close [×]

Dear Flixster Community,

After seven fabulous years with you all, we are sorry to let you know that we're going to be retiring the Flixster Community site on September 30, 2014. Please note that you can still access your ratings, reviews, and quizzes on Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes using your same login. We have had so much fun building this community with you.

Thanks for all the memories,

Get movie widget Recommend it Add to Favorites

Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law ... see more see more... , Colin Farrell , Verne Troyer , Andrew Garfield , Lily Cole , Richard Riddell , Katie Lyons , Richard Shanks , Bruce Crawford , Johnny Harris , Lorraine Cheshire , Mark Benton , Lewis Gott , Sian Scott , Simon Day , Moya Brady , Charles McKeown , Mackenzie Gray , Yurij Kis , Ian Wallace , Amanda Walker , Joann Condon , Carolyn Pickles , Paloma Faith , Montserrat Lombard , Craig Fraser , Amy Marston , Gwendoline Christie , Lucy Russell , Maggie Steed , Ben Cartwright , Gavin Rolph , Bobbi Bysouth , Vitaliy Kravchenko , Ray Cooper , Emil Hostina , Igor Ingelsman , Sarah Groundwater , Dean Moen , Fraser Aitcheson , Michael Bean , Jase-Anthony Griffith , Scott McGillivray , John Stewart , Chris Cochrane , Pearce Visser , Patrick Bahrich , Georgina Hegedos , Cassandra Sawtell , Carrie Genzel , Mark Oliver , Peter Stormare , Donna Lysell , Michael Eklund , Rahul Singh , Ryan Grantham , D. Harlan Cutshall , Deni Delory , Lisa Bunting , Peter New , Michael Jonsson , Emma Karwandy , Quinn Lord , Morris Bart & Kimberly C. Anderson , Erika Conway , Wendy Carson , Christine McMahon

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present-day. It tells the story of Dr. Parnassus and his 'Imaginarium', a traveling show where members of the audience ... read more read more...get opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Doctor Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. An inveterate gambler, thousands of years ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr. Nick, in which he won immortality. Centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr. Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his daughter reached her 16th birthday, she would become the property of Mr Nick.

Flixster Users

60% liked it

294,827 ratings


64% liked it

189 critics

DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010

Stats: 11,717 reviews

Your Rating

clear rating

Flixster Reviews (11,717)

  • May 5, 2010
    A splendid film from Terry Gillam. Ledger was doing so well in the film and his unfortunate death does take away a tad from the scenes shot after his death but all and all a very good film. A very visually pleasing film.
  • October 27, 2012
    Strange. Made stranger by the cobbled together reworking after Ledger's death. I could have done without seeing this.
  • June 17, 2012
    Gilliam began with the idea of making a film totally from scratch, the eternal battle between good and evil, with the framing device being an imperfect father's perfect love for his daughter, an immortal valentine if you will. But then the unfortunate happened, and the story's f... read moreocus changed. Adapting well with tragedy, still the valentine remains.
  • fb576007796
    October 25, 2011
    If you like Terry Gilliam it is exactly what you hoped it would be.
  • October 21, 2011
    compelling story but non-practical VFX were uneven
  • September 27, 2011
    Yes it's quirky and it's philosophical message gets a bit lost in the shuffle, but Heath Ledger is amazing again, as well as his imaginarium stand ins (is it just me, or does Colin Ferrell makes the best sleezeball?).Wouldn't put it at the top of my list, but definitely worth see... read moreing.
  • August 2, 2011
    Madness unhinged! Tapping the water from the deepest wells of his imagination, visionary director Terry Gilliam serves us a strange-tasting cocktail of fantasy world flavors. Some will likely find it much too exotic, while others, like myself, draw pleasure from its artistic and ... read morefree-spirited nature. This was also the last movie to star the late Heath Ledger, as his tragic passing occured at the time of its production. That's why in some sequences of the film, his character suddenly switches form into Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell. I'm glad though that his final appearance is one that highlights his amazing talents as an actor. He left us at the peak of his career, with an imprint upon the realm of cinema that will never fade away. Words of praise can also be spoken about other cast members as well, which includes Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer, our new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, musician Tom Waits, Christopher Plummer, Peter Stormare and the enchantingly attractive Lily Cole. But the best thing about this film is its unwillingness to conform to the long-established paradigms of Hollywood. For better or worse, it goes it's very own way. Not just for the sake of being original, but with the honest intent to celebrate the riches of the human mind. A visual extravaganza, brought to us by a man to whom the word "low-key" is completely inexistent. For once you enter his domain, there's no telling where the journey will take you.
  • July 28, 2011
    An entertainer's pact with the Devil comes due on his daughter's sixteenth birthday after his theater troupe rescues a mysterious young man.
    Fans of this film will probably say that it was highly imaginative and visually stimulating ... at least that's what I think Terry Gilliam ... read moreis going for. I am not a fan. This seems like a rather old fashioned morality tale, a re-telling of Faust: immortality and deals with the devil usually come back to bite you in the ass. The added element is the "Imaginarium," a mirror into which people fall, and it takes them to another world where the person's imagination can run wild until s/he is forced to make a choice between the benevolent Dr. Parnassus and the devil. This seems like a concept that could be quite compelling, but the visuals of everyone's imagination are virtually the same. The room for creativity that such a concept offers is under-utilized.
    The performances are fair. Christopher Plummer seems to be sleep-walking through part of his role and high on cocaine during other parts. Heath Ledger deserved a better send-off; perhaps it was his untimely death that gave his performance an uneven feel, as though the character is never fully realized. Tom Waits, Andrew Garfield, and Lily Cole were all good, but they didn't have very juicy parts.
    Overall, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a mess.
  • March 7, 2011
    Being a veteran of Terry Gilliam films, I was ready for a visual feast and flights of fancy, but once again all the imagination in the world isn't going to save you if there is no character growth or a story with characters you can care about.

