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The Meaning of Life (1983)

R  |   |  Comedy, Musical  |  31 March 1983 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 78,170 users  
Reviews: 194 user | 59 critic

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

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Title: The Meaning of Life (1983)

The Meaning of Life (1983) on IMDb 7.6/10

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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 (

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


Comedy | Musical


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
See  »

Did You Know?


Unknown to the rest of the team until later, director Terry Jones spent most of the budget for the film on the "Every Sperm Is Sacred" sequence. See more »


In the classroom scene the young student seated in the rear right corner appears and disappears three times in successive shots. See more »


Father: [singing] Every sperm is sacred/Every sperm is great/If a sperm is wasted/God gets quite irate.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Producers would like to thank all the fish who have taken part in this film. We hope that other fish will follow the example of those who have participated, so that, in future, fish all over the world will live together in harmony and understanding, and put aside their petty differences, cease pursuing and eating each other and live for a brighter, better future for all fish, and those who love them. See more »


Referenced in Remember Me (2013) See more »


Christmas in Heaven
Lyrics by Terry Jones
Music by Eric Idle
Performed by Graham Chapman
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Monty Python's final film adventure

The famous British comedy troupe, Monthy Python, crafted this bizarre collections of their special brand of humor as their last film together; loosely tied by the common theme of the everlasting search for the Meaning of Life, this series of sketches make a very good closure for their film adventures, as it seems as a return to their roots in the TV show "Flying Circus" and dedicated to long time fans. Nevertheless, this may also be a turn off for fans expecting something akin to "Holy Grial" or "Life of Brian".

Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones direct the segments that form "The Meaning of Life", divided in the diverse stages of human development (from birth to death), the action flows with ease; although due to the nature of the film, some sketches are definitely better than other. It's safe to say that this movie contains some of the best and the worst the troupe has done; however, their most mediocre work is still better than most modern comedy out there.

The movie also foresees the future careers of both Gilliam and Jones as directors; their film style (particularly Gilliam's) is now mature and almost fully developed. Gilliam's short "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" is an outstanding segment that could even stand alone on its own, and that presents Gilliam fully in form as a wild fantasy director.

While this was their last film, the group seems to be at its peak when talking about acting; from John Cleese's Dr. Spenser to Graham Chapman's near perfect impersonation of Tony Bennet, the acting never lets down, and even when some scripts are dull even for their time, the Pythons as actors never disappoint.

Something worth to notice are the great quality of the songs performed in the film. they are not only written with their high quality witty humor, musically they work very well and rank among the best the group has written in their history together.

Still, the movie may be overlong and at times tedious to people not used to the team's brand of humor. Specially considering that "The Meaning of Life" has more in common with their early roots than with what made them famous. Also, probably some of the jokes are definitely outdated now; however, "The Meaning of Life" is a very good display of the gang's different sides.

While maybe not as ingenious as "Holy Grail" and definitely nowhere near the masterpiece "Life of Brian", the Pythons last movie is still a very good comedy to watch. However, this certain brand of humor may be appealing only to fans of the Python's TV work, as it has more of those early roots than of their past film adventures. 8/10. An acquired taste indeed.

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