William Shakespeare - on the Screen

William Shakespeare - portrait 1610
William Shakespeare - portrait 1610

Generally regarded as the greatest writer and poet in the English language, William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564.

Shakespeare is the most quoted writer of them all (not counting the Bible).

His exact date of birth is not known but he was baptised in April 1564.

He married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18. They had three children, two girls and a boy.

300 First Folios of his work have survived over the centuries.

37 Plays are attributed to Shakespeare. He also wrote 154 sonnets.

The plays are divided into categories - Comedies - Histories - Tragedies.

"Henry VI Part I" is considered to be his first written play (1589-1590).

"The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" (1600-1602) is Shakespeare's longest, most widely performed, most quoted and most influential play.

Over the years conspiracy nuts have speculated on whether Shakespeare wrote all the plays himself, "Anti-Stratfordians" have picked more than 70 possible candidates for authorship of some or all of the plays, they include Christopher Marlowe, the Earl Of Oxford, the Earl of Derby and Francis Bacon.

William Shakespeare died in 1616, aged 52, cause of death unknown.

This hub looks at various theatrical movies based on Shakespeare's plays, with quotes, ratings, photos and move posters.

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in The Taming of the Shrew (1929)
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in The Taming of the Shrew (1929)
The Taming of the Shrew (1929) poster
The Taming of the Shrew (1929) poster

The Taming of the Shrew (1929) Directed by Sam Taylor. 63mins.

Mary Pickford - Katherine
Douglas Fairbanks - Petruchio

Also starring Edwin Maxwell, Joseph Cawthorn, Clyde Cook and Dorothy Jordan.

Originally shot as a silent film,
dialogue and sound effects were
added later making this the first
"All Talking, All Laughing"
Shakespeare movie.

IMDB rating 6.6

Grumio: "And thereby hangs a tale."

James Cagney and Anita Louise in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
James Cagney and Anita Louise in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
Mickey Rooney as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
Mickey Rooney as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) Directed by William Dieterle & Max Reinhardt.

Ian Hunter - Theseus
James Cagney - Nick Bottom
Dick Powell - Lysander
Olivia de Havilland - Hermia

Also starring Anita Louise, Joe E. Brown, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert, Victor Jory and Mickey Rooney as Puck (Robin Goodfellow).

A fantasy classic which cost a million dollars to produce, a lot of money at the time. The first Shakespeare adaptation to be Oscar nominated for Best Picture.

James Cagney's young daughter started crying when she saw her father turn into a donkey on screen, he had to reassure her it was only a movie.

Nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture, winning 2 - Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.

IMDB rating 6.9

Puck: “So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.”

Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Romeo and Juliet (1936) poster
Romeo and Juliet (1936) poster

Romeo and Juliet (1936) Directed by George Cukor. 125mins.

Norma Shearer - Juliet
Leslie Howard - Romeo

Also starring John Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, C. Aubrey Smith and Basil Rathbone as Tybalt.

The film includes two songs from Shakespeare's The Tempest and Twelfth Night.

Laurence Olivier and Robert Donat both turned down the role of Romeo.

Nominated for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Actress (Norma Shearer), Best Supporting Actor (Basil Rathbone) and Best Art Direction.

IMDB rating 6.7

Juliet: "Romeo. Romeo. Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Laurence Olivier as Henry V (1944)
Laurence Olivier as Henry V (1944)
Henry V (1944) poster
Henry V (1944) poster

Henry V (1944) Directed by Laurence Olivier. 137mins.

Laurence Olivier - King Henry V

Also starring Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Felix Aylmer, Robert Helpmann, Leo Genn andRenée Asherson.

The full on screen title of the film is "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France."

The most expensive British production at the time, costing $2m. A popular big screen epic intended to boost morale during WWII, the film was partly funded by the British government

Nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor (Laurence Olivier) winning an Honorary Award (Laurence Olivier) "For his outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing 'Henry V' to the screen."

IMDB rating 7.4

King Henry: "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead."

Hamlet (1948) poster
Hamlet (1948) poster
Hamlet (1948)
Hamlet (1948)
Hamlet (1948)
Hamlet (1948)

Hamlet (1948) Directed by Laurence Olivier. 155mins.

Laurence Olivier - Hamlet - Prince of Denmark
Norman Wooland - Horatio - His Friend
Basil Sydney - Claudius - The King
Eileen Herlie - Gertrude - The Queen
Felix Aylmer - Polonius - Lord Chamberlain
Jean Simmons - Ophelia - His Daughter
Terence Morgan - Laertes - His Son

Also starring Anthony Quayle, Niall MacGinnis, Patrick Troughton, Peter Cushing, John Laurie and Stanley Holloway.

