Film: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

If we built this large wooden badger...

After the success of Monty Python's Flying Circus in the UK and US, the six Ambassadors of Anarchy got the right to make films. This 1974 effort was their second go-round (after 1972's And Now for Something Completely Different, which featured redone versions of several sketches from Circus) and one of their most famous and oft-quoted.

A complete skewering of the Arthurian legend, it tells the story of King Arthur and his attempt to build a court at Camelot (which is, of course, a silly place). Once he assembles his crew (off-screen, mostly), he has a vision of God (or a reasonable drawing of same by Terry Gilliam based on a famous cricket player), informing him that to cement his name in immortality, he must seek the Holy Grail—the cup used at the Last Supper of Christ, and which caught his blood after the crucifixion. After a long and roundabout search which leads them to the far corners of the Kingdom and past idiosyncratic knights, the world's oldest harem, and a very nasty rabbit, they discover the Grail is supposedly located in a very old castle, which has fallen into the hands of those heathen enemies—the French.

Those nasty taunting bastards.

Full of random quips, hilarious stand-alone scenes, and the type of comedic anarchy and anticlimax that practically defines British comedy even to this day, the movie was a low-budget success story and has become a Cult Classic over time. It also reveals Michael Palin's versatility, as he plays something like 10 roles over the course of the film. He's not alone, of course; the majority of people and about 80% of the lines are from the Pythonites, leading to some interesting blocking and directing decisions. (Watch Lancelot's helmet.)

Or, if you want to be "artsy" about it, see Eric Idle's Broadway adaptation, Spamalot!.

Just a side note—because Terry Jones is, in fact, an Arthurian scholar, this happens to be not just the funniest but the most accurate film adaptation of Malory's Le Morte D Arthur ever made. Some of the humor, in fact, is derived from typical Pythonian spins on events and characterizations from the original tales.


Bring out your tropes!

  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • The cow and large wooden rabbit the French fling at the English knights. Catapulting real animals—which the French also do—was a legitimate strategy for fending off invaders back then, but they were usually dead animals meant to spread disease, not living livestock.
      "Fetchez la vache!"
    • The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, ultimately used to defeat the Killer Rabbit.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: King Arthur can cut through the Black Knight's armor and limbs with ease; for the arms in particular, his sword doesn't even seem to go through, and a strike on the shoulder is enough to make the limb fall off.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: The Knights of the Round Table, whose shows are formidABLE, but many times are given rhymes that are quite unsingABLE.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: A meta example. According to the Pythons, early audiences viewing the battle against the Black Knight reacted with silence for the first couple of minutes, supposedly shocked by the violent nature of the scene. Then, as they realized the joke—that he was showing no pain—they started to laugh.
  • Affectionate Parody: Terry Jones is an Arthurian scholar and knew a lot of the source material.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Castle Anthrax, where the many vile temptresses threaten to take Galahad's purity, despite the fact that he doesn't mind.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Subverted constantly.
    • The "plague victim" who protests that he is not dead. However, both his "caretaker" and the cart bearer eventually have had enough of his whining and kill him anyway.
    • The Running Gag of people getting shot, stabbed, or otherwise injured, and people mourning over them as if they are giving a Final Speech, only for them to protest that they are "getting better".
    • With his dying breath, Joseph of Aramathea carves a message on a cave wall.
      King Arthur: If he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve "Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh!", he'd just say it!
      Sir Galahad: Perhaps he was dictating.
      King Arthur: Oh, shut up.
      • The whole gag is subverted when the Castle is revealed to be named "Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh!".
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Launching/dropping dead animals and other nasty things was a real tactic in siege warfare.
    • Those guys in the monks robes who walk around chanting in Latin and hitting themselves in the face with boards? They were called flagellants. Compared to what some of the historical flagellant sects did to themselves, their behavior, odd as it is, is extremely mild.
    • There really were French living in England, though not at the time King Arthur lived.
    • Anarcho-syndicalism is a real political philosophy.
    • The "Killer Rabbit" is inspired by real Medieval religious art, which often illustrated the sin of cowardice by depicting a knight fleeing from a rabbit.
  • Amusing Injuries: The Black Knight's limbs being lopped off in his duel with King Arthur.
    "You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you! I'll bite your legs off!"
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Intentionally averted when King Arthur comes across an anarcho-syndicalist commune of literal mud farmers. They are decidedly non-violent, particularly when compared to Arthur himself, but they are extremely irritating, screaming "oppression" when...Arthur grabs one of them in annoyance. It may be an example of the Pythons having shown their knowledge about left-wing politics and a subtle Take That at the many leftists who espoused such views in The Seventies UK.
  • Arbitrary Mission Restriction: The film Parodies this trope when the Knights Who Say "Ni" demand that Arthur cut down the mightiest tree in the forest—with a herring. Of course, it overlaps with With A Herring, since the tool is not only arbitrarily specific, but also totally inadequate to the task.
  • Ascended Extra: Sir Bedevere is a fairly minor character of Arthurian legend, but in this movie he's one of Arthur's three continuous companions.
  • Author Existence Failure: Invoked and played for laughs, as the characters are only saved from the Legendary Black Beast of AAAAAAARRRRGGGHH! when the animator suffers a fatal heart attack and the cartoon peril is no more.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • The surprise ending to the British attack on the French castle. The reason why they didn't go through with the whole fight is because they ran out of money and time and couldn't film the whole thing. So they just said "Everyone went to jail". Some people consider it a cop-out.
