Terry Gilliam has a long and illustrious career in the film industry, having been nominated for four Oscars (winning two) and directing notable films such as Brazil, The Fisher King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
One of his more recent ventures was co-directing The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with Tony Grisoni.
What makes Terry Gilliam one of the best directors?
Well, he has an amazing eye for detail that brings worlds to life on screen as no other director can do.
He also is able to create stories that are both dark yet humorous at the same time which is rare for any filmmaker to be able to accomplish.
His creative vision is what sets him apart from many other directors!
In 1995 he was given an Academy Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for his work on 12 Monkeys.
His work can be described as a dark comedy with surrealistic elements that make you question what is real or not.
Best Terry Gilliam Movies
In this guide, we will explore some of Terry Gilliam’s best movies!
The film Brazil (1985) is a dystopian satire by Terry Gilliam. The film’s complex plot follows the protagonist Sam Lowry as he battles the bureaucratic forces of an oppressive society, first to save his mother and then to try and find love.
The movie has been praised for its visuals, art design, music score, screenplay, and direction.
It was nominated for Academy Awards in twelve categories at the 1987 Oscars but did not win any awards.
However, it won four British Academy Film Awards from eight nominations including Best Direction for Terry Gilliam.
While some critics have called it too long or slow-paced, many others praise it as a “sublime” masterpiece that is “intensely powerful”.
The movie is a satirical commentary on the life of an everyman in a dystopian society.
The protagonist, Sam Lowry, has the privilege of working for his government’s Ministry of Information and also lives with his mother and sister Jill.
His world begins to unravel after he accidentally intercepts an important message from rebel forces threatening to overthrow the current regime.
It stars Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry, Kim Greist as Jill, Robert De Niro as Harry Tuttle (a vandal who targets billboards), Michael Palin as Mr. Helpmann (a television presenter).
12 Monkeys (1995)
12 Monkeys is a 1995 film by Terry Gilliam that follows the story of James Cole, played by Bruce Willis.
The movie begins with Cole being sent back in time from 2035 to 1990 as he searches for clues to stop an organization known as “The Army of the 12 Monkeys”.
Without giving too much away, let me say that it does not disappoint. You can’t go wrong with Bruce Willis playing a badass protagonist who takes down evil corporations while saving humanity!
Also starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt, this is a gripping tale of time travel that follows James Cole (Willis) as he travels back to 1997 from 2035 in order to stop a virus that will eventually kill 5 billion people.
The Fisher King (1991)
The Fisher King (1991) is a dark comedy-drama directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Jeff Bridges as an arrogant radio DJ who must overcome his own arrogance and greed to redeem himself in order to heal the world’s wounds.
The film explores themes of causality, greed, sanity, and redemption which are explored through metaphysical themes such as legends and mythology.
The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Jeter), and Best Writing-Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard LaGravenese).
The film tells the story of Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), an arrogant, egotistical, and selfish radio shock jock who is sent to find and bring back his estranged friend from New York City, Parry aka The Holy Grail.
After finding Parry in the city, he finds out that he has become homeless after being fired for drinking on the job.
Jack takes it upon himself to find him housing at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital where he meets another patient named David Prentice (Robin Williams).
Together they help each other through their struggles with alcoholism as well as depression, finally becoming friends in the process.
The movie ends with both of them drunk while watching television together.
BEST TERRY GILLIAM MOVIES
Who Is Terry Gilliam?
Terry Gilliam is the director of such films as Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Brazil, and Twelve Monkeys.
He was born in Minnesota on November 22nd, 1940 to a family of dairy farmers. His parents were strict Catholics who never let him watch TV or go to movies.
When he graduated from high school at age 17, Terry decided that he wanted to be an animator because it would allow him to draw every day for a living.
Tideland is a 2005 film written and directed by Terry Gilliam. It tells the story of a girl named Jeliza-Rose who lives with her father in an abandoned fishing village.
The two are self-sufficient, living off the land and what they can salvage from shipwrecks; however, their world begins to unravel when two strangers (a drifter and a social worker) arrive on their doorstep.
Tideland’s surrealistic dreamscape explores such themes as abandonment, isolation, survivalism, unspoken love between parent and child, innocence lost too soon, and the power of storytelling itself.
Told largely without dialogue – only sound effects or nonverbal noises like grunts or screams – it relies heavily on its visuals…
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards at the 78th Academy Awards:
- Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Connelly’s performance as Jeliza’s deranged but loving mother, and
- Best Cinematography for Nicola Pecorini’s work on this unusual project.
