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Film / Labyrinth

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"You have 13 hours in which to solve the labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us... forever."
Jareth, the Goblin King

Labyrinth is a 1986 Jim Henson film, produced by George Lucas and written by Terry Jones, a musical fantasy starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly.

Sarah Williams (Connelly) is an unhappy teenager who hides from life in fantasy tales to the point of dressing up in a long flowing dress and acting out bits of script in the park. The cause of her unhappiness is her father's remarriage and the resulting half-brother, one year old Toby (played by concept artist Brian Froud's son Toby). One night, in a particularly big sulk, she wishes that the Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie) from the book she was acting out earlier would come and take Toby away — which, to her horror, he immediately does. When Sarah regrets her wish and demands Toby be returned, Jareth gives Sarah a chance to rescue Toby; he takes her to his realm, where she must find her way through the Labyrinth to Jareth's castle before thirteen hours have elapsed. In this quest, she is aided by various goblins and monsters whose allegiance to Jareth is highly conditional or non-existent. As the film progresses, Jareth seems to have ulterior motives in giving Sarah a chance to rescue her brother.

The film is mainly aimed at children, but has a cult following among adult audiences.

Tie-ins include

  • Labyrinth: The Computer Game (1986): An Adventure Game based on this film released by LucasArts and written by Douglas Adams. It had some meta humor, in that it began with the player taking on the role of someone going to see the movie, with an annoying nerd yammering on about Fridge Logic in the film (such as why did Sarah eat the peach?) before Jareth appears to pull the player into the Labyrinth.
  • The Goblins of Labyrinth (1986) An art book by Brian Froud, who designed much of this film, featuring humorous biographies of the various goblins written by Terry Jones. Many of the illustrations are concept art made for the film, with some small deviations (Sarah, for instance, is a redhead).
  • Return to Labyrinth (2006-2010): A four-novel English manga sequel published by Tokyopop.
  • Archaia Entertainment announced a graphic novel prequel detailing the backstory of Jareth in early 2012; Development Hell kicked in on that, but in the meantime Archaia's Free Comic Book Day collections from 2012 onward have each included a story about other denizens of the Labyrinth, which were compiled in a special 30th Anniversary book in 2016. (They also reissued A.C.H. Smith's Novelization of the film in 2014.) The prequel, titled Labyrinth: Coronation, finally released in 12 issues from 2018-19.
  • Labyrinth: The Board Game (2016): A Tabletop Game produced By River Horse
  • Labyrinth: The Adventure Game (2020): The Role-Playing Game produced by River Horse.
  • In May 2020, it was reported that a sequel, to be written by Maggie Levin and with Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) as director, is in development.

The film is a Spiritual Successor to The Dark Crystal, and was itself Spiritually Succeeded by MirrorMask. Although a critical and commercial flop upon release, it has since become a Cult Classic, especially among Bowie fans; alongside The Man Who Fell to Earth, it is generally considered Bowie's most iconic film.

It should not be confused with Pan's Labyrinth, which is not aimed at children, although they are similar films in many ways.

This film provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: The time limit Sarah has to rescue Toby is 13 hours.
  • '80s Hair: Especially Jareth, who is all new romantic-y looking. How many anime characters copied that cut?
  • Absurdly Long Stairway: Sarah tries to reach her baby brother Toby through what is not only an insanely long set of stairs, but ones designed to look like M.C. Escher's "Relativity".
  • Accidental Misnaming: The only time that Jareth gets Hoggle's name right is on the occasion of the "If she ever kisses you..." threat. He's just as bad with Mayor Spittledrum's name in the manga.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: Their adorableness is debatable, but this trope fits the goblins quite well.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The Cleaners, as Hoggle calls them. Jareth conjures it up after Sarah brags about the Labyrinth's easiness, and they only escape it by pushing their way through another wall.
  • Advertising by Association: One of the original trailers begins, "TriStar Pictures announces the collaboration of three extraordinary talents: Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets and Dark Crystal, George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga, and one of the most innovative forces in modern entertainment, David Bowie."
  • Affably Evil: Jareth may have kidnapped baby Toby and he delights in being "unfair" to Sarah, but he's cheerful throughout, has David Bowie's dazzling charisma, and seems to want nothing more than to have Sarah and Toby stay with him. It's also notable that at no point does he ever harm Toby, and even has a few scenes where he holds the little guy affectionately.
  • Agent Peacock: Jareth.
  • All Just a Dream: Lampshaded, then subverted. Twice. Possibly.
    • An early script makes this canon, ending with Sarah waking up after hitting her head.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted—it draws elements from folklore and fairy tales, but is not based on any one story (though the basic premise is similar to Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There).
  • Aloof Big Sister: Sarah's apathetic attitude towards her half-brother is what kickstarts the entire plot.
  • Alternate Calendar: All the clocks in the Labyrinth go up to 13. In the novelization, Sarah wonders if this means that a day in the Labyrinth lasts 26 hours instead of 24.
  • An Aesop: It's alright to indulge in fantasy every now and then should you really need it, but don't let yourself become completely lost in it.
  • And You Were There: Everything in Sarah's room is in the Goblin King's world (as well as her dog), such as the Sir Didymus doll on her bed.
  • Animated Credits Opening: A pioneering CGI-based one, as a barn owl swoops above and around the titles.
