Monty Python’s Life of Brian, also known as Life of Brian, is a 1979 British religious satire comedy film starring and written by the comedy group Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin). It was also directed by Jones. The film tells the story of Brian Cohen (played by Chapman), a young Jewish man who is born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus Christ, and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.
Following the withdrawal of funding by EMI Films, longtime Monty Python fan and former member of the Beatles, George Harrison, arranged financing for Life of Brian through the formation of his company HandMade Films.
The film contains themes of religious satire that 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, effectively preventing the film from being shown, since the distributors said it could not be shown unless it was unedited and carried the original AA certificate. Some countries, including Ireland and Norway, banned its showing, with a few of these bans lasting decades. The filmmakers used such notoriety to benefit their marketing campaign, with posters in Sweden reading, “So funny, it was banned in Norway!”
The film was a box office success, the fourth-highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom in 1979, and highest grosser of any British film in the United States that year. It has remained popular, receiving positive reviews. The film was named “greatest comedy film of all time” by several magazines and television networks, and it would later receive a 96% “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.