Study Guide

Time Bandits

Time Bandits Introduction


Release Year: 1981

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Director: Terry Gilliam

Writers: Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin

Stars: John Cleese, Sean Connery, Ian Holm


This movie has one of the best poster tags of all time: "all the dreams you've ever had...and not just the good ones."

Time Bandits arrived in 1981, when sci-fi and fantasy films were rampaging through theaters, and it managed to hold its own by sticking to that very intriguing premise. The film follows a lonely English schoolboy named Kevin who's semi-abducted by a six-pack of dwarves who used to work for God but have stolen the Supreme Being's map of creation and use it to exploit lingering loopholes in time and space.

Why? So they can rob people blind and get away clean by jumping into the nearest space-time loophole, of course. What other possible use for time travel could there be?

As Kevin slams through history with his friends, he's pursued by Evil, who wants the map for himself. Who will win: the forces of good or Evil himself?

Not exactly a cookie-cutter movie, right?

That should come as no surprise, given that this baby is brought to you by none other than the Monty Python folks. It was conceived as a family flick by people who were still in touch with their inner children—and let's be real, the inner children of the Monty Python crew are pretty crazy, in the best way.

Originality counts, and you're not going to find many movies more wildly original than Time Bandits. Seriously, look at that premise: there's a map of creation with holes in time and space where the Supreme Being didn't quite tidy up—as the chief dwarf helpfully explains, seven days is a little tight for putting a whole universe together—that are now being manipulated by a bunch of dwarves to rob people in ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, Napoleonic Italy, and aboard the freakin' Titanic?

How awesome is that?

  

What is Time Bandits About and Why Should I Care?

In a movie world increasingly dominated by the familiar, the nostalgic, and the known, here is a film where you literally have no idea what's going to happen next.

There's a reason for that. Time Bandits was directed by a man named Terry Gilliam and co-written by Gilliam and his good friend Michael Palin. If those names sound familiar, they should: they were two of the founding members of Monty Python, and Time Bandits was their first significant step into a post-Python world.

There's more to it than that. Based on the success of this film, Gilliam launched a very notable movie career of his own, a career that was weird and wild, full of things you've never seen before. When Gilliam strikes gold—as he did with films Brazil, 12 Monkeys, and The Fisher King—what you see is as good as anything you've ever seen.

Like Monty Python's comedy, there's more going on here than just entertainment. We get big questions about life and the universe, and everything is grappled with smartly, with complexity, and in ways you'd never expect from a kids' movie. How many kids' movies ask questions about why Evil exists? Or suggest that the Supreme Being may not be perfect?

Mix those big questions up into a story featuring Greek heroes, French emperors, English robbers, and a giant with a ship on his head, and you have something far more than just another cartoon.

We're willing to bet that's worth two hours of your time.

Trivia

If that smarmy game show host Kevin's parents keep watching looks (and sounds) familiar, that's because it's Jim Broadbent, an Oscar-winning actor whose film career was just getting started when he showed up in this film. You probably know him as Professor Slughorn in the Harry Potter films or as Nicole Kidman's pimp Harry Zidler in Moulin Rouge! (Source)

The case of David Rappaport, who plays the self-important leader of the dwarves, Randall, is a very sad one. It's all the sadder because Rappaport made some huge strides forward when it came to little people acting and performing in movies. He never considered himself a "little" actor—just an actor who happened to be small—and that fight made his bouts with depression worse. Despite a career that included movies like Sword of the Valiant, The Bride, and a TV show called The Wizard, his depression ultimately consumed him, and he committed suicide at the age of 38. Nevertheless, his work made it possible for other small actors to find more fulfilling work. (Source)

Time Bandits Resources

Websites

All About Time Bandits
Wondering who played that one guy in that scene you liked? All the answers are here.

What Do The Critics Think?
The reviews are in...and the critics super dug it. Check out the stellar rating on the Tomatometer.

Roger Ebert's Take
Get the skinny from the late, great wielder of the almighty thumbs up.

Book or TV Adaptations

A TV Show?
As of this writing, the stars say no. But Terry Gilliam seems to have plans…

The Comic Book Adaptation
Apparently, the folks over at Marvel delivered a comic book version of the film.

Articles and Interviews

Terry Gilliam Reminisces
The director gives us his thoughts on the movie.

Mental Floss
Some fun little tidbits about the movie.

Video

The Trailer
We gotta admit, this is almost as awesome as the movie.

Interview With Terry Gilliam
From way back in the day.

Another Terry Gilliam Interview
A Gilliam interview from slightly less back in the day.

Gilliam and Palin
The boys dish about the making of the film and talk about its current status.

Images

The Poster
A very pretty poster from one of Gilliam's original illustrations.

The Lobby Card
A slight variation on the poster, with a new tagline to boot.

An Alternate Poster
Gotta admire the snazziness of this one.

Another Alternate Poster
This one's all kinds of sexy, too.

From the Set
A behind-the-scenes look at the three involved Pythons, David Warner, and the dwarves from the set.