UK Script Doctor looks back on Time Bandits (1981)

As a script writer for hire  and script doctor over Christmas this year and into early January I was very, very busy. One of the things I was doing was shooting some of the scenes for my directorial debut Markham which will be released in 2019.

While directing Markham I was looking at various films which feature old fashioned practical effects, miniatures, matte painting and green screen work.  One of the films that I decided to revisit was Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981)

Technically, it’s a flawless film, using loads of clever camera tricks, and bits of set design magic to bring the fantasy to life. But, it’s more than that…

I rarely put together lists of films, but if I did, I’d suggest that Time Bandits would be in my top ten films of all time. It’s a children’s fantasy film, which adults can enjoy (often more than the kids watching) it’s a social critique, it’s a tour through history, it’s a comedy, it touches on questions about religion and the nature of the Universe. It features an AMAZING never to be repeated cast and most of the main characters are played by dwarfs.

Did I mention how funny it is?

It’s also got a lot of heart, and a unique feel as a film (other people have also described this… there is something very joyous about Time Bandits, as if, even the Supreme Being found something charming in the story and sprinkled magic dust on the celluloid…)

It’s hard to find another children’s film like this (or fantasy film for that matter). It’s a perfectly structured clockwork toy, beautiful, and full of mystery, speaking to the child inside every adult and daring them to imagine again.

It’s lovely.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut Markham will be released in 2019.