The Meaning of Life

March 31st, 1983


The Meaning of Life

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Still of John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin in The Meaning of LifeStill of Eric Idle and Terry Jones in The Meaning of LifeStill of Eric Idle in The Meaning of LifeStill of John Cleese in The Meaning of LifeThe Meaning of LifeStill of Michael Palin in The Meaning of Life

The comedy team takes a look at life in all its stages in their own uniquely silly way.

Release Year: 1983

Rating: 7.5/10 (41,997 voted)

Director: Terry Jones

Stars: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Why are we here, what's it all about? The Monty Python-team is trying to sort out the most important question on Earth: what is the meaning of life? They do so by exploring the various stages of life, starting with birth. A doctor seems more interested in his equipment than in delivering the baby or caring for the mother, a Roman Catholic couple have quite a lot of children because 'every sperm is sacred'. In the growing and learning part of life, catholic schoolboys attend a rather strange church service and ditto sex education lesson. Onto war, where an officer's plan to attack is thwarted by his underlings wanting to celebrate his birthday and an officer's leg is bitten off by presumably an African tiger. At middle age a couple orders 'philosophy' at a restaurant, after which the film continues with live organ transplants. The autumn years are played in a restaurant...

Writers: Graham Chapman, John Cleese

Graham Chapman - Chairman / Fish #1 / Doctor / Harry Blackitt / Wymer / Hordern / General / Coles / Narrator #2 / Dr. Livingstone / Transvestite / Eric / Guest #1 / Arthur Jarrett / Geoffrey / Tony Bennett
John Cleese - Fish #2 / Dr. Spencer / Humphrey Williams / Sturridge / Ainsworth / Waiter / Eric's Assistant / Maître D' / Grim Reaper
Terry Gilliam - Window Washer / Fish #4 / Walters / Middle of the Film Announcer / M'Lady Joeline / Mr. Brown / Howard Katzenberg
Eric Idle - Gunther / Fish #3 / Gaston / 'Meaning of Life' Singer / Mr. Moore / Mrs. Blackitt / Watson / Blackitt / Atkinson / Perkins / Victim #3 / Front End / Mrs. Hendy / Man in Pink / Noël Coward / Angela
Terry Jones - Bert / Fish #6 / Mum / Priest / Biggs / Sergeant / Man with Bendy Arms / Mrs. Brown / Mr. Creosote / Maria / Leaf Father / Fiona Portland-Smyth
Michael Palin - Window Washer / Harry / Fish #5 / Mr. Pycroft / Dad / Narrator #1 / Chaplain / Carter / Spadger / Regimental Sergeant Major / Pakenham-Walsh / Rear End / Female TV Presenter / Mr. Marvin Hendy / Governor / Leaf Son / Debbie Katzenberg
Carol Cleveland - Beefeater Waitress / Wife of Guest #1 / Leaf Mother / Leaf Daughter / Heaven Receptionist
Simon Jones - Chadwick / Jeremy Portland-Smyth
Patricia Quinn - Mrs. Williams
Judy Loe - Nurse #1
Andrew MacLachlan - Groom / Wycliff / Victim #1 / Guest #3
Mark Holmes - Victim #2 / Troll Waiter / Guest #2
Valerie Whittington - Mrs. Moore
Jennifer Franks - Bride
Imogen Bickford-Smith - Nurse #2 (as Imogen Bickford Smith)

Taglines: It took God six days to create the earth, and Monty Python just 90 minutes to screw it up.

Release Date: 31 March 1983

Filming Locations: England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $9,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $1,987,000 (USA) (3 April 1983) (257 Screens)

Gross: $14,929,552 (USA)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Germany: (2003 restored director's cut)

Did You Know?

During the opening sequence, the title is struck by lightning on the bottom of the final "e". The resulting words, "The Meaning Of Liff", is also the title of a book written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, published in 1983. The coincidence was discovered shortly before either movie or book were released, but too late in production to change either. Coincidentally, Adams, prior to his death, was the only "Official Unofficial Member" of Monty Python.

Revealing mistakes: In the "Live Liver Donation" scene, John Cleese is clearly chuckling at the performance of his two fellow Pythons.

General: But of course warfare isn't all fun. Right, stop that! It's all very well to laugh at the military, but when one considers the meaning of life, it is a struggle between alternative viewpoints of life itself. And without the ability to defend one's own viewpoint against other, perhaps more aggresive ideologies, then reasonableness and moderation could quite simply disappear. That is why we'll always need an Army, and may God strike me down were it to be otherwise.
Sergeant-Major: Don't stand there gawping! Like you've never seen the hand o' God before!

User Review

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Rating: 8/10


I never really thought this was anywhere near the best work of the Pythons... but, the more I see this movie, the more I like it. People not in tune with the Python sense of humour will find this film unbearable I'm sure. (When I saw it in the theatre when it first came out there were an incredible numbers of walkouts... even *before* the infamous "Mr. Creosote" scene.) Not an actual movie so much as an extended (and expensively-produced) episode of the classic BBC TV series "Monty Python's Flying Circus"... depicting several stages in the lives of human beings, from birth to death. There are some hilarious bits (the sex education class, Death crashing a dinner party), some clever bits (the opening fish skit, the show-stopping dance number "Every Sperm is Sacred") and some just plain gross, disgusting bits (Mr. Creosote, organ donations). Plus, the movie has its own special short subject "The Crimson Permanent Assurance"... where an accounting office staffed by aging workerbees suddenly metamorphosizes into a pirate ship! Most people find this bit incredibly boring and pointless... but, dang, its cleverly done!


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