Monty Python's The Meaning of Life arrived in 1983 as the last hurrah of the complete six-man troupe, directed by Terry Jones. The film marked the troupe's return to sketch-based comedy after two films that followed a linear plot. The film's sketches are loosely connected and arranged by the stages of human life.The movie opens with the unrelated note (or so it seems)Terry Gilliam-directed short film "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", the tale of accountant pirates who take on Wall Street. From there, we move on to the film proper, a series of sketches purporting to examine the Meaning of Life, arranged from "The Miracle of Birth" to "Death". But even this structure allows for stops examining "The Third World" and "Live Organ Transplants".This is notable as by far the grossest of the Python films, via such highlights as the aforementioned "Live Organ Transplants" sketch and the restaurant scene featuring Mr. Creosote. That didn't stop it from receiving the Grand Prize of the Jury award at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, however.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life provide examples of the following tropes:
Bad Liar / Blatant Lies: Oddly enough, the two men dressed as a tiger have difficulty convincing anyone of their various stories about a) why they're dressed as a tiger and b) why they definitely didn't steal an officer's leg and run away with it.
The movie opens with the "Meaning of Life" song, wherein the singer goes through all the big questions about the meaning of life that humanity tends to torture itself with, rather grandiosely boasting that "tonight, for a change, it will all be made clear!" Then, after all the surreality wherein these central questions are loosely touched on at best, the movie ends with a short scene wherein the Meaning of Life is, in fact, revealed — and it turns out to be nothing that special.
Cow Tools: The "machine that goes 'Ping.'" It supposedly tells whether the baby, during labour, is still alive, albeit without being connected to the mother. The hospital administrator and staff are very proud of it.
Major: Look, he was fast asleep, and someone, or something came in and removed it! Man Dressed as the Front of a Tiger: ...without waking him up!? Major: ...yes. Man Dressed as the Front of a Tiger: I don't believe you!
American: The exaggeratedly broad-accented couple eating dinner and their waiter in the "The Middle Age" sketch, the business executives discussing the meaning of life. Also, Howard Katzenberg, the loud, brash, pop-psychology-obsessed dinner party guest in the "Grim Reaper" sequence:
Grim Reaper: [I have come to] take you away. That is my purpose. I am Death. Host: Well, that's cast rather a gloom over the whole evening, hasn't it? Howard: I don't see it that way, Geoff. Let me tell you what I think we're dealing with here: a potentially positive learning experience to get an— Grim Reaper: Shut up! Shut up, you American. You always talk, you Americans. You talk and you talk and say "let me tell you something" and "I just wanna say this". Well, you're dead now, so shut up!
French: The comically-accented maître d' and waiter in the "Mr. Creosote" sketch and its aftermath.
Maître d': Anozzer bucket for monsieur... (Creosote vomits on his leg) and perhaps — a khhhhose.
Gag Boobs: Unusually, it's not because of their size. In the "Christmas in Heaven" number, all of the apparently-topless dancing girls are wearing fake plastic breasts. The plan was originally to have them be topless, but it was decided that plastic breasts would be a lot funnier.
High-Class Glass: Livingstone (Graham Chapman), the military surgeon, uses a monocle in the Anglo-Zulu War sketch.
Hostile Show Takeover: The Crimson Permanent Assurance attempts to do this towards the end of the "Live Organ Transplants" chapter.
How Would You Like to Die?: A condemned criminal chooses to be chased off a cliff by a crowd of topless, helmeted women. Conveniently, he falls right into his coffin at the funeral already in progress.
What Could Have Been: According to the DVD audio commentary, this segment was a remnant of a previous draft of the film, where all of Monty Python were going to be convicted at the beginning of the film for trying to use it as a tax dodge, and each be sentenced to death in a manner of their choosing.
Humans Are Morons: As if the last line of "The Galaxy Song" doesn't make it clear enough:
"Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'cause there's bugger all down here on Earth."
Major Injury Underreaction: A British army officer has a rather blasé attitude about waking up with a leg missing: "Stings a bit." So does the doctor examining him:
"Yes, well, this is nothing to worry about [...] Yes, there's a lot of it about. Probably a virus. Uh, keep warm, plenty of rest, and if you're playing football or anything, try and favor the other leg."
Ainsworth (John Cleese): Well, it probably escaped from the zoo.
Pakenham: Well, I don't think that's very likely- (Ainsworth sshs him)
And ultimately subverted: It was really two guys in a tiger costume.
Modular Epilogue: In the video game adaptation, a series of interludes between scenes ask "moral dilemma" questions with Multiple Choice answers. At the end of the game, a woman comes on to tell you your personal, individual Meaning of Life based on your answers.
Nipple and Dimed/Thong of Shielding: One sketch shows a man slated for execution, who chose to be chased off a cliff to his death by a thundering horde of models wearing nothing but boxing helmets, G-string panties, socks, and football cleats. Nothing is censored, either.
No Intelligent Life Here: "Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'cause it's bugger all down here on earth!"
Not Distracted by the Sexy: In the Private School segment, the students chat, fiddle about, and otherwise do bored teenager stuff despite the teacher's naked wife standing in fornt of the class and the sex that follows.
Only Sane Man: The Grim Reaper. It takes him several minutes to impress upon the hosts and guests of a dinner party that he's not there to trim the hedge, doesn't want wine and won't discuss philosophy with them. When they finally die and follow him to the great beyond, they decide to take their cars (their ghost cars, which, like them, leave behind the original forms), causing the Reaper to do a hilarious double-take before shrugging it off and beckoning them on.
Oop North: Parodied with the portrayal of Yorkshire.
Organ Theft: Or at least very aggressive organ collection.
Prolonged Prologue: "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" goes on for 15 minutes before the actual film starts.
Racist Grandma: "You see I feel that life's a game, you sometimes win or lose. And though I might be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews!"
Rugby Is Slaughter: A boarding school holds a rugby match pitting little boys against grown men. As if that weren't brutal enough, when a boy finally gets to make a try, a teacher trips him from the sidelines. To further underline the point, the scene segues directly into a World War One segment.
Self-Deprecation: An Englishman's attempt to upbraid the Grim Reaper for his poor manners is met with this response:
Grim Reaper:(poking him in the eye) Quiet! Englishmen, you're all so fucking pompous. None of you have got any balls.
From "Fighting Each Other":
Narrator: Democracy and humanitarianism have always been trademarks of the British Army. Sergeant Major: Rubbish! Narrator: Shush!
Averted in the Chapel segment when the song is essentially about how they don't want to be cooked by God.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The "Galaxy Song", a cheery, happy-go-lucky tune, with vaguely upbeat lyrics about the wondrous vastness of the universe, that ends on a big downer about the lack of intelligent life on Earth. It's sung right after a scene wherein a man has his liver harvested while he's still alive. Immediately after the song finishes, his wife agrees to undergo the process herself.
Stupid Boss: The hospital administrator in "The Miracle of Birth".
Administrator: And what are you doing this morning? Obstetrician: It's a birth. Administrator: Ah. And what sort of thing is that? Doctor Spenser: Well, that's when we take a new baby out of a lady's tummy. Administrator: Wonderful what we can do nowadays!
"Oh come on! I mean, do we look like the sort of chaps who'd creep into a camp at night, steal into someone's tent, anaesthetise them, tissue-type them, amputate a leg and run away with it?"
The Unreveal: Although several theories as to the "meaning of life" are given throughout the film, when the "true" answer is finally revealed at the end it's not very life-changing. And this is only a segue into a totally unrelated and tangential joke.
Visual Pun: The "Middle Age" segment mostly takes place in a recreation of a Medieval dungeon.