      • Including Eric Idle's daughter. From the documentary Monty Python: Almost the Truth:
    Eric Idle: I ended the Holy Grail because we didn't have an end for that either. I said, "Why don't we have the police arrest them, put their hand over the camera." My daughter hates me for that! She says, "It's the shittiest ending of a movie ever! I hate you, Dad!"
  • Apocalyptic Log: The message carved by Joseph of Aramathea giving the Grail's location.
  • Arranged Marriage: Prince Herbert's father wants him to marry a princess because her father owns the biggest tracts of open land in Britain, never mind Herbert's objections. Sir Lancelot comes to rescue Herbert because he thinks he's a Damsel in Distress.
  • Artistic License – History: A man announcing himself as the "King of the Britons" and "Defeater of the Saxons" would never have concluded with "Sovereign of all England". The reason a Briton would have been fighting the Saxons in the first place would be to prevent the establishment of "England", which means "Land of the Anglo-Saxons".
  • Ascended To Carnivorism: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog doesn't want to eat grass anymore.
  • As Himself: As part of one of the many fourth-wall-breaking jokes, Terry Gilliam is briefly seen as "the animator of the movie"—himself—suffering a fatal heart attack.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The "Swedish subtitles" during the opening credits are just English spelled with a Funetik Aksent and a liberal use of the Punctuation Shaker.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!
    • Arthur's Battle Cry quickly breaks down into a rather disorderly call for retreat: "Run Awaaay!", when the French counterattack by launching a farm animal at the attackers.
    • The tactic used against the killer rabbit is initially to Zerg Rush it. When it effortlessly kills several of them, Arthur calls a retreat.
  • Badass Adorable: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is an ordinary fluffy white rabbit that rips your throat out with ease.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The credits start with Swedish subtitles, turn into a pitch for Swedish tourism, then an anecdote about a woman being bit by a møøse. The credits people are fired, before one more møøse subtitle comes in, after which the new directors are fired. The credits continue with møøse positions added in, which results in the directors being fired again. Finally, the last few credits are shown with bright flashing lights, crediting llamas several times, all set to Mexican mariachi music. See them all here.
  • The Bard: Sir Robin's minstrels, one of whom sings "Brave Sir Robin Ran Away".
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Prince Herbert's escape attempt involves one, but it doesn't turn out well when the sheet is unfastened and he falls from the tower.
  • Better Than It Sounds Film: "King Arthur's tale is filmed on an extremely low budget and the plot goes off in random directions."
  • Bewitched Amphibians: One of the peasants in the witch-burning scene claims that the accused turned him into a newt.
    "She turned me into a newt!"
    "A newt?"
    [beat]
    "I got better."
  • Bilingual Bonus: Subverted when the French knights start to speak French, but have to repeat themselves in English because one of them doesn't understand French.
    "C'est un lapin!"
    "Hmm?"
    "It's a rabbit!"
    "Ah, un lapin!"
    "Allons-y!"
    "Hmm?"
    "Let's go!"
    "Ah, allons-y!"
  • Black Knight: King Arthur encounters one guarding a tiny bridge over a tiny river. He turns out to be far less fearsome than he makes himself out to be.
  • Bloody Hilarious: King Arthur's duel with the Black Knight is absurdly gruesome, but, this being Monty Python, it's played for laughs as the man refuses to admit that Arthur is completely trashing him.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The French Knight, each time he confronts King Arthur and his knights, tends to end his insults with a loud, wet raspberry.
  • Boomstick: Wielded by Tim the Enchanter in his first scene (right before the confrontation with the Rabbit of Caerbannog). He uses it to cue thunderstrikes and Blow Stuff Up purely for dramatic effect.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall
    • In one scene, (cut from the original theatrical version, but reinstated for TV and video) Dingo turns and talks to the audience, before being admonished by various cast members who aren't involved in the scene.
      • "GET ON WITH IT!!"
    • "Look! There's the old man from Scene 24!"
    • Patsy: [referring to Camelot] "It's only a model"note .
  • Brick Joke:
    • The swallow joke ("African or European?") comes up at least twice after the initial scene. The narrator goes on about how many swallows'-flights away Arthur and Bedevere are from Galahad and Lancelot, and the counter-question that allows Arthur to pass the Bridge of Death is a clarification on which species of swallow. Bedevere is also introduced with a coconut tied to a bird, though it's a dove instead of a swallow.
    • The above joke went even further in the script, but the final Brick Joke had to be cut because of the movie's low budget. The Pythons originally wanted the movie to end with an epic payoff for the "swallows with coconuts" joke, where Arthur's army would have stormed the Castle Aaaaargh and been aided at the last minute by a flock of swallows dropping coconuts on the French knights. Naturally, they didn't have enough cash to pull that off, and ended the movie with the cops arresting everyone instead.
    • After Lancelot "saves" him from Castle Anthrax, Galahad accuses Lancelot of being gay, which he denies. Subsequently, we see Lancelot rush to a castle to rescue a "damsel" who turns out to be the very effeminate Prince Herbert—who already had an escape plan. So not-gay, ostentatiously-hyper-masculine Lancelot ends up answering the personal ad of a young feminine guy who isn't at all interested in marrying a girl with huge...tracts of land.
    • The Book of Armaments, as read by Brother Maynard, expressly forbids counting 5. Unfortunately, Arthur keeps getting 3 and 5 mixed up, and technically does count 5.
    • The murder of the historian, and the ending.
