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A Fish Called Wanda

theatrical poster
Directed by Charles Crichton
Produced by Michael Shamberg
Written by John Cleese
Charles Crichton
Starring John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline
Michael Palin
Maria Aitken
Tom Georgeson
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography Alan Hume
Editing by John Jympson
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) July 15, 1988
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Gross revenue $62,493,712

A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 comedy film written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton and directed by Charles Crichton and John Cleese (uncredited), and starring Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. The film is a comedy about a jewel heist and its aftermath.



George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his right-hand man, Ken Pile (Michael Palin), a beleaguered animal lover with a bad stutter, plan a jewel heist and bring in two Americans to help: an alluring con artist, Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a "weapons man", Otto West (Kevin Kline). Wanda and Otto are lovers pretending to be siblings so that Wanda can work her charms on George and Ken. Wanda and Otto plan to betray Ken and George after the heist, and vice-versa. Wanda, it later transpires, is also planning to betray Otto.

After the robbery, Wanda and Otto betray George to the police, intending to take all the loot for themselves, but discover that George and Ken have moved the loot to a new location. Wanda decides to seduce George's unhappily married lawyer, Archie Leach (John Cleese)[1] to find out where it is. Meanwhile, Ken is charged by George to silence a key witness, and Otto exerts his energies in fits of jealousy over Wanda and Archie and of impatience with Ken and Britain in general. Otto's interference, and other incidences of bad luck, lead Wanda and Archie's liaisons to go disastrously wrong.

There is subsequent confusion and slapstick. For example, in various attempts to kill the witness, the animal-loving Ken accidentally instead kills her three Yorkshire Terriers one by one. The witness eventually suffers a fatal heart attack when her third Terrier is killed. The title is derived from the name of Ken's favorite tropical fish, which Otto eats alive, to Ken's distress, during the farcical torture scene.

Archie and Wanda gradually fall in love and the movie ends with those two leaving the country with the jewels[2]. Ken finally has his revenge on Otto by running him over with a road roller (which he somehow survives).



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] Cleese and Crichton received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Crichton was also nominated for Best Director, and Curtis received nominations for Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards.

In 2000, the readers of Total Film magazine voted A Fish Called Wanda the 37th greatest comedy film of all time. In 2004 the same magazine named it the 41st greatest British film of all time. In 2000, the American Film Institute ranked the film 21st on its list of the 100 funniest movies ever made. This film is number 27 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". It is also included in the Reader's Digest list of the "100 Funniest Films" (a list rather than a ranking). A Fish Called Wanda was one of only 24 movies to be named on all three of the American Film Institute, Bravo and Readers' Digest "top 100 funniest" lists. The movie also garnered a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

American Film Institute recognition

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 and meeting less success.

John Cleese and his daughter, Cynthia (who played his screen daughter Portia), have reportedly started to work on a stage musical version of the film.[4]


  1. ^ The name of Cleese's character, Archie Leach, is an homage to Cary Grant, whose real name was Archibald Leach.
  2. ^ To win Wanda's heart Archie recites a verse in Russian, namely "Prayer" by Mikhail Lermontov
  3. ^ "Awards Database," Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Jamie Lee Kurtis received nominations for Supprting Actress at the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards. Retrieved from on 2007-03-12.
  4. ^ Memories of Jamie Lee Curtis make John Cleese sing again - Telegraph

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 comedy film about four very different people who team up to commit armed robbery in London, then try to double cross each other for the loot.

Directed and written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton.
A tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge, and seafood.



  • Oh you English are SO superior aren't you. Well, would like to know where you'd be without US the good old U.S. of A. to protect you? The smallest fucking province in the Russian Empire, thats where, so DON'T call me stupid lady, just THANK me! ...If it weren't for us, you'd all be speaking German, singing, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles!"
  • [On finding George has moved the jewels, forestalling his and Wanda's attempted double-cross] What do you have to do to get people to trust you?!?!


  • [to Otto] To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs!
  • [to Otto] Even if you were my brother, I'd still want to fuck you.
  • [to Otto] I knew you'd come along and fuck it up! I was dealing with something delicate. I'm setting up a guy who's important to us, who'll tell me where the loot is and if you'll be arrested, and you come loping in like Rambo without a jock strap and you dangle him out a fifth-floor window! Now, was that smart? Was it shrewd? Was it good tactics? Or was it stupid?


Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto: [superior smile] Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto, they just don't understand it! Let me correct you on a few things; Aristotle was not Belgian! The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself!" And the London Underground is not a political movement! Those are all mistakes. I looked them up.

Otto: [about Wanda and Archie] When you say "friendly", what are we talking about here? Cordial? Courteous? Supportive? What?
Wanda: I don't know. Let's just see what happens.
Otto: So, "friendly" might include actual, uh, what? Penetration?

Otto: You know your problem? You don't like winners.
Archie: Winners?
Otto: Yeah, winners.
Archie: Winners, like North Vietnam?
Otto: Shut up! We didn't lose Vietnam! It was a tie!
Archie: [Cowboy-like drawl] I'm tellin' you, baby, they kicked your little ass there! Boy, they whooped yer hide real good!
Otto: No they didn't!!
Archie: Oh Yes they did!
Otto: Oh no they... SHUT UP! Goodbye Archie.
Archie: Gonna shoot me Otto?
Otto: Er Yes. Yes 'fraid so old chap sorry.

[Otto dangling Archie out of a window]
Archie: All right, all right, I apologize.
Otto: You're really sorry?
Archie: I'm really really sorry. I apologize unreservedly.
Otto: You take it back?
Archie: I do. I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.
Otto: [thinks a moment] Okay.

[Otto is torturing Ken by quizzing him on Nietzsche and sticking chips up his nose]
Otto: Guess I'll have to ask you an easy one, eh, Ken? OK. Um... Let me think, let me think. Um... Where are the diamonds? I'll give you a clue. Somewhere around the airport.
Ken: I'm n-n-n...
Otto: No hassle. There's plenty of time. I'll just sit here and eat my chips till you tell me. The English contribution to world cuisine: the chip. What do the English usually eat with chips to make them more interesting? Wait a moment! It's fish. Isn't it? [Dipping into the fish tank with a net] Oh! Here, boy. Down the hatch. [Eats the fish] Delicious!
Ken: You b-b-b...
Otto: Better eat the green one? OK. What's this one's name? Well, not Wanda, anyway. I'm going to call her Lunch. Hello, Lunch. Hello! [Eats the fish] Ew! Avoid the green ones - not ripe yet.


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