The film was originally planned as an animated movie for adults but it took so long to produce that the studio decided to release it in live-action format instead.
It follows the story of a 12-year-old girl who lives with her father on an island where she spends her time making up stories about how things used to be there before they moved in.
The main character often daydreams about pirates coming from their home at tideland (which is also the name of the movie) and attacking them or being taken away by people dressed in black who are looking for someone else.
The way the movie is filmed makes it seem like she has been living this life for years and her innocence has been captured by the camera lens.
One of the first and most popular films to be made in 3D, Jabberwocky is a 1977 British-American fantasy film.
It was directed by Terry Gilliam and written by him with fellow Monty Python member Terry Jones, who stars as Dennis Cooper.
The cast also includes Alan Rickman, Michael Palin, John Le Mesurier, Graham Chapman, Eleanor Bron, and James Aubrey.
This groundbreaking movie has been called one of the most bizarre films ever made – punks may find it amusing but some parents will think twice before letting their kids see it!
The film is a surreal and dark comedy about the adventures of Alice, played by Terry Jones.
The plot follows her as she goes through a series of fantastical scenarios that are all dreamt up from Lewis Carroll’s famous poem “The Jabberwocky.
A sampling of scenes includes an animated chessboard with knights battling each other, an upside-down tea party where everyone is drinking out of their shoes and the Mad Hatter is shooting the guests with machine guns.
This cult classic was directed by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam who also co-wrote it along with Michael Palin and John Cleese.
The movie was written by Dennis Potter with input from Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
It is often considered one of their most successful films outside of comedy sketches on TV or in theaters, but it has received mixed reviews since its release.
Critics found the plot weak and incoherent while others lauded it for its visual effects. Some have even called it one of the best movies ever made due to its creativity and imagination.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) was originally slated to be released in 1998 but due to production issues, it was never finished.
After 20 years of waiting, the movie finally premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 19th, 2018.
This film is not only notable for its long-awaited release but also because it stars Adam Driver who plays Toby – a man who finds himself caught up in the world of Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote.
The story revolves around Toby Grisoni, a marketing executive who returns to Spain for work after his wife has an affair with another man.
There he meets an advertising salesman named Johnny Depp who tells him about his goal of becoming a famous writer by writing the sequel to Cervantes’ novel “Don Quixote”.
Along his journey, he meets people who try to talk him out of searching any further for this man because they believe that he will be disappointed when they meet again.
The movie is both funny and serious at times but overall it paints a picture of how one can never give up on their dreams no matter what life throws at them!
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)
The movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) is a dark comedy that follows the story of Hunter S. Thompson, a journalist who has gone to Las Vegas with his lawyer to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated magazine.
The two get caught up in drugs, alcohol, and gambling during their stay which leads them on an unforgettable journey.
The film was directed by Terry Gilliam and stars Johnny Depp as Thompson’s alter ego Raoul Duke and Benicio Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo.
The film was released 20 years after Thompson first published his novel about this real-life experience with a major difference: it is much more brutal than the book because it includes scenes of violence not included in the original texts.
However, they become sidetracked when their recreational use of drugs leads them on an odyssey through various parts of Nevada that leaves them stripped naked, appalled at what they have done to themselves, running from the law across the desert landscape.
The film also stars Bill Murray, Michael Jeter, Gary Busey, Cameron Mitchell, Sam Elliot, and Flea playing himself.
It follows Duke’s search for the American Dream in Las Vegas (the “savage west”), which he finds to be an oasis of freedom that enables him to break free from his ongoing personal problems back home in Los Angeles (another savage jungle).
Alongside this theme are also the dangers of excess drugs; alcohol; sex; greed; violence…
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life (1983)
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life (1983) is a film about the meaning of life.
It has been praised by critics and fans alike for its ability to make such a monumental question into an entertaining, albeit absurdist, a story that still manages to provide some insight into the answer.
The movie is divided up into several sections which address various aspects of human existence: birth, growing up, school years, working life, and death.
A lot of jokes are made at religion’s expense as well as other popular ideologies such as capitalism or communism in order to point out their inherent flaws.
There are also many funny moments that have nothing to do with the theme but only serve as relief from it all.
Yet despite these comedic elements film is not only a hilarious comedy but also an insightful analogy for life.
In the movie, there are six different segments that each represent one part of life:
- and what might come afterward.
