World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda
US theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Crichton
John Cleese
Produced by Michael Shamberg
Screenplay by John Cleese
Story by John Cleese
Charles Crichton
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography Alan Hume
Edited by John Jympson
Prominent Features
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(United States)
United International Pictures
(United Kingdom)
Release dates
  • July 15, 1988 (1988-07-15) (US & CAN)
  • October 14, 1988 (1988-10-14) (UK)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $7,500,000
Box office $62,493,712[1]

A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 heist-comedy film written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton. It was directed by Crichton (it was his final film) and stars Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin. Kline won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Otto. Cleese and Palin won BAFTA Awards for Best Lead and Best Supporting for their acting.[2]

The plot involves members of the crew of a successful diamond heist as they manipulate and double-cross one-another in an effort to find the diamonds, which have been hidden by the gang's leader just before he was arrested, having been set-up by one of his subordinates. His barrister, played by Cleese, becomes a central figure in the crew's schemes as femme fatale Wanda (Curtis) uses him to locate the loot.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
    • Accolades 3.1
  • Sequels and adaptations 4
  • Ole Bentzen 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


courtroom. Archie is confronted by Wendy, who is now convinced he has had an (unconsummated) affair and decides to divorce him.

With his career and his marriage in ruins, Archie resolves to cut his losses, steal the loot himself, and flee to safe deposit box where the loot has been moved. While the court drama is unfolding, Otto has been trying to get Ken to reveal the location of the diamonds. He torments Ken by eating the fish in his aquarium one by one, leaving the fish called Wanda until the end. Ken gives away the location of the diamonds, at a hotel near Heathrow Airport. Otto is leaving just as Archie runs into the building. Otto steals Archie's car, taking Wanda with him. Ken tells Archie, as quickly as he can – given his stutter – where they are going, and the two give chase. The protagonists all end up at Heathrow. Otto and Wanda recover the diamonds, but Wanda quickly double-crosses Otto and leaves him unconscious in a locked cupboard.

Otto shoots his way out of the cupboard and is briefly captured by Archie, only to turn the tables. As Otto is about to kill his love-rival, Archie manages to stall by taunting Otto about his nation's failures, such as the Vietnam War. Before Otto can shoot, he is distracted by the arrival of Ken driving a steamroller, seeking vengeance for the demise of his fish. Otto accidentally stands in wet cement (which has partially dried) and is soon run over after he runs out of bullets. Archie joins Wanda on board the plane, which taxis for takeoff. Through the plane window, Otto, who has survived the steamroller attack, curses them until he is blown off as the plane takes off.

A closing text explains what happens to the gang members after the events of the movie. Archie and Wanda move to Rio de Janeiro, have 17 children, and start a leper colony. Ken, his stutter lost, becomes the Master of Ceremonies at London's Sea World. The immoral Otto moves to South Africa and becomes Minister of Justice (at the time of filming, South Africa was still ruled under apartheid).



The film was an enormous critical and commercial success. Kline received wide acclaim and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work.[3][4] Cleese and Crichton received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.[3] Crichton was also nominated for Best Director,[3] Cleese won a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Curtis received nominations for Leading Actress at the Golden Globes[5][6] and BAFTA awards.[7] Michael Palin won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Role[8] and Maria Aitken received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress[9]


Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards Best Director Charles Crichton Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Kevin Kline Won
Original Screenplay John Cleese and Charles Crichton Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role John Cleese Won
Kevin Kline Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Jamie Lee Curtis Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Michael Palin Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Maria Aitken Nominated
Best Original Screenplay John Cleese Nominated
Best Film Editing John Jympson Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Jamie Lee Curtis Nominated
Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy John Cleese Nominated

In 2000, the American Film Institute ranked the film 21st on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs, its list of the 100 funniest movies ever made.[10] The film is number 27 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".[11] It is also included in the Reader's Digest "100 Funniest Films" list.[12] As of November 2013, the movie holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus reading: "Smartly written, smoothly directed, and solidly cast, A Fish Called Wanda offers a classic example of a brainy comedy with widespread appeal."[13]

Sequels and adaptations

The principal cast reunited in 1997 for Fierce Creatures (dubbed an "equal" rather than a sequel or prequel, by Kline), playing different roles. Fierce Creatures was not as well received by critics as was A Fish Called Wanda.[14]

The novelization of Fierce Creatures, written by Iain Johnstone, who co-wrote the film, begins with a letter from Archie to his brother Rollo (John Cleese's character in the film). According to the letter:

  • Archie and Wanda are still living happily in Rio, and Wanda enjoys having a new child (or multiple children) each year;
  • Otto visited them once, having left South Africa after Nelson Mandela's election and the end of the apartheid regime; he is looking for like-minded individuals to form a similar group of National Socialists, and Archie and Wanda are both heartily glad when he is gone;
  • Ken is still Master of Ceremonies at the London Sea World; before visiting Rio, Otto "looked him up" as if they were old friends, but didn't even get close before Ken had security guards throw Otto out of the park.

In 2008, it was reported that John Cleese and his daughter, Cynthia (who played his screen daughter, Portia), had started to work on a stage musical version of the film.[15]

Ole Bentzen

A Danish audiologist named Ole Bentzen died of laughing whilst watching a scene with John Cleese. His heart was beating 250-500 times a minute. It is thought he finally gave out to cardiac arrest.[16]


  1. ^ "A Fish Called Wanda (1988)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ McCall, Douglas. "Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012, 2d ed." Google Books. 21 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "The 61st Academy Awards (1989) Nominees and Winners". 
  4. ^ "Nominees & Winners for the 61st Academy Awards". August 24, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Fish Called Wanda, A". 
  6. ^ "The 46th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1989)". 
  7. ^ "Jamie Lee Curtis". 
  8. ^ "Awards Database (1988)". 
  9. ^
  10. ^ American Film Institute (June 14, 2000). "AFI's 100 YEARS...100 LAUGHS". 
  11. ^ "Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies List is Laughable". June 2, 2006. 
  12. ^ Stefan Kanfer. "The Top 100+ Funniest Movies of All Time". Reader's Digest. Retrieved December 16, 2010. 
  13. ^ A Fish Called Wanda at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. ^ "Fierce Creatures." Rotten Tomatoes. 21 July 2014.
  15. ^ Eden, Richard (June 14, 2008). "Memories of Jamie Lee Curtis make John Cleese sing again". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  16. ^ 9 People Who Died Laughing - Death - Book of Lists - Canongate Home (version archived by the Internet Archive)

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.