Billy Liar

1963, Comedy/Drama, 1h 38m

18 Reviews 2,500+ Ratings

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Movie Info

A young Englishman dreams of escaping from his working class family and dead-end job as an undertaker's assistant. A number of indiscretions cause him to lie in order to avoid the penalties. His life turns into a mess and he has an opportunity to run away and leave it all behind.

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Critic Reviews for Billy Liar

Audience Reviews for Billy Liar

  • Mar 11, 2022
    Hugely influential and the movie's observations about a particular kind of lazy young male dreamer will be eternally relevant.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 15, 2017
    The energy and pace grabs you, then the wonderful editing highlighting Billy's vivid imagination keep you enthralled. Great film with a great performance by Courtenay
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2012
    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. W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2011
    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 M Super Reviewer

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