organ Transplants
Part VI — The Autumn Years
Part VII — Death

The End of the Film



According to Palin, "the writing process was quite cumbersome. An awful lot of material didn't get used. Holy Grail had a structure, a loose one: the search for the grail. Same with Life of Brian. With this, it wasn't so clear. In the end, we just said: 'Well, what the heck. We have got lots of good material, let's give it the loosest structure, which will be the meaning of life'".[2]

After the film's title was chosen, Douglas Adams called Jones to tell him he had just finished a new book, to be called The Meaning of Liff; Jones was initially concerned about the similarity in titles, which led to the scene in the title sequence of a tombstone which, when hit by a flash of lightning, changes from "The Meaning of Liff" to "The Meaning of Life".[2]

The film was produced on a budget of less than US$10 million, which was still bigger than that of the earlier films. This allowed for large-scale choreography and crowd sequences, a more lavishly produced soundtrack that included new original songs, much more time could be spent on each sketch, especially The Crimson Permanent Assurance. Palin later said that the larger budget, and not making the film for the BBC (i.e., television), allowed the film to be more daring and dark.[2]

The idea for the hospital sketch came from Chapman, himself a physician,[5] who had noticed that hospitals were changing, with "lots and lots of machinery".[2] According to Palin, the organ transplant scene harked back to Python's love of bureaucracy, and sketches with lots of people coming round from the council with different bits of paper.[2]

During the filming of the scene where Palin's character explains Catholicism to his children, his line was "that rubber thing at the end of my sock", which was later overdubbed with cock.[2]


The original tagline read "It took God six days to create the Heavens and the Earth, and Monty Python just 90 minutes to screw it up" (the length of The Meaning of Life proper is 90 minutes, but becomes 107 minutes as released with the "Short Subject Presentation", The Crimson Permanent Assurance). In the 2003 DVD release of the film, the tagline is altered to read "It took God six days to create the Heavens and the Earth, and Monty Python just 1 hour and 48 minutes to screw it up".

Censorship and ratings

Ireland banned the film on its original release as it had previously done with Monty Python's Life of Brian, but later rated it 15 when it was released on video. In the United Kingdom the film was rated 18 when released in the cinema[1] and on its first release on video, but was re-rated 15 in 2000. In the United States the film is rated R.

Box office

The film opened in North America on 31 March 1983. At 257 theatres, it ranked number six in the domestic box office, grossing US$1,987,853 ($7,734 per screen) in its opening weekend. It played at 554 theatres at its widest point, and its total North American gross was $14,929,552.[3]

Critical reception

The Meaning of Life received positive reviews. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. gives the film a rating of 90%, based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10.[6] The Daily Telegraph gave the film four stars out of five,[7] while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 and a half stars out of three, calling it a "a barbed, uncompromising attack on generally observed community standards".[8]


The Meaning of Life was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[9]

Home media

The DVD also features a director's cut, which adds three deleted scenes (totaling nine minutes) back into the film, making it 116 minutes. The first is The Adventures of Martin Luther, inserted after the scene with the Protestant couple talking about condoms. The second is a promotional video about the British army, which comes between the marching around the square scene and the Zulu army scene. The third and last is an extension of the American characters that Idle and Palin do; they are shown their room and talk about tampons.


  1. 1 2 "MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (18)". United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. 26 April 1983. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Michael, Chris (30 September 2013). "How we made Monty Python's The Meaning of Life". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  3. 1 2 "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  4. Staff (27 December 2010). "Top 20 cult films, according to our readers". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  5. Ess, Ramsey (September 20, 2013). "Dick Cavett's Semi-Serious Talk with Graham Chapman". Splitsider. The Awl. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  6. "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  7. Chilton, Martin. "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  8. Ebert, Roger. "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Movie Review (1983),". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  9. "Festival de Cannes: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life". Retrieved 16 June 2009.

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/1/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.