  • Arc Number: The film puts a lot of emphasis on the number 13. Sarah has thirteen hours to rescue her half-brother, the entire climax lasts around thirteen minutes, and Jareth has thirteen Mooks overall.
  • Arc Words:
    • "You have no power over me!"
    • "It's a piece of cake!" or a variation thereof. This always leads to Jareth or the Labyrinth itself increasing the difficulty level considerably. For example, when Sarah exclaims this after solving a logic puzzle in her path, the floor falls out from underneath her and drops her into an oubliette from which she only escapes thanks to Hoggle's help.
    • "It's not fair!" First Jareth says it to Sarah. Later, Sarah realizes, "Yes, it's not fair. But that's the way it is."
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: When the protagonists are fighting their way through the Goblin City, ten goblins versus one of Ludo's boulders try to hold their ground, get knocked over, and immediately decide to run away instead.
    Goblin: Steady, men! Hold your ground!
    [Ludo's boulder knocks the goblins over]
    Goblin: Okay, I take it back - run for your lives!
  • Bait-and-Switch: The film opens with Sarah wearing a medieval dress in a bucolic environment and uttering fairy tale-esque statements. A first-time viewer might think they're watching the opening of a traditional fantasy story... only for it to be revealed that no, Sarah's dress is just a costume, and she actually lives in a modern suburb.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Sarah wishes for her brother Toby to be taken away by the Goblin King. She wasn't told that the Goblin King is very real and has the power (and the inclination) to grant her wish. Undoing this is the point of her adventure.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Sarah has to learn not to take things for granted, and this is emphasized by how she assumed the beautiful fairies outside the Labyrinth were benevolent; they're actually biting pests. Jareth likewise is the Big Bad and the most attractive of the antagonists - the rest of whom are mostly harmless Mooks. All Sarah's friends are not conventionally beautiful but are kind-hearted. Sarah herself is a pretty teenage girl, but begins the film self-centered and temperamental.
  • Behind the Black: The first trick in the Labyrinth is that the turns from the first hallway are concealed by Forced Perspective, but Sarah can't see them until a resident worm points this out. From her perspective, she should be seeing them edge-on, and they shouldn't have been hidden at all. This may be a magical effect, but the worm's bemused reaction implies Sarah literally has No Peripheral Vision.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Even though Jareth isn't physically harming Toby and serving as an impromptu babysitter, Sarah doesn't trust him. She navigates a dangerous labyrinth to save Toby and get him home safely; when her memories get wiped, the play she wrote includes a mention of a baby and she snaps out of the trance on realizing her little brother is still in danger. With that said, Sarah has a reason to be paranoid; he literally stole a baby from its crib and told her that it was her fault.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Jareth, of course.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The M.C. Escher stairs scene (where even gravity itself is bizarre)—and everything else as well. It's a magical Labyrinth that constantly shifts and readjusts itself, and most of the walls and doors are alive.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Goblin King claims to be generous with Sarah by living up to her expectations: taking Toby away at her request, being frightening when Sarah expected him to be, reordering time, and setting up the entire adventure for her.
  • Book Ends: The barn owl in flight — arriving in the beginning to observe Sarah in the park, and leaving at the end after seeing her celebrating with her friends. The significance of this is that by the end, the audience knows full well what it really is (namely, Jareth's shapeshifted form).
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The root of Sarah and Irene's disagreements. On the one hand, Sarah is completely right to call out her stepmother for rummaging through her things so as to give Toby a toy and volunteer her for babysitting duties without even asking if she had plans. Irene makes it clear, however, that she knows Sarah is really angry about how life has changed for both of them and can't keep throwing temper tantrums forever about circumstances beyond her control several years down the line. It says something that Sarah comes to admit that no, Life Isn't Fair, but kvetching about it constantly doesn't fix things. The novelization goes further with the backstory that Sarah's mother walked out on her and her father, and Sarah is still living with the hurt and betrayal.
  • Boulder Bludgeon: Sarah throws rocks at various goblins' heads in order to stop them from torturing the imprisoned Ludo.
  • Bowled Over: This happens in the Goblin City near the end when a group of goblins attempt to stop one of the boulders summoned by Ludo from any further damage, and just so happen to be in a ten-pin formation.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: A guard who always tells the truth; its counterpart always lies. The trick isn't figuring out which is which, but posing a question that would get the same answer from either.
    Guard 1: Is that right?
    Guard 2: I don't know; I've never understood it!
  • Catchphrase
    • Jareth: "Such a pity."
    • Sarah: "It's not fair!"
      Jareth: You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Hoggle, who goes off in shame and despair after feeding Sarah the peach, but comes back to help them at the castle in the end. He apologizes to Sarah, saying he doesn't deserve her forgiveness.
  • Changeling Tale: The result of Sarah's wish.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Sarah's entire bedroom. Plush Didymus, plush Ludo, the musicbox with Sarah's Pimped-Out Dress playing "As the World Falls Down", a Jareth-looking statue, a print of that Escher drawing, it's all there. Not to mention, there's a picture of David Bowie with Sarah's actress mother in the scrapbook and in the mirror, although this is not a Celebrity Paradox at work. That relates to All There in the Manual backstory: The novelization explains that this fellow is Jeremy, the fellow actor she left the family for. He gave Sarah, who found him glamorous and charming, the music box.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The line she can "never remember" from the play.
    Sarah: You have no power over me.
  • Circling Monologue: In their climactic confrontation, Jareth circles Sarah as he explains how "generous" he has been to her up to this point.
