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Labyrinth is a 1986 fantasy film, directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas, and designed by Brian Froud. Henson collaborated on the screenwriting with children's author Dennis Lee and Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones. The leads are David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams. The plot revolves around Sarah's quest to rescue her little brother from the Goblin King while trapped in an enormous otherworldly maze. Most of the other significant roles are played by puppets or by a combination of puppetry and human performance. It was shot on location in New Yorkmarker and at Elstree Studiosmarker and Hampstead Heathmarker in the UKmarker. It was the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990.


Protagonist Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly)- whose parents are divorced and whose mother is a moderately famous actress - is a 16-year-old who loves reading and acting out fairy tales. The movie opens with a scene of Sarah rehearsing lines from a book entitled Labyrinth in a park. While trying to remember her final line in the book, a bell rings and she realises that she has lost track of time. She runs home to find her stepmother Irene waiting for her. They quarrel, and Irene leaves with Sarah's father on a date. Sarah is left home to babysit her baby brother, Toby. Sarah realizes that one of her treasured teddy bears, Lancelot, is missing from her room. Storming into Toby's room, she finds Lancelot and yells at Toby, who then begins to cry. Sarah begins rehearsing more lines from Labyrinth, telling the story of a maiden granted special powers by the King of Goblins. According to the story, the girl could no longer stand the baby's cries and wishes for goblins to take away her screaming baby brother. As she ends the story and turns off the light, she remarks, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away...right now." Toby suddenly stops crying. Worried, Sarah enters his room, to find that Toby has vanished.

A barn owl flies through the open bedroom window and transforms into Jareth, the King of Goblins (David Bowie). He tells her that he has taken the baby as she had wished. Realizing what she has done, Sarah begs for the return of her brother. Jareth tells her that if she can solve his great maze, known as the Labyrinth within 13 hours, she can have Toby back. If she cannot, he will turn Toby into a goblin and keep him forever.

The Labyrinth is not a simple maze; the pathways and openings in the walls of the maze change at intervals and are riddled with logic puzzles and tests. At its entrance, Sarah finds Hoggle, a curmudgeonly dwarf, spraying fairies with a solution to stop them biting him. She bribes him with plastic jewelry to lead her through the maze. Although he helps Sarah, it is later revealed that he is deployed by Jareth. Sarah's other companions are acquired along the way. Sir Didymus, a chivalrous, fox-like knight who rides a sheepdog called Ambrosius. Sir Didymus lives near the Bog of Eternal Stench, and guards a bridge to uphold a sacred oath. Ludo, a giant, furry, gentle beast she rescues from some of Jareth's goblins. Ludo has the unique ability to summon boulders by howling.

Sarah and her friends experience a variety of adventures, including a stop at the Four Guards, where she must solve a Raymond Smullyan-inspired Knights and Knaves logic puzzle to avoid certain death; an encounter with detachable-limbed revellers known as "The Fire Gang", who try to remove Sarah's head; a detour through the Bog of Eternal Stench; a junkyard-like recreation of her own bedroom; and a hallucinogen-induced masquerade ball. There, Jareth attempts to keep her until the 13th hour by dancing with her. She wakes from this illusion and continues into his castle beyond the goblin city with barely enough time to spare.

The film climax in Jareth's multi-dimensional, M. C. Escher-inspired castle, wherein he makes a final appeal for her to abandon her quest and stay with him. She defeats him by reciting her monologue from the beginning of the movie, including the final line that Sarah had been having difficulty remembering: "You have no power over me". The room crumbles away, and Sarah finds herself in the front hall of her home as the clock strikes midnight and the owl Jareth flies away.

Sarah gives Toby the teddy bear named Lancelot, then returns to her room. As Sarah clears her dressing table, she seems confused about whether she has undergone the turning point in her life between childhood and adulthood. Hoggle appears, along with Ludo and Sir Didymus, as images in the mirror. They seem to be bidding her goodbye as she leaves behind the fantasies of childhood, but remind her that they will still be available "should you need us". Sarah insists she needs them, and will need them every now and then throughout her life, and her friends appear in her bedroom. The film closes as the Labyrinth's creatures celebrate in her room. Outside, the owl Jareth watches the party and then flies away into the night.


Many of the fantasy characters in the film appear as various toys and figurines in Sarah's room.

  • Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams: Protagonist. Sarah is an imaginative 15-year old with a love of fantasy and fairy tales. Although she briefly wishes for Toby to be taken away, she feel guilty almost immediately and asks for his return. She is dedicated to her quest for that return, very attached to her friends, and courageous when another is threatened. She resists the Goblin King's affections in order to fulfill her quest. Sarah herself appears as a figurine in her own room, represented in inanimate form by the music box of a girl standing in a crystal gazebo, wearing the dress from the ballroom sequence, which can be seen on the right-hand side of her desk along with the figure of Jareth (see below); also, there is a poster of an M. C. Escher staircase on her wall, representing the staircase in the Labyrinth.
David Bowie as Jareth
  • David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King: Antagonist. Jareth is the seemingly cruel, yet handsome master of a wide kingdom of goblins, which is called the Underground. Jareth is cunning, feared among the goblins, and ubiquitous throughout his fortress. He appears to be able to manipulate aspects of his world at will, creating bizarre landscapes and redirecting Sarah's journey. He is able to create, seemingly from thin air, small crystal orbs which are used to work magic. He is shown contact juggling them throughout the film; this was produced by having another actor (Michael Moschen) stand behind David Bowie and perform the juggle while organizing the picture to make it seem that only one man stood in the viewers' field of vision. Jareth is shown changing into a barn owl, in which form he appears at the beginning and end of the film. Over the course of the film, Jareth appears to become romantically interested in Sarah, even asking her to stay in the Labyrinth as his bride. In the novelization of the film, when they are in the ballroom sequence, Jareth spellbinds her with his words and tries to kiss her. More of Jareth's background and motivations are revealed in the authorized English-language manga sequel Return to Labyrinth. A figurine of Jareth can be seen on the right hand side of Sarah's desk (behind the music box), while a photograph of Sarah's mother includes David Bowie, the actor portraying Jareth.
  • Toby Froud as Toby Williams: Toby is Sarah's infant half-brother through their father. His mother is Irene Williams while Sarah's mother was Linda Williams (Sarah's father's first wife). Conceptual artist Brian Froud's infant son (also named Toby) played Sarah's brother in the movie.
  • Linda Williams: Only seen in the photographs in Sarah's bedroom and mentioned in the novelization, Linda Williams is Sarah's biological mother. She is said in the novel to have been lured away by a performer who might have been Jareth's alter ego. Sarah's father later married a woman named Irene, Toby's mother.
  • Shelley Thompson as Irene Williams: Never mentioned by name in the film (although fans dubbed her "Karen"), in 2006 she was named "Irene" by the Henson Company in the Return to Labyrinth manga. Irene is very prudish and believes things should be normal, proper, and acceptable. Sarah resents her, as does Toby in the manga.
  • Christopher Malcolm as Robert Williams: A somewhat one-dimensional character; he only appeared briefly in the film as Toby and Sarah's father. He is only mentioned by name in the novelization.
  • Shari Weiser and Brian Henson (voice) as Hoggle: Hoggle is a cowardly dwarf-goblin that works for Jareth, but becomes loyal to Sarah. Hoggle is irritated when Jareth pronounces his name wrongly, which he appears to do deliberately to annoy Hoggle. There is some implication that Hoggle may have romantic feelings for Sarah; Jareth's peculiar threat to throw him into the Bog of Eternal Stench could be interpreted as evidence of jealousy. Against his own wishes, Hoggle gives Sarah a peach as a gift from Jareth, who again threatens to dump him in the Bog of Eternal Stench if he does not do so. When Sarah loses her way as a result of being induced into a deep sleep by the peach, which subsequently causes Sarah to temporarily lose her memory, Hoggle is unable to cope with his feelings of guilt and remorse, and becomes estranged from Sarah, who brands him a coward. At the entrance to the Goblin city, when Sarah, Ludo, and Sir Didymus are under attack from the guardian - a goblin in a towering suit of armor, brandishing a large axe - Hoggle risks his life to save them. Hoggle is commended for his bravery by Sir Didymus and Ludo, whereupon Sarah forgives him for his earlier mistake. A bookend that looks like Hoggle can be seen in Sarah's room. The puppet used to represent him is located in the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. Along with a few other pieces from the film it was never claimed from airport baggage and is currently on display by the company.
