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File:Labyrinth-poster21 7824.jpg
"I think there was a study once about how sixty percent of the girls in America lost their virginity solely because of watching David Bowie in this movie... though it's got to be a bit wonky watching someone else wave balls in front of your face."

Labyrinth is a 1986 Jim Henson film executive produced by George Lucas, a musical fantasy starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. Sarah is an unhappy teenager, who hides from life in fantasy tales to the point of dressing up in a long flowing dress and acting bits of script in the park. The cause of her unhappiness is her father's remarriage and the resulting half-brother, Toby (played by concept artist Brian Froud's son Toby), about a year old at the time of the action. One night, in a particularly big sulk, she wishes that the Goblin King (called Jareth) would come and take Toby away -- which, to her horror, he immediately does. He then offers her a dream-fulfillment crystal if she'll agree to forget Toby, which she refuses. Jareth gives Sarah a chance to rescue Toby; he takes her to his realm, where she must find her way through the Labyrinth to Jareth's citadel before thirteen hours elapse. In this she is aided by various goblins and monsters whose allegiance to Jareth is highly conditional or non-existent.

Is a Spiritual Successor to The Dark Crystal, and was itself Spiritually Succeeded by Mirror Mask. Although a box office flop, it has since become a Cult Classic.

The film is mainly aimed at children, but has plenty to engage an adult audience -- not least of all David Bowie's prominent package, a few fan-made drinking games, and the many, many tropes available for hunting...

A four-novel English manga sequel called Return to Labyrinth began publishing in 2006 and concluded in 2010. In January 2012, Archaia Publishing announced it will be publishing a graphic novel prequel detailing Jareth's origins.

Tropes used in Labyrinth include:


  • Adorable Evil Minions: Their adorableness is debatable but this trope fits the goblins quite well.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The Cleaners.
  • Affably Evil: Jareth.
  • Agent Peacock: Jareth.
  • All Just a Dream: Lampshaded, then subverted. Twice. Possibly.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted -- it draws elements from folklore and fairy tales, but is not based on any one story.
  • Androcles' Lion: Sarah saves Ludo from some Goblins and he returns the favor by saving her from attack in the Goblin City.
  • Animated Credits Opening: A CGI-based one, as a barn owl swoops above and around the titles...
  • Arc Words: "You have no power over me!"
    • "It's not fair!"
      • "This is a piece of cake!" or a variation thereof. This always leads to Jareth or the Labyrinth itself increasing the difficulty level considerably. For example, Sarah exclaims this after solving a logic puzzle in her path: the floor disappears and she falls into a deep hole lined with rotten, gnarled, sentient hands who form grotesque faces to speak with her. The DVD release's documentary shows just how lovingly the scene marries Scenery Porn and Starring Special Effects.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Kicks off the entire plot.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Jareth, of course.
  • Bishonen: The creator of Return to Labyrinth actually referred to Jareth as one.
    • Too bad the comic's art beyond the cover didn't follow true to that word. There were many a disappointed fan after opening the cover.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The M. C. Escher stairs scene.
    • And let's be honest... everything else as well. It's a magical Labyrinth that constantly shifts and readjusts itself and most of the walls and doors are alive.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Well, Jareth isn't exactly EVIL, but still...
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Goblin king claims to be generous with Sarah by living up to her expectations: taking Toby away from her, being frightening when Sarah expected him to be, and setting up the entire adventure for her "benefit".
  • Book Ends: The barn owl in flight -- arriving in the beginning to observe Sarah in the park, and leaving at the end after seeing her celebrating with her friends.
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: A guard who always tells the truth; its counterpart always lies. The trick isn't figuring out which is which, but posing a question that would get the same answer from either. Think on it.

 Guard 1: Is that right?

Guard 2: I don't know; I've never understood it!

  • Celebrity Paradox: Even a social recluse like Sarah should know about David Bowie. She is surprisingly unfazed when the Goblin King looks just like him.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Hoggle.
  • Changeling Tale: The result of Sarah's wish.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Sarah's entire bedroom. Plush Didymus, plush Ludo, the musicbox with Sarah's Pimped-Out Dress, a Jareth-looking statue, a print of that Escher drawing, it's all there. Not to mention, there's a picture of David Bowie with Sarah's actress mother in the scrap book and in the mirror.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A line she forgot from a play.

 Sarah: You have no power over me.

 Ludo: Ludo sad!

 Humongous: WHO GOES?

 Jareth: Nothing? Nothing? NOTHING, tra-la-la?