    As usual for Gilliam, the film, w... read morehile brilliant in its cinematography, lacks focus while the characters are nothing more than pieces on Gilliam's chessboard - to be moved around, feinting here and attacking there, in attempts to support the visuals.

    The main failing here as I see it, is that the character of Dr. Parnassus fails to elicit any pathos whatsoever. Here you have to potential of a tragic figure, on a level with King Lear, but Christopher Plummer plays him as a bumbling buffoon; a drunk who mourns his decisions and yet keeps repeating the same mistakes. He has every chance to become heroic, especially when he gets yet another chance at redemption and change the fate of his daughter, and yet seems oddly detached and unable to summon up the gumption to make any more than a half-hearted effort. I felt like reaching through the screen and shaking Plummer - wake up you idiot! The daughter you supposedly love needs you to step up! But no... even when what he has to achieve is so simple.

    I can't really blame Plummer here, as I'm sure Gilliam scripted the character this way - leaving the major plot moving to Heath Ledger's character. Ledger is complex and interesting in what would be his last role; and I thought it very inventive how Gilliam was able to film around the loss of his lead character (inside the imaginarium, your imagination takes over, so of course it's not out of the question that your own image would change - and what a lovely surprise is in store when that happens!).

    The character that really interested me however, was Mr. Nick, played by Tom Waits. He keeps winning bets from Parnassus, but then continues to offer him second and third (and 1,000th) chances. There is no profit in it for him to do so other than to continue playing the game. It's as if Nick is using Parnassus as a lab rat, just so he can watch the experiment continue to unfold.

    There are scenes of true brilliance here, as when the reality created by Ledger's imagination gets assaulted by truth and begins to crack and shatter - but all these inventive scenes aren't grounded in anything to make you care about the characters - so you feel as if in a giant video game that's going to reboot regardless of whether a character lives or dies.

    At film's end, a little boy asks Parnassus if there will be a happy ending - to which Parnassus replies that there are no guarantees... all as Mr. Nick smiles and suggests yet another bet. If only the possibility could have existed for Parnassus to rise above himself and defeat Nick once and for all - but I suppose that could be construed as the film's message - mankind has been blessed and has been given eternal forgiveness for our sins, and yet for all the grace we've been given we keep on sinning, and so the game continues.
  • January 7, 2011
    Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" contains some wonderfully imaginative images and creative designs, but the overall effect is somewhat weaker than his previous outings.

    Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a very strange man. A thousand years ago, ... read morehe was the leader of a cult that believed their story-telling kept the universe from ceasing to exist. When the devil (Tom Waits) proves to them their stories have no bearing on the ongoing existence of the universe, Parnassus somehow unwittingly sparks the interest of the devil and is drawn into a thousand year relationship with him that consists mainly of (not so friendly) wagers. Perhaps it's Parnassus' knack for drawing souls into his imaginarium that so inspires the devil, whose wagers with Parnassus often involve the collecting of souls, and who can collect the most. After Parnassus wins the first bet, which allows him to be immortal, he begins to suspect the devil let him win, in order to keep him around forever in this fashion. Parnassus is then doomed to spend an eternity constantly making deals with the devil. His latest one involved a promise to be made mortal again, to marry a beautiful mortal woman, in exchange for the offspring of this relationship, to be granted to the devil upon it's 16th birthday. Parnassus, in love (or lust, the difference is never really clear), eagerly accepts, ignoring the consequences of his deed.

