A Fish Called Wanda

Subscribe to John Cleese alerts

Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedies

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th August 1988

Box Office Worldwide: $62.5M

Budget: $7.5M

Distributed by: MGM

Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Prominent Features


Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: John Cleese as Archie Leach, Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda Gershwitz, Kevin Kline as Otto, Michael Palin as Ken Pile, Maria Aitken as Wendy, Tom Georgeson as Georges Thomason, Cynthia Cleese as Portia, Patricia Hayes as Mrs. Coady, Geoffrey Palmer as Judge, Mark Elwes as Customer in Jeweler's Shop, Neville Phillips as Manager of Jeweler's Shop, Peter Jonfield as Inspector Marvin, Jeremy Child as Mr. Johnson, Stephen Fry as Hutchison

A Fish Called Wanda Movie Review

I believe that if A Fish Called Wanda opened today, it would make at least $100 million, and possibly more if it weren't sharing screens with Borat and the next comedian of the month after Dane Cook and his five o'clock shadow fade away. What's odd is that Wanda, like Midnight Run, hasn't become part of the pop culture lexicon like Animal House, Blazing Saddles, or Airplane! That shouldn't be a deterrent. It's relentlessly funny, smart, and has a tremendous cast.

The Wanda of the title is named after a very lovely American (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is involved in a London jewel heist organized by her temporary lover, Georges (Tom Georgeson). Working a long con, Wanda recruits her boyfriend Otto (Kline) for the gig and has him squeal on Georges. The plan works except Georges hides the diamonds.

Wanda finds a key for a safe deposit box, but nothing else. Enter George's barrister, Archie Leach (John Cleese, also the movie's writer), who Wanda gradually seduces to get more information. For Archie, suffering from an unbearable domestic life, falling in love with Wanda is inevitable, triggering a string of hysterical events, most involving a very jealous Otto.

Cleese's script never stops moving, a good thing that becomes great because he fills it with clever, borderline-vulgar physical comedy (an animal-loving hit man who keeps killing an old lady's dogs in increasingly gruesome ways; the comparison of Otto and Wanda's love life with Archie's) and terrific dialogue (Wanda's speech on the depths of Otto's stupidity). It's a marvel of a script, brilliantly stupid in the mode of the aforementioned classics, and not in a "Hey, that old lady is rapping" kind of way.

It's a given that in a movie this funny, the cast would be good. Cleese and Michael Palin, comedy gods in some circles, are terrific, with Palin's PETAish grief over accidentally killing three dogs a perfect definition of ironic humor. But it's Kline who steals the movie, playing the quintessential ugly American, the kind of arrogant dolt who believes the British are the ones driving on the wrong side of the road. He infuses the movie with malevolent, blissful energy, whether he's eating live fish or complaining about the mannerisms of the British. Kline won an Academy Award for his performance, and it's one of the few times where the Academy's judgment should be universally lauded.

With a collector's edition now available on DVD, featuring commentary by Cleese and nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes, featurettes (new and old), and a trivia track, it's the right time to watch A Fish Called Wanda, so it can finally get the quotable legacy it so richly deserves. And by the way, Aristotle wasn't Belgian. I looked it up.


Subscribe to John Cleese alerts


A Fish Called Wanda Rating

" Excellent "


More John Cleese

A Little Chaos Trailer

In the palace of Versailles, a tremendous garden is maintained. One day, the builder and head gardener sees an ordinary woman arriving at the palace,...

Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy Album Review

The solo career of Mr Rice is not one you may realistically describe as that with which you may associate a prolific output. His is...

Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of Trailer

In the late 90's and early 00's, The Backstreet Boys were the most powerful boy band in the world. After discovering that they had not...

George The Poet - 1,2,1,2 (Dismantle Remix) Video

George The Poet unveils an audio for the Dismantle Remix of his single '1,2,1,2', taken from the tracks Remixes EP. The track has been produced...


Perfume Genius - Too Bright Album Review

Ever since the release of his debut LP 'Learning' back in 2010, Seattle's Perfume Genius has attracted increasing attention both publicly and critically. His piano...

The Boys of St. Paul's Choir School - O Come All Ye Faithful Video

The angelic voices of The Boys of St. Paul's Choir School perform a moving rendition of classic Christmas carol 'O Come All Ye Faithful'.

Jamie Scott - Last Christmas Video

Jamie Scott of London duo GRAFFITI6 performs an acoustic rendition of Wham!'s 1984 festive single 'Last Christmas' in a black and white one-take video. In...

Christina Aguilera Ft. Brian McKnight - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Video

In 2000, Christina Aguilera recorded a collection of some of her favourite Christmas songs and the sessions resulted in the album 'My Kind of Christmas',...