In Twelve Monkeys (1995) cover

Twelve Monkeys Cover

You can clearly see the Twelve Monkeys symbol on Bruce Willis' right eye, and it looks like Bruce Willis is an android of some kind (like Terminator), but those who have seen the movie know that Bruce is not a robot!

This is one of my personal favorite movies, but I've never understood why the cover designers decided to put the 12 monkeys symbol on his eye, it is indeed misleading and I can't find a reasonable explanation.

This is the symbol just as a reference: enter image description here

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    Personally, I took it to be an intentional misdirection since the 12 Monkeys are a MacGuffin. It brings extra focus to the idea that he's searching for them (in his eye) even though it's a fruitless task and wastes time in the future and the past. (Comment, not an answer; just an opinion.) Jun 1, 2014 at 19:30
  • It might simply symbolize the vision, since they come from the future to intervene in the past, just a thought. Jun 1, 2014 at 20:48
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    @MeatTrademark: I think that's good enough to be an answer. They're certainly a MacGuffin and so your explanation makes perfectly logical sense. It's unlikely we'll get anything more definitive than it, so I'd go with it! Jun 2, 2014 at 10:29
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    Also, the visual 'Terminator' link could've been intentional, subliminally informing the audience that this is also a sci-fi thriller where an action star is sent to the past in order to change it.
    – Walt
    Nov 22, 2014 at 18:26

3 Answers 3


I took it to be an intentional misdirection since the 12 Monkeys are a MacGuffin, a

"...plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot."

Plus, the placement in his eye brings extra focus to the idea that he's searching for them and that they are important and worth watching / pursuing. But, like any good MacGuffin, the search for the 12 Monkeys is a fruitless task. For good measure, the search also wastes "time" in multiple different times.


I'll add here that as MacGuffins go, The 12 Monkeys, and most, are usually trumped by The Maltese Falcon.

I also like @Coomie's ideas about the eyes.


Entire Answer is a Spoiler


In 12 Monkeys, James Cole (Bruce Willis) has seen the future. A dystopian future which is caused, in his mind, by the 12 monkeys. The symbol is over his eye because he has seen the damage that was caused. And his eyes are in shadow or sunken to represent the negativity of the future.

Note that the other characters are from the "present" and so have normal eyes.


I took the placement in Cole's eye (i.e. head) to symbolize the question of whether the whole thing is a delusion created by his mind, something he himself suspects later in the film.

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