Long before Game of Thrones came to HBO, before Peter Jackson adapted The Lord of the Rings; before Legend, Ladyhawke, The Dark Crystal, or Labyrinth; before Harry Potter’s epic saga of strange schooling and child negligence; before Clash of the Titans, Warcraft, or Highlander; there was a simple tale of heroism, sacrifice, cunning, and the battle against the forces of evil. It was a film about healing a nation, uniting a people, about riddles that technically don’t fit the definition, and also it was about rabbits. It would teach generations of fans the meaning of courage, the flexibility of the term “flesh wound,” the importance of shrubbery, and just how easily crew members working on major motion pictures can get sacked. That film, of course, is 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Netflix it is streaming it right now.
If you’re familiar at all with the comedy stylings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, then you may understand why the notion of describing the plot of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as it appears on Netflix is kind of–well, not difficult necessarily so much as it would be useless. The absurdist stylings that distinguished the comedy group from just about everything that had come before in their BBC series continues in this film, and trying to track things like character development is as silly as their humor. King Arthur and Sir Bedevere don’t torture a woman by yelling the word “Ni” at her because of developments from an earlier act in the film, but because it’s freaking funny.
That said, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a gift to any Netflix subscriber, takes place in the 10th century, with the legendary King Arthur leading his roundtable of knights on a quest to find the Holy Grail (which later would be found by Indiana Jones and then promptly dropped in a hole, which seems like a waste in retrospect). When we first meet Arthur he is accompanied only by his loyal servant Patsy as they “ride” across the ancient English countryside, banging coconuts together in lieu of actual horses. After meeting some people with an extraordinary number of questions about swallows, members of an “anarcho syndicalist commune” who seemingly pile mud for a living, and a black-clad knight with a terminal case of denial and a disturbingly high threshold for pain, Arthur and Patsy finally begin assembling knights to join them on their quest.
Once tasked with recovering the Holy Grail, Arthur and his knights face cow-flinging Frenchmen, three-headed brutes, and very pleasant wedding ceremonies during which Sir Lancelot is forced to stop killing everyone he sees for more than a few minutes. There is the Bridge of Death, the sorcerer Tim, the Knights Who Say “Ni!”, a whole tower full of randy maidens, and a rabbit who could rip Marvel’s Wolverine a new Logan-hole and be ready to beat the snot out of Thanos without needing a break in-between. Monty Python, as you can see yourself on Netflix, brings you the holy hand grenade, the violence inherent in the system and, of course, shrubbery.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail defies criticism. It is flawless, classic, and as close to perfect as funny can get. Every scene is utterly quotable, from beginning to end. From two pedantic numbskulls arguing about the air velocity of swallows, to Sir Bedevere using ducks to sniff out witches, to Eric Idle bringing a cart through a plague-ridden town and yelling “bring out your dead”; every second of the film is a favorite. Watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Netflix and afterwards say any line, any line, to an invested fan and they will know it instantly. “Come see the violence inherent in the system” or “I’m not dead yet!” or “There are some who call me… Tim…” or “I fart in your general direction” or “Run away” or “And there was much rejoicing (yay)” or–the list goes on. It can, to be quite honest, get very annoying to hear fans talk about movie, but there’s a reason their obsession with runs as deep as it does. It’s because Monty Python and the Holy Grail, playing on Netflix right now, is just that good. Watch it.