Monty Python's Life of Brian is the third film by Monty Python, made in 1979. It follows the misadventures of Brian (played by Graham Chapman), who was born just down the street from Jesus Christ. Dissatisfied with his life as a Jew in Roman territory, Brian attempts to join La Résistance (though mostly because there's a very pretty girl there) and ends up fleeing from the Romans. The film is notable for being the only Python film that makes a solid attempt at a single, cohesive plotline rather than a Random Events Plot or sketches.
Upon its release, this film drew a lot of controversy, mainly in the form of criticism from various religious groups and orders due to what was perceived as a disrespectful mockery of Jesus Christ (which in turn was frequently based on the erroneous belief that Brian was intended to be/actually was Jesus, rather than just someone whose life parallelled him in several ways). Rather than mocking Jesus, however, the film actually treats the source material with a lot of respect. It just points out that Christianity may have missed the point on some of what Jesus taught. It is not unheard of for the movie to be regarded as an Affectionate Parody by actual ministers.
A made-for-TV comedy film, Holy Flying Circus, about the controversy surrounding the film was released on BBC 4 in 2011. Eric Idle later joined with Monty Python's The Meaning of Life composer John Du Prez to write an oratorio based on the film, Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy).
See also Monty Python's Flying Circus.
I think he said "Blessed are the tropemakers!"
- Accidental Hero: Brian manages to create a messianic following, entirely by accident. Even telling them to fuck off doesn't help.Brian: I'm not the messiah! Honestly I'm not!
Female follower: Only the true messiah denies his divinity
Brian: Well what kind of a chance does that give me? All right, I AM the messiah!
Multitude: HE IS! HE IS THE MESSIAH!
BRIAN: NOW.... FUCK OFF!
Male follower: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?
- Acoustic Licence: Averted. Jesus giving a sermon is perfectly audible to the people in the first few rows, but on the next hill over, which isn't even faraway, they're having a little trouble hearing him over that distance and the rest of the countryside noise."Did he say 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'?"
- Actor Allusion: The "Latin grammar graffiti correction" scene reflects John Cleese's former job as a Latin teacher.
- Age-Progression Song: The "Brian" song begins with him as a babe and describes him growing into a man.
- All There in the Script: Brian's mother is named Mandy, and his girlfriend's full name is Judith Iscariot. Neither is mentioned in the film itself.
- Always Chaotic Evil:
- The Judean People's Front, for reasons unknown. At least, that's how they're perceived by others.
- Also, the head of the People's Front of Judea would believe the Romans are.
- Ancient Astronauts: The two aliens who accidentally save Brian when he falls from the tower.
- Animated Credits Opening: Animated hijinks involving Roman architecture, mainly, setting the stage for teh irreverent comedy we're about to watch.
- The Anti-Nihilist: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" expresses this view: life is horrible and meaningless, but despite this, we should try and enjoy it as long as we're here.Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- "Wodewick" is called a robber, a rapist, and a pickpocket, in that order:Pilate: Who is this "Wodewick" to whom you wefer?
Man: He's a "wobber"!
Other man: And a "wapist"!!
Woman: And a pickpocket!
- Also on a larger scale, the scene with three street prophets, one of whom is haranguing his audience with hellfire and brimstone, the second of which is doing the same thing only slightly dialed down, and the third of which is prophesying minor domestic inconveniences:Mud-covered Madman: And the eyes will be red with the blood of living creatures! And the whore of Babylon shall riiiiide forth, on a threeheaded serpent! And throughout the land will be a greeeat rubbing of parts!
Redclad Haranguer: [Northern Irish accent] And the demon shall burn and maim, with a nane-bladed sword! Not two, or five or seven but nane-bladed, which he will wield against all wretched sinners, sinners just like you, sir, there! And the horn on his head shall be...
Boring Prophet: [mildly] There shall, in that time, be rumours of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things wi— with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment. At this time, a friend shall lose his friend's hammer, and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there, only just the night before, about eight o'clock.
- "Wodewick" is called a robber, a rapist, and a pickpocket, in that order:
- Artistic Licence History: The Python crew did their homework on the historical setting, though did take licence for a number of things:
- Some things the Romans are said to have done for the Jews (see What Have You Done for Me Lately?) were actually already present prior to Roman conquest (such as wine, which had been around since the time of the Old Testament), some of them even having been established by previous rulers (such as Greece or Persia).
- In addition, while the film does bring up the fact that it would be unfair to dismiss the Romans as little more than Evil Overlords, they were perfectly capable of being so on their worst days, and sometimes even on their best. Some of the largest rebellions against them, including the Jewish Revolts, were directly caused by a high-ranking Roman (or a group of them) grabbing the Villain Ball with both handsnote - a common cause for revolt would be the installation of an asshole tax collector who would make demands he knew could not be met until the locals got tired of him and retaliated; or they would betray a loyal ally for no good reason, then make up a story about how the rebels started it. But what more often than not broke their necks was the total disregard for local customs - this was particularly evident in their treatment of Judaism, which they never quite fully understood until after they fought three devastating wars against Jewish rebels, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora. So, overall, while the Romans certainly did a lot, many people, including the Jews, had every reason to despise them.