  • Collapsing Lair: After Sarah defeats Jareth, this happens in surreal fashion as gravity takes a holiday.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Marvel did one (Type 1 in that it retold the story) as a tie-in when the film hit theaters; spanning three issues, it was collected into one volume afterward.
  • Coming of Age Story: A girl learning to grow up, at least to some extent, and leave childish things behind and value her family. Note the scene where the Junk Lady starts digging up all of Sarah's old toys to distract her, and Sarah says "It's all junk!"
  • Complexity Addiction: Sarah is too much of a romantic to use Occam's Razor. Highlighted when she calls out a complex incantation to have the goblins take Toby, with said goblins frustrated that it doesn't actually tell them to take him away.
    Goblin: It doesn't even begin with "I wish"!
  • Contractual Genre Blindness: While Jareth is hard to beat and powerful, he reminds Sarah that he's the way he is because she imagined him this way. Thus, there are points where he cannot change the rules on her, like when Ludo summons giant boulders to chase away his army. In the end, if Sarah rejects him of her own free will, he can only send her home with Toby.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: After repeatedly threatening to do so, Jareth sends Hoggle to the Bog of Eternal Stench, so called because its odor is so horrible that it's impossible to wash off, and anyone who so much as sets foot in its waters will stink forever.
  • Cool Big Sis: Downplayed with Sarah; while she is annoyed at babysitting Toby and tells him a scary tale out of spite, it's clear that despite his constant crying he adores her, as he smiles at her in the climax. She truly grows into this role when she defies a Reality Warper king to rescue her toddler brother and make sure he is safe.
  • Cool Loser: Sarah appears to have no friends, and goes on no dates, in spite of looking like Jennifer Connelly. However, the novelization notes she has at least one school chum, and her interest in fantasy worlds could well be blinding her to what she could be enjoying in the real one. Being depressed over her mother leaving the family has probably also contributed to her isolation.
  • Cosplay: Sarah's (isolated) hobby.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The peach dream is bright, colorful, and full of people compared to the drab, muddy Labyrinth. Sarah is intrigued by the glamour, but made uncomfortable by how everyone seems to be drunk and fondling each other. People laugh at Sarah mercilessly after she falls for a prank, and she wanders through it dazed, self-conscious, and completely alone. It is not helped by how Jareth stalks her throughout most of the song, and how everyone is staring at her. When Sarah realizes it's a dream and breaks out, it devolves into everyone trying to grab her.
  • Crystal Ball: Jareth likes to juggle these around and use them for Sinister Surveillance of Sarah as she makes her way through the labyrinth.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Jareth threatens to have Hoggle suspended headfirst over the Bog of Eternal Stench, if he betrays him.
  • Dance Party Ending: One of the earlier examples of this trope, as all the goblins show up in Sarah's room and they dance as the camera pulls away.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The "wise man's" hat.
    Sarah: I have to get to the castle at the centre of the labyrinth. Do you know the way?
    Wise Man: Uh...
    The Hat: (mockingly) Eh...
    Wise Man: Uh...
    The Hat: Eh...
    Wise Man: Well... yes. You... want to get to the castle. Eh?
    The Hat: How's that for brainpower, huh?
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of the fairytale heroine genre.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Well, not defeat, but more like "battle to a draw". Still, Ludo doing so impresses Sir Didymus enough to make peace and call him a brother.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The point of this movie. It's about the transition from childhood to adulthood, and Sarah does just that... in the presence of David Bowie.
    • The most frightening part of the movie is when Hoggle, under Jareth's command, gives Sarah a peach that knocks her unconscious and transports her into an illusionary fever dream world in which her agency is compromised and Jareth dances with her. Note that Jareth is obsessively in love with Sarah. Just replace "dancing" with something else, and...yeah.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Sarah finds out quickly that insulting a powerful Reality Warper in his own domain by telling him that the Labyrinth is a "piece of cake" is a bad idea; Jareth responds to this by fast-forwarding the clock an hour.
  • Double Entendre: After Hoggle hears Sarah's cries for help, Jareth steps in to remind him of his job and quips:
    Jareth: "I've just noticed your lovely jewels are missing."
  • Down in the Dumps: Sarah wakes up from her dream with the enchanted peach to find herself in a junkyard, with the Junk Lady showing her a facsimile of her own bedroom that's buried under a pile of junk.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: A modernistic version (for The '80s), with Sarah moving from a normal "present day" into a Medieval Stasis Mind Screw world.
  • Dream Ballet: "As the World Falls Down" ("I'll place the moooon/Within your heart").
  • Drill Tank: The goblins drive a variation, a sort of tank with numerous drills, straight at Sarah.
  • Dungeon Bypass:
    • The labyrinth has at least one cleverly-disguised path that leads straight to Jareth's Castle, but when Sarah goes to take it a nearby worm, not realizing she wants to go there, advises her to go the other way instead.
    • Sarah and her friends encounter a bridge in the Bog of Eternal Stench guarded by the steadfast Sir Didymus, who has taken a solemn vow to never let anyone cross it without his permission. After Ludo attempts to fight their way across, Sarah just asks for permission to use the bridge. Apparently nobody has ever just asked before, as Sir Didymus reacts with utter confusion... and says yes.
    • Sarah did try to solve the Escher Room... but chose to take a Leap of Faith when she thought it was the easiest way to get to Toby.