  • Laugh with Me: Just before the "Magic Dance" sequence, Jareth laughs, then demands that his goblins join in. Once, they do, he shuts them up for the song. Much the same happens after Sarah is trapped in the oubliette.
  • Life Isn't Fair: Boy, does Sarah learn this the hard way...
  • Living Labyrinth
  • Lord Error-Prone: Sir Didymus.
  • Losing Your Head: The Fireys.
  • Lotus Eater Machine: The ball, and the replica of her bedroom afterwards.
  • Lovable Traitor: Hoggle.
  • Magical Land: The Labyrinth.
  • Make a Wish: All Sarah has to do is wish for her baby brother to disappear, and goblins ferry him away.
  • Malevolent Mugshot
  • Mind Screw: Reciting a line from a play defeats the Goblin King. Really, that's what finally stops him. [1]
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: If Jareth had settled on just giving Hoggle orders then there would have been no problem, especially since Hoggle is a dyed-in-the-wool misanthrope. However, Jareth just can't seem to stop insulting Hoggle, belittling him, physically mistreating him, and issuing dire threats (it was probably his threat to dump Hoggle into the Bog Of Eternal Stench that finally tipped the scales). The manga reveals that Jareth makes good on his threat.
  • Multiple Head Case: The Fireys.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: Alternate Universe, with a touch of All In Their Heads for "As the World Falls Down". All four song-and-dance numbers take place in the Magical Land; moreover, unlike many musicals they aren't spread out amongst the main characters -- the Fireys get one and Jareth gets the other three, suggesting that singing is simply a way they communicate with others and/or amuse themselves.
  • Must Make Amends: The plot of the movie follows this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hoggle, after giving Sarah the peach. Also Sarah herself, when she realized the goblins had listened when she wished they'd take Toby away.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: The only time that Jareth gets Hoggle's name right is on the occasion of the "If she ever kisses you..." threat. He's just as bad with Mayor Spittledrum's name in the manga.
  • Nobody Can Die: Purposefully invoked by the filmmakers.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Toby begins crying absolutely uncontrollably, and Sarah says, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away-- right now." And instantaneously, there is silence, and the audience (and Sarah) realize that's exactly what happened.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The entire labyrinth...although it's not really judging cleverness so much as the ability to think "outside the box".
  • Oubliette

 Hoggle: Oh don't act so smart. You don't even know what an oubliette is.

Sarah: Do you?

Hoggle: Yes. It's a place you put people... to forget about 'em!

