The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)




Critic 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."

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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).
Classics , Drama
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Tom Courtenay
as Colin Smith
Michael Redgrave
as Ruxton Towers Reformatory governor
Peter Madden
as Mr. Smith
Julia Foster
as Gladys
Topsy Jane
as Audrey
Dervis Ward
as Detective
Raymond Dyer
as Gordon
Philip Martin
as Stacey
Arthur Mullard
as Chief Officer
Ray Austin
as Craig
Anthony Sager
as Fenton
John Thaw
as Bosworth
Avis Bunnage
as Mrs. Smith
Peter Kriss
as Scott
Peter Duguid
as Doctor
John Bull
as Ronalds
William Ash
as Gunthorpe
Dallas Cavell
as Lord Jaspers
Anita Oliver
as Alice Smith
Anthony Sagar
as Fenton
Brian Hammond
as Johnny Smith
Christopher Parker
as Bill 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 (19) | Top Critics (4)

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.

Full Review… | August 4, 2008
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
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.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

More allegory from the depths of the British kitchen sink.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Ultimately, Richardson's pot-shots at consumerism and class have lost some urgency, but the nihilistic, punky buzz packs an immortal wallop. Classic.

Full Review… | August 4, 2008
Total Film

In attempting to straddle dramatic realism, Richardson tried hard to avoid moralizing on the hypocrisies of adults or exaggerating the experiences of youth, but in striving for the middle ground, he also strive for mediocrity.

August 4, 2008

Audience Reviews for The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner


Another exquisite film from 1962, the year that brought you Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird and King Kong vs. Godzilla. Tony Richardson knows how to make a motion picture and this is unequivocally one of his best.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


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 Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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 Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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