- The argument that they "brought peace" is also laughable: Rome, despite claiming to be in an age of Pax Romana ("Roman Peace"), was almost always at war, be it an aggressive campaign of expansion or suppressing a needlessly provoked revolt. Typically, "Roman peace" meant "butcher the enemy to the last child and then roast them in the tabloids". That said, once a province was "pacified" it was usually a pretty good place to live for speakers of Latin or Greek of some wealth.
- People in ancient Judea have modern British names like Brian, Reg or Stan/Loretta.
- Artistic Licence Religion: An unintentional example - Brian is supposed to be Jewish, but during his nude scene it becomes quite clear that Graham Chapman is not circumcised.
- Away in a Manger: Brian is born at the same time as Jesus, in the manger next door.
- Been There, Shaped History: Brian's life intersects with Jesus and he keeps getting mistaken for the Messiah.
- Be Yourself: Deconstructed. While the film is clearly in favour of not blindly following dogma, the Pythons were savvy enough to both recognize this could be a Lost Aesop in all the silliness, and that the trope itself is a built-in Broken Aesop. Therefore, it takes a more bitter interpretation of "Don't blindly following dogma you made up yourself because a guy really really seems like the messiah to you": Brian explicitly states the message, and people still screw it up because they've convinced themselves that much that he's a messiah.
- Berserk Button: Don't refer to Mr. Bignose's... Big Nose. He was surprisingly 'patient' when it's pressed so many times, until he snaps.
- Big Bad: Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. The People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front both see him as their arch enemy and are trying to oust him.
- Big Damn Heroes: Repeatedly subverted in the final scene, as Brian's allies show up, group by group, and do nothing whatsoever to save him.
- Bilingual Bonus: The facades of Pilate's palace have the words "PILATUS IUDAEOS REGET OK" inscribed on them. Translated from Latin, it reads "PILATE RULES OK", a phrase based on a popular UK colloquialism.
- Birthday Suit Surprise Party: Brian's lover Judith Iscariot - an Expy of Mary Magdalene - tries to convince the Virgin Mandy (Brian's mum) that he is special (whilst naked, as Mandy had barged in on the two of them). It doesn't work. And earlier when after awaking, Brian opens his blinds...Brian's mum: He's not The Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!
- Blackface: John Cleese dons this to portray Balthazar in the Three Wise Men scene.
- Blind Obedience: Lampshaded by a crowd who eagerly parrots a speech against eagerly parroting points of view and ideas.
- Butt-Monkey: Brian himself. He gets chased by Roman guards, taken to space by aliens, gets abandoned by his loved ones, and dies via crucifixion.
- The Cameo: The Pythons ran into Spike Milligan (who had been visiting some of the places he had fought with the British Army in WWII) and gave him a brief role as a prophet.
- Camp Gay: Pontius Pilate is rather... flamboyant, what with his speech impediment, his mannerisms, and his "vewwy good fwiend" Biggus Dickus.
- Canis Latinicus:
- Naughtius Maximus, Biggus Dickus, Incontinentia Buttocks.note
- The scene where a centurion catches Brian writing "Romanes eunt domus" on a wall and upbraids him for his poor grasp of Latin and forces him to correct his mistakes. If you're wondering, "Romanes eunt domus" is very bad Latin for "Romans go home", or as the guard puts it, "People that are called Romanes, they go, the house?"... it gives the adjective for "Roman" an incorrect declension and uses an incorrect mood (indicative, when it should be imperative) for "go" and case (nominative, when it should be accusative locative) for "home". The corrected version, "Romani ite domum", is much more accurate.
- Cannot Spit It Out: The stuttering prison guard and his Cloudcuckoolander assistant, when the Centurion tries to free Brian. Poor Communication Kills, unfortunately... Although this later turns out to be Obfuscating Disability.
- The Cat Came Back: Brian's followers abandoned him, until they come back during his crucifixion... to thank him for his sacrifice.
- Cavalry Betrayal: Multiple times during the crucifixion.
- The Centurion shows up to release Brian, but accidentally frees the Cheeky Bloke instead.
- The People's Front of Judea show up, give Brian a statement of thanks for his impending martyrdom, and then leave.
- The Judean's People's Front sends a suicide squad to rescue him, which promptly commits suicide.
- Judith arrives, only to give her own thanks for his impending martyrdom.
- And finally Brian's mother stops by to guilt trip him about leaving his mother alone without any support in her old age.
