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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 animals was a legitimate strategy for fending off invaders back then, but they were usually dead animals meant to spread disease, not actual livestock). The French can do this too, with less preparation.
      "Fetchez la vache!"
    • The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: King Arthur can cut through the Black Knight's armour and limbs with ease.
  • 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 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 ends up subverted when the Castle is revealed to actually be named Arrrrrrgh.
  • 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 actual flagellent sects did to themselves, their behavior, as odd as it is, is extremely mild.
    • There actually were French living in England, though not at the time King Arthur lived.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • Animator 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.
  • Anticlimax
    • 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 Distressed Damsel.
  • Artistic License Logic: The ignorance of the people of the era is Played for Laughs in the witch scene, where they fall for a classic Association Fallacy.
  • 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
  • As Himself: As part of one of the many fourth wall-breaking jokes, Terry Gilliam is very quickly seen as "the animator of the movie" - which is, himself - suffering a fatal heart attack.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: You didn't think that was real Swedish, did you? Seriously? We're disappointed in you.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!
    • Where Arthur's Battle Cry quickly breaks down into a rather disorderly call for retreat: "Run Awaaay!", when the French counterattack by launching farm animals at the attackers.
    • The tactic used against the killer rabbit.
  • Badass Adorable: The Killer Rabbit.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: 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.
  • 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:
    "She turned me into a newt!"
    "A newt?"
    "I got better."
  • Bilingual Bonus: The French knights at the castle will speak French, only to have to repeat themselves in English when their fellow Frenchman fail to understand.
    "C'est un lapin!"
    "It's a rabbit!"
    "Ah, un lapin!"
    "Let's go!"
    "Ah, allons-y!"
  • Black Knight: King Arthur encounters one.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Seeing a knight get dismembered, but him being too stubborn to admit it.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The French Knight, each time he confronts King Arthur and his knights.
  • Boomstick: Wielded by Tim the Enchanter in his first scene (right before the confrontation with the Rabbit of Caerbannog).
  • 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: *when 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'-flight away Arthur and Bedevere are from Galahad and Lancelot, and the counter-question that allows Arthur to pass the Bridge of Death. 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 out 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 quite enough cash to pull that off, and ended the movie with the cops arresting everyone instead.
    • After Launcelot "saves" him from Castle Anthrax, Galahad accuses Launcelot of being gay, which he denies. Subsequently, we see Launcelot 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 Launcelot ends up answering the personal ad of a young feminine guy who isn't at all interested in marrying a girl with huge...tracks of land.
    • The Book of Armaments, as read by Brother Maynard, expressly forbids counting to 5. Unfortunately, Arthur keeps getting 3 and 5 mixed up, and technically does count to 5.
    • The murder of the historian, and the ending.
    • The credits. All of the credits guys were sacked, meaning there were no end credits.
  • Brown Note: The Knights Who Say "Ni". Later King Arthur uses the sacred word "Ni" himself. And the evil word: "it".
  • Burn the Witch!: The villagers seek permission to burn an accused witch from Sir Bedevere.
  • Catch Phrase: King Arthur's "Oh, shut up!", "Jesus Christ!", and "Run away!"
  • Celibate Hero: Sir Galahad, though not for lack of trying. He might have succeeded if it wasn't for that meddling Launcelot.
    Launcelot: We were in the nick of time! You were in great peril.
    Galahad: I don't think I was.
    Launcelot: Yes you were, you were in terrible peril!
    Galahad: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
    Launcelot: No, it's too perilous.
    Galahad: It's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can!
    Launcelot: No, we've got to find the Holy Grail. Come on!
    Galahad: Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?
    Launcelot: No. It's unhealthy.
    Galahad: ...Bet you're gay.
    Launcelot: Am not!
  • Chandelier Swing: 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.
  • 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.
  • Chosen One: Subverted and discussed. An anarcho-syndicalist peasant doesn't see what's so special about being chosen.
    "Listen. Strange women layin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government!"
