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Twelve Monkeys (1995)

R  |   |  Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller  |  5 January 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 424,631 users   Metascore: 74/100
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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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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph Melito ...
Michael Chance ...
H. Michael Walls ...
Bob Adrian ...
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


$29,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£1,320,430 (UK) (19 April 1996)


£3,532,343 (UK) (17 May 1996)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The actual slides during Kathryn Railly's speech were added in post-production. Actors and extras were asked by Director Terry Gilliam to look at a blank projection screen. See more »


When James Cole returns from his first trip to the past and is in his cell, he no longer has the bloody wound on his head that he received from his scuffle with the police in 1990. However, when he is being debriefed by the scientists in the next scene, the head wound is back. 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 »


References La Jetée (1962) See more »


The Earth Died Screaming
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
Courtesy of Island Records, Inc.
By Arrangement with Polygram Film & TV Licensing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A brilliant movie. One of the very best science fiction movies of the 1990s, and one or Terry Gilliam's greatest achievements.
24 January 2003 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

I grew up on Python and have followed Terry Gilliam's subsequent directorial career for more years than I care to remember. Half his output leaves me cold, the other half dazzle me beyond belief. 'Brazil' is his movie that I would rate the highest, but I've come to think that I have unfairly underrated 'Twelve Monkeys'. I have always enjoyed it, but I've only come to realize just how good a movie it really is. Sometimes I think it is even better than 'Brazil'. It's a close pick. Unlike 'Brazil' Gilliam didn't come up with the script. He basically was initially involved as a director for hire. Thankfully the script itself (by David and Janet Peoples) is first rate. On top of that Gilliam manages to stamp his own style and approach on to the material without sliding into complete self-indulgence as he sometimes does. The budget of this movie wasn't anywhere near as large as you would imagine from the impressive results on screen. It looks superb. Gilliam coaxes first rate performances out of Bruce Willis (quite a surprise) and Brad Pitt (not such a surprise, see also 'Johnny Suede' and 'Kalifornia'). Madeline Stowe is also very good, as is Christopher Plummer, and in a small but important role, David Morse. It's difficult to fault this movie. It is a joy to watch, and improves with each viewing. I also highly recommend Chris Marker's 'La Jetee', the short experimental film which inspired 'Twelve Monkeys'. It is also brilliant.

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