- Character Exaggeration: Pontius Pilate is exaggerated as High Camp, following the footsteps of Jesus Christ Superstar where he was mildly Camp.
- Chekhov's Army: Subverted with the Judean People's Front in the final scene. After many hushed references to them by the other Judean resistance groups, they charge into the crucifixion site at the end, leaving the Roman soldiers fleeing in terror... then promptly kill themselves en masse, revealing that they're actually the JPF's "crack suicide squad".
- Child by Rape: Brian was born because his mother was raped (at first) by a Roman centurion named Naughtius Maximus.
- Comically Missing the Point: At least twice. Firstly, the scene in which Brian's followers ignore his message of individuality and original thought to jump on the "Brian is the Messiah" bandwagon; and also the scene where the centurion corrects Brian's Latin, ignoring the fact that the phrase itself is treason (and painting on a wall is vandalism, although graffiti was an accepted method of advertisement back then). Even funnier is that the guard let Brian off after he covered the entire building he was tagging with the phrase, now written correctly.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: The ex-leper, who objects to Jesus' healing miracles because they ruined his career as a beggar.
- Corpsing: In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, Pilate speaks of his friend Biggus Dickus, as the guards desperately (and ultimately vainly) attempt to keep a straight face. In reality, the extras cast as the guards were told that it was a serious scene, and if they so much as giggled, they would be fired on the spot.* Hilarity ensues.
- Country Matters: Reg would've used the word had the censors not demanded he say "klutz" instead.
- Cowardly Lion: Brian is rather pathetic, denying his Roman heritage one moment, then using it to gain leniency when the Romans catch him. Then again he manages to escape for a while.
- Creator Cameo: The man who rents out the mountain for sermons is George Harrison, as a reward for funding the film.
- Cyclops: The aliens have one Eye on a Stalk.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: The opening song says that teenage Brian "started to shave and have one off the wrist."
- Deadpan Snarker: Mandy, Reg, Brian, Mr. Cheeky, Mr. Big Nose, The Old Man at the Stoning, Ben, The Ex-Leper... It's basically a World of Snark. Brian alone tries to defuse some accusations of being the Messiah with sarcasm, which backfires.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "From now on, you shall be called 'Brian that is called Brian'".
- Deus ex Machina: Parodied. A low flying UFO passed by just when Brian is about to fall to his death.
- Do You Want to Haggle?: Lampooned. While Brian is in a desperate hurry to avoid the centurions looking for him, he tries buying a false beard as a disguise. He attempts to buy it full-price, but the vendor insists on doing the back-and-forth of a buyer-seller haggling. When Brian refuses to play along, he calls in his tall brute to threaten him if he does not. He manages to pay for the beard for a slightly lower price, along with a free gourd, Brian insists that he keeps the change, saying that that is his payment for the gourd, only for the vendor to wind up haggling (again, with the brute forcing Brian to play along) that the gourd is worth more despite the fact that it was free.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The crowd starts arguing about whether the sign is the shoe or the gourd, mirroring sectarian disputes.
- Double Take: The two aliens inside the spaceship do a double-take at the sight of Brian. More exactly, their eyestalks do a double-take.
- Downer Ending: A very rare comedic example: "Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say: some things in life are bad..." Pretty much subverted by being a very cheery downer ending.Always look on the briiiight siiiide of life
- Do Wrong, Right: The scene with the centurion making Brian change his (treasonous) graffiti to be grammatically correct Latin.
- Dream-Crushing Handicap: Stan wants to be called Loretta and become a woman because he wants to have babies. But alas, he just doesn't have a womb... "Where's the fetus going to gestate? You gonna keep it in a box!?"
- Easily Swayed Population: The fact that Brian's followers will not abandon their belief that he is not the Messiah, no matter how hard he tries.
- Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Pontius Pilate. It was actually considered sophisticated to have a speech impediment back then. They did their research. So it's even applying Deliberate Values Dissonance to make it funny.
- An entire film of Pilate's inability to say R seems to have just been used to set up an Incredibly Lame Pun on the mispronunciation of "rank".
- Everything Except Most Things: When Reg and company are trying to stir people up against the Romans, he asks what the Romans have ever done for them. He soon winds up with a very long list indeed, but keeps trying to get people going.All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
- Failure Is the Only Option: After Brian is crucified, just about everyone arrives to have a final word with him, never bothering to try saving him.
- Fanservice: The film features a naked Graham Chapman as well as a naked Sue Jones-Davies (Judith).
- Flock of Wolves: The women who dress up as men to go to the stoning. Plus the fact that all the actors playing those women were in fact, men. So you have men pretending to be women pretending to be men.
- Gallows Humour: The ending on the cross is rendered funny when everyone starts singing "Always look on the Bright Side of Life".
