In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.



(film La Jetée), (screenplay) (as David Peoples) | 1 more credit »
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Top Rated Movies #219 | Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph Melito ...
Michael Chance ...
H. Michael Walls ...
Carol Florence ...
Ernest Abuba ...
Irma St. Paule ...
Bruce Kirkpatrick ...


An unknown and lethal virus has wiped out five billion people in 1996. Only 1% of the population has survived by the year 2035, and is forced to live underground. A convict (James Cole) reluctantly volunteers to be sent back in time to 1996 to gather information about the origin of the epidemic (who he's told was spread by a mysterious "Army of the Twelve Monkeys") and locate the virus before it mutates so that scientists can study it. Unfortunately Cole is mistakenly sent to 1990, six years earlier than expected, and is arrested and locked up in a mental institution, where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffrey Goines, the insane son of a famous scientist and virus expert. Written by Giancarlo Cairella <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The future is history. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

5 January 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

12 Monkeys  »

Box Office


$29,000,001 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£1,320,430 (UK) (19 April 1996)


$56,882,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Terry Gilliam was impressed by the film's screenplay because it touched on some of the themes he'd covered in his previous film Brazil (1985). He was shocked to find out that Universal was interested in making the film, partly because it was the kind of movie that he didn't think major studios would support and partly because he and Universal had clashed violently over "Brazil" a decade earlier. When he learned then-Universal chief Casey Silver was a strong backer of the new project, and that none of the figures who he'd clashed with over "Brazil" were going to block him or torpedo it, he signed up to direct. See more »


When Cole runs after Dr. Peters in the airport, he is not wearing sunglasses before or when he is shot, but when Kathryn kneels down beside him, he is briefly seen wearing a pair of dulled, brown glasses. See more »


[first lines]
James Cole: Jose - psst! Jose, what's going on?
Jose: Bad news, man
James Cole: Volunteers?
Jose: Yeah. And they said your name.
Jose: Hey, maybe they'll give you a pardon, man.
James Cole: [sarcastic] Yeah, that's why none of the volunteers come back. They all get a pardon.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The symbol of the 12 Monkeys provides the backdrop for the opening and closing credits. See more »


Referenced in Lost in La Mancha (2002) See more »


Piano Concerto No. 21 In C Major, K.467
Written by: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

these monkeys will go to heaven...
13 June 2003 | by See all my reviews

"Twelve monkeys"'s got all the elements to become Terry Gilliam's masterpiece. An outstanding screenplay, a sustained rhythm, clever sometimes ironic dialogs. Moreover, he had a good nose about the cast. "Twelve monkeys" is also the first movie where Bruce Willis stands back from the kind of character he used to play in his previous movies. Here, a jaded and hopeless character which you could nickname a prisoner took over from a fearless and invincible hero (as it was the case in "Die hard"). No matter how he tries, he's a prisoner of the time. The movie contains a very thrilling end too. It's got a real dramatic power. But this terrific movie is also a reflection about man, the dangers he dreads (notably, the ones that could cause the end of the world and here, these are virus that can create illnesses). No matter how long it will take, "twelve monkeys" will be estimated at its true value: one of the masterpieces made in the nineties.

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One question that's bothered me pferreira86
I'm really underwhelmed. What did I miss? cartesianthought
If Cole knew about the kid in the barn frozenwashcloth
Is this just the 90's? Pr1ceisright
An awfully convenient coincidence? digeridoo-59344
Absolutely Pathetic tsmit67
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