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Billy Liar (1963)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  16 December 1963 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 4,015 users   Metascore: 82/100
Reviews: 60 user | 46 critic | 5 from

A lazy, irresponsible young clerk in provincial Northern England lives in his own fantasy world and makes emotionally immature decisions as he alienates friends and family.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Billy Liar (1963)

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Nominated for 6 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Wilfred Pickles ...
Mona Washbourne ...
Grandma Florence
Gwendolyn Watts ...
Helen Fraser ...
Arthur Crabtree
George Innes ...
Leslie Randall ...
Danny Boon
Patrick Barr ...
Insp. MacDonald
Ernest Clark ...
Prison Governor
Godfrey Winn ...
Disc Jockey


A young British clerk in a gloomy North Country undertaker's office, Billy is bombarded daily by the propaganda of the media that all things are for the asking. This transparently false doctrine, coupled with the humdrum job and his wild imagination, leads him on frequent flights to "Ambrosia," a mythical kingdom where he is crowned king, general, lover or any idealized hero the real situation of the moment makes him desire. His vacillating commitment and post-adolescent immaturity have created situations which make Ambrosia all the more attractive. He's succeeded in becoming engaged to two different girls, simultaneously, while in love with a third, Liz. He's in hot water with his employer, having spent a rather large sum of postage money on his personal frivolities. And last, but not least, his dream of becoming a highly-paid, famous scriptwriter in London seems doomed to failure. The only person in his life capable of bringing him down to earth is Liz, and she's having a difficult ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


one guy... three girls... one ring!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 December 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A hazudós Billy  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$10,785 (USA) (17 November 2000)


$35,609 (USA) (1 December 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


First feature film of George Innes. See more »


William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: [daydreaming] It was a big for us, we had won the war in Ambrosia. Democracy was back once more in our beloved country.
See more »


Referenced in EastEnders: Episode dated 30 May 2006 (2006) See more »


Scotland the Brave
Traditional tune
Lyrics by Clifford Hanley
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User Reviews

There's a Billy Liar in each of us~~
2 November 2002 | by (Singapore Film Society) – See all my reviews

Most novels may not necessary translate well to the stage, let alone to the Big screen. 'Billy Liar' has achieved all that. I have just recently discovered this 'hidden' gem from among the throngs of DVD shelves. The reason I 'picked it up' was due largely to the director's name, John Schlesinger. Having seen his catapult to American fame 'Midnight Cowboy', I reckon why not check out his earlier British work. Boy was I astonished!

First of all, the script. The adapted screenplay by the original writers Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall is wickedly witty and performative for theatre dramatics, yet it crosses perfectly to the realms of cinema. The cut-aways to the lavishly staged dream sequences are so effective, so in contrast to the stark realism that we get from most of the on-location filming (from the DVD bonus features, the two writers actually take you on a present day 'tour' of a couple of the 'real'locations, juxtaposed with snippets of the film sequences at exactly the same spots).

Also commendable is the black and white cinematography by veteran Bristish lensman Denys Coop. Done in Cinemascope, the depth of Hinchcliffe Avenue can only be fully realised in the widescreen format, so avoid the re-formatted tv release at all costs!

And I must say the most amazing thing about the film is still the performance. Schlesinger rarely fails to bring out the best from his actors, and this seminal work is no exception. All the supporting cast, from 'Mr Shadrack ', Billy's family and girlfriends played very well to be the 'plastic reality' that's driving Billy insane. Hence, he seeks solance,affirmation and escape in his fantasies and lies, but ultimately we know which track he ends back on.

Tom Courtenay is simply 'Billy Liar'. Somehow, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Ewen Macgregor, or perhaps that's just me. It was mentioned that Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, who have both played the title character on stage, were considered for the the film role at the same time. I can't help but only wonder how it would've turned out if Finney got the part instead...

Last but not least, who can resist Julie Christie, aka Liz. She is Billy's object of desire cum temptation cum salvation, very much in contrast to Billy's inhabited world... simply beautiful. The intro sequence of Liz as she walks along the streets of Bradford is another highlight of the film, undescribable with words. You gotta see it for ya self~

What else can I say about 'Billy Liar'. I guess everyone was once a 'Billy Liar', or still has a Billy Liar in him or herself. Well, at least I can say it for me self. Perhaps on a finer day, I WILL CATCH thee TRAIN to 'London'.......

I give it 9/10 :-)

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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