  • Ron Mueck (voice) as Ludo: Ludo is a gentle creature, once called a "yeti" in the dialogue, who was tormented by goblins until Sarah rescued him. Despite his great size and strength, Ludo tends to be reluctant to enter into a confrontation with anything, and instead will issue a deep, lowing howl which summons rocks of many sizes and number to his aid; a talent which proves useful several times throughout the film. He speaks with a very limited vocabulary, often using only nouns to make his point (for example, "Sarah friend"). Ludo, unlike the conventional depiction of a yeti, has shaggy red fur, horns on his head, and a long, straight, swinging tail. A doll that looks like Ludo can be seen near the window of Sarah's room.
  • David Shaughnessy (voice) as Sir Didymus: Sir Didymus is a fox-terrier who guards The Bog of Eternal Stench. Shortly after he meets Sarah, he joins her in her quest to rescue Toby. He has a 'steed' named Ambrosius (a sheepdog identical to Sarah's own dog, Merlin), who runs from trouble. In contrast, Sir Didymus is quite fearless and frequently taunts his enemies, goading them to attack. Despite his size, he is an excellent fighter, utilizing a miniature lance and his sheer quickness to battle larger foes. A battle showed him to be an approximate match for Ludo, who is many times his size, in solo combat. He is shown 'adopting' Ludo as a foster-brother. There is a stuffed animal that looks like Sir Didymus on Sarah's shelf.
  • Percy Edwards (voice) as Ambrosius. Sir Didymus' loyal sheepdog-steed. Unlike his courageous master, Ambrosius is a coward and generally runs from trouble, but stops short of abandoning Didymus altogether. Ambrosius is in most respects identical to Sarah's dog Merlin, but appears somewhat smaller.
  • Timothy Bateson (voice) as William the Worm: The worm is a small, blue goblin that wears a bright red scarf, has 3 bright blue tuffs of hair,and lives in the brick wall of the first passage of the Labyrinth. He encounters Sarah during her earliest time within the maze. When Sarah asks him 'How do I get through this Labyrinth?' he mistakenly thinks she means 'How do I get out of this Labyrinth?', unaware that she wants to reach the castle. He therefore sends her one way and tells her never to go the other way. Behind her back, he remarks, 'If she had kept on going down that way she would have gone straight to that castle". This provokes viewers to think that he was deliberately misleading her. The novel version therefore changes his line to "If she'd gone the other way, she'd have walked straight into that dreadful castle".
  • Frank Oz and Sir Michael Hordern (voice) as The Wiseman: This goblin encounters Sarah halfway through the Labyrinth, giving her puzzling advice and arguing with the bird-like figure that lives upon his head. His scene possesses no real significance, but serves to bring comic relief to the movie and transition into a more significant piece of the story.
  • Dave Goelz (voice) as The Wiseman's Bird Hat: Spends most of his time arguing with the Wiseman; like the Wiseman, has no real significance, but brings some comic relief to the story.
  • Karen Prell and Denise Bryer (voice) as The Junk Lady: The Junk Lady encounters Sarah after she wakes up from the dream invoked by Jareth's peach. The Junk Lady tries to distract her from her quest to find Toby, as Sarah has lost her memory after eating the peach. She leads Sarah into a junkyard-like version of her own bedroom, giving her an array of toys seen earlier in the movie to be treasured by Sarah. After reading a passage from the "Labyrinth" book, Sarah realizes that the Junk Lady is not real, but an illusion created by Jareth- and that the former treasures of her selfish childhood are not important to her anymore, but merely 'junk' compared to the importance of her friends and Toby. She then remembers everything, and discards the toys, at which point the room and the Junk Lady both disappear. Sarah is immediately reunited with Ludo, Sir Didymus, and Ambrosius.
  • Warwick Davis as Goblin Corps.
  • Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, Anthony Asbury, and Dave Goelz (voices) as The Four Guards: These sets of guards, two behind red and blue matching coats of arms involve Sarah in a logic puzzle where of the four, the two she has to ask one question for one of them. The two warn that one of them always tell the truth and the other will always lie. The wrong answer leading her to "certain death"
  • Robert Beatty and Dave Goelz (voices) as Right and Left Door Knockers (respectively): The door knockers are a dynamic duo literally living upon a set of doors. One has a knocker ring in his ears; the other in his mouth. Therefore one can hardly speak and the other can hardly hear, making them a form of irony. These characters are patterned after the Muppet Show duo Statler and Waldorf.
  • Kevin Clash, Charles Augins, Danny John-Jules, Richard Bodkin (voices) as Firey 1-5: The Fireys (also called the Fire Gang) are a group of wild goblins that lurk within the Labyrinth's forest. They have detachable body parts and sing one of the songs on the soundtrack. They come to Sarah's aid at a moment when she is lost and uncertain by inviting her to take things more lightly, though this "help" goes too far when they fail to grasp the concept that Sarah does not come into pieces as they do, and attempt to take her apart. They, along with Ludo, Hoggle, Didymus, and many other unnamed goblins, appear in Sarah's room for the final celebration. There is a doll version of a Firey (with button eyes) on Sarah's shelf.