- Gladiator Games: Played for laughs: the weaker gladiator doesn't even attempt to fight, just drops his weapons and runs for it. The stronger gladiator chases him, until he abruptly drops dead from cardiac arrest.
- Genre Deconstruction: Though it portrays Jesus in a favourable light, the movie is a pretty harsh deconstruction of society's romanticized view of life in the time of Christ, and of Biblical stories in general. As it points out, the Romans weren't just cruel oppressors with 0% Approval Rating (though that's not to say they couldn't be) — they did more to improve the Judean people's lives than anyone before them. Conversely, "God's chosen people" had criminal justice that could be just as brutal and unfair as the Romans', and they were never a noble La Résistance — they spent more time getting involved in petty squabbling amongst themselves than they did resisting the Romans. And in any case, having a cult of devoted followers who expect you to solve all of their problems isn't nearly as cool as you would think. And having your friends betray you in the name of martyrdom? It's only inspiring when it's not happening to you!Brian: (after spending the rest of the night painting "ROMANI ITE DOMUM" all over the building) Finished!
Guard: Right. Now don't do it again. (walks off)
- Girls with Moustaches: Some women unconvincingly disguise themselves as men, complete with big bushy beards, in order to attend a stoning.
- Godiva Hair: Judith has her long hair covering her breasts when Brian's mother discovers them after they have sex.
- Golden Mean Fallacy: Judith, trying to agree a compromise between Stan and Reg over the "men having babies" issue:Judith: All right, so I think we can all agree that Stan can't have babies, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but we can still fight for his right to have babies.
- Gone Horribly Right: Zigzagged. Eric Idle's character gets himself un-sentenced to death twice by joking that he is innocent but he doesn't actually want to get off his death sentence.
- Graffiti of the Resistance: The graffiti against the Roman occupation; one Roman soldier is more disturbed by the bad grammar than the content of the message.
- Grammar Nazi: A centurion comes across Brian's treasonous graffiti... and is angry about his bad Latin grammar. He uses threats of violence to make sure Brian gets it right.
- Hairy Girl: Judith is shown to be one in her nude scene after she and Brian are discovered by his mother after having had sex. This is Truth in Television for most women at the time.
- The Hero Dies: Brian gets crucified.
- Historical In-Joke: Brian's Roman paternity is almost certainly a reference to the allegation that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Panthera.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The official at the stoning, where the criminal was guilty of saying "Jehovah" in vain:"No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Even- and I want to make this absolutely clear!!- even if they DO say 'Jehovah'!" (cue crowd stoning him for blasphemy)
- Hollywood Darkness: Very obvious during the 'Romanes Eunt Domus' scene. Even if you argued that it was during a full moon, you can see sharply-contrasted clouds in the sky.
- Hope Spot: The ending takes sadistic delight in twisting the screw further and further for Brian. Once Brian's being crucified, one of the other victims notes that lots of people end up getting rescued, which is followed by everyone who might have a reason to rescue Brian showing up... and spectacularly failing to even try rescuing him. Still, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life...
- Hypocritical Humour:
- A key theme of the movie is many of the hypocrisies and Double Standards present in organized religion and, in a broader context, in society at large. This being a movie by the Pythons, it becomes a rich source of humour as well.
- Brian's followers brainlessly chant his "think for yourselves" rhetoric right back at him.
- The beginning of the movie features a ceremony where a man who used the Lord's name in vain is about to be stoned to death ("All I said was 'that bit of halibut is good enough for Jehovah'!"). However, except for Brian all of the people attending the stoning are women... who, in that women are not permitted to participate in the stoning, are breaking the Jewish religious law just as much as the poor sod they're about to stone to death.note
- The People's Front of Judea will not submit to blackmail but they will kidnap and torture Pilate's wife unless he dismantles the entire Roman Empire in two days.
- I Am Spartacus: Direct Shout-Out that intentionally parodies this trope by inverting it, as the 'Spartacus' that they're looking for is the person whom they're not going to execute, but set free. "I'm Brian! And so's my wife!"
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The full title is Monty Python's Life of Brian, featuring the group's name.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: Judith, who really doesn't seem to have a problem defending a Nice Jewish Boy's integrity to his own mother even when she herself is stark naked and very obviously someone that the boy has recently had sex with. You do wonder what flavour of Jewish Judith herself could possibly be. (People's Front of Judea, obviously.)
- Everyone in a hive-minded crowd declares themselves in unison to be an individual... then one individual blurts out that he's not.
- The one guy who gets saved from crucifixion wanted to die.