  • Coconut Superpowers: 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.
  • Collectible Card Game: One was made, and was one of the early games to break away from the Magic: The Gathering mold.
  • 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 the 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 / Caption Humor
    • "Swedish" subtitles
    • Richard M. Nixon
    • Møøse
    • 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 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 this in the whole film, namely 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.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Scene 24.
  • Dark Age Europe: It takes place in the Dark Ages in England with Frenchmen for some reason...
  • Death by Looking Up: The servant crushed by the "Trojan Rabbit".
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Lancelot tries 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 agonising 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 Distressed Damsel.
  • Dope Slap: King Arthur to Sir Bedevere and the King of Swamp Castle to Prince Herbert.
  • Double Entendre: "She's rich, she's beautiful, she's got huuuuge... (suggestive gesture) tracts of land."
  • Double Take: The French soldier when he sees the Trojan Rabbit.
  • 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.
    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: Remember, Arthurian scholar. This was actually one of the first movies to show that conditions back then weren't like what they showed you in the movies. The corpse collector is able to identify Arthur as a king specifically because "he hasn't got shit all over him."
  • Dwindling Party: Thanks in no small part to the Bridge of Death.
  • Dying Clue: "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the castle of AAAAaaaaaargh." Of course, it turns out the castle is actually 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. And There Was Much Rejoicing (Yay).
  • 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, Launcelot, 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 Launcelot and Galahad, still standing nearby): ...Who leaps out?
    Bedevere (hesitantly): Uh, Launcelot, 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.
  • Fake-Out Opening: In a DVD release.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Or at least 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 scene in the movie is a policeman blocking the camera.
  • Finders Rulers: Arthur's claim to royalty lies in him possessing Excalibur.
  • Flat Joy: Yay. *waves a flag*
  • Focal Length: Z-axis compression while Lancelot is running toward the camera.
  • Footnote Fever / Fun with Subtitles: The opening credits (as referenced by the latter page).
  • French Jerk: Those insult-slinging guards.
  • Funny Foreigner: The French castle guard.
    Frenchman: I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
  • Gag Boobs: Referenced. Huge... tracts of land.
  • Gag Sub: The opening credits and those on a DVD release.
    • For the record, the DVD Gag Sub is actually entirely composed of lines from William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2. It's marketed on the DVD as being "For People Who Did Not Like The Film." Only it isn't Henry IV. It's just the film's lines put into more Shakespearean terms.
      • Actually, all the lines are FROM Henry IV. They're just not in Shakespeare's order, and some are just fragments of lines, chosen to fit the lines actually spoken in the film.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The Killer Rabbit.
  • High-Pressure Blood
    • King Arthur's duel with the Black Knight.
    • The scene with the Killer Rabbit.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The bridge-keeper attempts to invoke three questions before letting them cross (which are relatively easy... If you aren't indecisive). If they fail (either by not knowing one of the others or simply being indecisive with one of the questions), 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 actually asks for clarification as to whether he meant an unladen African swallow or an unladen European swallow. The bridgekeeper then admits he doesn't even know, with predictable results.
    • The Knights of the Round Table when the French taunters catapult the Trojan Rabbit at them.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Trope Namer.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Go, Sir Lancelot, you psychotic berk! Chop that castle down with your sword! Justified, though, in that this was how Lancelot actually acted in Malory and other early sources. "Mentally unstable berserker prone to stress-induced fugue states" doesn't even begin to cover him.
    • Rather more specifically, this scene is a parody of the rescue of Guenevere near the end of Morte d' Arthur.
  • Hollywood Torches: Appear during the Camelot, Castle Anthrax, Swamp Castle and Cave of Caerbannog sequences.
  • Hugo Award: Nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1976.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Robin's minstrels.
    And they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels, And There Was Much Rejoicing. 'Yaaaaay'
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The three knights impaled to a tree with a lance by the three-headed knight.
  • Implausible Deniability
    • "It's just a flesh wound."
    • "... I got better."
