Time Bandits (1981) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A young boy accidentally joins a band of time travelling dwarves, as they jump from era to era looking for treasure to steal.

  • Intrigued by history but neglected by his parents, Kevin, an eleven-year-old schoolboy, gets the chance to make his dream come true when a band of six time-travelling dwarfs appears out of thin air in his bedroom. Having stolen the Supreme Being's one-of-a-kind map of time and space, the audacious time-bandits whisk Kevin off on an exciting journey to the depths of history, skipping from one era to another. Now, to further complicate matters, the dangerous arch-rival known as the Evil Genius is hot on their trail, bent on getting his hands on the precious map. But, who would have thought that Kevin's seemingly unexceptional room was the entrance to a mysterious wormhole and the portal to a marvellous world of adventure?

  • A young boy's wardrobe contains a time hole. Through this hole an assortment of little people (i.e. dwarfs) come while escaping from their master, the Supreme Being (Sir Ralph Richardson). They take Kevin (Craig Warnock) with them on their adventures through time from Napoleonic times to the Middle Ages to the early 1900s, to the time of Legends and the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness where they confront Evil Genius (David Warner).


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In early 1980s England we find Kevin Lotterby (Craig Warnock), an average 11-year-old boy who is fascinated by history and its legends. However, his material-obsessed parents (David Daker and Sheila Fearn) could care less and spend their evenings ignoring their son and watching game show programs on TV.

    One night, Kevin is made to get to bed early and just as he lies down to sleep an armored knight riding on horseback bursts from his wardrobe. He then finds himself smack dab in the middle of a forest clearing. Just after Kevin gets to his feet, the forest falls away and his bedroom has turned back to normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Examining a picture on his wall almost identical to the scene he just witnessed--a knight on horseback in the middle of a forest--it's his father who bursts in through his door this time, complaining about all of the racket Kevin was making and yells at him to get to sleep.

    The following evening, Kevin returns to bed equipped with a Polaroid camera and a flashlight, determined to document whatever else might decide to emerge from his wardrobe. Just as he's given up hope and begins to fall asleep, a group of six strangely dressed dwarfs file out of his closet. Kevin shines his light at them and they cower, calling him the "The Supreme Being." Soon after discovering his true identity, they gang up on the innocent Kevin, accusing him of things he has no knowledge of. While interrogating him they push him against his picture-decorated wall and find that it moves. Babbling that they've "found it" they push further on the wall, which reveals a tunnel.

    Suddenly, a frightening head-shaped apparition appears in Kevin's room and demands that they return what they've stolen from him and that it will bring them "great danger." The dwarfs continue to push Kevin's picture-filled wall. The face follows them. Kevin runs and helps the dwarfs. The wall soon gives way through an opening at the end of the hall and the group plummet into the black space beyond.

    On a seemingly normal countryside, the dwarfs and Kevin suddenly fall from a hole in the sky. As it turns out, they have used a portal to travel back to Italy of 1796, during the Second Battle of Castiglione. They sneak into a fortress where they find a wrecked theatre and Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm), watching local actors perform follies for him. Napoleon laughs at a Punch and Judy show until the puppeteer is shot and dies. Dismissing the rest of the acts, he's suddenly thrilled when the dwarfs appear onstage and begin to perform a soft-shoe number to "Me and My Shadow", a song that won't be written for another 130 years. Napoleon is pleased to see people shorter than himself performing and invites them to dinner, proclaiming them his new generals. The dwarfs wait until Napoleon passes out from drinking wine and proceed to rob him of everything his forces had plundered and carry it out in a large tapestry. As they make their escape, one of the real generals discovers their plot and chases them. The dwarfs find another portal and are able to escape.