The following songs were composed by David Bowie and performed by his character, Jareth, in the film. The exception is "Chilly Down", which is performed by Fieries David Alan Barclay, Karen Prell and Rob Mills (a.k.a. The Fire Gang).

Bowie admits in the 1986 documentary Inside The Labyrinth that he had to make baby noises during the "Magic Dance" sequence because the baby in the studio would not.

One song originally on the soundtrack, "First Kiss", was cut after the corresponding scene was removed from the film. Test audiences had objected to a kiss between Sarah and Jareth, as both Sarah's character and the actress portraying her were underage. Without the kiss, the song made no sense, so the entire sequence was cut, shortening the film's runtime by six minutes, according to Bowie in a 2002 interview.

The soundtrack album was released in 1986 (the audio CD in 1989), with 12 tracks.


Box office

The film turned out to be a failure at the box office. The film grossed only $12 million from ticket sales under its $25 million budget.

A 35mm reissue of the Labyrinth was shown at various theatres in the Landmark Theaters chain, beginning with a run from July 27, 2007 to August 2, 2007 in San Francisco, Californiamarker.

Cult classic

Labyrinth has, over the years, become a major cult classic. In recent years various toys and other merchandise have been produced, including an action figure of Jareth that came to stores in May 2007.

Labyrinth in other media

The cover to Return to Labyrinth vol.

The film was novelised by A.C.H. Smith as Labyrinth: A Novel. It is currently out of print, and the few copies available have prices in the region of US$30 to US$150.

Marvel Comics produced a three-issue comic book adaptation, which was also printed in a single volume as Marvel Super Special #40.

The soundtrack album Labyrinth includes much of Trevor Jones's score, including "Into the Labyrinth", "Sarah", "Hallucination", "The Goblin Battle", "Thirteen O'Clock" and "Home at Last", and David Bowie's five songs, "Magic Dance" (also credited as "Dance Magic"), "Chilly Down", "As the World Falls Down", "Within You", and the single released for the film, "Underground". A single for "Underground" was released in 1986 and included an instrumental version as well as an extended dance mix of the song.

A video game based on the movie was released alongside the movie in 1986 for the Commodore 64 and Apple II. A different version was also released in Japanmarker for the Nintendo Famicom.

The Muppet Babies episode "Nice to Have Gnome You" features Miss Piggy in the role of Sarah for a similar plot. The episode features extensive clips taken from the movie.

Tokyopop, in partnership with The Jim Henson Company, published a manga-style four volume comic called Return to Labyrinth. The first volume was released August 8, 2006. It was written by Jake T. Forbes and illustrated by Chris Lie with cover art by Kouyu Shurei. It is a sequel to the film and is about Toby, the baby brother in the movie, when he has grown to be 15 years old. In October 2007, Tokyopop released the second volume, Return to Labyrinth 2. In May 2009, TOKYOPOP released the third volume, Return to Labyrinth 3. In an afterword, editor Tim Beedle announced that the series, originally planned as a trilogy, was being extended to include a fourth volume.

Labyrinth was parodied in the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim sitcom, Fat Guy Stuck in Internet, in episode 109 "Boogie, Baby, Boogie!".

The St. Louismarker, Missourimarker based band Ludo derives its name from one of the characters.

Sources and inspirations

  • The filmmakers acknowledged several influences, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the works of Maurice Sendak (the plot mirrors that of his story "Outside Over There"), and M. C. Escher.
  • Many of the settings and creatures in the film were based on designs by Brian Froud, who had previously collaborated with Henson on The Dark Crystal. Froud and screenwriter Terry Jones later collaborated on the book The Goblins of Labyrinth which depicted some of the incidental creatures from the film.
  • Some of the puzzles and riddles are inspired by the logician Raymond Smullyan.
  • Some of the film's visuals including set pieces were inspired by M.C. Escher artworks. A poster of Escher's "Relativity" can be seen in Sarah's room.
  • As described in interviews, the setting and design of the character of Jareth, as well as the many creatures featured in the film are thought to be somewhat influenced by the vivid nightmares David Bowie had as a child.
  • English singer Leona Lewis revealed that her 2010 tour will be based around her 'Favourite film', Labyrinth.

External links


  4. [1]
  6. Labyrinth (1986) - Box office / business
  7. Opening of 35mm re-issue of Jim Henson Classic LABYRINTH at Landmark's Lumiere Theatre (Friday, July 27, 2007) - Upcoming
  8. || National Entertainment Collectibles Association, Inc

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