  • Impossible Task: "You must chop down the mightiest tree in the forest... with 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 reacts this way to his minstrels, though it has more to do with their lyrics than the quality of their singing.
  • Informed Ability: The minstrels gushing about Sir Robin's bravery.
  • 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. And 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.
  • Invisible Backup Band: Pops up whenever Herbert mentions wanting to sing.
  • "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.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: John Cleese's taunting Frenchman hangs a lampshade. Further played with when one of the French knights actually 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!
  • King Arthur: As the movie is a parody of the Arthurian mythos, King Arthur is, predictably, the main character.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band
    • "Stop that, stop that! You're not going to do a song while I'm here."
    • "We apologize for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible have been sacked."
      • We apologize again for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible for sacking those people who were sacked have just been sacked.
  • A Light in the Distance: Castle Anthrax's Grail-shaped beacon.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Trojan Horse is adapted to the Trojan Rabbit. When that fails, it is re-adapted 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.
  • Made of Plasticine: How easily King Arthur hacks off the Black Knight's limbs.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The Black Knight (four times), as well as Launcelot's faithful squire Concorde ("Message for you, sir!")
  • Medieval Morons: Both used and subverted. Also, provided this trope's page image.
  • Medium Awareness: Prince Herbert's father when the prince is about to start singing.
  • Medium Blending: Like Flying Circus, the movie switches from live-action to Terry Gilliam's Deranged Animation.
  • Miles Gloriosus: "Brave" Sir Robin, who has a troupe of troubadours to follow him about and sing of 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 suspected murderers of A Famous Historian. The knight who killed him rode a real horse.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    Galahad: Bet you're gay!
    Lancelot: ... No I'm not.
    • This, however, becomes subverted in Spamalot, where 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.
  • Multiple Head Case: The three-headed giant whose heads bicker amongst themselves.
  • The Musical: Spamalot
  • 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, but then hits himself with it for damage during the fadeout.
  • No Ending: Mainly because they couldn't think of one. 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: Using sheep's bladders to prevent earthquakes somehow.
  • 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 like "The Knights Who Say "Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Zoooooooom Boing Ni"", however, King Arthur, who can't pronounce this, proceeds to call them "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, while hitting themselves on the head.
  • 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's talking 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 capable sword fighter, confident, assertive, and the only one without a severe emotional problem of some sort.
  • Only Six Faces: For self-evident reasons.
  • 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.
  • Overly Long Gag
    • The Swamp Castle scene.
    • In a deleted scene with Zoot (which does still appear in several versions of the movie) and within several other scenes throughout the film. Note of course that in most instances, the Overly-Long Gag is itself an intentional Running Gag and a Lampshade Hanging.
  • 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...
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: Done literally with the title card in Sir Lancelot's segment.
  • The Pig Pen: The villagers compared to Arthur, since "...he hasn't got shit all over him."
  • Poirot Speak: The Frenchman.
  • 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, but the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is treated as one.
  • Quote Mine: So much so, that it's experienced Hype Backlash in the last few years.
  • Red Shirt: Bors, Gawain and Ector. They appear suddenly and without introduction before The Rabbit of Caerbannog and they are promptly dispatched. (Of course, in Malory and the Vulgate Cycle these are three of Arthur's most prominent knights - Terry Jones having a bit of fun with the traditions again?)
    • If you watch closely, you'll see that two of them do appear earlier - they're the knights who help Lancelot "rescue" Galahad. Those two aren't named, but you can tell it's them because they have the same heraldry as the knights in the Rabbit scene.
  • Rewriting Reality: The knights escape a cartoon monster when the animator dies of a heart attack.
  • Riddle Me This
  • 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 ripped off his clothes and strutted across the bridge. 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 castles. The third castle in the swamp fared even worse than the first two. But the fourth one stayed up.
    • Further subverted in a scene cut from the ending sequence: The old man from scene 24 appears — for a third time, of course — as Arthur is about to board the boat to the Grail castle and intones, "He who would cross the Sea of Fate must answer these questions twenty-and-eight." Arthur just picks him up and throws him in the water before getting into the boat.
