Time Bandits (1981)

time bandits poster 1981 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Interesting, fun movie with a crazy story

Leaves you wanting to know what happened next

Movie Info

Movie Name: Time Bandits

Studio: HandMade Films

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Comedy/Family

Release Date(s): November 6, 1981

MPAA Rating: PG

time bandits jolly good robin hood john cleese david rappaport

“Jolly Good”

A young boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who is ignored by his technology obsessed parents suddenly finds himself on an adventure when a group of little men come out of his wardrobe.  With a map of the universe, Kevin and his new friends jump from time-to-time in search of treasure…whether Kevin wants to or not!  As the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) pursues the group, Evil (David Warner) hatches a plot to capture the map and destroy the universe himself.

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits was a sci-fi fantasy comedy written by Gilliam and his other Monty Python alum Michael Palin and financed by George Harrison (who performed “Dream Away” for the movie).   The film was released to critical acclaim and was a box-office success.  The film received a Criterion edition (Criterion #37).

I saw this movie in the theater as a kid and as a kid it both terrified and fascinated me.  Unlike Star Wars which was rather benign, Time Bandits wasn’t afraid to be a bit scary…and as a kid a little bit of fear goes a long way.  The fond memories combined with a smart script has allowed Time Bandits to hold on as a solid (and fun) fantasy film of the ’80s.

time bandits agamemnon sean connery craig warnock

My name is Memnon…Agamemnon.

Gilliam’s Monty Python roots often surface in this movie.  The slapstick, the animation, and how the interaction of the bandits all feels like a Monty Python sketch.  Plus, the Monty Python-esque movements, sound effects, and over-the-top characters make a movie with a generally “real” plot surreal in its presentation.

Time Bandits benefits from a great cast which actually overachieved.  When describing Agamemnon in the script, they wanted a “Sean Connery type” and ended up with Sean Connery playing the Greek king.  Likewise other actors including Ian Holmes (as Napoleon), Ralph Richardson (as the Supreme Being), and David Warner (as Evil), elevate what could have easily been a weak cast to something more.  This is added to strong acting by the Time Bandits to bring out their characters and nice turn by Craig Warnock as Kevin who is drawn into it all.  Other stars making appearances include Monty Python alum John Cleese (as Robin Hood), Peter Vaughnan and Katherine Helmond (as the ogre and his wife), Shelley Duvall and another Monty Python Alum Michael Palin (as star-crossed lovers Pansy and Vincent) and Jim Broadbent (as the TV game show host).

time bandits evil david warner

Nope…nothing terrifying about these guys

With a strong cast comes a really bizarre script which does a great job scaring kids but also being fun.  It has a very Roald Dahl feel where bad things can happen, but for some reason it still feels ok.  Hints throughout the movie that the adventure is all in Kevin’s dream, are negated at the end by the appearance of Evil, Sean Connery playing a dual role as a fireman, and the pictures of his adventures.  It also leaves with the bizarre death of his parents and everyone just leaving him…which was kind of freaky as a kid when abandonment is often a childhood fear.

Time Bandits is a strange, fun, scary kids’ movie.  It might even be rated PG-13 nowadays with some of the creepy factor, but it definitely cements itself in kids under the age of 13 (Kevin’s supposed to be about 11).  If you’ve never seen Time Bandits, be prepared for a trippy movie, and if you have seen it, revisit it to remember what might have scared you as a child.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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