- It's a Small World After All: The alien spacecraft swoops by the tower Brian fell off of, leaves the planet, then crashes back to Earth right by the same tower.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eric Idle's Mr Cheeky spends the first half of the film insulting everyone he sees as 'big nose'...but in the finale when Brian is crucified, he is genuinely supportive and sympathetic to him and seems genuinely upset that the Romans take his 'I'm Brian' joke seriously and the real Brian will still keep suffering.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: The Pythons ended up deciding that Jesus was impervious to ridicule. The only joke made in his presence is about people mishearing the Sermon on the Mount, which factors into the film's lampooning of religion rather than Jesus himself.
- Jewish Mother: Brian's mother, Mandy, who nags him even when he's on the cross.
- Jews Love to Argue: From the sectarian infighting to a vendor getting offended that Brian "doesn't wanna' haggle".
- Just in Time:
- Subverted, when the Legionary commander arrives at the prison with orders to release Brian, it turns out they've already left.
- And again when the Crack Suicide Squad arrives to free Brian.
- Karmic Death: The unnamed priest who leads a stoning of a blasphemer gets fed up with people trying to start the stoning before he's given the order and says "Nobody is stoning anyone until I say so, even-and I want to make this VERY CLEAR-if they say 'Jehovah'." The crowd then stones him for blasphemy.
- Large Ham:
- "We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front..." Played with, making fun of a man for forming the Popular Front.
- Also, the priest at the stoning, who loudly and theatrically directs the procession and gets so excited he even commits blasphemy himself.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" compares death to the end of a production from the actors' perspective. It's played at the end of the film.
- Towards the end of the song, it becomes Breaking the Fourth Wall, as Eric Idle engages in a peculiar monologue. Among other things, he states that "this record's available in the foyer".
- Literal Metaphor: The Suicide Squad literally walk up to Brian's cross and commit suicide rather than being a tactically suicidal (rescue) squad at all.
- Logic Bomb: The one man in the crowd that claims he isn't different to those who just repeated "We are all different."
- Long List: The "what have the Romans ever done for us?" scene turns into one of these as Reg's rhetorical question ends up turning into an extended list of the many varied benefits the Roman occupiers actually have brought to Judea.
- Low Count Gag: After going through a list of rival resistance movements against the Romans, it is revealed that one such movement has only one member.Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
Reg: He's over there.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Brian. Wonder if that scene inspired Eric Idle to write that famous song in the Python's next movie?
- Messianic Archetype: Played for Laughs. Brian only ends up as the messianic archetype due to sheer bad luck and being the only street preacher to engage with his audience, which in turn was only because he only pretended to be a street preacher to hide from the pursuing Romans.
- Misaimed Fandom: The In-Universe message of the entire film. People obeying someone they mistake for the Messiah and misinterpreting everything he does or says.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Ocelots, jaguars, Swedes, and the Welsh show up in supposedly-Biblical-Jerusalem.
- Missed the Call: The Three Wise Men visit Brian's house first by mistake while Following a Star. They have to take their gifts back from Brian's quarrelsome mother.
- Mistaken for Profound: People thinking Brian is the Messiah.
- Mistaken for Special Guest: Brian's whole life, particularly after he decides to pretend to be a prophet in the town square.
- Mr. Seahorse: Discussed with Stan, who wants to identify as a woman (Loretta) including bearing a child even though it's biologically impossible in this era. "It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them."
- Mood Whiplash: The ending. One minute, Brian's crucified and has been abandoned by everyone who could have rescued or cared for him. The next, everyone's cheerfully singing "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life".
- Morton's Fork: Doesn't matter what Brian says, the crowd will believe he's the Messiah.Brian: I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
- Mundane Made Awesome: The theme song. Musically, it's an anthem fit for a Biblical epic, with bombastically triumphant horns and a very dramatic singer. Lyrically, it details Brian's perfectly mundane life as he matures from a perfectly mundane baby into a perfectly mundane man.Brian
The babe they called Brian.
Grew, grew and grew...
Grew up to be...
GREW UP TO BEEEEEEEE...
A boy called Brian.
- The Musical:
- Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), a comic oratorio written by Eric Idle and John du Prez (the same team of Spamalot). Besides many original compositions are Python mainstays "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and "The Lumberjack Song".
- In Terry Jones' documentary series Medieval Lives, a knight's crest is made for him with the motto Messias Non Est (He's Not the Messiah).
- Naked People Are Funny: Brian accidentally exposing himself in front of his followers. The hermit played by Terry Jones (the one who was under the vow of silence) probably counts, too.
- Never Say That Again: A man is stoned for saying "Jehovah" aloud. Problem is, the priest also says it aloud and the energized stoning crowd crush him under a boulder while the blasphemer goes free.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: He really isn't the Messiah, as the Pythons were quick to point out whenever accused of mocking Jesus. Jesus appears briefly as a background character, saying exactly what he said in the Bible and not made the butt of a single joke (unless you count "the people in the back can't hear him"). Now, as for making fun of Christians...