    • The credits is a subtle example: all of the credits guys were sacked at the beginning of the film, so there are no end credits.
  • Brown Note: The Knights Who Say "Ni", a word that apparently drains the life out of whoever it is said to, or something. Later King Arthur uses the word himself. Then it's revealed that the word "it" has a similar effect on the Knights themselves.
  • Burn the Witch!: The villagers seek permission to burn an accused witch from Sir Bedevere, but he's not convinced she is a witch until they establish that she weighs the same as a duck, and therefore must be made of wood, which floats on water--just like witches.
  • Canon Foreigner: Of all the named knights of the Round Table, only Sir Robin is created for the film.
  • Catch Phrase: King Arthur's "Oh, shut up!", "Jesus Christ!", and "Run away!"
  • Celibate Hero: Sir Galahad, though he's just about to give up on it when Sir Lancelot shows up to "save" him.
    Lancelot: We were in the nick of time! You were in great peril.
    Galahad: I don't think I was.
    Lancelot: Yes you were, you were in terrible peril!
    Galahad: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
    Lancelot: No, it's too perilous.
    Galahad: It's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can!
    Lancelot: No, we've got to find the Holy Grail. Come on!
    Galahad: Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?
    Lancelot: No. It's unhealthy.
    Galahad: ...Bet you're gay.
    Lancelot: Am not!
  • Chandelier Swing: Parodied when Sir Lancelot attempts one, but gets stuck and has to ask for someone to give him a push.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Inverted. The French are constantly getting the drop on the English knights.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Several; the debate about swallows is foremost. It comes back for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot at the beginning of the witch-burning scene, when Sir Bedevere is apparently attempting to see if a bird can fly with a coconut tied to its legs, and again near the finale, when Arthur's experience with the subject gives him an edge over the Bridgekeeper.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Halfway through the film, a historian appears to summarize the next part of the plot and is murdered. Later, Arthur, Sir Bedevere, and Sir Lancelot are stopped on their quest and arrested for his murder.
    • Arthur's overheard information about swallows and coconuts. Used to launch someone off a bridge.
  • The Chosen One: Subverted and discussed. When King Arthur gives his Lady Of the Lake speech, an anarcho-syndicalist peasant doesn't see what's so special about being chosen.
    "Strange women layin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government!"
  • The Coconut Effect: Parodied with a literal use of Coconut Superpowers; all of the knights mime riding horses, while their serfs follow behind them with two empty halves of coconuts, clapping them together.
  • Coconut Superpowers: A literal use, caused by the movie having No Budget.
    • The horses are just the serfs following their knight, clapping two halves of a coconut together.
    • When the knights are hurled from the Bridge of Death, the actor is just crouched down, and then standing up real fast before the camera cuts to a shot of the "knight" flying through the air.
  • Commune: It's anarcho-syndicalist! What do they need a king for?
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • The Knights of Ni and King Arthur using the Brown Note "Ni!" to hurt people.
    • Apparently the punishment for lighting the "Grail-shaped" beacon at the Castle Anthrax is for the offender to be tied to a bed and spanked. And after the spanking, the oral sex!
  • Corpsing: During the "Burn the Witch" scene, a scythe-wielding peasant (Eric Idle) bites into his scythe to keep himself from cracking up.
  • Credits Gag
    • The opening credits are underscored by bogus "Swedish" subtitles, with liberal reference to møøse for Caption Humor.
  • Literally everything in the final segment of the opening credits is some sort of reference to llamas.
  • Mass firings, which carries on into the end credits, or lack thereof.
  • Crashing Through the Harem: Sir Galahad fights his way through a forest in a storm until he finds Castle Anthrax, which has a Grail-shaped beacon overhead. He bangs on the door, and when it opens he falls inside. He meets several young women, one of whom tells him that the castle contains eight score young blondes and brunettes, all between the ages of 16 and 19½. As Sir Galahad escapes from two naughty female doctors, he enters a room filled with the aforementioned eight score young women. Just as he decides to stay, some of the other knights "rescue" him and get him to continue the Grail quest. He then proceeds to call them gay.
  • Crosscast Role: In a rarity for Monty Python, there's only one example of crossdressing in the whole film: the very minor character of Dennis's mother, who is played by Terry Jones. Even the Pythons comment on this on the DVD commentary, and surmise that, since they could afford an actual cast for the first time, they just naturally hired real women to play the women in the film. Indeed Connie Booth (Cleese's then wife) is cast as the supposed witch, while Carol Cleveland is the main women in Castle Anthrax.
  • Damsel in Distress: The Prince in the swamp castle is (obviously) actually a Distressed Dude, but it's worth mentioning as it is deliberately played as a Parody of a Damsel in Distress. Lancelot, in fact, thinks it is the latter, and is distinctly nonplussed when he realizes the truth.
  • Dark Age Europe: It takes place in the Dark Ages in England...with Frenchmen present, for some reason. Common tropes for the setting are everywhere, such as World Shapes:
  • Death by Looking Up: The only person killed when the "Trojan Rabbit" is launched is one of the servants, who stands still, looking up at it.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Lancelot tries, without success, to take out the French castle using this technique. The marks in the castle's masonry from John Cleese's blade remain to this very day.
  • Defied Trope: The King of Swamp Castle is not having any musical numbers if he can help it. (Unfortunately for him, he can't stop a Crowd Song.)
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Brother Maynard: Three is the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four thou shalt not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.
