Billy Budd (1962)


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Movie Info

Herman Melville's short novel Billy Budd is adapted for the screen, distinguished by Robert Krasker's expressive black-and-white cinematography and Peter Ustinov's crisp direction. Terence Stamp is Billy Budd, a seaman forced to serve in the British Navy during the war between England and France in 1797. Billy looks upon all men as inherently good and, although his crewmates are initially skeptical about this sailor who appears too good to be true, he proves his mettle by his skills as a sailor … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Louis O. Coxe, Robert H. Chapman, Peter Ustinov Herman Melville, Peter Ustinov, De Witt Bodeen
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 6, 2007
Allied Artists Pictures



as Capt. Edward Fairfax...

as Master-at-Arms Clagg...

as Billy Budd

as The Dansker

as Lieutenant Philip Ra...

as Jenkins

as Lt. John Ratcliffe

as Lieutenant Wyatt

as O'Daniel

as Kincaid

as Capt. Graveling

as Squeak

as Amos Leonard

as Charles Mathews
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Billy Budd

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Terence Stamp received his only Oscar nomination (supporting category)for playing the titular role, the naive and charismatic youth, in Peter Ustinov's version of Melville's classic.

Full Review… | March 14, 2012

Director Ustinov indulges his own performance, but otherwise, it's a great yarn well told.

August 14, 2003
Nick's Flick Picks

Audience Reviews for Billy Budd


a faithful adaptation of melville's powerful last work. i liked it slightly better than huston's moby dick, tho to be fair, no one could faithfully adapt that behemoth. terence stamp in his film debut is a real charmer and robert ryan has never been quite so flinty-eyed and evil. ustinov's direction outshines his acting

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Fine acting in this sad tale.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


In "Billy Budd," it is 1797 and the man of war Avenger, commanded by Captain Vere(Peter Ustinov, who also co-wrote the script, directed and produced), boards the merchant Rights of Man to impress sailors and comes away with only one, Billy Budd(Terence Stamp), a junior sailor. His first impression of His Majesty's Navy is not a good one as soon after his arrival he witnesses a flogging watched over Master of Arms Claggart(Robert Ryan). His fellow sailors are not kind either, as he is challenged to a fight by Jenkins(Ronald Lewis) who quickly comes to regret his rash decision.

"Billy Budd" is a compelling adaptation of the allegorical Herman Melville novel which I read back in high school, so I can't accurately judge how faithful this is. The acting is good, even if Robert Ryan seems out of place but I think this is intentional, as Claggart is not an entirely unsympathetic presence, even if he is the villain and the catalyst for the action. That goes to the setting of the story during a war when the military has no choice but to take people who should never be in a war zone. For different reasons, Claggart is one, and Budd, though he makes a superb sailor, is too kind for such cruel circumstances. Whether or not there is anything else to be read into this story is up for debate, even with an oddly filmed shot.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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