  • Easily Forgiven: Hoggle confesses to Sarah that Jareth told him to give her the peach, and then says he doesn't deserve to be forgiven. Sarah still forgives him.
  • Easter Egg: There are seven Jareth faces hidden in the scenery throughout the film.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Within You". (In-story, it's the just-short-of-thirteen o'clock number.)
  • Endless Corridor: When Sarah first enters the Labyrinth, it appears to be this.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: "You have no power over me!"
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Jareth seems to have some kind of glitter fetish.
  • "Everyone Comes Back" Fantasy Party Ending: After her friends appear in the mirror telling her to call if she needs them, Sarah says she does need them. With a "why didn't you say so?", all her little goblin buddies show up in her room as the movie ends.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The novelization says that Merlin noticed Owl!Jareth on the way back from the park and automatically didn't like him.
  • Exact Words:
    • The goblins moan that Sarah's flowery speech doesn't include the words "I wish".
    • When Sarah and Ludo approach a bridge they are confronted by Sir Didymus who states "I have sworn with my life's blood, no one shall pass this way without my permission!" Ludo tries unsuccessfully to force his way across, only to be stymied by Didymus' agile fighting. Sarah pauses a moment to reflect on the best way to resolve the situation and asks him politely for his permission. Apparently nobody (including Didymus himself) had ever thought of that solution before.
      Sir Didymus: Er.... yes?
  • Expanded Universe
    • In OEL Manga form, there's Tokyopop's Return to Labyrinth, which picks up the story with a now-teenaged Toby and adult Sarah, the latter now with a Literal Split Personality.
    • Archaia Entertainment's prequel will be a traditional graphic novel telling Jareth's origin story. (It won't be compatible with Return to Labyrinth, which came up with its own backstory for the character.)
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Less than thirteen hours pass in the goblin world over the course of Sarah's journey — and in Sarah's world, less than six hours pass over the course of the film. (This is largely Jareth's doing, owing to his Reality Warper abilities.)
  • Face Palm: Hoggle does this when Sarah says to Jareth that the labyrinth is a "piece of cake."
  • Faerie Court: Jareth is technically King of the Goblins, but because he is played by David Bowie in full glam rock-new romantic mode, fits the archetype of Fairy Queen. Of course, goblins and the Fae have very little differences in folklore.
  • The Fair Folk: Most of the goblins don't fit this trope, but it describes Jareth perfectly. Arrogance, fond of Exact Words promises, and being as unfair as possible while claiming he's being totally fair.
  • Fake-Out Opening: A princess is running across a verdant field onto a medieval bridge, speaking to an unseen opponent. Oops, it's starting to rain — Sarah is reading a script and wearing jeans under that dress, and runs into a quite modern town. Then it goes to another kind of fake-out, as while up to that point it might have looked to the viewer that she was simply rehearsing a school play, when she arrives home it turns out she was actually roleplaying her daydreams.
  • Fair-Play Villain: Zigzagged with Jareth. He does cheat a few times with the labyrinth while Sarah is trying to understand the rules, and speeds up the time limit to troll her. At the same time, he gives her a sporting chance to navigate the labyrinth and allows her to navigate the castle with minimal hindrance.
  • Fantastic Vermin: The fairies, which in appearance are stereotypical little flying sparkly things, are seemingly unintelligent and bite. They're treated much like pest insects by the Labyrinth's denizens, as seen when Hoggle goes after them with an insecticide gun.
  • Female Gaze: There's a reason the internet is more than a little bit obsessed with David Bowie's crotch. Better yet, it was intentional. Bowie's design was meant to look like a young girl's dream rock star.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Jareth is clearly attracted to Sarah.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • One of the newspaper clippings has Sarah's actress mother dating... David Bowie? Word of God said this was intentional. It's not a Celebrity Paradox, but is related to the All There in the Manual backstory: The novelization explains that this fellow is "Jeremy", the fellow actor she left the family for. Which explains why the Goblin King looks like David Bowie — her mother effectively left her father for him!
    • Along with Where the Wild Things Are, another Maurice Sendak book (partially) glimpsed in Sarah's room is Outside Over There, which has a similar story to Labyrinth.
    • Surprisingly, Sarah has a Judge Dredd book on the shelf next to her door.
  • Furry Confusion: Sir Didymus, some sort of dog-knight, is astride a normal-looking dog.
  • G-Rated Drug: The peach, which after all is just a peach, but seems to operate a lot like a hallucinogenic roofie.
  • Gainax Ending: The movie's oddness culminates when Sarah enters the castle of Jareth the Goblin King and pursues her baby brother Toby through an M.C. Escher maze while Jareth sings a final Villain Song. The world then crumbles and Jareth gives a We Can Rule Together speech as Sarah recites lines from the play she's trapped inside. After she recites the final line — "You have no power over me!" — Jareth is forced to return Sarah and Toby home. Sarah heads upstairs to her room, where all the goblins inexplicably appear for a final celebration — except Jareth, who flies away from Sarah's window in the form of an owl.
  • Gentle Giant: Ludo, a big hulking monster who acts like a gentle teddy bear.
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: The sleeves on Sarah's fancy dress are probably bigger than Jareth's hair.