    They subsequently arrive in the Middle Ages. They end up plummeting through the roof of a carriage, upsetting a betrothed couple, Vincent and Pansy (Michael Palin and Shelley Duval), who run off into the forest. The six dwarfs finally explain to Kevin that they worked for The Supreme Being, the creator of the Universe, as designers, creating all the flora and fauna of the world. Kevin learns that the dwarfs, whom are named Randall (David Rappaport)-the self-proclaimed leader, Fidgit (Kenny Baker), Strutter (Malcolm Dixon), Og (Mike Edmonds), Wally (Jack Purvis), and Vermin (Tiny Ross). After designing a particularly foul-smelling tree, the dwarfs were demoted to the job of repairing portals in the space-time fabric. Spurned they spitefully stole the map of the holes' locations, which they are now using to travel around, stealing treasures from across history and get "stinkin' rich." As they count up their loot, Kevin suggest they all pose for a group picture with their map. They suddenly hear the cries of the couple they'd landed on and find that they're being robbed by a motley band of thieves. They follow the thieves, landing themselves in snare traps. After convincing the thugs they're criminals, they're taken to Robin Hood (John Cleese), who looks upon their haul from Napoleon as wealth he can "redistribute" to the local poor. As Hood hands out the loot, the dwarfs leave in disgust, angry that their haul has been repossessed.

    Meanwhile, in secret, this journey is being observed via mystical powers by a malevolent sorcerer, known simply as "the Evil Genius" or "Ultimate Evil" (David Warner), who seeks the map for himself to recreate the universe to his liking. In the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, the Evil Genius rants a little about The Supreme Being, saying that slugs are a demonstration of his incompetence. "What about you?" one of his henchman asks. "He created you." Evil responds by blowing him up, adding "Don't ever ask me another question like that! No one created me! I am absolute evil! I made myself!" Another henchman pushes his luck, asking, "Then how does he keep you here? How does he keep you trapped in the fortress?" He promptly gets blown up. "Good question," Evil states. "If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!"

    While the dwarfs ponder their next move, Ultimate Evil decides to magically speak through the mouth of one of the more dunderhead-ed dwarfs in order to convince the rest of them to pursue the resting place of "the most fabulous object in the world." The dwarfs begin to fight amongst themselves for the map until the Supreme Being re-materializes, which leads Kevin to jump through a time-travel portal on his own in escape.

    Kevin land in an arid desert and unintentionally aides King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) when he falls from a time portal in the sky. After inadvertently helping Agamemnon slay a vicious Minotaur, Kevin is welcomed to Agamemnon's royal court and treated like a son. Reflecting on his own neglected life and family, Kevin wishes he can stay with the king forever. Kevin is elated with his new home, capturing scenes during his stay with his Polaroid camera, but this is not to last. A few days later, during a birthday party for Agamemnon, the six dwarfs suddenly appear again and in yet another time-traveling robbery scheme, they manage to steal Agamemnon's riches along with the boy before fleeing through another time portal door.

    After time-traveling to the infamous luxury liner Titanic, Randall tells Kevin that he'd studied the map more closely & found that Og was right: the Time of Legends is the location of the Most Fabulous Object in the World. However, the boat begins to sink and the stranded group is forced to search out the most fabulous object in the world which turns out to be the Fortress of Ultimate Evil.

    The Evil Genius, meanwhile, begins to manipulate the adventure with his magical influence, so that Kevin and the dwarfs end up transported out of the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the ocean of the Time of Legends. Here, circumstances become even more fantastical. The group is picked up by a ship containing the Oger Winston (Peter Vaughan) and his human wife (Katherine Helmond). After overpowering Winston and throwing him and his wife overboard, the group takes command of the ship, but they barely escape when their ship is adorning the head of a giant. After putting the giant to sleep by injecting the top of his head with sleep potion, the travelers escape and find themselves in a vast desert.

    The dwarfs believe an epic treasure, "The Most Fabulous Object in the World," awaits in this time-period within the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, where Evil himself resides. Meeting an invisible glass-like wall in the middle of the desert, the dwarfs begin to argue and dissent from Randall's authority, when they accidentally down the wall by smashing a skull through it like a pane of glass. They step through the jagged opening to behold Evil's fortress lying ominous on the other side. Once inside, the dwarfs are immediately deceived by Evil's shape-shifting abilities into handing over the map. Evil imprisons them and Kevin in one of many cages hanging over a bottomless void, but the group undoes the lock and swings from cage to cage until they are back within the fortress hall. They are able to use a photograph of the map Kevin had taken earlier to identify holes they can use to recruit help and recover the map. The dwarfs begin putting their plan into action. Randall and four of the dwarfs split up while Kevin stays behind to try to lure away several of the Evil Genius' demon minions that chase him.

