Alternate Aesop Interpretation: The moral of the story is obviously about letting go of one's childhood. Not to mention that Life Isn't Fair and complaining won't help your situation. However, fans seem to think there's something else there. Most fans seem to think it's about the one-sided love story around Jareth and Sarah. A lot of people have created fan works dedicated to this "romantic" movie. When you watch it, what really comes to mind? Do you view this as a man trying to make the girl he loves happy, but is constantly rejected? Or do you view this as a young girl trying to fix a mistake she made and growing up during her journey?
As an extension of the growing-up Sarah does over the course of the film, part of what she has to realize is that sometimes, it's just not fair. The situation you're in puts you at a disadvantage, and although you may not be able to change your situation, you are able to choose how you handle it. To declare "You have no power over me" is directly rejecting Jareth's manipulations and tyranny, and sets the tone for Sarah's independence from her parents.
It can also be interpreted as a direct subversion of the typical coming-of-age moral, because Sarah admits at the end that she still does need her imaginary friends by her side. Growing up doesn't mean rejecting everything you loved as a child just because you were a child when you came to love it, growing up means learning to love those things as an adult.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Sarah's father and stepmother. The movie wants us to think that Sarah's just being a brat in need of some growing up, but her stepmother doesn't seem to think much of her to begin with (implying she takes Sarah for granted because she's a loner, and tattling to Dad when Sarah objects to it), and her father seems either oblivious or apathetic to the obvious difficulties Sarah's having. Return to Labyrinth seems to go with this in the case of the stepmother, given that the now-teenaged Toby is having his own problems with her.
What about Jareth? Is he a tragic villain who wants a family of his own or is he a Manipulative Bastard who was bored and wanted to mess with Sarah? Or is he just one of the Fair Folk, acting according to the Blue-and-Orange Morality of being a faerie king? Or was his villainy just a facade to teach Sarah a lesson?
Alternatively, Sarah is Genre Savvy and knows the story she's got herself into, so she figures she just has to play it out and there's no time for dilly-dallying.
Alternatively, it's All Just a Dream and she's running with the absurdity the way we all do when we dream.
Best Known for the Fanservice: In this case, "Best Known For David Bowie's Pants". They probably exaggerate a little, but this is the reason most anyone remembers this movie if they aren't part of the fanbase. Either that or Jennifer Connelly looking very nice in that white princess dress she wears at the beginning. Or the Pimped-Out Dress from the ball scene later.
According to the "Making Of" documentary, the scene basically came about because Brian Froud, the guy who designed all the goblins, doodled the Fireys in his sketch book, took a liking to them, and then wanted to see what they could get away with doing using Blue Screen technology.
Cult Classic: The film grossed $12.7 million on a $25 million budget and was savaged by critics, but has since gained this status. Also it has something to do with David Bowie.
Draco in Leather Pants: Jareth stole a baby, tried to bribe its older sister into forgetting about it, and tried to stop her numerous times when she went into the Labyrinth to rescue it, but you'll be hard pressed to find any fangirl who acknowledges that (or, for that matter, anyone who doesn't treat the Foe Yay subtext as canonical). He's a Draco in Leather Pants in the movie, too; VERY tight leather pants!
Jim Henson was devastated by the movie's lack of success at the box office, because the project was so emotionally close with him. The fact that he never lived to see it become the beloved cult classic it is now only seems to rub salt in the wound. However, it's worth noting that his son did inform him, towards the end of his life, that this and The Dark Crystal were gaining appreciation in cult status.
Jareth apparently having the hots for 16-year-old Sarah, since, shortly after Bowie's death, accusations of him sleeping with underaged groupies resurfaced.
Although this is not so much of an awkward and unfortunate problem in Bowie's native UK, where the age of consent is 16.
The above point ends up tying into another case of this as well regarding the movie's production. Before Bowie was picked for the role, one of the musicians considered was Michael Jackson, who himself would be accused of molesting underage teenage boys three times in the proceeding decades. While a 2005 trial by jury and a decade-long FBI investigation would eventually exonerate Jackson, it's widely agreed upon that had he actually taken up the role of Jareth, it might've been even more difficult for him to tackle the molestation claims. What's more, the fact that the third round of accusations occurred well after said trial and investigation faded from the public consciousness makes this point of trivia even more awkward to deal with.
At one point Jareth calls Hoggle "Hogger", which can be pretty hilarious to a viewer who's a World of Warcraft fan.
Also, the line "The excitement of David Bowie" from the trailer takes a whole new meaning now that his crotch has gone memetic.
George Lucas and the Jim Henson company collaborating on a film, considering fifteen years later Farscape would basically be "The Jim Henson Company does the Star Wars Cantina scene every week", and that it would be evicted from its Australian studios so Attack of the Clones could be filmed.
