The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner


The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Critics Consensus

Dry and full of angst, this British New Wave classic features potent social commentary and a star making performance by Tom Courtenay as a textbook example of the "angry young man."



Total Count: 22


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,446
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Movie Info

Tom Courtenay made his film debut as Colin Smith, a lower-class British youth who is sent to a reformatory as a result of a robbery, in Tony Richardson's landmark Angry Young Man film. Mixed with Colin's reform-school experiences, spent training for a long-distance marathon against a rival institution, are his memories of the events that led up to his incarceration, including the death of his father (Peter Madden).


Tom Courtenay
as Colin Smith
Michael Redgrave
as Ruxton Towers Reformatory governor
Peter Madden
as Mr. Smith
Topsy Jane
as Audrey
Dervis Ward
as Detective
Arthur Mullard
as Chief Officer
John Thaw
as Bosworth
Avis Bunnage
as Mrs. Smith
John Bull
as Ronalds
William Ash
as Gunthorpe
Dallas Cavell
as Lord Jaspers
Anita Oliver
as Alice Smith
Brian Hammond
as Johnny Smith
Frank Finlay
as Booking Office Clerk
Robert Percival
as Tory Politician
Christopher Williams
as Public School Boy
James Fox
as Public School Boy in Race
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Critic Reviews for The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (6)

  • The performance of Tom Courtenay and the imaginative, if sometimes overfussy, direction of Tony Richardson, plus some standout lensing by Walter Lassally makes this a worthwhile pic.

    Aug 4, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Most of the period hallmarks of the British New Wave are paraded here.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • While this show of compassion may not sit comfortably with those who distrust social agitation and too easy sympathy, it must be said that a splendid presentation is made by Mr. Richardson.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The counter-Hollywood bloody-mindedness packs a knockout punch.

    Nov 19, 2002 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • The film, with its grim Nottingham setting and working class milieu, must have seemed fresh in its day. Now, though, it looks and sounds like a relic from a bygone era.

    Oct 7, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • More allegory from the depths of the British kitchen sink.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

  • Dec 16, 2016
    The ending is divisive, but nonetheless this is a decent British film for fans of Ken Loach.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 07, 2011
    While The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a beautifully bleak story about a reform school kid and for good or ill, the choices he makes. Great direction and cinematography along with a great debut performance by Tom Courtenay are definitely the highlights of this movie, but what I really liked was the flashback-told story and buildup to a truly well-done finale. Out of all the "angry young man" movies I've seen, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was the best because it actually explained WHY its protagonist was the way he was as opposed to making you endure the behavior of a raving dipshit.
    Michael G Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2011
    Ahh Mother,why oh why oh why oh why, don't they make them like they used to? Forget your Guy Richie crime capers,'Loneliness of the long distance runner' is British cinema at its best. I can't explain why I love this film (erm so why I am I here?), whenever I try to explain the plot to friends they look perplexed as to why the film should be so good. Tom Courtenay is in his element in his portrayal as the 'loveable rogue'. Has 'Jerusalem' ever been more poignantly sung as it has here? Im not urging you to go out and purchase the film, but if you have a spare 90 odd minutes and it comes on television then watch it. Ta.
    Cassandra M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2009
    entertaining kitchen sink drama from the 60s britain, as a young criminal goes to borstal school, and takes up sports, we follow his exploits inside while flashbacking to hisdays outside before the crime. all leads are exellent, british acting from the past at its finest, showing the grimm life up north, that when done well, shows our past
    scott g Super Reviewer

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