    Kevin is almost left to face the Evil Genius alone when suddenly all kinds of characters from all time periods come to the rescue, among the group several Roman archers, cowboys, a battle tank, knights, and a futuristic soldier, and the dwarfs.

    The cowboys attempt to wrangle Evil with their lassos, but he begins to spin and the centrifugal force sends them flying. Evil's skull opens up and a wicked looking pole extends from it, producing a knife which cuts the ropes which unsuccessfully bound him. When the archers attempt to skewer them with their well-aimed arrows, Evil essentially turns himself into a pincushion and fires the arrows right back at their sources.

    Although the hodge-podge group puts up what could be considered a good effort, all efforts to foil evildoing prove in vain and all certainly seems lost. But then, out of nowhere, The Supreme Being appears in human form (Ralph Richardson) and turns Evil into black brittle stone. While Randall tries to apologize to The Supreme Being for his groups actions, The Supreme Being reveals that everything which had occurred was actually all part of his plan.

    The Supreme Being (nicknamed 'SB' by the dwarfs) goes on to briefly explain that he let the midgets borrow the map because, as it turns out, Evil was HIS creation after all and the Supreme Being simply wanted to see it put to the test. Free will is the reason why evil still exists, he explains. He instructs them to dispose of Evil's crumbling bits and pieces into a English Post Box he has provided in order to rid the world of it and warns them not to touch it with their bare hands. Unbeknownst to them, one chunk is overlooked and slowly begins to fester. The SB forgives the dwarfs for their insolence, deciding demotion and a pay cut will suffice as a good enough punishment and announces that it is time to go (presumably back to Heaven). With the time map safely in hand, SB and the dwarfs then leave an indignant Kevin behind "to carry on the fight." Soon, however, the festering piece of Evil begins to smolder and in moments Kevin is enveloped in a cloud of thick, strangely yellow-colored smoke.

    Almost instantaneously, Kevin wakes up to find himself back in his bed, surrounded now by thick, black smoke. Two firemen burst through his bedroom door just in time and rush him from his burning home. Outside, his parents fight over which kitchen appliances should have been saved from the flames and seem to have no concern for whether Kevin had made it out of the house alive or not. It is now morning as Kevin watches the growing flames lick at his home as firemen hose it down and begin to get the fires under control. One of the two firemen who saved him walks by and asks if he is all right, and then says "You're a very lucky boy." On second look, Kevin recognizes the fireman as the spitting image of King Agamemnon. Baffled, wondering if it was all a dream, Kevin checks his pockets for any evidence of his journey and is amazed to find all of the Polaroid snapshots that he took while on his adventures, thus confirming that it wasn't a dream after all.

    But before Kevin can show the photos and proof of his time traveling adventures to his bickering parents, another fireman emerges from the home with a charred toaster oven in hand, declaring that it was the cause of the fire, which was left on overnight. His parents open the appliance, revealing the smoking chunk of evil rock lying inside. Kevin gasps, realizing it was the source of the fire. "Mum, Dad!" He warns, "It's Evil! Don't touch it!" But as always, his stupid parents foolishly ignore him and touch it anyway to remove it. They both explode on contact with the black rock, leaving almost no trace behind. When Kevin turns around looking for help, he sees King Agamemnon-turned-fireman winking at him who then drives away in his fire truck along with the rest of the firemen now that the fire is put out. Kevin is left all alone and bewildered on the front lawn to look back at the smoldering remains of his destroyed house and smoldering (now dead) parents while his nosy neighbors look on.

    The camera zooms out from the town, the world, and the galaxy to reveal its location on the Supreme Being's map. The Supreme Being's hands then roll up the map, ending the film.

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