  • Gilded Cage: Jareth offers Sarah that she doesn't have to go home, and he's not going to hurt Toby. On the contrary, they can both live in the castle, with Sarah as his queen and Toby as the prince and heir. Sarah gets two people that she knows will love her and never leave her. As an added bonus, there are all the fantasy creatures that she dreamed of livening up her existence and never disrupting her life again. Once, Sarah would have considered this...but at the end of the movie, she realizes that it's only a fantasy and wouldn't satisfy either her or Toby. There is also the fact that Toby is too little to have the choice taken out of his hands, and Sarah knows he needs to be safe in the real world.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Sarah has plenty of stuffed toys in her room.
  • Graceful Loser: While Jareth isn't pleased that Sarah rejects him, he returns her and Toby home. At the Dance Party Ending, he looks in from outside in his owl form and flies off into the night.
  • Gravity Screw: The Escher room is this for Sarah.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Subverted, in that Sarah comes to the realization that while she cannot let childhood nostalgia and fantasy overtake her life, they are things that are important to remember and learn from "every now and again" as she enters adulthood.
  • Hakuna Matata: "Chilly Down" is this crossbred with a Villain Song.
  • Hand Gagging: A goblin does this to himself near the beginning of the film after being told to shut up by the others.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Hoggle was evil or at least selfish, but ultimately takes Sarah's side. For most of the movie, though, he does keep Sarah (and the audience) guessing.
  • Helping Hands: They were trying to help Sarah after she fell into the oubliette, but "She chose dooowwnnn!"
  • The Hero's Journey: The plot actually follows this pretty clearly.
  • High Collar of Doom: Two of Jareth's outfits have high collars.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Upon ending up in a garbage dump outside the Goblin City, Sarah is distracted for a while by a mock-up of her bedroom back home, leading her to believe the adventure was all just a dream. Even after the lady from the dump barges inside, she's still content to sit and idle for a while with her dolls and toys. But the facsimile is too perfect; it also included a copy of her play, which reminded her about her mission to save Toby.
  • Homage: The film pays a debt to Maurice Sendak. To drive the point home, copies of Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There are in Sarah's room, and Sendak is acknowledged in the end credits.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Sir Didymus, a chivalrous, fox-like knight who rides a sheepdog called Ambrosius. This is also an example of Furry Confusion, in that we have a normal, barking and growling canine serving as mount for an anthropomorphic canine (or possibly a fox) who can walk and talk, but also barks and growls along with his mount on occasion. It doesn't help that the sheepdog is played by a real sheepdog, but occasionally intercut with a puppet (such as Ambrosius cowering in fear, shivering.)
  • Hulk Speak: Ludo's way of speaking.
    Ludo: Ludo sad!
  • Humongous Mecha: A Steampunk-type one guards the gateway into the goblin village. Hoggle gets to the lone goblin operating the thing from inside and kicks him out, which makes the contraption useless.
  • I'm Not Afraid of You: Sarah wins at the end by remembering the final line of her book and denying Jareth.
    "You have no power over me!!!"
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Sarah gives a valuable item as payment for what Hoggle says is useless advice. Even the advice giver is shocked Sarah paid for it so generously after she leaves.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Hoggle, who actually hates himself and believes he's friendless because he's ugly — something Jareth takes full advantage of. Sarah's insistence that You Are Better Than You Think You Are finally wins him over.
    Hoggle: (after giving Sarah the enchanted peach) Damn you, Jareth. And damn me, too!
  • Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: The goblins steal children.
  • Intangible Man: During "Within You", Jareth phases through Sarah.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: Sarah chooses to face Jareth alone and asks her friends not to follow her to the showdown.
  • It's All Junk: After escaping Jareth's dream, Sarah is guided into a replica of her bedroom by the Junk Lady in an attempt to make her forget Toby and just became enthralled in her possessions. Sarah realises that all of it is worthless compared to her brother, and tosses it all away.
    Junk Lady: Don't you like your toys?
    Sarah:'s all junk.
    Junk Lady: Huh? Well, what about this? This is not junk. Hmm?
    Sarah: Yes, it is! I have to save Toby!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Initially, Hoggle towards Sarah. And even Sarah towards baby Toby. In the end, both realize they should care about the other.
  • Knights and Knaves: Sarah encounters one such puzzle in the labyrinth. However, it's rigged, and even though Sarah takes the right door, she ends up falling into the oubliette. See the Trope page for Knights and Knaves for the likely reason why this sort of puzzle is often a Morton's Fork.
  • Knight Templar: Jareth claims he's kind at one point, despite kidnapping a baby, nearly killing Sarah with some of his traps, and treating Hoggle like crap all the time.
  • Large Ham:
    • Jareth, played by David Bowie.
      Jareth: Nothing? Nothing? NOTHING, tra-la-la?
    • Also the Helping Hands and the False Alarm faces.
  • Laugh with Me!: Just before the "Magic Dance" sequence, Jareth laughs, then demands that his goblins join in. Once they do, he shuts them up for the song. Much the same happens after Sarah is trapped in the oubliette.
  • Left the Background Music On: The novelization says that Sarah can hear the Background Music in-universe.
  • Life Isn't Fair: Boy, does Sarah learn this the hard way, and once she does, she reminds Hoggle of the fact when she steals his jewels and he accuses her of not being fair. Touche.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to The Dark Crystal, the previous feature length film that Jim Henson directed. That film had a story involving a decrepit world, a genocide in the backstory, a villainous faction of physically and morally repulsive creatures who enslave other races, and an overall dreary tone. Labyrinth, in contrast, has a livelier mood, peppy pop tunes from star David Bowie, and antagonists who come across as surprisingly affable and likable. Even the threat posed to Toby doesn't come across as that dire given how affectionate Jareth is with him, a far cry from the reprehensible things the Skeksis did.
