• Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 1981
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Throughout, the movie advocates reading and an appreciation for both the factual and mythological aspects of human history. Its dwarf protagonists address themes of tolerance for those different from oneself.


Considerable cartoonish violence. A man's arm is ripped off during an arm wrestling match. The Evil Genius blows up many of his dimwitted minions. A firing squad executes prisoners. A hungry dwarf captures a rat and eats it. One can see the feet of previous victims hanging from the ceiling of an Ogre's ship. There is an attempted suicide. Kevin's home is burned down and his shallow parents are blown up at the movie's conclusion.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will see a good deal of cartoonish violence (a man's arm is ripped off during an arm wrestling match, a hungry dwarf captures a rat and eats it, severed feet hang from the ceiling of an ogre's ship, etc.). Two characters are blown up at the end, but they aren't depicted as very nice people. Also there are scary creatures, and depictions of a supreme being and his nemesis that some will find objectionable. The bandits are pursued by the Supreme Being, i.e., God, who seems to have created the world in a slapdash manner. They also encounter the Evil Genius, or Devil. Throughout, the movie advocates reading and an appreciation for both the factual and mythological aspects of human history. Its dwarf protagonists also address themes of tolerance.

What's the story?

Young Kevin is fascinated by history, but his materialistic parents are too busy planning their dream kitchen to pay attention. When a group of bickering dwarves appears in Kevin's bedroom, he's in for the history lesson of his life. The dwarves are time bandits, former employees of the Supreme Being who have stolen his map of time and space and plan to loot history of its greatest treasures. Kevin joins them through a time hole, and is soon rubbing shoulders with such luminaries as Napoleon, Robin Hood (John Cleese), and Agamemnon (Sean Connery), as well as giants and ogres. The Evil Genius, the Supreme Being's nasty rival, lures the group into his Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and steals the map so he can destroy the world. Now the time bandits must recover the map and prevent armageddon.

Is it any good?


TIME BANDITS is an enjoyable romp meant to appeal to the adventurous child in everyone. Directed by "Monty Python's Flying Circus" animator Terry Gilliam, the movie takes its young hero on an absurdist tour through various times and places in history. A considerable vein of black humor and irreverence runs through the movie, giving it a sharp edge not often found in kids' fantasies.

The film's look is and special effects are impressive and imaginative, but the plot and characters are somewhat inconsistent and the satire is frequently harsh. Older kids may find the black humor hilarious, but it's questionable viewing for the very young. Still, the film's virtues easily outweigh its flaws and it's a perfect movie for those who prefer their fantasy with a bit of bite.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how humor of this nature, somewhat satirical and dark, often has very serious things to say. Did you detect any serious themes behind this comedy, such as questioning authority, the nature of the universe, or the nature of time?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 6, 1981
DVD/Streaming release date:January 27, 2004
Cast:John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall
Director:Terry Gilliam
Studio:Anchor Bay Entertainment
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:parental guidance suggested

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Parent of a 6 and 9 year old Written bysarafmc February 24, 2011

Excellent moral adventure

My almost-7 daughter and 9 year old son were riveted to this one, very excited while watching it, but afterwards said they didn't want to watch it again. However, the conversations about good and evil, materialism, and the way various characters were portrayed went on for a while afterward, they were very stirred up by it. I would not let the younger one watch it alone, this was one she needed a little reassurance for the first time due to the suspense, violence, monsters. She said she liked it a lot, but that it was a little too scary. So I would say she is the absolute bottom end for this one (7 in two months). I think the violence would be too much for a younger child. Also I think younger children would just be bored, have a hard time tracking the story which really jumps around a lot, and with the lack of concrete normal time/space reality. A 9+ kid who loves history, has been reading about knights and Ancient Greece, would probably be the best young audience. The Satanic character is linked to the game shows and mindless materialistic greed of the protagonist's parents. Throughout the movie the boy is making strong heartfelt moral protests against the materialism and evil behavior of the bandits. Killing and war are mostly shown as futile and evil (if sometimes necessary, when Agamemnon kills a Minotaur figure). The bandits attempt to defeat the Satanic character with soldiers out of history and he easily turns their attacks fatally against them. One of many fine surreal touches - the evil being's castle is subtly shown to be built out of giant Lego bricks. The Supreme Being is shown as a very civilized calm bureaucratic character in a gray three piece suit, a little like a wise cranky strict fatherly headmaster, who hates a mess and is in total control. There is a lot of grim grimy humor and a lot of cartoonish death, though a loved character is killed (temporarily) at the very end. No swearing. There is some wine drinking and cigar smoking at various points (by the adult bandits, who are clearly not role models).
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 7 year old Written byloghlr January 10, 2011

Not Gilliam's best, but good for kids.

The arm wrestler pulls off a fake arm -- not scary. Violence is mild.
Parent of a 10 and 15 year old Written byLeighj January 14, 2011

Great for all ages. Wonderful introduction Gilliam films.

This movie is one that people either love or dismiss. While it can be watched in the context of Gilliam's 'Trilogy' (i.e. Brazil, Baron Münchhausen) it can be enjoyed by tweens and up. It may be a bit cheezy in effects after all it's an 80's move but it has the level of violence that would be found in many a 11 year old's day dreams. It does have some Pythonesque humor and some accents may be difficult to understand. But overall a movie to see at least twice to understand all that it has to offer.
What other families should know
Too much violence