Magnificent Bastard: Jareth the Goblin King is a charismatic, manipulative goblin. First summoned by heroine Sarah, Jareth kidnaps her baby brother to lure her to him, spending the film manipulating the rest of the cast and tricking Sarah into eating an enchanted peach to make her more susceptible to his influence. Jareth shows a genuine care for Sarah, even if he is not above ruthlessly manipulating her and everyone else in the film, but never loses his sense of charm, flamboyance and friendliness, who even seems to care for the child he kidnaps upon her sister's rash wish.
Every mention of Labyrinth will almost invariably make mention of "The Area". Including singing adapted lyrics to "Magic Dance" (Pants magic pants! You remind me of the bulge...).
Here's one that predates the Internet: Go into any group of nerds and say;
Jareth: You remind me of the babe. Chorus: What babe? Jareth: The babe with the power. Chorus: What power? Jareth: The power of Voodoo. Chorus: Who do? Jareth: You do. Chorus: Do what? Jareth: Remind me of the babe!
Narm: Those who aren't turned on by Bowie's costume choices is laughing at it instead. Or probably both.
Sarah's overt, dramatic and sincere invocation for the Goblin King to whisk her baby brother away is such a weirdly specific thing to ask for that she almost has no business being shocked when it works.
Jareth's line, "Nothing, tra la la?" is either this or intentionally funny.
Sarah's line "Come on, feet" when she sets off for the labyrinth. Who says that?
Narm Charm: Jareth's pants are chuckle-worthy, but they're so ingrained with him that it won't be Jareth without them.
Nightmare Fuel: While The Dark Crystal has disturbingly realistic violence and alien creatures, Labyrinth goes into Surreal HorrorUncanny Valley with surreal David Bowie faces, Body Horror Fireys, the eerie ballroom scene with the grotesque masks, and almost everything being alive. Even half of the soundtrack sounds like something out of a horror movie.
The scene with the "Fireys"note Which includes the "Chilly Down" number — ya know, those fuzzy pink things that routinely decapitated and amputated themselves and others for fun — is notorious for having unusually bad Blue Screen special effects, even for its time. This is weird considering how good the special effects were in the rest of the movie. Now wispy fuzzy semi-translucent fringes are about the most difficult possible item to chroma-key, but it hasn't been remedied at all in "remastered" DVD releases. (That said, though they were far from the awesome advances we have now, it's pretty good for a bunch of puppeteers in black velvet suits.)
The child switches from a real baby to a doll a few times in "Magic Dance". note We should hope so! It gets thrown thirty feet in the air and caught by a puppet!
During the confrontation with Humongous (the giant robot guarding the entrance to the goblin city) Ambrosius runs off to hide behind a rock and brushes against the "metal" spikes behind the group that sprang up just beforehand. They visibly wobble indicating they are actually soft rubber.
In that same scene, Ambrosius is clearly a puppet in some shots.
So Bad, It's Good: Not the movie itself, which is a cult classic on its own. But Jennifer Connelly's acting requires either very thick Nostalgia Goggles or an appreciation for the camp value of her breathless, melodramatic performance. Connelly herself claims to have never watched the film due to how embarrassed she is by it.
Sarah is a frustrated, insecure fifteen year old whose stepmom she already has a mutually difficult time relating to acts as though Sarah doesn't deserve respect for not dating. This can be painful to see if you were in the same boat as a teen.
Jareth's strangely somber demeanor during his climactic confrontation with Sarah, which forms a huge part of his appeal as it seems there must be some kind of deep emotional issues behind it.
Hoggle lamenting in the junkyard about how he betrayed Sarah. It's especially sad when we see how Jareth torments him and how it's implied he never had any friends before Sarah.
Awwww, how can you hate the lovable little goblins?
Ludo is especially adorable.
The Worm looks like a miniature Jabba the Hutt, but he's so nice and endearing that it's hard not to like him.
The Fire Gang can be adorable if you can get past their grotesqueness and habit of taking themselves apart.
Vanilla Protagonist: Like a classic fairy tale, this story is less about Sarah and more about the supernatural world she travels through and the supernatural creatures she meets.
Vindicated by Cable: The movie was a huge flop in 1986, a time when family-oriented films generally struggled to find audiences, despite several extremely positive reviews. Once it hit VHS and cable, its fandom grew to the point that it's one of rights-holder Sony's most popular films on DVD.
WTH, Costuming Department?: What is with all Jareth's costumes? Pragmatism. He's played by David Bowie. Bear in mind that before The Lord of the Rings shattered the Fantasy Movie Ghetto Age, directors and writers of fantasy movies were desperate for any Periphery Demographic they could find. SqueeingFangirls were willing to pay to see David Bowie in tights. Also, it sort of went with David Bowie's style. If you're going to cast David Bowie, may as well use him in a way you know works.
Funnily enough, Jareth's outfits were tamer than Bowie's usual stage attire.