A Look Back at "The Great Muppet Caper"

James Logie

His work has entertained and inspired millions, but which one of Jim Henson’s creations is his greatest?

The Great Muppet Caper came out in 1981 and was a mystery musical comedy set in England.

It told the story of the Muppets traveling to England to report a jewel heist but ends up with Kermit connecting with Miss Piggy while all of them foil another robbery.

There are so many classics from Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, and Dog City, but The Great Muppet Caper may be his best work.

Here's a look at why.

A Quick Recap of the Movie

The movie starts out by laying the groundwork that this will be a unique viewing experience.

We see Fozzie, Kermit, and Gonzo in hot air balloons floating through the opening credits of the movie.

This takes us to an amazing street musical number that reveals they are reporters working for the Daily Chronicle newspaper.

Their boss cannot believe they missed reporting on a jewel robbery that happened right under their noses.

They convince their boss to fly them to London to report on the robbery that had happened to Lady Halliday.

They fly 9th class and are jettisoned out of the planes landing in a small pond relieved to find out they are in England.

They look for accommodation which takes them to the Happiness Hotel which is filled with other muppets.

Kermit, Gonzo, and Fozzie go to interview Lady Halliday but mistakenly get Miss Piggy posing as Halliday.

Kermit and Piggy fall for each other and plan a date with Piggy posing as her wealthy boss. She pretends to live in an English mansion where we get to see the great John Cleese.

While out at a nightclub, the real Lady Halliday shows up only to have her jewels stolen by her brother Nicky.

Nicky has also fallen for Miss Piggy but decides to frame her for the robbery. We get an awesome homage to early Hollywood musicals with a synchronized swimming performance where Piggy is revealed as the “thief."

With Piggy in Jail, the rest of the Muppets learn of the plot to steal Halliday’s famous “baseball diamond."

While the muppets try to thwart the robbery, Piggy breaks out of jail and they all end up stopping the robbery. The Muppets then head back to the U.S. flying in 9th class and are tossed out by parachute.

The Music Helps to Make This Movie So Great

The Great Muppet Caper had some of the most memorable music of anything put out by Jim Henson and company.

Music was the backbone of everything Henson did and it’s displayed really well in this movie.

The movie’s theme was a mystery musical comedy and music really is at the center of all his movies. Among other songs, some of the standout songs in The Great Muppet Caper include:

  • The First Time It Happens
  • Hey, A Movie!
  • Happiness Hotel
  • Steppin' Out With A Star
  • Couldn’t We Ride

The Great Muppet Caper is a tribute to the grand tradition of movie musicals as well as variety shows: both at the core of all things Henson.

“The First Time It Happens” was actually nominated for an Academy Award for best original song, but lost to “Arthur’s Theme."

What are some other reasons that make The Great Muppet Caper Jim Henson’s greatest work?

It Was the Only Muppet Movie He Directed

Henson pulled a lot of double duty in his time. Along with being the key performer, he was also the creative genius, writer, director, and producer.

Because he wore so many hats, The Great Muppet Caper was actually the only movie that Henson ever directed. Due to this, it has the utmost love and Henson care put into it.

He made this his total pet project and shared his love for the golden age of Hollywood.

The Great Muppet Caper was the perfect showcase for Henson’s whimsy, humor, love of music, and extravagance.

It Captured the Spirit of The Muppet Show

The Muppet Show is an iconic part of television and a worldwide hit.

It would run from 1976 to 1981 for 120 episodes. The whole world became familiar with all the different Muppet Characters.

The Great Muppet Caper was the first thing that came out after the Muppet Show ended and it really brought that whole style to the big screen.

The original Muppet Movie--even with its humor and music--was more of an origin story. The Great Muppet Caper tapped into the zaniness and chaos of the Muppet Show.

This was achievable as the world was now familiar with The Muppet Show and all the nuances of the characters.

They were able to spread their wings a bit more and make the type of movie more in tune with what the world had been watching for the past 5 years.

The Muppet Show featured a lot of behind-the-scenes situations and pulled back the curtain to see how TV was made. This is why they included so much self-reference and breaking of the fourth wall in the Great Muppet Caper: audiences were now familiar with it.

They were being very tongue-in-cheek with the production by showing they were making a movie while it was happening. Again, this was a tribute to the Muppet Show.

That seems normal today but was relatively groundbreaking for the time.

Wrapping It Up

Many look back on The Great Muppet Caper as Jim Henson's best work. It took all the aspects he had poured into the Muppets over the years and put it all into one movie.

It’s fun, musical, zany, and doesn’t take itself too seriously: again, all the similar traits embraced by The Muppets.

It’s the most fast-paced Muppet movie, pulls you along for the ride, and showed all the talent and passion of the great Jim Henson.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.


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