Time Bandits (1981) – Terry Gilliam

Back in 1981 or 1982, on a free Super Channel or First Choice weekend I received my first introduction to the cinematic stylings of Terry Gilliam with Time Bandits.

An odd, decidedly British science fiction adventure film, it is also one of the recommendations (following T2) as I return to the Action genre of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book.

Young Kevin’s (Craig Warnock) bedroom in his over-applianced home is seeing some strange activity. A group of travellers have crashed out of his closet with a stolen map that will let them travel through time and pull off any number of heists.

The group, composed of Randall (David Rappaport), Fidgit (Kenny Baker), Strutter (Malcolm Dixon), Og (Mike Edmonds), Wally (Jack Purvis) and Vermin (Tiny Ross) are on the run from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) and Kevin gets pulled into the action and temporal wandering.

Meeting fictional and factual characters like Robin Hood (John Cleese), King Agamemnon (Sean Connery), and Napoleon (Ian Holm). But all of this has been put in play by Evil (David Warner) who wants to get his hands on the map.

Filled with some high concepts paired with British humour, no surprise as the tale was written by Michael Palin and Gilliam, it’s an unusual film, but filled with lots of great moments as the thieves charm, steal, and trade biting remarks.

Over the years, I have seen this movie countless times, and I always get something new out of it each time, whether I catch some in the background, understand a piece of dialogue in a new way, or see something I have may have missed somehow, there is always something entertaining to the film.


I love that Micheal Palin and Shelley Duvall who keep popping up throughout time as doomed lovers Vincent and Pansy.

Gilliam knows how to balance a fanciful story with some sharp dialogue and outrageous moments. I quite like the bandits, and how often did we get to see Kenny Baker perform outside of an astromech costume?

The ending is a bit dark and leaves Kevin’s fate in question, but everything before that is great, and you can’t help but delight in a universe that sees Richardson as the Supreme Being and Warner as Evil. The casting for both roles, well, all the roles feels perfect.

The model work, as well as some of the matte work is nice, though both are rather obvious – they do not however detract from the sheer sense of fun that the film embodies. And that final confrontation with Evil is so much fun as the Bandits face off against their nemesis.

Watching Purvis, Rappaport and Baker steal scenes from one another is just great, but make sure you keep an eye out for a couple of appearances by Jim Broadbent!

This fanciful film still delights me, and it was a real joy to watch it again.

Do you remember this one?




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