st Graham Chapman as King Arthur with others in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(EMI Films)

A ‘Wafer-Thin’ Ranking of Monty Python’s Greatest Cinematic Achievements

For people who love quoting funny movies, Monty Python is, well … the Holy Grail.

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Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Carol Cleveland formed the comedy troupe Monty Python in 1969. This sextet of Oxford and Cambridge-educated comedians created groundbreaking work in sketch comedy over the next few decades, ushering in a new era of situational comedy.

The Pythons’ first show, Monty Python and the Flying Circus, aired from 1969 until 1974. The group also made five feature-length films during their time together:

  • And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
  • Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)
  • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into the six Monty Python films and rank them from our least to most favorite, or from “your arm’s off” to “’tis but a scratch,” if you prefer.

5. And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)

John Cleese sits at a desk on the beach
(Columbia-Warner Distributors)

The first film offering from Monty Python consists of rehashed sketches and animations from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, including fan favorites like “The Lumberjack Song,” “Nudge Nudge,” and “The Upper-Class Twit of the Year.” While it was fun to see some of their best sketches recreated for the big screen, the lack of new original material was boring for loyal British fans. This movie wasn’t really for them, though.

With Flying Circus poised to jump across the pond and start airing in the United States, And Now For Something Completely Different was intended to be a crash course for new American viewers to catch up.

4. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

The Grim Reaper appears before a table of diners at a restaurant
(Universal Pictures)

This full-length musical sketch comedy is one of my least favorite Monty Python offerings, even if it is the last movie ever to feature all six cast members. (Sadly, Graham Chapman passed away in 1989.) This film definitely has shining moments of sheer brilliance; unfortunately, it also features a few scenes that are just plain gross. From the highs, like the John Cleese-led banger “Every Sperm Is Sacred” and the hilariously awkward sex education scene that follows, to the lows, like the gluttonous Mr. Creosote exploding after just one more “wafer-thin” after dinner mint, there’s a lot going on in The Meaning of Life.

3. Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)

Eric Idle wearing a hat with corks dangling from the rim
(Columbia Pictures)

The Python’s fourth film is hilarious! Live at the Hollywood Bowl consists of snippets from a live performance by the full troupe in September 1980. It’s got a few never-before-seen sketches from German specials that never aired in the U.K. or the U.S., as well as supporting appearances by Carol Cleveland and musician Neil Innes. Some of our very favorite new sketches sprang from this live show, including the hilariously raunchy song, “Sit On My Face.”

With the 2024 Olympics coming up in Paris this summer, here’s a refresher on one of our favorite Monty Python sketches, “The Silly Olympics,” which first appeared in Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

2. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen of Nazareth
(Cinema International Corporation)

Life of Brian is one of Monty Python’s most beloved films, and with good reason! The premise alone is hilarious: A baby named Brian Cohan (played by Chapman) is born in the stable next to where Jesus of Nazareth is born, leading to a lifetime of confusion for everyone around them. Later on, Brian gets mistaken for the Messiah, shenanigans ensue, and the troupe skates on the edge of controversy … and blasphemy! By the time we’re listening to the incredibly catchy final strains of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” we know we’re watching a comedy classic.

1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

st Graham Chapman as King Arthur with others in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
(EMI Films)

We saved the real first, and arguably the best, for last! Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the troupe’s very first original movie that wasn’t just a collection of sketches, and it was an instant hit with both old and new fans. The story begins with King Arthur (Chapman) setting out on “horseback” (make that two coconuts being clapped together to sound like horseback), with his trusty squire Patsy (Gilliam) by his side, in search of the knights who will make up his round table. Arthur and his men are soon on the hunt for the holy grail, passing through various scenes from the early Middle Ages and enduring plague-riddled villages (“I’m not dead! I think I’ll go for a walk!”), battles with evil knights (“Tis but a flesh wound!”), and other vicious foes (“Killer bunnies!”).

There are too many funny parts to recount and far too many great lines to quote, which is why Holy Grail is my favorite Monty Python film of all time. You can watch it, along with episodes from the original series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, on Netflix.


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Author
Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She writes about pop culture, entertainment, and web memes, and has published a book or a funny day-to-day desk calendar about web humor every year for a decade. When not writing, she's listening to audiobooks or watching streaming movies under a pile of her very loved (spoiled) pets.