Billy Liar (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

Billy Liar1963

Billy Liar (1963)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Billy (Tom Courtenay) is stuck in his dead-end job as a clerk for a local funeral director. Shadrack (Leonard Rossiter) is his hard driving, humorless employer who scolds young Billy for his constant daydreaming. Billy has two women on the string who believe he will marry them. He takes comfort in an understanding girl named Liz (Julie Christie). Billy has the bad habit of being a pathological liar and reverting to an imaginary world where he dreams he is the dictator of a fictional country. He finds no comfort from his mother, an airhead, or his father, a swaggering bully. The screenplay was written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall from their successful play of the same name.

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Tom Courtenay
as William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher
Wilfred Pickles
as Geoffrey Fisher
Mona Washbourne
as Alice Fisher
Rodney Bewes
as Arthur Crabtree
Helen Fraser
as Barbara
George Innes
as Eric Stamp
Godfrey Winn
as Disc Jockey
Ernest Clark
as Prison Governor
Leslie Randall
as Danny Boone
Patrick Barr
as Insp. Macdonald
Anna Wing
as Mrs. Crabtree
Elaine Stevens
as Danny's Secretary
George Ghent
as Danny's PRO
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Critic Reviews for Billy Liar

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (4)

Finally, of course, the film is Tom Courtenay's. In this, his finest part so far, no praise could be too much and yet all seems impossible.

February 10, 2020 | Full Review…

It's the director's most assured work, and it includes Courtenay's greatest performance. The young actor balances zestiness and frustration, levity and rage, and never soft-pedals his character's more unsympathetic tendencies.

May 31, 2013 | Full Review…

One of the great movies of the 1960's.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

While the film clearly belongs to Courtenay's effervescent performance, Christie is oddly charming as Liz.

July 30, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The character is stupendously played by a young Tom Courtenay. But I notice that the social realism masked as dramatic comedy is not enough. [Full review in Spanish]

July 22, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…

A wry and penetrating tragicomic fable from Britain.

October 21, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Billy Liar


The Brits in the 60's did their own take on Thurber's popular Walter Mitty in this updated tale of a dreamer who is happiest in dreams. The climax, wherein our hero is offered the chance to finally live his dream, is the uncomfortable reality that known comfort might be better than unknown, and possibly uncomfortable, freedom. What makes this film interesting is how it summed up quite nicely the youthful unease felt by its generation and the forthcoming social revolution.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Billy Liar!" impressed me more than many other admirable British pictures of this era, like "Room at the Top", "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "This Sporting Life". It managed to generate a more tangible blend of poignancy and amusement. It's not often humour of the "laugh-out-loud" nature, more of the subtle, grim kind. The reality of Britain at that time is I suspect, very well conveyed here, with the old working-class, represented by Councillor Duxbury (astutely played by the fine Finlay Currie) and Billy's family, very much at odds with what they see as an ungrateful, decadent youth. All the performances hit the intended mark, with Leonard Rossiter typically Rossiter, almost as a younger Rigsby, without so much noticeable seediness. Julie Christie is as good as the role allows, an odd role, very much the "dream girl" of Billy and I dare say a good few others. The film expertly avoids sentimentalizing matters by its cunning, apposite last section. The Danny Boon character is, one suspects, all too typical of the TV light entertainer mould in reality. His reliance on cheap non-gags, smug guffaws and "audience banter" is well conveyed in just a few short scenes. It's interesting that Billy seems to aspire so much to write for him in particular... Helen Fraser's character Barbara is wonderfully quaint; a type long gone it seems. One can understand Billy's frustrations with his respectively prudish and plain (Barbara) and ignorant (Rita) girlfriends, and his anger at his family, although some sympathy is correctly reserved for them. The direction is very good by Schlesinger, emphasizing all the right things. The fine context-setting opening montage expertly draws in the viewer, and never at any stage henceforth is anyone's attention likely to wane. The film is most of all Tom Courtenay's; he gives a truly resonant performance, bringing to vivid life a character far removed from the norms of film making at the time. The fantasy sequences are finely done, and all add more deep impression of this character. His digressive tendencies, self-destructive habits, economy with the truth are well balanced by a sense of yearning and imagination. One cannot help but like and relate to the character, a creation that resoundingly rings true. His ambivalence to the class system comes across concisely, in particular. A fine film indeed, with so many of the smaller touches that many films miss. Witty, sad and a seminal film of the era, very much a crossroads in British history.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

I wasn't very impressed with this movie or any of the cast really, it wasn't very funny or enjoyable, but once in a while it has a funny moment, so it's an okay movie.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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