Labyrinth is a 1986 British-American fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas and based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud. The film stars David Bowie as Jareth and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah. The plot revolves around Sarah's quest to reach the center of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant brother Toby, who has been kidnapped by Jareth, the Goblin King. With the exception of Bowie and Connelly, most of the significant characters in the film are played by puppets produced by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
Labyrinth started as a collaboration between Jim Henson and Brian Froud, with ideas for the film first being discussed between them following a screening of their previous collaboration, The Dark Crystal. Terry Jones from Monty Python wrote the first draft of the film's script early in 1984, drawing on Brian Froud's sketches for inspiration. Various other script-writers, including Laura Phillips (who had previously written several episodes of Fraggle Rock), George Lucas, Dennis Lee, and Elaine May, subsequently re-wrote and made additions to the screenplay, although Jones received the film's sole screen-writing credit. Labyrinth was shot on location in Upper Nyack, Piermont and Haverstraw in New York, and at Elstree Studios and West Wycombe Park in the United Kingdom.
The New York Times reported that Labyrinth had a budget of $25 million. Labyrinth was a box office disappointment and only grossed $12,729,917 during its U.S theatrical run. The commercial failure of the film demoralized Henson to the extent that his son Brian Henson remembered the time of the film's release as one of the most difficult periods of his father's career. It would be the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.
Although it was met with a mixed critical response upon its original release in mid 1986, Labyrinth has since gained a strong cult following and tributes to it have been featured in magazines such as Empire and Total Film. A four-volume manga sequel to the film, entitled Return to Labyrinth, was published by Tokyopop between 2006 and 2010. In 2012 Archaia Studios Press announced they were developing a graphic novel prequel to the film.
The film opens with a barn owl watching a teenager, Sarah, reciting lines from her favorite book called Labyrinth in a park. As Sarah struggles to remember the final line of her monologue, the town clock chimes seven o' clock and Sarah remembers she has to babysit her brother Toby. She rushes home and has a confrontation with her impatient stepmother.
Following her parents' departure Sarah realizes that her teddy bear, Lancelot, is missing from her room. She finds the toy in Toby's room and resentfully declares a wish that the goblins would take the baby away. Abruptly, Toby vanishes and a barn owl flies into the room, transforming into Jareth: King of the Goblins (David Bowie). Jareth tells Sarah that he will return her brother if she can solve his Labyrinth within thirteen hours. He transports Sarah and himself to the Labyrinth, then leaves Sarah to start her quest.
At the entrance of the Labyrinth, Sarah meets Hoggle, a grumpy and obstinate dwarf who refuses to help her. She advances through the labyrinth alone and overcomes a series of obstacles during her journey, including a Knights and Knaves logic puzzle, before eventually trapping herself in an oubliette. Jareth sends Hoggle into the oubliette to free Sarah and misdirect her back to the beginning of the labyrinth.
As they travel Sarah and Hoggle encounter a group of goblins tormenting a gentle beast named Ludo, whose roars frighten Hoggle and lead him to flee. Sarah saves Ludo and travels with him but the two become separated. A group of revelers with detachable limbs called the Fire Gang harass Sarah until Hoggle reappears to rescue her. Shortly afterward they pass through the Bog of Eternal Stench where they are reunited with Ludo and add another to their party: Sir Didymus, a chivalrous, fox-like knight who guards the bridge that leads away from the bog.
Hoggle offers Sarah a peach that Jareth had ordered him to give her. Upon biting the peach, Sarah falls into a trance and finds herself in a dream-like ballroom where Jareth attempts to seduce her. The sound of a striking clock reminds Sarah that she needs to save her brother and she frees herself from the vision to resume her quest. After rejecting an old goblin junk lady who tries to convince her to stay in a recreation of her room filled with all the discarded possessions she outgrew over the years, Sarah rejoins Ludo and Sir Didymus, and the three of them approach the Goblin City that surrounds Jareth's castle. Hoggle appears and disables a giant robot that guards the city gate. Sarah forgives Hoggle for his earlier betrayal and continues with all her friends through the city, successfully defeating the soldiers of the goblin army who have been sent to stop them.
Upon reaching Jareth's throne room, Sarah decides to go forward alone. She finds Jareth and Toby in a vast, stair-filled room, (inspired by M. C. Escher's Relativity), and attempts unsuccessfully to find a path to reach her brother. She is interrupted by Jareth, who confronts her face-to-face and asks her to abandon her quest in order to stay with him forever.
Sarah, however, vehemently rejects the overture and begins to recite the monologue from the beginning of the film once again in order to help her concentrate on repelling Jareth and rescuing her brother. As he prepares to cast the ultimate spell over her, she finally remembers the last line: "You have no power over me." Jareth, acknowledging defeat, returns Sarah and Toby to their home, whereupon she finds Toby sleeping in his crib, apparently oblivious to the previous events.
Upon having a seat at her vanity, Sarah discovers that she can see Hoggle and the rest of her friends from the Labyrinth, but only behind her through a reflection in the bedroom mirror, as when she turns to face them, they are not there. Sarah tells her friends that she does need them after all, whereupon they appear in her room, surrounding her. The film closes as Sarah and the creatures celebrate her victory over Jareth. Outside the bedroom window, a barn owl briefly watches the party before flying away.
- Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams, a teenage girl.
- David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King.
- Toby Froud as Toby Williams, Sarah's baby half-brother.
- Christopher Malcolm and Shelly Thompson as Sarah's father and stepmother.
- Shari Weiser as Hoggle, a dwarf in Jareth's employ who befriends Sarah.
- Brian Henson as the voice of Hoggle
- Ron Mueck and Rob Mills as Ludo, a kind-hearted beast.
- Ron Mueck as the voice of Ludo
- Dave Goelz and David Barclay as Sir Didymus, a brave knight.
- David Shaughnessy as the voice of Sir Didymus
- Steve Whitmire and Kevin Clash as Ambrosius, an Old English Sheepdog.
- Percy Edwards as the voice of Ambrosius
- Karen Prell as The Worm
- Timothy Bateson as the voice of The Worm
- Frank Oz as The Wiseman
- Michael Hordern as the voice of The Wiseman
- Dave Goelz as The Wiseman's Bird Hat
- David Shaughnessy as the voice of The Wiseman's Bird Hat
- Karen Prell as The Junk Lady
- Denise Bryer as the voice of The Junk Lady
- Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, Anthony Asbury, and Dave Goelz as The Four Guards
- Anthony Jackson, Douglas Blackwell, David Shaughnessy and Timothy Bateson as the voices of The Four Guards
- Kevin Clash, David Barclay, and Toby Philpott as Firey 1
- Kevin Clash as the voice of Firey 1
- Karen Prell, Ron Mueck, and Ian Thom as Firey 2
- Charles Augins as the voice of Firey 2
- Dave Goelz, Rob Mills, and Sherry Ammott as Firey 3
- Danny John-Jules as the voice of Firey 3
- Steve Whitmire, Cheryl Henson, and Kevin Bradshaw as Firey 4
- Danny John-Jules as the voice of Firey 4
- Anthony Asbury, Alistair Fullarton, and Rollie Krewson as Firey 5
- Richard Bodkin as the voice of Firey 5
- Anthony Asbury as Right Door Knocker
- David Healy as the voice of the Right Door Knocker
- Dave Goelz as Left Door Knocker
- Robert Beatty as the voice of the Left Door Knocker
- Natalie Finland as the Fairies
Juggler Michael Moschen performed Jareth's elaborate crystal-ball contact juggling manipulations.
Goblin Corps performed by Marc Antona, Kenny Baker, Michael Henbury Ballan, Danny Blackner, Peter Burroughs, Toby Clark, Tessa Crockett, Warwick Davis, Malcolm Dixon, Anthony Georghiou, Paul Grant, Andrew Herd, Richard Jones, John Key, Mark Lisle, Peter Mandell, Jack Purvis, Katie Purvis, Nicholas Read, Linda Spriggs, Penny Stead, and Albert Wilkinson.
Goblins performed by Don Austen, Michael Bayliss, Martin Bridle, Fiona Beynor Brown, Simon Buckley, David Bulbeck, Sue Dacre, Geoff Felix, Trevor Freeborn, Christine Glanville, David Greenaway, Brian Henson, Jim Henson, Brian James, Jan King, Ronnie Le Drew, Terry Lee, Christopher Leith, Kathryn Mullen, Angie Passmore, Michael Petersen, Nigel Plaskitt, Judy Preece, Michael Quinn, Gillie Robic, David Rudman, David Showler, Robin Stevens, Ian Tregonning, Mary Turner, Robert Tygner, Mak Wilson, and Francis Wright.
Goblins voiced by Michael Attwell, Sean Barrett, Timothy Bateson, Douglas Blackwell, John Bluthal, Brian Henson, Anthony Jackson, Peter Marinker, Ron Mueck, Kerry Shale, and David Shaughnessy.
Labyrinth features allusions to a range of literary and filmic sources, many of which were recognized by contemporary reviewers. Richard Corliss noted that the film appeared to have been influenced by The Wizard of Oz and the works of Maurice Sendak, writing that "Labyrinth lures a modern Dorothy Gale out of the drab Kansas of real life into a land where the wild things are." Nina Darnton wrote that the plot of Labyrinth "is very similar to Outside Over There by Mr. Sendak, in which 9-year-old Ida's baby sister is stolen by the goblins." Copies of Outside Over There, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Wizard of Oz are shown briefly in Sarah's room at the start of the film. The film also features an end credit stating that "Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak".
The film's concept designer Brian Froud has stated that the character of Jareth was influenced by a diverse range of literary sources. In his afterword to the Goblins of Labyrinth, Froud wrote that Jareth references "the romantic figures of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and a brooding Rochester from Jane Eyre" and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Bowie's costumes were intentionally eclectic, drawing on the image of Marlon Brando's leather jacket from The Wild One as well as that of a knight "with the worms of death eating through his armour" from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
The dialogue starting with "you remind me of the babe" that occurs between Jareth and the goblins in the Magic Dance sequence in the film is a direct reference to an exchange between Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in the 1947 film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.