This is clearly shown in the opening sequence where we see a baby being born and then growing up to be an adult who has kids of his own.
While this is just my interpretation of the meaning behind this classic film (Monty Python), it leaves me feeling satisfied with how they managed to tie everything together in such a creative way.
The movie’s title derives from a phrase used in one of John Lennon’s early books to sum up his philosophical point:
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1988)
Baron Munchausen is a 1988 British-American film based on the classic adventure novel by Rudolf Erich Raspe.
It was directed and co-written by Terry Gilliam, who also co-wrote Brazil (1985).
The film stars John Neville as the eponymous Baron, Eric Idle as Dr. Pangloss, Uma Thurman in her feature debut as Princess Ida of Saxe-Meningen, with Robin Williams playing six roles including the three spirits that visit Munchausen during his recuperation from illness: Death (the Grim Reaper), Time and Fate.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen tells the story of the life of baron Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Münchhausen (John Neville), from his earliest childhood exploits through to his political career in Russia.
He’s a man of many talents. He can turn his hands into anything he desires, but when the time comes for him to defend himself, he always has an answer.
His enemies are terrified and admire him at the same time. Baron Munchausen is one hell of a guy!
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1988) tells the story of this intriguing character as he travels around Europe with his sidekick friend Rudolf Erwin von Kleist in order to save Prince Karl from imminent danger.
The film was written by Terry Jones who also stars alongside Alan Rickman and Uma Thurman.
The film was inspired by the book The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which is based on stories about Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Münchhausen, a Bavarian cavalry officer in Russian service.
Baron Munchausen’s adventures are often connected with nineteenth-century French literature and the French Revolution.
He claims to have fought against Napoleon Bonaparte for six years under the command of Charles XII of Sweden …
Time Bandits (1981)
“Time Bandits” is a 1981 British film, which tells the story of six-time travelers on a quest to steal treasure from medieval England.
The movie stars Sean Connery and John Cleese as well as an ensemble cast of actors who portray different characters throughout history.
“Time Bandits” is made up of three stories that are intertwined with each other.
They include: King Agamemnon’s (played by Shelley Duvall) pursuit for his stolen golden fleece; Robin Hood’s battle against Prince John (played by Ian Holm); and Kevin’s journey through time to find the rest of the bandit crew after being separated from them in France during Napoleon Bonaparte’s ill-fated invasion.
The story involves an 11-year-old boy who joins a group of time-traveling dwarves led by the charismatic Kevin, on a quest to steal treasure from various points in history.
It’s up to team leader Kevin (played by John Cleese) and the rest of his motley crew – including “archaeologist” Ian Holm – to stop this historical meddling before it destroys life as we know it!
With the help of three dwarfs (a parodic version of The Seven Dwarves), he journeys through time looking for treasure to save himself and his family.
The film was nominated at the 1982 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects.
The Legend of Hallowdega (2010)
The Legend of Hallowdega is a 2010 black comedy-fantasy mockumentary short film, directed by Terry Gilliam from a screenplay by Aaron Bergeron.
The film stars David Arquette and Justin Kirk, and features appearances by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Darrell Waltrip.
The host of an investigative news show joins forces with a techno-geek paranormal expert to dodge close-calls and chase crazy leads to get to the bottom of the mysteries around Talladega Superspeedway.
The Wholly Family (2011)
It is a 2011 Italian short fantasy film written and directed by Terry Gilliam.
The film was funded by the Garofalo Pasta Company and shot in the Naples area.
Jake, a ten-year-old boy, is on holiday with his bickering parents in Naples. Jake asks them to buy him a Pulcinellafigure from a street stall, but they refuse. Jake’s father tells him a piece of local Naples lore: buying a figure for oneself will bring bad luck – good luck can be found only by stealing one.
While his parents continue to argue over trivial affairs, Jake sneaks away and attempts to steal the figure.
The stallholder catches Jake in the act and directs him instead of towards a series of glass bell jars containing models of the idealized Holy Family.
Before Jake can make a purchase, his mother arrives, furious at her son’s disappearance. After another argument with Jake’s father, the family leaves to return to their hotel. The stallholder, noticing that Jake has stolen one of the figures, smiles.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
The Brothers Grimm (2005) is a film adaptation of the fairy tale collection that features two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm.
The story follows the pair as they make their way from Germany to France in order to find out why children are going missing and what it has to do with them.
They eventually learn that there is an evil presence in these woods that steals away children who have been disobedient or not behaved properly.