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A kind bystander (played by Terry Jones) offers to carry the cross of one of the prisoners, only for the prisoner to run off. Unfortunately for the bystander, the Romans assume that he is the prisoner and don't listen to his explanations about trying to help.
- "No" Means "Yes": Denying he's the Messiah just makes the believers even more certain of Brian's divinity.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: When Brian asks his mother if she was raped by the Roman who was his father, she replies, "Well, at first, yes."
- Now Buy the Merchandise: During the fade-out of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," the Cheeky Man notes: "Incidentally this record is available in the foyer. Some of us have to got live as well, you know." Reportedly, the single really was on sale in the foyers of some cinemas.
- N-Word Privileges: Brian defends his Jewish pride by describing himself with every Jewish slur imaginable.
- Obfuscating Insanity: The two guards in charge of the prisoners for crucifixion. Although technically, only one of them is pretending to be insane-the other has a phony speech impediment:Centurion: Have they gone?
Insane Jailer: We've got lumps of it round the back.
Speech Impaired Jailer: Don't worry about him, he's mmm... he's mmm... (stomps) he's mad, sir!
Centurion: Have they gone? (gestures to indicate the prisoners)
Speech Impaired Jailer: Oh, yeah, ah nahh, nnnn, nnnn, nnn...
Insane Jailer: (starts laughing creepily)
(both jailers make peculiar measuring gestures)
Centurion: Oh, come on! (leaves in disgust)
Speech Impaired Jailer: ...Nnn ....yes, sir!
(both Jailers wait until the Centurion is safely out of earshot)
Speech Impaired Jailer: Anyway, get on with the story.
Insane Jailer: (in completely normal voice) Well, I just never really liked them, so I...
- Occupiers Out of Our Country: They only want the cruel but effective Romans to go home.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The spaceship prop's "exploding" mechanism was powered by exploding cigars and a lightbulb filament.
- Off on a Technicality: Since the Large Ham priest got stoned to death for saying "Jehovah," it's probably safe to say that the old prisoner is off the hook.
- Oh, Crap!:
- One of the guards' face screams of this when Pilate tells that Biggus Dickus "has a wife, you know". The extras playing the guards were told it was a serious scene and that if they laughed they'd be fired, so the reaction is most likely a real one.
- The Roman centurion (played by John Cleese) has prepared a speech for Pilate to read, taking into full account his speech impediment — and then Biggus Dickus, who has a huge lisp, takes over out of the blue. The centurion actually says "Oh no!" as Dickus snatches the scroll and all but buries his face in his hands.
- Only Sane Man:
- In as much as a Monty Python movie can be said to have a "sane" man, Brian usually fulfils this role. Of the Romans, the centurion played by John Cleese seems to be the only one with his head screwed on straight.
- The PFJ take it in turns to be the only sane man. Reg is the only one to realise the futility of fighting for Stan's right to do something which is biologically impossible anyway. But later it's Judith who points out that Brian will be killed if they don't stop debating with each other and take immediate action. (She is, of course, ignored.)
- In the stoning scene, the two Roman guards just watch the various hypocrisies, stupidities and chaotic scenes that go on with resigned looks on their faces.
- Open the Door and See All the People: With Male Frontal Nudity, no less.
- Paper-Thin Disguise
- During a stoning, all the women in the group are wearing fake beards in order to participate. There's even a vendor right outside the stoning grounds openly selling these beards.
- When Brian returns to the People's Front. Seriously, hiding under a rug? They do it a second time when the Romans come to search the headquarters for Brian. They then joke about it when they come back a third time-"You haven't given us time to hide!"
- Passion Play: Played for Laughs and Played With. Monty Python's Life of Brian is a comedy, so it shifts focus away from the brutal execution of Christ to a more humorous character named Brian, who was born in the manger next to Jesus's. Because of their proximity, Brian ends up being mistaken for the real Messiah and gets sentenced to crucifixion by the Romans. Only for those being crucified next to Brian begin whistling and singing "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" to cheer him up.
- Plummet Perspective: A hammer is seen plummeting from a tall tower, foreshadowing that Brian will fall from the same tower.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: "Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life" has become such a popular standard that some first time viewers will laugh when the characters sing this song in the film, because they assume the Pythons are simply covering a well known song. In reality it was completely written by Python member Eric Idle.
- The Prankster: The guy played by Eric Idle, titled as "Mr. Cheeky", is actually one, starting from igniting the whole "Big Nose" incident, and later dashed Brian's chance to be freed by claiming himself to be Brian for kicks."Bloody Romans, can't take a joke."
- Precision Crash: While being chased by Romans, Brian falls off of a tall building and into the cockpit of a passing alien spacecraft. It goes into space and has a dogfight with another ship. The other ship hits it, and it crash lands right back in Jerusalem at the feet of a local who had seen it pass by in the first place.
