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The Meaning of Life (1983)

R  |   |  Comedy, Fantasy, Musical  |  31 March 1983 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 79,569 users  
Reviews: 194 user | 60 critic

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

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chairman / Fish #1 / Doctor / Harry Blackitt / Wymer / Hordern / General / Coles / Narrator #2 / Dr. Livingstone / Transvestite / Eric / Guest #1 / Arthur Jarrett / Geoffrey / Tony Bennett
Fish #2 / Dr. Spencer / Humphrey Williams / Sturridge / Ainsworth / Waiter / Eric's Assistant / Maître D' / Grim Reaper
Window Washer / Fish #4 / Walters / Middle of the Film Announcer / M'Lady Joeline / Mr. Brown / Howard Katzenberg
Gunther / Fish #3 / 'Meaning of Life' Singer / Mr. Moore / Mrs. Blackitt / Watson / Blackitt / Atkinson / Perkins / Victim #3 / Front End / Mrs. Hendy / Man in Pink / Noël Coward / Gaston / Angela
Bert / Fish #6 / Mum / Priest / Biggs / Sergeant / Man with Bendy Arms / Mrs. Brown / Mr. Creosote / Maria / Leaf Father / Fiona Portland-Smythe
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
Beefeater Waitress / Wife of Guest #1 / Leaf Mother / Leaf Daughter / Heaven Receptionist
Mrs. Williams
Nurse #1
Andrew MacLachlan ...
Groom / Wycliff / Victim #1 / Guest #3
Mark Holmes ...
Victim #2 / Troll Waiter / Guest #2
Valerie Whittington ...
Jennifer Franks ...
Imogen Bickford-Smith ...
Nurse #2 (as Imogen Bickford Smith)


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, which, after being treated to the song 'Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?' by an entertainer, sees the arrival ... Written by Arnoud Tiele (imdb@tiele.nl)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What it is, Where it is, and how to avoid treading in it [Video Australia] See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

31 March 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$9,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (2003 restored director's cut)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Python refused to show Universal Studios a film script, figuring, as Eric Idle said, "If we couldn't work out how to make a Monty Python film, they couldn't tell us." Instead they showed them a poem, which was a summary of the film, and a budget projection. "And to their credit," says Idle, "they paid for the film on that." Idle recites the poem on the DVD version of the movie. See more »


In the scene where The Grim Reaper is talking to the couple and their dinner guests, you can see the boom mic moving along the fabric which is the ceiling. See more »


New Mother: Is it a boy or a girl?
Obstretrician: I think it's a bit early to start imposing roles on it, don't you?
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, the title is initially written as "MEANING OF LIFF", then a lightning strike corrects that to "LIFE". A book, "The Meaning of Liff", written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd was published in 1983. See more »


Referenced in Iron Maiden: Visions of the Beast (2003) See more »


The Liberty Bell
Written by John Philip Sousa
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Bloody good "Python"!
21 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The moment you start watching "Monty Python's Meaning of Life", and you see the unexpected movie within the movie "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", in which an office building turns into a pirate ship, you know you're in for one hell of a surreal ride. "Meaning of Life" is the Pythons at the zenith of their lunacy, filled with shocking moments of violence, offensive behavior, repulsive bodily functions, and all sorts of jaw-dropping bric a brac. Whether or not the movie truly intends to make us ponder the meaning of life or not is debatable, but you have a great time watching it. With an aquarium full of fish as a sort of Greek chorus, we explore the 3 stages of life: birth, growth, and death. The faint of heart better beware: "Meaning of Life" has scenes that would, even today, barely fly in the land of the Puritans. Michael Palin, as a dirt-poor father of 100 children, leads an epic musical number against birth control. Eric Idle, while singing about the vastness of the universe, witnesses a constellation take form of a naked woman giving birth. John Cleese plays a headmaster who teaches sex ed by having intercourse with his wife in front of his class (it's easily the least erotic sex scene in cinema history). And, in "Meaning of Life"'s most famous scene, the revolting, gluttonous Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) literally eats until he explodes. The film lampoons several touchy topics: Catholic dogma, basic human stupidity and selfishness, the foolishness of war (in a brilliant parody of "Zulu", with Michael Caine in a brief cameo), and even death itself (one man is able to choose his death, in which he is chased off a cliff by a mob of topless women). Yet it's not entirely gratuitous. In fact, the Pythons make several good points: birth control shouldn't be denied to anyone, especially those too poor to have children. Gluttony is wrong, and will in time punish you itself. We only live once, so we better enjoy the ride. It's no-holds-barred madness, and it's Monty Python at their best. "Meaning of Life" doesn't have the same cult following as "Holy Grail", but it's certainly one of their best. If you can't handle gore, sex, vomiting, or lunacy, steer clear. For those willing to take the chance, check out "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" and maybe we'll figure out, as the title song says, if "mankind's evolving, or is it too late?".

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