    • Arthur constantly confuses "five" for "three". It happens again at the Bridge of Death.
      "[We've lost] Gawain, Ector, and Bors, that's five..."
    • The three questions in the Bridge of Death skit.
  • Running Gag: Swallows and coconuts come up way too often in this movie, as do people not dying and the number three.
    • Every time Arthur prays, he gets hit with something.
    • Arthur keeps getting 3 and 5 mixed up.
  • Scare Chord: During the Knights Who Say Ni scene.
  • Scooby Stack: The French knights make this formation 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 coconuts argument.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • Shaped Like Itself: The historian's name is given as 'A Famous Historian'.
  • 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 of Elvis Presley.
    • The flagellation, the witch burning scene, and the mock-Swedish subtitles are all shout-outs to The Seventh Seal.
  • Shown Their Work: See above.
  • Siege Engines: Both Arthur's army at the end of the movie and the French knights.
  • Smoke Out: A Smoke In when Tim the Enchanter teleports from a distant mountaintop.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: The Chekhov's Gun Arthur overhears.
    Bedevere: How do you know so much about swallows?
  • 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
    • Brother Maynard reading the Holy Hand Grenade instructions.
    Brother Maynard: ... who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.
    • An anarcho-syndicalist peasant.
    Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!
  • Stealth Pun: The ending. 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." Of course it today's language a woman is "well-endowed" if she has a large chest.
  • The Stinger: 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.
    • After all, 'tis only a flesh wound!
  • Stop Worshipping Me: God is visibly annoyed with Arthur's and the Knights' slavish reverence.
  • Storming the Castle: Three times: when they try to storm the French castle early on, when Lancelot attacks the castle by himself and when Arthur's army charges the French-controlled Grail castle at the climax.
    • Lancelot storms Anthrax to save Galahad from "almost certain temptation", and Swamp Castle to save the distressed... prince.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Tim the Enchanter, to the point of interrupting the knights mid-sentence for no purpose but pyrotechnics.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: "You make me sad."
  • That Poor Cat: Subverted, in that the cat is on-screen every time someone makes it complain.
  • That Was the Last Entry: Parodied with the inscription about the Castle of AAAAaaaaaargh.
  • These Questions Three: Named for the Troll Bridge scene, which didn't just parody this, it zig zagged it (including in a Deleted Scene). Heck, just referencing this would be enough for a trope on its own. 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: Trojan Rabbit, actually.
  • Troll Bridge: The Bridge of Death scene.
  • 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 mainly was 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.
    • Well, they've had basic medical training.
  • Unexplained Recovery: From the "Burn the witch" scene, although it's also as likely that the peasant was lying in the first place about getting cursed.
    • 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, natch), 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.
    "Let me sample a little peril"
  • Unwanted Rescue: Sir Galahad from Castle Anthrax.
  • Vague Age: The girls of Castle Anthrax are "all between the ages of 16 and 19½".
  • Verbal Tic:
    • The Knights Who Say "NI!"
    • King Arthur has a tendency to say five when he actually means three.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Well, they don't call him "Sir Galahad the Casanova".
    Galahad: I am sworn to chastity!
    Woman: Back to your bed at once!
  • Wandering Minstrel: Brave, brave Sir Robin's got a bunch.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Knights Who Say "NI!" have one too - dreading the use of the word "it".
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: 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, but then hits himself with it for damage during the fadeout.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Subverted by the Rabbit of Caerbannog.
  • White Bunny: The Rabbit of Caerbannog.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: The killer bunny 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: Believed to be banana-shaped, at least by Bedevere.
  • Your Mom: This famous oft-quoted insult. Now considered a shibboleth to get into many Ren Faires.
    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: "None shall pass!"

"Now go away or this page shall taunt you a second time-a."
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alternative title(s): Monty Python And The Holy Grail
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