- Precision F-Strike: Brian uses the word only once in the film:Brian: Alright, I am the Messiah!
Worshipers: HE IS! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now... fuck off!
Worshipper: [Beat] How shall we fuck off, O Lord?
- Punny Name: Played With:
- Recursive Crossdressing: The stoning, in which the Pythons were men playing women pretending to be men.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: The Judean People's Front is plagued by these.
- La Résistance: The several groups to free Judea from the Romans, and how they suck at it.
- The People's Front of Judea (who are not the Judean People's Front) is a group Brian joins, mostly to get with Judith. The group discusses the horrible abuses by the Romans, but ends up admitting that the provide most of the technology they use.
- During an operation to kidnap Pilate's wife, the People's Front of Judea runs into another group, the Campaign for Free Galilee. The two groups immediately start fighting, and when Brian tries to convince them they have a common enemy, they both think of the Judean People's Front.
- When Brian is crucified the Judean People's Front arrives with a suicide squad. Unfortunately they are a bit too literal, as the squad immediately kill themselves upon arrival.
- The Popular Front of Judea has only one member.
- Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: The People's Front of Judea seems more intent in fighting with other Judean Liberation groups and discussion than actually doing anything.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: An extended example. What have the Romans ever done for us? It turns out, a lot of things, including the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, medicine, and more.
- Right on Queue: There is an orderly queue for people being crucified, as if it were nothing more than daily minor bureaucracy.
- Sadistic Choice: When Brian asks why Pilate wants to see him, the Centurion's reply is "I expect he wants to know which way up you want to be crucified".
- Secret Keeper: Discussed, Subverted and lampooned. Brian is mistaken for one when he does not finish his parable to the small crowd. Curious as to what he was going to say, people ask him what it was before they begin to think that it was a secret, then they think that it was some grand holy secret bestowed to him by a higher power, the crowd only becoming bigger and the claims more absurd before everyone coming to the conclusion that Brian is the messiah.
- Serious Business: Latin. Failure to recognize the difference between the Dative and the Locative will get a sword to your throat.
- Shown Their Work: They managed to get a lot of historical details right in the film, not surprising since a historian (Terry Jones) directed it.
- Brian being the bastard son of a Roman soldier in fact mirrors an ancient anti-Christian claim about Jesus, as found in the writings of Celsus and others.
- On a similar note to the above, the kind man who offers to share the weight of one prisoner's cross is a reference to Simon of Cyrene. Similar to Gnostic accounts, the prisoner then escapes and leaves the kind man to be crucified in his place.
- When it comes to the controversy about the film, it rapidly becomes clear that the Pythons know what they're talking about a lot more than the Moral Guardians do.
- The disparate Jewish sects agitating against the Romans really were as divided in real life as they were depicted to be in this film, and actually did more infighting than fighting against the Romans. Ultimately this meant that all three Jewish uprisings against the Romans failed precisely because We ARE Struggling Together, though the immense military strength of the Roman Empire didn't help either. John Cleese, a former Latin teacher, most likely knew enough about Roman history to know this.
- Speaking of John Cleese's history as a Latin teacher, naturally his centurion character's impromptu Latin lesson to Brian during the 'Romanes Eunt Domus' scene is spot on.
- Skewed Priorities: The Roman centurion doesn't appear to care about the treasonous content of Brian's graffiti, but he is violently angry about the sloppy grammar.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Pretty far on the cynical side in regards to its portrayal of modern organized religion, Moral Guardians, and society in general. That said, it's notable that the film ends with a song telling you to look on the bright side of life, even if it is a joke.
- Son of a Whore: Mandy provides... services... to the Roman guards, and she tells Brian that one of them resulted in his conception.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "Always look on the bright side of life!"
- Space Battle: During the scene where Brian accidentally falls into a UFO, he's treated to a quick battle before he gets dropped back off in Jerusalem.
- Speech Impediment: Pilate, as stated above in Elmer Fudd Syndrome. His subjects like to make fun of it by asking that he release prisoners named in such a way that would make them laugh (Roger, for instance). Biggus Dickus as well. He has Sylvester The Cat Syndrome, which causes problems when he lists the names of some of the actual prisoners (Samson the Saducee Strangler, Silas the Syrian Assassin, several seditious scribes from Caesarea...), which only makes the commoners laugh harder.Biggus Dickus: ...wath it thomething I thaid...?
- Spiritual Successor: The film has more than a few resemblances to Jabberwocky; a Monty Python-alumni film directed by Terry Gilliam about a man who is unwittingly swept up in the politics of the ignorant or insane people around him, repeatedly victimized, lionized and all-around abused by the absurd world that they live in.
- Spiteful Spit: The jailer spits on Brian, to the envy of another prisoner.Prisoner: Look at that! Bloody favouritism!