  • Living Structure Monster: The movie features a number of creatures that are basically part of the architecture of the eponymous maze. These include the talking door knockers and the talking walls which give false alarms to passersby.
  • Losing Your Head: Playing ball games with their heads as the balls is a common Firey pastime. They're quite unhappily surprised that Sarah's head doesn't come off.
    Sarah: Of course it doesn't!
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The ball, which is a beautiful dreamscape designed to keep Sarah happy and get her to forget about Toby. The replica of her bedroom afterward, which is another attempt at the same, is created after she smashes her way out of the ball.
  • Lovable Traitor: Hoggle, Sarah's cuddly goblin friend, betrays her to Jareth, although he doesn't feel good about it.
  • Magical Land: The Labyrinth, a fairy-tale world of magic and monsters spouting riddles which Lewis Carroll would have been familiar with.
  • Make a Wish: All Sarah has to do is wish for her baby brother to disappear, and goblins ferry him away.
  • The Maze: Almost the entire movie takes place in the eponymous enchanted maze, complete with misleading signs and magically changing obstacles.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Over the course of the movie, Sarah comes to realize that she doesn't blame Toby for ruining her life. It's that with so much disruption and changes, from her dad remarrying to her mother walking out on them, that a baby was the easiest focus of her understandable frustration at how her parents were rummaging through her things and reorganizing her schedule. She promises when they're both home that maybe life isn't fair, but they'll do what they can to weather it as brother and sister.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: If Jareth had settled on just giving Hoggle orders, then there would have been no problem, especially since Hoggle is a dyed-in-the-wool misanthrope. However, Jareth just can't seem to stop insulting Hoggle, belittling him, physically mistreating him, and issuing dire threats (it was probably his threat to dump Hoggle into the Bog of Eternal Stench that finally tipped the scales). The manga reveals that Jareth makes good on his threat and actually makes Hoggle the King of the Bog.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jareth. Being played by David Bowie will do that for a character.
  • Mobile Maze: The Labyrinth often reconfigures itself, sometimes silently off-screen to the surprise of Sarah and sometimes with moving mechanisms or creatures. At one point, Hoggle even invokes it to help Sarah escape the oubliette by propping a door against a wall and opening it to reveal there is now an exit behind it... but not before first putting it up backwards and revealing a broom closet instead.
  • Mundane Object Amazement: Sarah offers Hoggle some plastic costume jewelry as a bribe to help her, thinking he won't care much for it. Since human things like plastic don't exist in the Labyrinth, Hoggle is quite awed by them.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: Alternate Universe, with a touch of All In Their Heads for "As the World Falls Down". All four song-and-dance numbers take place in the Magical Land; moreover, unlike many musicals they aren't spread out amongst the main characters — the Fireys get one and Jareth gets the other three, suggesting that singing is simply a way they communicate with others and/or amuse themselves.
  • Must Make Amends: The plot of the movie follows this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Hoggle, after giving Sarah the peach.
    • Also Sarah herself, when she realized the goblins listened when she wished they'd take Toby away.
  • Nobody Can Die: Purposefully invoked by the filmmakers. There are things more significant than death at stake here: this isn't a battle of mortality, this is a battle of the spirit; a battle between going with what's easy vs attaining some form of self realization. Death is easy, being someone you can live with is harder.
  • No Song for the Wicked: Completely inverted — the only characters who sing are the villain, his minions, and a menacing Wacky Wayside Tribe.
  • No Sympathy: At best, Sarah's stepmother is this when Sarah throws a temper tantrum that she has babysitting foisted on her. She says that if Sarah isn't dating or hosting a social life, then she can stand to suffer watching Toby for a few hours, especially since she shouldn't be out in the rain after dark anyway. The thing is that when you read the novelization, it's not that the stepmother demanding this is making Sarah upset; it's that Irene is trying to fill in a gap that Sarah's biological mother left by walking out on her family, and no one really knows how to bring up the Elephant in the Room about someone abandoning a child for their selfish reasons. Irene thinks that Sarah should suck it up and accept this is the way things are, while her dad seems as conflicted as Sarah is and wants to comfort her before they go out on their date night.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Toby begins crying absolutely uncontrollably, and Sarah says, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away— right now." And instantaneously, there is silence, and the audience (and Sarah) realize that's exactly what happened.
  • Ominous Owl: Jareth's shapeshifted form is that of a barn owl.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The entire labyrinth...although it's not really judging cleverness so much as the ability to think "outside the box".
  • Oubliette: Sarah falls into one after one of her poor decisions, and has to ask for Hoggle's help to escape.
    Hoggle: Oh don't act so smart. You don't even know what an oubliette is.
    Sarah: Do you?
    Hoggle: Yes. It's a place you put people... to forget about 'em!
  • Our Fairies Are Different: They're a bunch of small sprites that Hoggle sprays like bugs, and they tend to bite.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: In folklore, one of the main attributes of goblins is that they steal babies. Jareth looks mostly human (if he wasn't a stolen baby himself).
  • Painted-On Pants: Jareth's infamous pants.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: This bookends the movie's opening credit sequence, which pans down as it follows the barn owl's flight.
