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.

Director:

Terry Gilliam

Writers:

Chris Marker (inspired by the film 'La Jetée' written by), David Webb Peoples (screenplay by) (as David Peoples) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
996 ( 343)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 23 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph Melito Joseph Melito ... Young Cole
Bruce Willis ... James Cole
Jon Seda ... Jose
Michael Chance Michael Chance ... Scarface
Vernon Campbell ... Tiny
H. Michael Walls H. Michael Walls ... Botanist
Bob Adrian ... Geologist
Simon Jones ... Zoologist
Carol Florence Carol Florence ... Astrophysicist / Jones
Bill Raymond ... Microbiologist
Ernest Abuba Ernest Abuba ... Engineer
Irma St. Paule ... Poet
Madeleine Stowe ... Kathryn Railly
Joey Perillo ... Detective Franki
Bruce Kirkpatrick ... Policeman No. 1
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Storyline

An intense film about time travel, this Sci-Fi entry was directed by Terry Gilliam, a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python. The film stars Bruce Willis as James Cole, a prisoner of the state in the year 2035 who can earn parole if he agrees to travel back in time and thwart a devastating plague. The virus has wiped out most of the Earth's population and the remainder live underground because the air is poisonous. Returning to the year 1990, six years before the start of the plague, Cole is soon imprisoned in a psychiatric facility because his warnings sound like mad ravings. There he meets a scientist named Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), the mad son of an eminent virologist (Christopher Plummer). Cole is returned by the authorities to the year 2035, and finally ends up at his intended destination in 1996. He kidnaps Dr. Railly in order to enlist her help in his quest. Cole discovers graffiti by an apparent animal rights group called the Army ...

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The future is history. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The two newscasters shown in the film were actual newscasters on Philadelphia's Channel 10 news at the time of filming. See more »

Goofs

The belief that the bullet could not be dated from world war I because it is new, is apparently based on a misunderstanding over the method of dating. It wouldn't have been dated using a technique like carbon-14 because it's not organic, so it doesn't matter that it came from the past by time traveling, it is still a type of projectile consistent with those of the period of the first world war. See more »

Quotes

[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.
[pause]
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.
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Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Featured in The Directors: The Films of Terry Gilliam (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

String Quartet No. 13 in a Minor 'Rosamunde' D804
Written by Franz Schubert
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User Reviews

 
Superior sci-fi
20 April 2012 | by Red-BarracudaSee all my reviews

A convict from the year 2035 is assigned a mission in order to win parole. He is sent back in time by a group of scientists to try and discover the source of a fatal plague that wiped out most of the human race. A plague which did not kill animals. In his travels he discovers mysterious graffiti announcing the arrival of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys.

Terry Gilliam has always been an interesting film director and visual stylist even when some of his movies are uneven. With 12 Monkeys he perhaps produces his most wholly satisfying work. It's a consistently compelling mystery within the framework of a time-travelling sci-fi narrative. It's a fairly complex story, so attention is demanded of the viewer. This is perhaps the chief strength of the film, however, as the labyrinthine narrative is one that benefits from multiple viewings. There are still some elements of ambiguity even at the end, so it's a film that actively encourages discussion.

There's a good cast too. Bruce Willis was on a bit of a run in the mid 90's and this is one of the great films he appeared in at the height of his powers. On the other hand, it's one of the first films where Brad Pitt was allowed to display his acting chops and show that he was a lot more than just a pretty face. While in visual terms, it's as interesting as you would expect from a Gilliam movie; although not as phantasmagorical as some of his more personal fantasy features. In 12 Monkeys he was a director for hire but it's not immediately obvious. Perhaps the distance this gave him actually helped instill some discipline that made the whole more cohesive on the whole. Whatever the case, this is an excellent sci-fi film with a compelling central mystery.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

5 January 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

12 Monkeys See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$29,000,001 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$184,776, 1 January 1996

Gross USA:

$57,141,459

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$168,839,459
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS-Stereo | DTS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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