    • This sounds exactly like an oral tradition (where repetition helped cement things in memory) that got transcribed exactly when it got written down. See above about Terry Jones being a history geek.
    • Parts of the Book of Armaments bear an uncanny resemblance to the Athanasian Creed, which affirms the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in agonizing detail; to quote just a tiny section:
      "...and yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God..."
  • Derailed for Details: In the opening scene, King Arthur's attempt to summon the Lord of the local castle derails into a discussion of how exactly King Arthur acquired a coconut shell in Medieval England, and ends with an argument over the migratory patterns of swallows. This even turns up later in a Brick Joke.
  • Deranged Animation: The various intercut scenes, like with the Black Beast of AAAAAAARRRRGGGHH!, are animated in Terry Gilliam's signature deranged style.
    • The Blu-ray extras contain even more examples, newly restored, that didn't make it into the final film.
  • Determinator: Deconstructed, figuratively and literally, by the Black Knight scene. Cleese even said he based it on a school lesson in never surrendering that Cleese found rather ridiculous (as it was about a Greco-Roman wrestler who died in the ring rather than lose the match). If all your limbs are cut off then, no matter how determined you are, you can't continue fighting.
  • Deus ex Machina: Played for Laughs when the Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh is stopped by the animator having a heart attack.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The ending where Arthur's army is arrested by modern-day police.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The complete failure of the Trojan Rabbit plan: It's an obvious rehash of the classic Trojan Horse, except that Bedevere forgot to include the part where anybody is inside the rabbit. He doesn't even realize the mistake until the rabbit is already inside the castle and Arthur asks him what the next step is.
    Bedevere: Now, we wait until nightfall, and then, Lancelot, Galahad, and I leap out of the rabbit—
    Arthur: Who leaps out of the rabbit?
    Bedevere: Er, Lancelot...Galahad...and, oh...
  • Dispense With The Pleasantries: God to King Arthur.
    God: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel! If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
    Arthur: Sorry—
    God: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's "sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy". What are you doing now!?
    Arthur: I'm averting my eyes, oh Lord.
    God: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms—they're so depressing. Now knock it off!
  • Distressed Dude: The Swamp Prince is in need of rescuing. Lancelot thinks he's a Damsel in Distress, and the situation is deliberately played as a Parody of that trope.
  • Double Entendre: "She's rich, she's beautiful, she's got huuuuge... [suggestive gesture] tracts of land."
  • Double Take: The French soldier performs an exaggerated one when he sees the Trojan Rabbit in the distance.
  • Downer Ending: Arthur gets arrested by (modern-day) police officers in connection with a trans-temporal murder committed by an entirely different person earlier in the film. The climactic battle with the French never happens.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Subverted by Lancelot's attempt to rescue the Prince.
    Lancelot: O Fair One, behold your humble servant Sir Lancelot of Camelot. I have come in answer to your mess—oh, I'm terribly sorry!
  • The Dung Ages: Played for Laughs, of course:
    • The corpse collector is able to identify Arthur as a king because "he hasn't got shit all over him", never mind the crown on his head.
    • Dennis and his mother are mud farmers.
  • Dwindling Party: Thanks in no small part to the Bridge of Death, where the knights get launched into a pit of despair for failing the questions of the bridgekeeper. By the end of the scene, only Arthur and Bedevere are left.
  • Dying Clue: "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the castle of AAAAaaaaaargh." It turns out the castle really is called "AAAAaaaaaargh".
  • Dynamic Entry: Sir Lancelot does this in "The Tale Of Sir Lancelot". See Storming the Castle below.
  • Eat Dirt Cheap: Parodied. The Constitutional Peasants are seen gathering dirt and filth in the same way one would harvest crops.
  • Eat the Dog: Robin's minstrels have to be eaten during a particularly desperate winter. And There Was Much Rejoicing. (Yaaaaay.)
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The historian's name is given as 'A Famous Historian'.
  • Everyone Join The Party: At the end, hundreds of soldiers show up literally out of nowhere.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sir Bedevere discovers that while his plan was tactically sound, he has missed an important step in its preparation:
    King Arthur: [after watching the French roll the Trojan Rabbit into their fortress] What happens next?
    Bedevere: Well, now, uh, Lancelot, Galahad, and I wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French by surprise—not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!
    King Arthur: [glancing over at Lancelot and Galahad, still standing nearby] ...Who leaps out?
    Bedevere: [hesitantly] Uh, Lancelot, Galahad, and I, uh, leap out of the rabbit, uh, and, uh... [looks at the other knights, who are facepalming] l—look, if we built this large wooden badger...
  • Eye Scream: The Green Knight gets the Black Knight's sword through the eye-slot of his helmet. Cue High-Pressure Blood.
  • Face Palm: Upon recognizing a glaring flaw in the Trojan Rabbit plan, most of the other knights do this in the background.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: In this case, Break-Into-Musical-Numbers-Forbidding Father.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Arthur and his remaining knights run away when the evil bunny kills some of them off.
  • Feelies: At least one edition of the DVD has instructions on the back to use the DVD case to play along with the chanting monks. By holding it firmly in both hands and smashing it into your face...
  • Feels No Pain: The Black Knight is apparently completely immune, and even oblivious, to the pain and blood loss from his severed limbs.
  • Fetch Quest: The Knights who say "Ni" send the protagonists on a quest for a shrubbery for no apparent reason.
    King Arthur: O Knights of Ni. We have brought you your shrubbery. May we go now?
  • Film the Hand: The last shot in the movie is a policeman blocking the camera.