Directed by Terry Gilliam, it features Matt Damon as Jacob and Heath Ledger as Wilhelm.
It tells the story of two conjoined twin brothers who are traveling to collect their mother’s inheritance only to find that their mother has been killed in an attempt to separate them.
They travel together through different parts of Europe while encountering various creatures and characters from folklore along the way.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a cult classic. The movie was hugely successful in its time and has since gone on to become one of the most quoted comedies of all time.
It’s so popular it even spawned an “International Talk Like a Knight Day” which falls on September 23rd every year.
The film is set in Arthurian times in England, with King Arthur (Graham Chapman) leading his band of knights on quests for their table at Camelot while trying to defend themselves from attacks by French soldiers led by Sir Lancelot (John Cleese).
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1975 British comedy film, directed by Terry Jones and written by Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle. It was conceived as a parody of medieval films such as The Sword in the Stone (1963) and Robin Hood (1973).
A cult classic that has become one of the most quoted comedies to date.
The humor in this movie comes from many different sources such as silly accents or random non-sequiturs for no apparent reason.
If you are looking for a good laugh then I would recommend watching this movie!
The movie follows King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest to find this holy relic.
Along their journey, they must face many challenges including defeating witches, fighting off temptation from Sir Galahad’s mother Lady Too Many Cooks who offers them food at every turn, and avoiding being captured by French castle guards who are not so keen on letting English knights through their gates.
Along this journey, we explore themes such as greed versus poverty, religion versus science, good versus evil.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) is a fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam.
The movie follows the life-long journey of Tony, an actor played by Heath Ledger who lives in London during the 1800s.
One day he meets Mr. Nick who gives him a ticket to go see Dr. Parnassus’ traveling show, “The Imaginarium”.
After seeing an advertisement for the show, Tony joins his friend Anton on a train ride to Paris where they meet Dr. Parnassus and his daughter Valentina played by Lily Cole with whom they fall deeply in love after she sings the songs from her magical harp that causes people to forget their troubles.
In this film, we follow the story of a man who is on a quest for redemption in order to save his daughter’s life.
Along the way he meets many people, some good and some bad, that change him as well as all of our perceptions about reality and what it means to be human.
This is truly an imaginative story where you have no idea what will happen next!
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 film directed by Terry Gilliam.
The film stars Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, and Andrew Garfield as the main character.
This movie has many different tones throughout the movie and can be interpreted in many ways.
It’s hard to tell if this movie is supposed to be taken seriously or not because there are so many different elements that could lead someone to believe it was just an entertaining story while others might take it more seriously with deeper meanings behind what they are seeing on screen.
There is also a mixture of humor and seriousness which makes it difficult for people who aren’t familiar with the director’s work to know what kind of mood he wants them in when watching his films.
The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
The Crimson Permanent Assurance is a swashbuckling comedy short film that plays as the beginning of the feature-length motion picture Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
Having originally conceived the story as a six-minute animated sequence in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, intended for placement at the end of Part V.
Terry Gilliam convinced the other members of Monty Python to allow him to produce and direct it as a live-action piece instead.
According to Gilliam, the film’s rhythm, length, and style of cinematography made it a poor fit as a scene in the larger movie, so it was presented as a supplementary short ahead of the film.
The Zero Theorem (2013)
The Zero Theorem is a 2013 movie written and directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, and David Thewlis.
In Terry Gilliam’s latest sci-fi film, “The Zero Theorem”, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) lives in a future where the world has been so mechanized that it is rendered motionless.
He works as a computer hacker for an eccentric businessman called Mancom who has developed the ultimate theorem to prove life meaningless.
In his quest to determine whether or not life is worth living, he meets Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), and falls in love with her.
This leads him on a journey of discovery which will change his perspective on everything he thought was true about himself and the world around him.
The Zero Theorem is a thought-provoking movie that asks the question, “What is the meaning of life?” It follows Qohen Leth (played by Christoph Waltz), who lives in isolation and works on an equation to find the answer.
Leth’s inner struggle between his intellect and emotions is what lead him down his path of self-discovery.
Whether you are looking for something lighthearted or more philosophical, this film will not disappoint.
The protagonist, Qohen Leth (played by Matt Damon), spends his days solving equations to prove the meaning of life; he believes there is no meaning in life.
He has been trying for years to solve the equation “x = 0” when he meets Bainsley who tells him about an organization called ‘The Church’.
Qohen becomes intrigued with this idea and starts to believe there might be more out there than what’s on Earth…