Jakob the Liar (1999)



Critic Consensus: Any real story is buried by awkward performances and contrived situations.

Jakob the Liar Videos

Jakob the Liar Photos

Movie Info

This remake of the 1975 German film Jakob der Lügner stars Robin Williams in a dramatic role as a man who uses his active imagination to bring a ray of hope where hope was all but unknown. Jakob Heym (Robin Williams) is the owner of a small café during the Nazi occupation of Poland; he has little money and is struggling to keep body and soul alive in the shadow of the Third Reich. One day, he overhears a radio broadcast, forbidden to Polish ears, that reports a major victory for Russian troops over the German army. Enthusiastic about this good news, Jakob begins spreading word of the Russian army's progress through the Polish ghetto. He notices that the story gives people hope and makes it easier for them to get through the day. So Jakob begins inventing stories and passing them along, creating fictional war reports that suggest that the occupation may soon be ending. However, when the occupation troops get wind of these stories, they become convinced that someone has communications equipment stashed away somewhere, and they're determined to find both the radio and its operator at all costs. Jakob the Liar was the first American feature for director Peter Kassovitz; the supporting cast includes Armin Mueller-Stahl, Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, and Liev Schreiber.
PG-13 (for violence and disturbing images)
Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


Robin Williams
as Jakob Heym
Alan Arkin
as Frankfurter
Bob Balaban
as Kowalsky
Armin Mueller-Stahl
as Kirschbaum
Mark Margolis
as Fajngold
Gregg Bello
as Blumenthal
Eva Igo
as Lina's Mother
István Bálint
as Lina's Father
Kathleen Gati
as Hooker
Adam Rajhona
as The Whistler
Antal Leisen
as Peg-leg
Jan Becker
as Young German
Janos Kulka
as Nathan
Grazyna Barszczewska
as Mrs. Frankfurter
Judit Sagi
as Mrs. Avron
Ilona Psota
as Grandmother
Agi Margitai
as Miss Esther
Ivan Darvas
as Hardtloff
Zoli Anders
as Meyer
Miroslaw Zbrojewicz
as SS Officer 1
Jozef Mika
as Soldier
Gyorgy Szkladanyi
as SS Officer 2
Zofia Saretok
as Neighbor
Michael Mehlmann
as Escaping Man
Mirtill Micheller
as Lady Singer
Orsolya Pflum
as Lady Singer
Beatrix Bisztricsan
as Lady Singer
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Jakob the Liar

All Critics (72) | Top Critics (23)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 22, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Peter Kassovitz establishes an effectively grim, cramped yet barren setting, making respectful use of locations in Poland and Budapest.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

If telling lies can save a people, he reasons, let the stories - and those fictional tanks - roll.

December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Williams' performance is a masterpiece of mixed emotions.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Jakob the Liar deserves a place alongside Life Is Beautiful and, yes, even Schindler's List.

December 31, 1999
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Jakob the Liar

I admire Robin Williams as an actor but I have no time for "holocaust" movies. To me they are nothing more than awards bait. I don't believe a single one has ever truly portrayed what actually went on, and a diet version of such events is criminal. This film tries to show the harshness but the tone is too light and nothing happens that you don't expect.

Marcus Woolcott
Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer


I loved this movie. Robin Williams and Liev Schreiber were outstanding. This movie is set during WW2 in Warsaw where Nazis have taken control of a community of Jews. Jakob is one of the jews and somehow the word gets out that he owns a radio which according to Nazis is not allowed. Jakob tells his fellow citizens news that he claims that he has heard on the radio and this keeps the hopes up in the community, hopes that the war will soon have an end. This truly is a touching story and it is so well played by these talented actors.

Naughtia Nahazhina
Naughtia Nahazhina

Super Reviewer

I liked it. It was definately a different spin on the typical Holocaust movie. I liked the ending as well.

Sarah Prisbylla
Sarah Prisbylla

Super Reviewer

Discussion Forum

Discuss Jakob the Liar on our Movie forum!

News & Features