Monty Python’s Life of Brian, also known as Life of Brian, is a 1979 British comedy film starring and written by the comedy group Monty Python. It was also directed by Jones. The film tells the story of Brian Cohen, a young Jewish-Roman man who is born on the same day as—and next door to—Jesus, and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.
The film’s themes of religious satire were controversial at the time of its release, drawing accusations of blasphemy and protests from some religious groups. Thirty-nine local authorities in the United Kingdom either imposed an outright ban, or imposed an X (18 years) certificate.
Some countries, including Ireland and Norway, banned its showing, and a few of these bans lasted decades. The filmmakers used the notoriety to promote the film, with posters in Sweden reading, “So funny, it was banned in Norway!”
The director, Terry Jones, issued the following riposte to all the criticism: “Any religion that makes a form of torture into an icon that they worship seems to me a pretty sick sort of religion quite honestly.
The film was a box office success, the fourth-highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom in 1979, and highest grossing of any British film in the United States that year. It has remained popular and was named “greatest comedy film of all time” by several magazines and television networks, and it later received a 95% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus, “One of the more cutting-edge films of the 1970s, this religious farce from the classic comedy troupe is as poignant as it is funny and satirical.
Brian Cohen is born in a stable next door to the one in which Jesus is born, which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. Brian later grows up into an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea. While listening to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred of the Romans, further exaggerated by his mother revealing Brian himself is half-Roman, inspire him to join the “People’s Front of Judea” (PFJ), one of many fractious and bickering independence movements which spend more time fighting each other than they do the Romans.