- Starfish Aliens: The giant eyeball-headed ones that rescue Brian when he falls off the tower.
- Stealth Pun:
- Possibly one when, Brian calls his father a "bastard" ... right after discovering that he, Brian, actually was one.
- Definitely a very stealthy one with the now-healed former leper asking for alms from Brian and his mother. The whole time the ex-leper is talking, he's skipping and hopping the entire time-a reference to a man healed in The Bible (although a cripple, not a leper) who after his healing "Went about walking and leaping".
- Stop Worshipping Me: Brian is continually Mistaken for the Messiah.
- Stupid Sacrifice:
- The "crack suicide squad" attempts to save Brian from crucifixion.
- Not by Brian himself, but his followers left him to die on the cross, so he could become a martyr.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life":Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble; give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best.
- Suicide Mission: Played for laughs by the "crack suicide squad". They show up at the crucifixion, their leader cries "Attack!" whereupon all of the members open a door on the chest of their armor, stab themselves and die at Brian's feet. "That showed 'em, huh?"
- Threat Backfire: The centurion tries to intimidate the old man who covers for the resistance movement by bringing up crucifixion-and gets very put out when the old man doesn't seem particularly fazed at all.
- Truth in Television: Roman-occupied Judea at the time depicted really was full of small religious sects, ecstatic prophets preaching on the streets and fragmented revolutionary groups.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Jesus managed to heal a leper (played by Michael Palin) of his leprosy. Still unemployed however, people are less willing to give an unemployed "ex-leper" change than they would a regular leper. He then complains about Brian not giving him much when he concedes and does give him money.Ex-Leper: Half a dinare for me bloody life story?
Brian: There's no pleasing some people.
Ex-Leper: That's just what Jesus said, sir.
- Ungrateful Townsfolk: In spite of everything the Romans have brought to Judea, some of the townsfolk still want them gone, multiple rebellion groups forming out of their hatred for the Romans (and each other). This is even hilariously lampshaded in the film.Reg: They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers' fathers... [and] what have they ever given us in return?
Xerxes: The aqueduct?
Xerxes: The aqueduct.
Reg: Oh yeah, yeah they did give us that. Yeah. That's true.
Masked Activist: And sanitation.
Stan: Oh yeah... sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.
Reg: All right, I'll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done...
Matthias: And the roads...
Reg: Well yes obviously the roads... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads—
Another Masked Activist: ...irrigation?
Other Masked voices: Medicine... Education... Health...
Reg: Yes... all right, fair enough...
Activist Near Front: ...and the wine...
Omnes: Oh yes! True
Francis: Yeah. That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.
Masked Activist At Back: Public Baths!
Stan: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now.
Francis: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order... let's face it, they're the only ones who could in a place like this!
[Everyone except Reg chuckles appreciatively]
Reg: All right... but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health... what have the Romans done for us?
Xerxes:... Brought peace.
Reg: [Dismissive] Oh, peace... shut up!
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When the Big-Lipped Alligator Moment during the flying saucer scene occurs, a man is watching Brian, standing nearby when the alien craft crashes. When Brian crawls out of the wreckage, he merely comments "You lucky bastard." Later, the Roman guards chasing him (that didn't fall off the tower) pass by the wreckage without batting an eye.
- Unwanted False Faith: The whole point of the film is that Brian gets mistaken for a messiah very much like Jesus, in spite of his every attempt to dissuade them.
- Verbal Tic: "Oh, don't worry about him sir, he's deeeaahhhh... he's deeeaahhhh..." It turns out he can speak perfectly normally, he just likes to fuck with the Romans.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The Trope Namer. This is a bit of a Genius Bonus: while any Brit could see the reference to the British Left in the late '70s (which was about to get much, much worse), the truth is that the actual Judaean rebels really were incredibly divided and often couldn't get it together enough to fight the Romans.
- What Have You Done for Me Lately?: "All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"."...Brought peace?"
"Oh, peace...shut up!"
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: The Judean's People's Front has a completely different accent from everyone else in the film. It's supposed to be a funny German accent, since the leader of the group, Otto, was originally going to be a parody of Adolf Hitler. All of the scenes setting this up were cut, so all that remains of the joke is their inexplicable accent.
- With Us or Against Us: The resistance groups spend more time fighting each other than fighting the Romans. Brian even calls them out on it.Brian: We should unite against our common enemy!
Others: The Judean People's Front?
Brian: No! The Romans!
- The X of Y: The title is the Life of Brian.
- Writing Lines: As the punchline to the "Latin Grammar" scene's parody of merciless Latin teachers, the centurion orders Brian to write out the corrected message ("Romani Ite Domum") on the walls of the palace 100 times before sunrise.
- You Make Me Sic: The graffiti correction scene.Centurion: "Romanes eunt domus? 'People called Romanes, they go the 'ouse?!'"