Ever since its release in 1979, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” has been considered a controversial movie.
The plot involves a man named Brian Cohen, played by Graham Chapman, being mistaken for the Messiah. People think that the movie mocks religion, but it is actually more nuanced.
The film is directed by Terry Jones and was written by and stars John Cleese, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin. The film was shot in Monastir, Tunisia in order to reuse sets from the 1977 film “Jesus of Nazareth”, (dir. Franco Zeffirelli)..
Brian is a young Jewish man who resents the Roman occupation of Judea. He joins a Jewish resistance group called the “People’s Front of Judea”, which he initially thinks is the “Judean People’s Front”, a group that is hated by the group he joins.
The satire used by the Monty Python crew here is fantastic. The two resistance groups hate each other even though they want to accomplish the same goal. The only thing they seem to disagree about is the name.
The resistance group plots to kidnap the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate’s wife, and Brian gets captured. Brian manages to escape the guards and hides from them in plain sight as he pretends to be a preacher. Brian’s trouble switches from the guards chasing him when those who were listening to his sermon start following him blindly.
The people in the group think that Brian is the Messiah and begin to chase after him. When they find him, he tells them to go away and that he is not the Messiah, but the people do not listen.
The congregation of people pretend that they are listening to Brian, but they do not put his teachings into practice. Brian tells them that they do not have to follow anyone and they should think for themselves. The congregation says they agree but then pleads for him to lead them more.
A lot of the controversy from the movie comes from how people think that it is mocking religion. This movie does not mock religion at all, but instead mocks fundamentalism and hypocrisy. The film calls out the hypocrisy that any organization can have in a hilarious fashion.
During the beginning of the movie, a man is sentenced to be stoned to death for saying, “Jehovah.” The priest leading the stoning ends up saying, “Jehovah,” as well and gets stoned instead of the man in a very comedic scene that has aged well.
Sadly, not all of the movie has aged well. There is a scene in the movie that mocks transgender people. The transphobia in the movie brings down the quality in what is otherwise a very funny and great movie.
The satire in the movie is mostly good, as it comedically exposes the hypocrisy that is not just present in religion but also in political organizations. The main message of the movie is to think for yourself, a message that I agree with.
Nico Brazill can be contacted at