  • Other Common Music Video Concepts: This movie managed two Movie Tie-In Music Videos, both of which have Bowie as himself: "Underground" sends him into a mysterious alley where he meets seemingly half the puppet cast (no Video Full of Film Clips here!) and "As the World Falls Down" has Hoggle bearing witness to a Love Before First Sight situation (a woman falls for Bowie via a photo, he falls for her via a painting). The latter initially went unaired when the single release was cancelled, but both videos have since been featured on career-spanning Bowie compilations.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: They're a bunch of small sprites that Hoggle sprays like bugs, and they tend to bite.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: In folklore, one of the main attributes of goblins is that they steal babies. Jareth looks mostly human (if he wasn't a stolen baby himself).
  • Owl Be Damned: Jareth's shapeshifted form is that of a barn owl.
  • Painted-On Pants: Jareth.
  • Parental Abandonment: The novelization says that Sarah's mother, an actress, walked out on the family and took up with a charming fellow actor named Jeremy. While most of this is All There in the Manual material, in the film there is a picture of the mother with a male co-star in Sarah's scrapbook, and he looks awfully like Jareth...
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Sarah's ultra-puffy dream dress.
  • Place Worse Than Death: The Bog of Eternal Stench.
  • Politeness Judo
  • Pop Star Composer: Well, who do you think?
  • Race Against the Clock: Sarah must solve the Labyrinth within 13 hours.
  • Reality Warper: The Labyrinth is essentially Jareth's plaything, and he is also capable of altering time there.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: When Sarah mutters to her colicky infant brother, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now," she has no idea they are listening.
  • Road Sign Reversal: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, goblins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Almost a literal one with the Junk Lady.
  • Senior Sleep Cycle: The Wise Man falls asleep mid-sentence, much to the chagrin of his talking hat.
  • Shout-Out
    • Amongst the books in the panning shot of Sarah's room are Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; the latter picture book (1981) is particularly significant because it's about a girl rescuing her sibling from goblins, though it's a much simpler and different tale. (According to Brian Froud in the Empire retrospective, "The link between his work and ours was only noticed well into production", as the concept of goblins stealing babies is well-established folklore.) Henson's "artistic debt" to Sendak's work is acknowledged in the end credits.
    • Sarah's dream is right out of "Cinderella" in more ways than one. Plus, it's the result of her consuming a bewitched fruit.
    • "You remind me of the babe" is a direct reference to the ending of The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947).
    • As Sir Didymus rides through the Goblin City to rejoin his allies, he cries "Hi-ho Silver, away!"
  • Slouch of Villainy: Jareth's preferred way of "sitting" in his throne. (Currently provides the trope's page image.)
  • Smooch of Victory: Sarah gives Hoggle one after he helps her escape the Fireys -- not knowing that Jareth had warned him that if she ever did that, he'd make good on his threat of the Bog of Eternal Stench...
  • The So-Called Coward: Hoggle.
  • Spiritual Successor: The second of a Spiritual Trilogy; see the main description.
  • Squee: David Bowie as Jareth inspires epic amounts of rampant fangirlism to this day (and in-world, the goblins seem to react to anything Jareth says with intense cackles of delight and exuberance -- though they have problems with timing), while at the same time also provoking plenty of Squick for other viewers due to the age difference between Jareth and Sarah.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jareth for Sarah.
  • Starring Special Effects: The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Labyrinth are these, after all.
  • Steampunk: The mecha at the Goblin City's gates.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: "Well, laugh!" No wonder Jareth fancies Sarah, he's probably desperate for a conversation with someone with a IQ above one digit.
  • Take Our Word for It: For obvious reasons, the odor of the Bog of Eternal Stench.
  • Talent Double: Used for the contact juggling, which Bowie himself was unable to do. Thankfully. (In other words, someone else is playing with Bowie's balls!)
  • Tempting Fate: Never say the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake." Especially to Jareth's face. You will swiftly regret it.
  • This Is Something She's Got To Do Herself: Once Sarah and her friends reach the castle, she tells them she has to face Jareth alone, "Because that's the way it's done." And that IS the way it is in the forgotten script for her play...
  • Troll Bridge: Sir Didymus' bridge.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Jareth has several costume changes as the film progresses.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Jareth, of course.
  • Villain Song: This film is pretty much Villain Songs -- The Movie!
  • Villain Love Song: "As the World Falls Down".
  • Visual Innuendo: Jareth playing with his crystal balls while wearing skin-tight leggings.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Jareth.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Or thirteen (goblin time being what it is) Toby will become one of them if Sarah doesn't solve the Labyrinth by then. The ballroom dance sequence climaxes just as the clock strikes twelve, as per the Cinderella motif. When she defeats Jareth, it's just as the clock strikes thirteen; when Sarah and Toby are returned to their world, it's midnight there.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The stepmother invokes this, saying Sarah insists on treating her like one. (Granted, she doesn't exactly take great pains to alleviate the situation, given the implication that she went into Sarah's room and took a doll without her consent to give to Toby, snapping at her about her dog, and indeed sort of treating her like an employed babysitter rather than a member of the family.)
    • Her stepmother seems to be good at backhanded niceties; Sarah protests that her parents don't ask her to babysit anymore, they just expect her to do it whenever they want to go out on the weekend. Her stepmother says she'd be happy to hear that Sarah had a date instead. Considering that Sarah's an introverted loner with really nerdy hobbies, it's cruel of her mother to suggest that it's okay to take her for granted because she's not popular. Further following the wicked-stepmother story is her ineffectual, oblivious father; his idea of talking to his obviously troubled daughter who is having obvious trouble adjusting to her father's remarriage and new baby and the loss of her mother is to tell her he and his new wife will be back around midnight. No wonder she's dead-set on escaping into fantasy; the labyrinth is the only place she goes where anyone listens to her.
  • World Building: As is normal when Henson and Froud work together, with no small assist by Terry Jones; the tie-in book The Goblins of Labyrinth (written by Jones and featuring Froud's concept art) goes into hugely goofy detail about their society and folklore.
  • Yandere: Jareth certainly has his moments...
  • You Keep Using That Word: When Sarah tells Jareth the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake", he proceeds to magically reduce her remaining time to solve it.

 Sarah: That's not fair!

Jareth: You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.


"Thank goodness, all those David Bowie crotch jokes are over!" "Hey, look at that bulge..." "SHUT UP!!!"

Notes

  1. There is a parallel between this and what got the adventure started in the first place. Sarah makes a long histrionic speech exhorting the Goblin King to come spirit Toby away; the goblins are notably unfazed. He immediately turns up, however, when Sarah makes the request in direct terms. Compare to her reciting her highly poetic line at the end, only to finally cast Jareth away when she declares him powerless.