Time Bandits

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Time Bandits
Time bandits.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Written by
Produced byTerry Gilliam
CinematographyPeter Biziou
Edited byJulian Doyle
Music by
Distributed byHandMade Films[1]
Release date
  • 10 July 1981 (1981-07-10) (United Kingdom)
  • 6 November 1981 (1981-11-06) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$5 million[2]
Box office$42.4 million (United States and Canada)[3]

Time Bandits is a 1981 British fantasy adventure film co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Peter Vaughan, and David Warner.

Gilliam has referred to Time Bandits as the first in his "Trilogy of Imagination", followed by Brazil (1985) and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).[4] All are about the "craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible".[4] All three films focus on these struggles and attempts to escape them through imagination: Time Bandits through the eyes of a child, Brazil through the eyes of a man in his thirties, and Munchausen through the eyes of an elderly man.[4]


Eleven-year-old Kevin has a vivid imagination and is fascinated by history, particularly that of Ancient Greece; his parents ignore his activities, having become more obsessed with buying the latest household gadgets to keep up with their neighbours. One night, as Kevin is sleeping, an armoured knight on a horse bursts out of his wardrobe. Kevin is scared and hides as the knight rides off into a forest setting where once his bedroom wall was; when Kevin looks back out, the room is back to normal and he finds one of his photos on the wall similar to the forest he saw. The next night he prepares a satchel with supplies and a Polaroid camera but is surprised when six dwarves spill out of the wardrobe. Kevin quickly learns the group has stolen a large, worn map and is looking for an exit from his room before they are discovered. They find that the bedroom wall can be pushed, revealing a long hallway. Kevin is hesitant to join until the apparition of a floating, menacing head—the Supreme Being—appears behind them, demanding the return of the map. Kevin and the dwarves fall into an empty void at the end of the hallway.

They land in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. As they recover, Kevin learns that Randall is the lead dwarf of the group, which also includes Fidgit, Strutter, Og, Wally and Vermin. They were once employed by the Supreme Being to repair holes in the spacetime fabric, but instead they realized the potential to use the map that identifies these holes to steal riches. With Kevin's help, they visit several locations in spacetime and meet figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood. Kevin uses his camera to document their visits. However, they are unaware that their activities are being monitored by Evil, a malevolent being who is able to manipulate reality and is attempting to acquire the map himself so that he can remake the universe to his design.

Through Evil's actions, Kevin becomes separated from the group and ends up in Mycenaean Greece, meeting King Agamemnon. After Kevin inadvertently helps Agamemnon kill an enemy, the king adopts him. Randall and the others soon locate Kevin and abduct him, much to his resentment, and escape through another hole, arriving on the ill-fated RMS Titanic. After it sinks, they are forced to tread water while they argue with each other. Evil manipulates the group and transports them to his realm, the Time of Legends. After surviving encounters with ogres and a giant, Kevin and the dwarves locate the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and are led to believe that "The Most Fabulous Object in the World" awaits them, luring them into Evil's trap. Evil takes the map and locks the group in a cage over an apparently bottomless pit. While looking through the Polaroids he took, Kevin finds one that includes the map, and the group realises there is a hole in the Fortress near them. They escape from the cage, steal the map again and split: Kevin must distract their pursuers while the others go through the hole.

Evil confronts Kevin and takes the map back from him. The dwarves return with various warriors and fighting machines taken from across time, but Evil has no trouble overpowering them all. As Kevin and the dwarves cower, Evil prepares to unleash his ultimate power. Suddenly, he is engulfed in flames and burned into charcoal; from the smoke, a besuited elderly man emerges, revealed as the Supreme Being. He reveals that he allowed the dwarves to borrow his map and the whole adventure had been a test of his creation. He orders the dwarves to collect all the pieces of concentrated Evil, warning that they can be deadly if not contained, recovers the map and allows the dwarves to rejoin him in his creation duties. The Supreme Being disappears with the dwarves, leaving Kevin stranded behind as a missed piece of Evil begins to smoulder.

Kevin awakes in his bedroom to find it filled with smoke. Firefighters break down the door and rescue him as they put out a fire in his house. One of the firemen finds that his parents' new toaster oven caused the fire. As Kevin recovers, he finds one of the firemen resembles Agamemnon and discovers that he still has the photos from his adventure. Kevin's parents discover a smouldering rock in the toaster oven. Recognizing it as a piece of Evil, Kevin warns them not to touch it. Ignoring him, they touch it and explode, leaving only their shoes. Kevin tentatively approaches the smoking shoes and is seen from above as his figure grows smaller, revealing the planet and then outer space, before being rolled up in the map by the Supreme Being.