    It is now many years later (modern day, to be exact), and Parnassus' imaginarium is a traveling medieval medicine show, comprised of a juggler, a little person (Verne Troyer) and Parnassus' daughter, on the cusp of her 16th birthday. Thrown into the mix is an amnesiac (Heath Ledger) that the group found hanging off the side of a bridge. The amnesiac proves to be a unique showman, and is able to draw crowds to the Parnassus' imaginarium (the underlying message being, without slick production and modern showmanship, even truly magical things are ignored in today's world).

    There are elements of the Fisher King and Baron Munchausen in Doctor Parnassus, that in spite of his magical gifts, he's still somewhat of a tragic figure. The subplot involving Heath Ledger's character (the mysterious stranger joins the group and helps turn their fortunes around) has been done before and takes perhaps too much of the focus of the film, but the twist at the end makes for a pretty nice pay-off. I think more than any other Gilliam production, the reliance on computer-generated images may have lessened the overall emotional impact of the film, and the death of Heath Ledger (this was his final film), may have abducted the film from it's original direction. In spite of these critiques, it's still an outstanding film that fits well in the Terry Gilliam canon.

Critic Reviews

Christine Champ
May 6, 2011
Christine Champ,

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is one of those movies that, despite spectacular elements, doesn't add up to a spectacular film. Full Review

Jonathan F. Richards
January 15, 2010
Jonathan F. Richards,

Terry Gilliam, the veteran film director who cut his teeth as the animation wizard of television's legendary Monty Python's Flying Circus, has flirted with genius throughout his career, and bedded her... Full Review

Tom Long
January 8, 2010
Tom Long, Detroit News

Parnassus is fun to watch a good deal of the time, and Gilliam is almost always visually surprising, but Ledger could have used a more momentous send-off. Full Review

Lisa Kennedy
January 8, 2010
Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

It teases with magnificently tantalizing moments that don't quite add up to one grand insight. Which, come to think of it, is an epiphany of its own peculiar sort. Full Review

Chris Vognar
January 8, 2010
Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

When it's all done we're left with another recent Gilliam trademark: the highly imaginative mess. Full Review

Ann Hornaday
January 8, 2010
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Shot through with a bold, extravagant generosity of spirit, this journey behind the literal and figurative looking glass marks a gratifying return to form for Gilliam, whose recent films haven't quite... Full Review

Mick LaSalle
January 7, 2010
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

It plays like a salvage job, with all the attendant compromises. Though the film is laden with backstory and exposition, not much actually happens onscreen. Full Review

Colin Covert
January 7, 2010
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

I'd love to report that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a work of renegade genius. Alas, it's a minor film, memorable largely as the farewell of Heath Ledger, who died when his scenes were only... Full Review

Carrie Rickey
January 7, 2010
Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is vintage Terry Gilliam, a pour not to all tastes but one certain to please lovers of Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Full Review

Ty Burr
January 7, 2010
Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Your mileage may vary, especially if you feel that the gifted celebrity dead should be mourned with taste and decorum. In which case, why are you even at a Terry Gilliam movie? Full Review

Critic ratings and reviews powered by

Fresh (60% or more critics rated the movie positively)

Rotten (59% or fewer critics rated the movie positively)

More Like This

Click a thumb to vote on that suggestion, or add your own suggestions.

  • Alice in Wonderland
    Alice in Wonderland (93%)
  • The Fall
    The Fall (97%)
  • Stardust
    Stardust (95%)
  • Peter Pan
    Peter Pan (56%)


    • Tony: Where the hell are we?
    • Percy: Geographically speaking, in the Northern Hemisphere. Socially, on the margins. And narratively, with some way to go.
    • Anton: What's that doing in a teapot!
    • Mr. Nick: You're probably not a betting man are you?
    • Tony: Don't believe everything you read. Especially The Mirror.

The Imaginarium o... : Watch Free on TV

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Trivia

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnass... Trivia

  • What movie was Heath Ledger in the midst of filming when he died?  Answer »
  • Which actor/musician appeared in the following films? Rumblefish Down By Law Bram Stoker's Dracula Shortcuts The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (upcoming)  Answer »
  • In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, whic singer has a small part as Sally?  Answer »
  • Which model plays Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus?  Answer »

Movie Quizzes

No quizzes for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Want to create one?

Recent Lists

Most Popular Skin