  • Parental Abandonment: The novelization says that Sarah's mother, an actress, walked out on the family and took up with a charming fellow actor named Jeremy. While most of this is All There in the Manual material, in the film there is a picture of the mother with a male co-star in Sarah's scrapbook, and he looks awfully like Jareth...
  • Pet the Dog: Jareth is very gentle with Toby, entertaining him and making sure he's comfortable while a captive in the goblin castle. He also doesn't seem to be lying when he says that Toby could be a prince, with Sarah as his partner.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Sarah's ultra-puffy dream dress.
  • Pint-Size Powerhouse: Didymus is very short, but very strong.
  • The Place: Sarah must cross the eponymous Labyrinth to save her half-brother.
  • Place Worse Than Death: The Bog of Eternal Stench. It not only stinks with an odor that's too horrible to describe, but it also curses anyone who puts so much as a foot in its waters with the same odor - forever.
  • Politeness Judo: Sir Didymus won't let anybody pass his bridge without his permission. While Ludo tries to fight, and Hoggle sneaks past, Sarah simply asks him politely if she can have permission.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Well, who do you think?
  • The Power of Friendship: Sarah's BFG. In fact, Hoggle is so gobsmacked that she calls him a friend is enough to instigate his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Practically Different Generations: Sarah is sixteen years old while her younger half-brother Toby is still a baby and has only just started to toddle. As a result, Sarah is often tasked with caring for him while her father and stepmother are out, which she resents. However, when Toby is kidnapped by goblins, Sarah's Big Sister Instinct kicks in and she sets out to rescue him.
  • Powering Villain Realization: During their final confrontation, Jareth all but reveals to Sarah that he has been doing everything at HER behest. "You asked me to take the child. He was taken. You cowered before me. I was frightening. I'm growing tired of living up to your expectations." This leads to her epiphany, wherein she realizes and loudly declares "You have no power over me!" Jareth's world is shattered, and Sarah and her baby brother are returned home.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    "Damn you Jareth. And damn me, too."
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: At the beginning of the film, Sarah resents her baby brother Toby and is upset that her parents have let him play with her favorite soft toy without asking her first. At the end of the film, she gifts the same toy to Toby as a sign of how her feelings toward him have improved.
  • Psychotic Lover: Jareth certainly has his moments...
  • Race Against the Clock: Sarah must solve the Labyrinth within 13 hours, or else Toby will be turned into a goblin.
  • Reality Warper: The Labyrinth is essentially Jareth's plaything; he's capable of altering time and space within it at will. But, he holds no power over humans who enter his realm unless they give themselves willingly.
    • Depending upon your interpretation, possibly Sarah herself, unwittingly; see also Your Mind Makes It Real. The goblin world is heavily influenced by her interests and imagination, she is able to defeat Jareth with mere words, and she obviously has influence over the goblins and other creatures at the end.
  • Real Time: At the beginning of the movie's climax, a clock shows that there are thirteen minutes left. The entire climax lasts around thirteen minutes.
  • Rescue Arc: The entire point of the film is to rescue Toby.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: Sarah is irritated about once again babysitting her little half-brother Toby, and can't get him to stop crying. So she starts telling him a story to try to calm him down - about a beautiful teenage girl whose Wicked Stepmother treated her like a slave and always made her take care of the awful selfish baby. This, of course, results in Sarah accidentally invoking the magic phrase which leads to the goblins abducting Toby.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: When Sarah mutters to her colicky infant brother, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now," she has no idea they are listening.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, gremlins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Almost a literal one with the Junk Lady.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Subverted. A goblin tries to escape the battle in the climax by going into his home, but the rocks summoned by Ludo crash into his house.
    Goblin: I've had enough. I'm going to bed! *Rocks enter his home* Oh, get out of my house!
  • Senior Sleep-Cycle: The Wise Man falls asleep mid-sentence, much to the chagrin of his talking hat.
  • Severed Head Sports: Although the heads aren't severed, the film has the fire-starters who remove their heads and use them to play something akin to volleyball. While singing. Naturally, this concerns the protagonist. She gets even more concerned when they try to remove her head.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: A creepy version where Sarah finds herself in a pouffy ballgown, chasing after a mysterious man at a masquerade ball. She looks stunning, but the way the patrons stare and laugh reminds Sarah and the audience that she's only a fifteen-year-old girl among adults. That's not even getting into the the fact that this is a fantasy world in a crystal ball, which Sarah entered after Jareth indirectly drugged her.
  • Shout-Out
    • An unintentional one occurs in the panning shot of Sarah's room which shows Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; especially the latter because it's also about a girl rescuing her sibling from goblins. However, it was not originally planned that way, as Brian Froud has said "The link between his work and ours was only noticed well into production", as the concept of goblins stealing babies is well-established folklore and the original jumping-off point for the project—but Sendak actually considered suing over the matter. In the end, Henson acknowledging an artistic debt to Sendak in the end credits served to placate the author.
    • As Sir Didymus rides through the Goblin City to rejoin his allies, he cries "Hi-ho Silver, away!"
    • The call and response "You remind me of the babe. What babe?" in "Magic Dance" is a direct reference to a scene in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
    • The goblin operating the Humongous Mecha is dressed in an old-fashioned type aviator's outfit and helmet, and is wearing a harness with flapping mechanical wings (which don't actually work in flying). All that is likely a nod to a character Terry Jones played in the opening gag of the "The Spanish Inquisition" episode of his iconic television series.