Terry Gilliam wrote the screenplay with fellow Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin, who appears with Shelley Duvall in the small, recurring roles of Vincent and Pansy. The London-based independent company HandMade Films was backed by former Beatle George Harrison, who wrote and performed the closing credits song "Dream Away" especially for this film. Harrison and his HandMade co-founder, Denis O'Brien, were credited as executive producers of the film.

In his book Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility, Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse, Robert Hewison describes the dwarfs as representing the Monty Python troupe. The nice one, Fidgit, is said to represent Palin; the self-appointed leader, Randall, Cleese; the acerbic one, Strutter, Eric Idle; the quiet one, Og, Graham Chapman; the noisy rebel, Wally, Terry Jones; and the nasty, filth-loving one, Vermin, Gilliam himself.[5][page needed] Ruth Gordon and Gilda Radner were considered for the role of Mrs. Ogre.[6]

Gilliam discussed aspects of the film in an interview included in the 2013 Arrow Blu-ray release of Time Bandits. He recalled that the production came about because he was unable to start on Brazil, and discussed casting decisions, working again with his fellow Pythons, and the story's downbeat ending. Gilliam also recalled O'Brien pressuring him to include some of Harrison's songs and said that the lyrics of "Dream Away" contained Harrison's comments on Time Bandits and on Gilliam's behaviour during the making of the film.[7]


Critical reception[edit]

Time Bandits received critical acclaim. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 90% rating based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The consensus states: "Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe".[8]

Christopher John reviewed The Time Bandits in Ares Magazine #12 and commented that "Gilliam paid attention wherever necessary. Not relying on any of the "safe", popular conventions of the genre, Gilliam has made an enviable film. Time Bandits is the kind of movie audiences will recommend to their friends, and that is the best kind of movie of all".[9]

Box office[edit]

The film was released in the US on 6 November 1981 and opened at number one at the box office for the weekend, grossing $6,507,356 from 821 theatres.[10] The film remained number one for 4 weeks and grossed $36 million in the United States and Canada on a budget of $5 million (£2.2 million),[11] making the film Gilliam's breakthrough hit in the United States.

The film was re-released in the US on 12 November 1982[12] and grossed a further $6 million[13] to take its gross to $42.4 million in the United States and Canada.[3]

Comic book adaptation[edit]

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film in February 1982. It was written by Steve Parkhouse and drawn by David Lloyd and John Stokes.[14]

Television series[edit]

Apple Inc. worked with Anonymous Content, Paramount Television, and Media Rights Capital to gain rights for a Time Bandits television series to distribute on Apple TV+, with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi set to co-write and direct the pilot.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b "Time Bandits (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2 July 1981. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  2. ^ Sellers, Robert (2003). Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films. Metro. p. 40.
  3. ^ a b Time Bandits at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ a b c Matthews, Jack (1996). "Dreaming Brazil". Essay accompanying The Criterion Collection DVD.
  5. ^ Hewison, Robert (1989). Monty Python: The Case Against. Heinemann Educational Books. ISBN 0-413-48660-5
  6. ^ "The Lost Roles of Gilda Radner". 22 March 2012.
  7. ^ Robinson, Dom (26 August 2013). "Time Bandits: Special Edition on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review". DVDfever. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Time Bandits". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  9. ^ John, Christopher (January 1982). "Film & Television". Ares Magazine. Simulations Publications, Inc. (12): 25, 27.
  10. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (11 November 1981). "'Bandits' Steal B.O. Thunder From Thin Pack; 'Halloween II' Plunges". Variety. p. 3.
  11. ^ Walker, Alexander (2005). Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984–2000. Orion Books. p. 12.
  12. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (17 November 1982). "'Creepshow' Leads B.O. Upswing; 'First Blood' Still Flows Strong". Variety. p. 3.
  13. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (7 December 1982). "National B.O. Takes Seasonal Dip Over Weekend". Daily Variety. p. 1.
  14. ^ Friedt, Stephan (July 2016). "Marvel at the Movies: The House of Ideas' Hollywood Adaptations of the 1970s and 1980s". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (89): 65.
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (28 July 2018). "Apple Makes Rights Deal To Turn Terry Gilliam's 'Time Bandits' Into TV Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  16. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; D'Alessandro, Anthony (11 March 2019). "Taika Waititi To Co-Write & Direct 'Time Bandits' Series In Works At Apple From Paramount, Anonymous Content & MRC". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 March 2021.

External links[edit]