  • Finders Rulers: Arthur's claim to royalty lies in him possessing Excalibur.
  • Flat Joy: Whenever the narrator says "And There Was Much Rejoicing", it's followed by the characters giving out an unenthusiastic "Yaaaaaay" and some waving of flags.
  • Focal Length: The shot of Lancelot running toward the swamp castle is extended into Parody by zooming in and out...and repeating footage.
  • French Jerk: The French castle is full of them, particularly the one played by John Cleese, who does nothing but spew insults at King Arthur.
  • Funny Foreigner: The French castle guard.
    Frenchman: I'm French! Why do you zink I have zis outrrrrageous accent, you silly king-a?!
    Frenchman: I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
  • Fun with Subtitles: The opening credits start with an As Long as It Sounds Foreign "Swedish" subtitle that merely uses the Punctuation Shaker on all the letters, but then quickly turns into a bizarre story about møøses and toothbrushes.
  • Gag Boobs: Conversed by the King of the Swamp Castle. Herbert's bride-to-be has huge...tracts of land.
  • Gag Sub: The opening credits have bogus "Swedish" subtitles, and the DVD release includes a complete set of bogus subtitles for the entire film. The latter is entirely composed of lines from William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2. It's labeled on the DVD as being "For People Who Did Not Like The Film".
  • Having a Blast: Tim the Enchanter randomly shoots off fireballs and uses elaborate hand gestures that cause massive explosions in his opening scene. We never see him do it again, but at least he made a good first impression.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The Killer Rabbit beheads three knights!
  • High-Pressure Blood
    • King Arthur's duel with the Black Knight; every time the knight loses a limb, he spurts absurd amounts of blood for a second or two.
    • The scene with the Killer Rabbit, wherein the rabbit bites off a few heads, does the same thing.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The bridge-keeper attempts to invoke three questions before letting them cross (which are either very easy—if you aren't indecisive—or awfully hard trick questions or trivia). If they fail (either by not knowing one of the answers or simply being indecisive), they are hurled down a fiery crevice. When Arthur gets his turn, specifically when he gets to the third question (about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow), Arthur asks for clarification as to whether he meant an unladen African swallow or an unladen European swallow. The bridgekeeper then admits he doesn't know, with predictable results.
    • The Knights of the Round Table, when the French taunters catapult their own Trojan Rabbit back at them.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Trope Namer. "Bless this oh Lord thy Holy Hand Grenade of Anitoch." It's a holy weapon meant to smite evil.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Go, Sir Lancelot, you psychotic berk! Chop that castle down with your sword! It's justified, in that this was how Lancelot is characterized in Malory and other early sources. "Mentally-unstable berserker prone to stress-induced fugue states" doesn't even begin to cover him. This scene in particular is a parody of the rescue of Guenevere near the end of Le Morte D Arthur.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Robin's minstrels, in a pun on Galaxy Minstrels.
    Narrator: And they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels...And There Was Much Rejoicing.
    Knights: Yaaaaay.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The three knights impaled to a tree with a lance by the three-headed knight.
  • Implausible Deniability:
    • When the Black Knight is getting his arse handed to him by King Arthur, he insists that "it's just a flesh wound".
    • When Bedevere reacts with (understandable) disbelief to the peasant's claim that a witch turned him into a newt, despite him standing right there in full human form, the peasant meekly adds, "...I got better."
  • Impossible Task: "You must chop down the mightiest tree in the forest...wiiiiiiiiith...a herring!"
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Black Knight throws his sword right through the eye-slot of the Green Knight's helmet.
  • Incessant Music Madness: Sir Robin eventually loses his temper with his minstrels, though it has more to do with their derogatory lyrics than the quality of their singing.
  • Informed Ability: The minstrels initially gush about Sir Robin's bravery, but after he flees from combat with the three-headed giant, it turns into servile snarking.
  • Inherently Funny Words:
    • Ni!
    • "A newt?" (As opposed to, say, a cat.)
    • Møøse. Majestic perhaps, but very funny.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Bedevere's faultless chain of reasoning leading to the conviction of the witch: If a woman weights the same amount as a duck then she's made of wood because both ducks and wood float, and because both wood and witches burn, she must be a witch! In true Monty Python fashion, it works! Also, one of the tracks on the soundtrack album is an alleged philosophy professor analyzing the very thing. He concludes that sex is better than logic.
  • interMission: Parodied. The "intermission" is ninety percent of the way through the movie.
  • Invisible Backup Band: Every time Herbert makes an (almost always abortive) attempt to start singing, a band begins to play, before it's all shut down by his father.
  • "I Want" Song: Defied. The lord of Swamp Castle keeps stopping his son from doing it until a later scene, which turns into a Crowd Song that drowns out his attempts to stop it.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: John Cleese's taunting Frenchman hangs a lampshade. It's further played with when one of the French knights does speak French (or uses commonly-known French words), and the other Frenchmen don't understand a word.
    Frenchman #1: C'est un cadeau!
    Frenchman #2: Huh?
    Frenchman #1: It's a present!
    Frenchman #2: Oh! Oui, un cadeau!
    Frenchman #1: Oui! Oui! Allons-y!
    Frenchman #2: What?
    Frenchman #1: Let's go.
    Frenchman #2: Oh!
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: After Arthur cuts his arms off, the Black Knight kicks Arthur as he prays. When he won't let up, Arthur cuts off both of his legs, too.
  • King Arthur: As the movie is a parody of the Arthurian mythos, King Arthur is, predictably, the main character.
  • Kinky Spanking: The women in Castle Anthrax try to get Sir Galahad to spank them for luring him in. Unfortunately for Galahad, Sir Lancelot thinks it's "too perilous".
  • Lady Land: Castle Anthrax is populated entirely by "young blondes and brunettes, all between the ages of 16 and 19-and-a-half." They are doctors, you know, so you must obey them when they undress you.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Sir Lancelot. He storms a castle to save what he thinks is a princess, killing a lot of innocent people as he does it, only to find he's gotten everything completely wrong. When the innocent people in the castle rightly want his head for it, Lancelot kills a few more of them before he's stopped.
  • Left the Background Music On: Prince Herbert tries to start a musical number several times. His father interrupts him every time, except for the last one, when an assembled crowd starts it.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band:
    • Every time Herbert's father shuts down his attempts to start singing, the Invisible Backup Band deflates.
    • Each time the credits stop to inform the viewer that someone has been sacked, the background music deflates before starting up again.
  • A Light in the Distance: Castle Anthrax's Grail-shaped beacon is what leads Galahad through the storm.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Trojan Horse is adapted to the Trojan Rabbit. When that fails, it is suggested that they re-adapt it into the Trojan Badger.
  • Literal-Minded: Prince Herbert's guards are so literal in their interpretation of their orders that they allow Herbert to engineer his rescue because in the process he never does anything they were told to keep him from doing.
  • Logical Fallacies: The ignorance of the people of the era is Played for Laughs in the witch scene, where they fall for a classic Association Fallacy.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song "Brave Sir Robin Ran Away" is a jaunty tune about all of the Body Horror that Sir Robin is allegedly not afraid of. Sir Robin finally stops it when the minstrels get too graphic.
    Minstrels: He was not in the least bit scared
    To be mashed into a pulp
    Or to have his eyes gouged out
    And his elbows broken
    To have his kneecaps split
    And his body burned away
    And his limbs all hacked and mangled
    Brave Sir Robin.
    His head smashed in
    And his heart cut out
    And his liver removed
    And his bowels unplugged
    And his nostrils raped
    And his bottom burnt off
    And his pen

    Sir Robin: That's—that's enough music for now, lads...
  • Made of Plasticine: How easily King Arthur hacks off the Black Knight's limbs. With the arms in particular, it looks as though a mere tap on the shoulder is enough to detach a limb.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The Black Knight each time Arthur removes a limb (all four of them), as well as Lancelot's faithful squire Concorde upon getting shot in the chest. ("Message for you, sir!")
  • Medieval Morons: Both used (the witch scene) and subverted (the anarcho-syndicalist commune).
  • Medium Awareness: Prince Herbert's father when the prince is about to start singing. He's aware of the invisible back up band.
  • Medium Blending: As with virtually all of their work, the movie frequently switches from live-action to Terry Gilliam's Deranged Animation, particularly for transitions between scenes, though it crops up elsewhere as well, such as with the Black Beast of Aaaaaaaarrrrrgh.
  • Miles Gloriosus: "Brave" Sir Robin, who has a troupe of troubadours to follow him about and sing his praises. Unfortunately, he runs away at the first sign of danger, and they incorporate his cowardice into their song.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Fridge Logic shows that the police were in the wrong to cart off Arthur and his men as the murderers of A Famous Historian. The knight who killed him rode a real horse.
  • Mission from God: The knights seek the Holy Grail because God told them to do so.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    Galahad: Bet you're gay!
    Lancelot: ...No, I'm not.
    • In Spamalot!, Lancelot really is gay.
    • In the screenplay on the DVD, the other knights look knowingly at Lancelot.
  • Monster Munch: Sirs Bors, Gawain, and Ector, three Red Shirts who show up after the Time Skip following the Knights of Ni scene, exist entirely to be killed by the Killer Rabbit.
  • Moving the Goalposts: The Knights Who Say "Ni" do this to King Arthur and Sir Bedevere. After they get the Knights a shrubbery, the Knights demand another shrubbery, and to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring. Arthur and Bedevere are only saved thanks to Arthur accidentally exploiting the Knights' Weaksauce Weakness to the word "it".
  • Multiple Head Case: The three-headed giant whose heads bicker amongst themselves, which ultimately allows Robin to escape while they are distracted.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Sir Bedevere is the first knight to follow Arthur. The character of Bedevere (Welsh: Bedwyr) appeared in Arthurian legend before Lancelot, Galahad and the rest (except Sir Robin who is new).
    • Sir Bedevere is also the last of Arthur's knights to remain. In Malory's Le Morte D Arthur he is the last knight alive after the final battle where Arthur is mortally wounded.
    • Sir Robin was mentioned to have wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill. This battle was apparently a real event which Arthur became associated with. It frequently comes up in discussions about the historical basis for the Arthur legends.
  • Never Say That Again: Ni!
    • Turned around on the knights, later. They are drained of their will by the word "it".
      • Oddly enough, the knight says it at the top of the scene with no harm done. He hits himself with it for damage during the fadeout.
  • No Ending: Mainly because they couldn't think of one and didn't have the budget and time to film it if they had. Arthur and his knights prepare to storm the French castle, and are then promptly arrested by the police for the murder of a historian killed by Lancelot halfway through the film.
  • Noodle Implements: Bedevere claims to have some theories on how sheep's bladders can be used to prevent earthquakes. But then, he is quite the Cloud Cuckoolander.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party:
    In the frozen land of Nador, they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels. And there was much rejoicing.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The Knights Who Say "Ni" use the word as their greatest weapon. They later change their name to something along the lines of "The Knights Who Say 'Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Zoooooooom Boing Ni'", however, King Arthur, who can't pronounce this, proceeds to call them "The Knights Who 'Til Recently Said 'Ni'".
  • Off with His Head!: The knight Bors has his head bitten off by the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The flagellant monks recite what are apparently Catholic prayers, while hitting themselves on the head with wooden planks.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The Trope Namer—but subverted. King Arthur chops the Black Knight's sword arm off to end the fight quickly and thus avoid having to kill him. When the knight insists on fighting one-armed, he chops off the other one, then one leg, then the other. At this point, the knight is clearly bleeding out and will probably die, but he trash-talks Arthur as if nothing had happened at all.
  • Only Sane Man: Arthur. He's not necessarily brilliant, but he's a capable and smart leader, a good sword fighter, confident, assertive, and the only one without a severe emotional problem of some sort.
  • Only Six Faces: The vast majority of roles are played by the Pythonites with appropriate costume changes.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Parodied in the Bridge of Death scene. The old man guarding it asks three questions; the first two are harmless, but the third one can be either another harmless one or a tricky piece of trivia nobody is assumed to know off-hand. Get any of them wrong or show hesitation and you're launched into the abyss below. This goes for the bridge keeper as well.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • John Cleese's faux-French accent slips into his British one momentarily during the French Taunting scene.
    • Cleese inverts this during his scenes as Tim the Enchanter, whose accent suddenly becomes much thicker between his first meeting with the knights and the scenes at the Cave of Caerbannog.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: The Black Knight sequence; every limb lopped off results in a spray of High-Pressure Blood.
  • Painful Rhyme: invokedThe "Camelot" song is built around these, and it's even lampshaded:
    We're Knights of the Round Table, our shows are for-mid-able
    But many times, we're given rhymes that are quite un-sing-able...
  • The Pig Pen: The villagers compared to Arthur, since "...he hasn't got shit all over him."
  • Prayer of Malice: Parodied; the heroes pray for God not only to defeat their enemies, but to "blow them to tiny bits, in Thy Mercy".
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Holy Grail is the object of the heroes' quest, given to them by God.
  • Red Shirt: Bors, Gawain and Ector. They appear suddenly and without barely any introduction before The Rabbit of Caerbannog and they are promptly dispatched. note 
  • Remember the New Guy: Sirs Gawain, Ector and Bors show up with no explanation whatsoever, and nobody seems to notice.
  • Rewriting Reality: The knights escape a cartoon monster when the animator dies of a heart attack.
  • Rope Bridge: Subverted, in that it doesn't break.
    • Graham Chapman got so drunk, he was absolutely terrified this would happen, so a stunt double strutted across the bridge in his place. You might notice how strangely determined the guy looks when doing this.
  • Rule of Funny: The driving force behind all technology in the movie. Why else would the French have their catapults already aimed at the Britons, but unloaded? How else would one explain the existence of the Holy Hand Grenade? Okay, the movie thrives on this trope.
  • Rule of Three
    • The counting of the Holy Hand Grenade. "Five is right out."
    • Subverted with the story about constructing the swamp castles. The third castle in the swamp fared even worse than the first two. But the fourth one stayed up.
    • Arthur constantly confuses "five" for "three".
      "[We've lost] Gawain, Ector, and Bors, that's five..."
    • At the Bridge of Death, adventurers must answer three questions in order to cross the bridge.
  • Running Gag:
    • Swallows and coconuts come up way too often in this movie, as do people not quite dying, and the number three.
    • Every time Arthur prays, he gets hit with something.
    • Arthur keeps getting 3 and 5 mixed up.
  • Scooby Stack: The French knights stack up against the wall by the entrance to their castle before stepping out to investigate the Trojan Rabbit.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When brave Sir Robin encounters a three-headed giant, he chickens out. His minstrel keeps singing about it, much to his annoyance. Listen to the Tale of how Brave Sir Robin ran away.
    Sir Robin's minstrel: Brave Sir Robin ran away./Bravely ran away away./When danger reared it's ugly head,/He bravely turned his tail and fled./Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about/And gallantly he chickened out./Bravely taking to his feet,/He beat a very brave retreat.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Lots of it, especially the argument about coconuts that defeats Arthur's attempt to enlist the master of the castle at the beginning of the film.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Trojan Rabbit (Trojan Horse) and Lancelot's squire Concorde (the jet), among others.
    • Also, Lancelot thanks the Bridgekeeper as he passes the Bridge of Death by saying "Thank you. Thankyouverymuch," in the same vein as Elvis Presley.
    • The flagellation, the witch burning scene, and the mock-Swedish subtitles are all shout-outs to The Seventh Seal.
  • Smoke Out: There's a Smoke In when Tim the Enchanter teleports from a distant mountaintop.
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: Tim the Enchanter refers to the Killer Rabbit as a "bad-tempered rodent". Rabbits are not rodents!
  • Sophisticated as Hell
    • The Holy Hand Grenade instructions, as read by Brother Maynard:
    Brother Maynard: ... who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.
    • Dennis the anarcho-syndicalist peasant defies Arthur's authority:
    Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The ending, where everyone gets arrested instead of finishing the story. It's a cop-out.
    • Describing a woman as having "large tracts of land" accompanied by hand gestures indicating she has a large chest. The potential bride is described as having property, which, given the era, she would not have owned outright, but would have made up her dowry, to go to her husband upon marriage. Thus she was literally "well-endowed." It today's language a woman is "well-endowed" if she has a large chest.
  • The Stinger: An aversion — a black screen and two minutes and forty seconds of repetitive organ music.
  • Stone Wall: Parodied with the Black Knight. He has all his limbs chopped off, yet still boasts that he's invincible, and that it's Only a Flesh Wound.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: God is visibly annoyed with Arthur's and the Knights' slavish reverence, and bluntly snaps at them to knock it off more than once.
  • Storming the Castle:
    • The French castle is attacked three times: Arthur's knights attempt to storm it early on, Lancelot later attacks the castle by himself, and finally, Arthur's army charges it again at the climax.
    • Lancelot storms Castle Anthrax to save Galahad from "almost certain temptation", and Swamp Castle to save the distressed... prince.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Tim the Enchanter interrupts the knights mid-sentence for no purpose but pyrotechnics.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: When the Black Knight refuses to join Arthur, he mildly states, "You make me sad," but doesn't appear to be particularly upset until the Black Knight also refuses to let him pass.
  • That Poor Cat: Exaggerated, in that the cat is occasionally deliberately abused (in one scene, it's being swung by its tail at a post). The cat is on-screen every time someone makes it complain. (No, it's not a real cat.)
  • These Questions Three: Named for the Troll Bridge scene, which didn't just parody this, it zig zagged it. The first two questions are constant: "What is your name?" and "What is your quest?" After that, he'll often ask "What is your favourite colour?" but he's just as likely to throw curveballs like "What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?", or "What is the capital of Assyria?"
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The Black Knight kills the Green Knight by throwing his sword through his helm's eye slot.
  • Time Passes Montage: The seasons-passing segment. Subverted in that the seasons are deliberately mixed up by the end.
  • Trojan Horse: It's a straight homage to the original, except that it's a Trojan Rabbit...and they forget to put anyone inside of it.
  • Troll Bridge: The Bridge of Death, which nobody can cross without answering three questions asked by the Bridgekeeper. Get a question wrong or fail to answer confidently and immediately, and the unfortunate adventurer is cast into the chasm.
  • Trope Overdosed: Yes and no. Given that this movie was the Trope Namer for many of the listed tropes on this page, Monty Python And The Holy Grail is only trope-overdosed in retrospect. Back when the movie premiered (in 1975), it was just 91 minutes of (often ground-breaking) weirdness.
  • Trust Me, I'm a Doctor: Both Doctor Piglet and Doctor Winston try to assure Sir Galahad that they are doctors during his stay at Castle Anthrax. They've had "basic medical training".
  • Unexplained Recovery:
    • The peasant's claim that he "got better" after being turned into a newt by the alleged witch comes across as pretty unconvincing, although it's just as likely that the peasant was lying about getting cursed in the first place.
    • Despite an unpleasant "splat" sound effect after falling out of the tower, Prince Herbert shows up at his wedding none the worse for wear. He does intend to explain this recovery (in song, of course), but, sadly, we don't get to hear the best part.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Lancelot when he's Storming the Castle. He later admits to the king of Swamp Castle that it's a bit of problem of his, as he never really knows when to stop, or when not to start.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The Swamp King wants Herbert to marry a woman so he can inherit her father's property, but the son is unwilling. He tries to convince him with a couple of reasons, ending off with the fact that she has "huge...tracts of land," with a gesture that is less suggestive of real estate and more suggestive of womanly curves.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Sir Lancelot "rescues" Galahad from Castle Anthrax, where he is in "awful peril" from "eight score young blondes and brunettes, all between the ages of 16 and 19½." Naturally, Galahad protests.
  • Vague Age: The girls of Castle Anthrax are "all between the ages of 16 and 19½".
  • Verbal Tic:
    • The Knights Who Say "Ni" have a habit of spouting the word off like punctuation, even when they're not using its Brown Note capabilities.
    • King Arthur has a tendency to say "five" when he actually means "three".
  • Verbal Weakness: The Knights Who Say Ni "cannot hear" some words, but the only one shown in the movie is the word "it".
  • Vow of Celibacy: Sir Galahad is known as "Sir Galahad the Chaste", but the many women at Castle Anthrax eventually convince him to forget it.
    Galahad: I am sworn to chastity!
    Woman: Back to your bed at once!
  • Wandering Minstrel: Brave, brave Sir Robin's got a bunch of them following him around.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Knights Who Say "Ni" are weakened by hearing the word "it", much the same as what "ni" does to ordinary humans.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary:
    • The word "Ni", soon revealed to be usable by ordinary humans and not just The Knights Who Say "Ni".
    • Turned around on the Knights, later. They are weakened by hearing the word "it". Oddly enough, the lead Knight says it near the beginning of the scene with no harm done, but then hits himself with it for damage during the fadeout.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is defeated with a hand grenade once it is established that the rabbit can kill the knights easily in close-quarters combat.
  • World Shapes: Bedevere delivers an Orphaned Punch Line that suggests there is proof that the world is banana-shaped.
  • Your Mom: This famous oft-quoted insult:
    French Knight: I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal-food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
  • You Shall Not Pass: The sole purpose of the Black Knight, who says nothing aside from "None shall pass!" and, when Arthur insists upon passing, "Then you shall die."


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Alternative Title(s):

Monty Python And The Holy Grail