    • One of the short stories in the Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary comic book anthology is about a nervous, very small goblin named Shinjee that has been given the job of piloting a new version of the Humongous gate guardian robot.
  • Sissy Villain: Jareth.
  • Slouch of Villainy: Jareth's preferred way of "sitting" in his throne.
  • Smooch of Victory: Sarah gives Hoggle one after he helps her escape the Fireys — not knowing that Jareth had warned him that if she ever did that, he'd make good on his threat of the Bog of Eternal Stench...
  • The So-Called Coward: Hoggle.
  • Speak of the Devil: "I wish the goblins would take you away - right now! ...Toby?"
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jareth for Sarah.
  • Starring Special Effects: The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Labyrinth are these, after all.
  • Steampunk: The goblins use a lot of stuff like this, most notably the mecha at the Goblin City's gates.
  • Storming the Castle: The film's climax, naturally.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: "Well, laugh!" No wonder Jareth fancies Sarah — he's probably desperate for a conversation with someone with an IQ above one digit.
  • Take Our Word for It: For obvious reasons, the odor of the Bog of Eternal Stench. In fact, when Sarah asks if all it does is smell, Hoggle says, "Believe me, that's enough." And judging by the look on Sarah's face when she finally sees (and smells) the place, he's right.
  • Talent Double: Juggler Michael Moschen performs Jareth's right arm during the moments where he's contact juggling the crystal balls. This required him to spend many hours practicing until he could do the routine without looking (since he needed to keep his head averted so it wouldn't appear in the shot) and with his arm jammed in another person's armpit.
  • That Poor Cat: As they enter the Goblin City, one can be heard, and then briefly seen running across the background.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The look on Jareth's face when Sarah finally remembers her line and stands up to him is priceless. Though it's less Oh, Crap!, and more sad disappointment.
  • This Is Something She's Got to Do Herself: Once Sarah and her friends reach the castle, she tells them she has to face Jareth alone, "Because that's the way it's done." And that IS the way it is in the forgotten script for her play...
    Sir Didymus: Well, if that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it.
  • Toilet Humour: There's some...interesting noises coming out of the Bog of Eternal Stench.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Sarah tries, writing arrows on the ground with her lipstick. However, as soon as she's out of sight, a tiny, very angry gremlin lifts the floor panel, yells at her in gibberish, and then puts the panel back with the arrow pointing in a different direction. Every time.
  • Trapped in TV Land: The computer game starts with the player watching Labyrinth in the cinema until Jareth pulls them into the screen.
  • Troll Bridge: Sir Didymus's bridge.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Jareth has several costume changes as the film progresses.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Jareth the Goblin King, as portrayed by David Bowie, has prominently-defined cheeks.
  • Villainous Crush: Jareth offers Sarah everything she wants if she reciprocates, and currently provides the page quote.
  • Villain Has a Point: Jareth has to point out to Sarah a few times that he's only acting out the fantasy that she wrote, that she wanted him to be this alluring, dangerous king. It's her decision if she chooses to reject him, but he won't make it easy for her. The moment that Sarah realizes that Jareth is a fantasy and he has no power over her means that he lost, and he sends her and Toby home, unharmed.
  • Villain Song: This film is pretty much Villain Songs — The Movie! (Well, seriously, when someone like David Bowie is playing the villain, he's obviously going to have quite a few of them.)
  • Villain Love Song: "As the World Falls Down".
  • Visual Innuendo: Jareth playing with his crystal balls while wearing skin-tight leggings.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Jareth.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Or thirteen (goblin time being what it is). Toby will become one of them if Sarah doesn't solve the Labyrinth by then. The ballroom dance sequence climaxes just as the clock strikes twelve, as per the Cinderella motif. When she defeats Jareth, it's just as the clock strikes thirteen; when Sarah and Toby are returned to their world, it's midnight there.
    • In a subversion, Jareth actually spins the hands on his clock forward after Sarah works up the nerve to boast that the Labyrinth is a piece of cake.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The stepmother invokes this, saying Sarah insists on treating her like one. Whether she is or not is unknown (Marvel's adaptation has her bemoan the fact that Sarah treats her this way regardless of how hard she tries, suggesting that it's more about Sarah rejecting her because she's not her biological mother, rather than anything the stepmother did).
  • Worldbuilding: As is normal when Jim Henson and Brian Froud work together, with no small assist by Terry Jones; the tie-in book The Goblins of Labyrinth (written by Jones and featuring Froud's concept art) goes into hugely goofy detail about their society and folklore.
  • Yellow Brick Road: Although she is of course running around (and often getting lost) in a deadly maze, Sarah has only one goal: to find Toby in the center of the labyrinth and every step she takes is to try to get her further towards that goal.
  • You Keep Using That Word: When Sarah tells Jareth the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake", he proceeds to magically reduce her remaining time to solve it.
    Sarah: That's not fair!
    Jareth: You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.
  • You Remind Me of X: "You remind me of the babe..."
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Heavily implied; after all, Jareth even outright states that he was everything Sarah wanted him to be — which is why when she realizes that she's the one in control, not Jareth, he instantly loses all power.
  • Your Mom: "Your mother was a fraggin' aardvark!"


Video Example(s):


The Cleaners

When your labyrinth's oubliettes need to be spotless, the Cleaners are on the (crystal) ball.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AdvancingWallOfDoom

Media sources: