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Time Bandits

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Title: Time Bandits  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Terry Gilliam, HandMade Films, David Rappaport, List of film director and actor collaborations, Ian Holm
Collection: 1980S Adventure Films, 1980S Comedy Films, 1980S Fantasy Films, 1980S Science Fiction Films, 1981 Films, British Adventure Films, British Comedy Films, British Fantasy Films, British Films, British Science Fiction Films, Depictions of Napoleon on Film, Dwarves in Popular Culture, English-Language Films, Fantasy Adventure Films, Films About Rms Titanic, Films Based on Greco-Roman Mythology, Films Directed by Terry Gilliam, Films Set in Ancient Greece, Films Set in the United Kingdom, Films Shot in Morocco, Films Shot in the United Kingdom, God Portrayed in Fiction, Handmade Films, Independent Films, Religious Comedy Films, Robin Hood Films, Screenplays by Michael Palin, Screenplays by Terry Gilliam, Time Travel Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Time Bandits

Time Bandits
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Produced by Terry Gilliam
Written by Terry Gilliam
Michael Palin
Starring John Cleese
Sean Connery
Shelley Duvall
Craig Warnock
Katherine Helmond
Ian Holm
Michael Palin
Ralph Richardson
Peter Vaughan
David Warner
Music by Mike Moran
Songs by George Harrison
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Edited by Julian Doyle
Distributed by Avco Embassy Pictures
Release dates
  • 6 November 1981 (1981-11-06)
Running time
113 min.[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $5 million[2]
Box office $42,365,581

Time Bandits is a 1981 British fantasy film co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam, and starring Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, David Warner, and Craig Warnock.

Gilliam has referred to Time Bandits as the first in his "Trilogy of Imagination", followed by Brazil (1985) and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).[3] All are about the "craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible."[4] All three films focus on these struggles and attempts to escape them through imagination: Time Bandits, through the eyes of a child, Brazil, through the eyes of a man in his thirties, and Munchausen, through the eyes of an elderly man.[4]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • Characters 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Eleven-year-old Kevin has a vivid imagination and is fascinated by history, particularly Ancient Greece; his parents ignore his activities, having become more obsessed with buying the latest household gadgets to keep up with their neighbours. One night, as Kevin is sleeping, an armoured knight on a horse bursts out of his wardrobe. Kevin is scared and hides as the knight rides off into a forest setting where once his bedroom wall was; when Kevin looks back out, the room is back to normal and he finds one of his photos on the wall similar to the forest he saw. The next night he prepares a satchel with supplies and a Polaroid camera, but is surprised when six dwarves spill out of the wardrobe. Kevin quickly learns the group has stolen a large, worn map, and are looking for an exit from Kevin's room before they are discovered. They find that Kevin's bedroom wall can be pushed, revealing a long hallway. Kevin is hesitant to join until the visage of a menacing head – the Supreme Being – appears behind them, demanding the return of the map. Kevin and the dwarves fall into an empty void at the end of the hallway.

They land in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. As they recover, Kevin learns that Randall is the lead dwarf of the group composed of Fidgit, Strutter, Og, Wally, and Vermin. They were once employed by the Supreme Being to repair holes in the spacetime fabric, but instead realized the potential to use the map to steal riches. With the map and Kevin's help, they visit several locations in spacetime, and meet figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood; Kevin uses his camera to document their visits. They are unaware, however, that their activities are being monitored by Evil, a malevolent sorcerer, who is able to manipulate reality and is attempting to acquire the map himself so that he can remake the universe to his design.

Through Evil's actions, Kevin becomes separated from the group and ends up in Mycenaean Greece, meeting King Agamemnon. After Kevin inadvertently helps Agamemnon kill a minotaur, the king adopts him as his own son, something that Kevin is content with. Randall and the others soon locate Kevin and abduct him, much to his resentment, and escape through another hole, arriving on the ill-fated RMS Titanic. After it sinks, they are forced to tread water while they argue among each other. Evil manipulates the group and transports them to his realm, the Time of Legends. The dwarves locate the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, and are led to believe that "The Most Fabulous Object in the World" awaits them, luring them into Evil's trap. Evil takes the map and locks the group into a cage over an apparent bottomless pit. While looking through the Polaroids he took, Kevin finds one that includes the map, and the group realises there are numerous holes in the Fortress they can use to recruit help to fight Evil. They make quick work of escaping from the cage and set their plan into motion.

Though they far outnumber Evil, Evil's powers quickly defeat all of the allied forces, because the conventional weapons and methods of war they use were all under the control of Evil in the first place. As Kevin and the dwarves cower, Evil prepares to unleash his ultimate power. Suddenly, he is turned into stone and explodes; from the smoke, an elderly, well-dressed figure emerges, revealed as the true form of the Supreme Being. He reveals that he allowed the dwarves to borrow His map and the whole adventure had been a test of His creation, noting that Evil 'turned out rather well'. He orders the dwarves to collect all the pieces of concentrated Evil, warning that they can be deadly if not contained, recovers the map and allows the dwarves to rejoin him in his creation duties. The Supreme Being disappears with the dwarves, leaving Kevin stranded behind as a missed piece of concentrated Evil begins to smoulder.

Kevin passes out and awakes in his bedroom to find it filled with smoke. Firefighters break down the door and rescue him as they put out a fire in his house. One of the firemen finds that his parents' new toaster oven caused the fire. As Kevin recovers, he finds one of the firemen resembles Agamemnon and discovers that he still has the photos from his adventure. Kevin's parents discover a smouldering rock in the toaster oven. Recognising it as a piece of Evil, Kevin warns them not to touch it. Ignoring him, they touch it then explode, leaving two piles of ash. Kevin tentatively approaches the smoking ash and is seen from above as his figure grows smaller, the camera pulling back to reveal the planet and then outer space, before being rolled up in the map by the Supreme Being.



Dream Away" especially for this film. He is credited, together with Denis O'Brien, as being one of the executive producers of the film.[5]


Time Bandits received critical acclaim and grossed over US$40 million on a budget of $5 million (£2.2 million).[6]

As discussed in a DVD interview with Palin and Gilliam, the film came out in the fall season (after the blockbuster summer films, but before the hit Christmas season) and became extremely successful at the U.S. box office, grossing $42.4 million, and making the film Gilliam's breakthrough hit in the U.S.[7]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 92% rating based on 39 reviews, averaging an 8/10; the consensus states: "Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe."[8]


In his book Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility, Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse, Robert Hewison describes the dwarfs as a comment on the Monty Python troupe. The nice one, Fidgit, is said to represent Palin; the self-appointed leader, Randall, Cleese; the acerbic one, Strutter, Eric Idle; the quiet one, Og, Graham Chapman; the noisy rebel, Wally, Terry Jones; and the nasty, filth-loving one, Vermin, Gilliam himself.[9]


  1. ^ (A)"TIME BANDITS".  
  2. ^ Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro 2003, p 40
  3. ^ Matthews, Jack (1996). "Dreaming Brazil" essay accompanying The Criterion Collection DVD
  4. ^ a b Matthews, Jack (1996). "Dreaming Brazil" (essay accompanying The Criterion Collection DVD release).
  5. ^ George Harrison at IMDB
  6. ^ Alexander Walker, Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984-2000, Orion Books, 2005 p12
  7. ^ Time Bandits at
  8. ^ "Time Bandits".  
  9. ^ Hewison, Robert. Monty Python: The Case Against. Heinemann Educational Books, 1989. ISBN 0-413-48660-5

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