Who’d have thought that the guy who did the pictures on Monty Python would go on to have such a varied and successful career? Maybe him.
He describes leaving the show (in The Believer) with “a certain amount of confidence, and a little bit of arrogance” which perhaps explains how he’s managed to make it into this list as an actor, writer, producer, set designer, art designer and costume designer.
When he does something, he really does it, as this list of ten films shows.
10. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
A bizarre traveling show full of grotesques trundles through the London in one of the many imaginariums of the title.
9. Tideland (2005)
Gilliam’s career was obituarised after ‘Tideland’ which was roundly criticised as nonsensical, and needlessly upsetting. As satire on the state of modern American it slipped from biting to bitter somewhere between the little girl being abandoned by her abusive, junkie parents and a boy driving a school bus into an incoming train.
8. The Brother’s Grimm (2005)
I liked The Brother’s Grimm. But I was pretty much the only one. Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) set out on a quest to find out why pretty maidens keep going missing from the forest with fairy tale-like results. It is a kid’s film after all (though it’s no Time Bandits).
7. Life of Brian (1979)
If I never hear Always Look on the Bright Side of Life again I think I’ll be able to look back on my life happily. But if I skip that bit we’re getting to the good stuff. Python fans can throw something whimsical at their screens for putting this movie so low all they like – yes, he’s a very naughty boy, I get it – I just like the other six more. Ok?
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Gilliam adapted Hunter S Thompson’s book, the perfect setting for his meandering mind and talent for the visually melodramatic. The film looks great which is a blessing when Hunter’s self-indulgence speeches start. The book has no such respite.
5. Time Bandits (1981)
One of the best kids films ever: it’s got a moving bedroom wall, a gang of mercenary dwarves, one of those giant cages that hangs from the ceiling and a baddy that’s just called Evil (keep it simple, Terry). Where the Wild Things Are, take note.
4. The Fisher King (1991)
Directing a film in which one of the characters attempts to find the Holy Grail could have gone badly for Gilliam. Luckily, he made The Fisher King which is so terrifying, touching and funny that you forget all about it.
See also: Top 10 Jeff Bridges Films
3. Brazil (1985)
A large part of Brazil’s charm comes from the great story behind its release (unbelievably, the studio was delaying release by demanding an up ending) but, even without thinking about Gilliam’s full-page studio-baiting ads, this a magical, extremely creepy movie.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Killer rabbits, coconuts hooves, shrubberies , French taunting, Trojan rabbits, being repressed, saying ni, only have a flesh wound and so on and so forth. All of which means that this is the closest the Pythons came to capturing the silliness of their TV show.
1. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Again, a Gilliam film with an almost-legendary story behind its troubled production: winter weather problems, technical glitches and the very fraught director injuring his back somewhere along the line. What comes out is a science fiction thriller but with a Gilliam twist that gives it more sense, more energy and more visual style that few other films in the genre even get close to.
Written and compiled by Julia Kukiewicz
Julia Kukiewicz is editor of Choose.net, a news and reviews site covering – among other things – DVD rental. The site covers big names like Lovefilm and ways for film-lovers to save money like blu ray rental.
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