Monty Python's Life of Brian (1980)

With brilliant gags and robust production values, the legendary comic troupe riff on the life of Christ to satirise religious faith.

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Introduction

“The climactic scenes are as memorable as anything yet devised by the Python mind and culminate in a splendidly tasteless finale, which even Mel Brooks might envy.”
Clyde Jeavons, Monthly Film Bulletin, 1979

The iconoclastic comedy group Monty Python – Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin – took aim at religious dogma with this scandalous parody of the life of Christ. Chapman plays Brian Cohen, a Jewish contemporary of Jesus mistaken for the Messiah.

The tongue-in-cheek use of the contours of Jesus’ life, from the manger to the cross, outraged many establishment figures at the time, leading to church protests and bans by local authorities. However the Pythons plausibly maintained that their target was human credulity rather than faith or the divine itself.

Directed by Terry Jones, the film’s largely conventional style and impressive production values (bankrolled by George Harrison’s Handmade Films) perfectly offset its gleeful satirical bite.

The film shares locations with Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977). Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) had earlier established the troupe’s cinematic ambitions.

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