Olivier followed his successful "Henry V" with another highly regarded adaptation, this time choosing to film in B/W for "artistic reasons".

The first time a non-American movie has won the Best Picture Oscar.

Nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Jean Simmons) winning 4 - Best Picture, Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

British Academy Award winner for Best Film from any Source.

IMDB rating 7.9

Hamlet: “To be or not to be that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.”

Orson Welles as Macbeth (1948)
Orson Welles as Macbeth (1948)
Macbeth (1948) poster
Macbeth (1948) poster

Macbeth (1948) Directed by Orson Welles. 107mins.

Orson Welles - Macbeth
Jeanette Nolan - Lady Macbeth

Also starring Dan O'Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barrier and Alan Napier.

Laurence Olivier wanted to film Macbeth after Henry V but when Orson Welles started on his production of the play, Olivier decided to adapt Hamlet instead.

Filmed in 23 days and at a cost of $800,000.

Welles' Macbeth was a critical and financial flop on release but over the years it has gained prominence and is now highly regarded by Shakespeare buffs.

IMDB rating 7.5

The Three Witches: "Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble."

Othello (1952) poster
Othello (1952) poster
Othello (1952)
Othello (1952)

Othello (1952) Directed by Orson Welles. 90mins.

Orson Welles - Othello
Micheál MacLiammóir - Iago

Also starring Robert Coote, Suzanne Cloutier, Hilton Edwards and Nicholas Bruce.

A problem plagued production for Welles which started filming in 1949 and took 3 years of sporadic filming before finally seeing completion.

The film was restored in 1992 with a complete re-recording of the soundtrack and remastered picture quailty, the reviews were mixed.

Winner of the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952.

IMDB rating 7.7

Iago: "Oh beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."

Ann Miller with Bobby Van, Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse in Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Ann Miller with Bobby Van, Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse in Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Kiss Me Kate (1953) poster
Kiss Me Kate (1953) poster

Kiss Me Kate (1953) Directed by George Sidney. 109mins.

Kathryn Grayson - Lilli Vanessi 'Katherine'
Howard Keel - Fred Graham 'Petruchio'
Ann Miller - Lois Lane 'Bianca'

Also starring Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore.

Classic MGM musical based on the Broadway show by Cole Porter.

Cole Porter (Ron Randall) has written a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and wants divorced couple Fred and Lili (Howard Keel & Kathryn Grayson) to play the lead roles.

Danny Kaye was considered for the role of Petruchio.

Originally filmed in 3D.

Oscar Nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.

WGA Nomination for Best Written American Musical

IMDB rating 7.1

Lilli: Fred, do you really think I could play the shrew?
Fred: You'd make a perfect shrew!

Louis Calhern and Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar (1953)
Louis Calhern and Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar (1953)
Julius Caesar (1953) poster
Julius Caesar (1953) poster

Julius Caesar (1953) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. 120mins.

Marlon Brando - Mark Antony
James Mason - Brutus
John Gielgud - Cassius
Louis Calhern - Julius Caesar

Also starring Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr, George Macready and Edmund Purdom.

There was some speculation over the casting of Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, a few critics had labeled him 'The Mumbler' and wondered if he could effectively and coherently speak Shakespeare's famous lines. Brando was the film's star attraction, he shut those critics up when he received an Oscar nomination for his powerful portrayal.

Nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Best Music (Miklos Rozsa), winning 1 for Best Art Direction.

DGA Nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

IMDB rating 7.3

Mark Antony: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar."

Laurence Olivier as Richard III (1955)
Laurence Olivier as Richard III (1955)
Richard III (1955) poster
Richard III (1955) poster

Richard III (1955) Directed by Laurence Olivier. 161mins.

Laurence Olivier - Richard III
Cedric Hardwicke - King Edward IV of England
Ralph Richardson - Duke of Buckingham
John Gielgud - George, Duke of Clarence

Also starring Mary Kerridge, Claire Bloom, Douglas Wilmer, Laurence Naismith, Patrick Troughton and Stanley Baker.

In a controversial move Olivier premiered his third Shakespeare movie adaptation on US network TV and at the cinema on the same day in March, 1955.

The gamble did not pay off and the film was a financial failure. If the 40 million people who watched it for free on TV had gone to see it at the cinema it would have been one of the highest grossing films of the year.

The film was successfully re-released to theaters in 1966.

Side note - In August 2012 the remains of King Richard III, more than 500 years after his death, were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester, England. In February 2013 DNA tests on his descendants proved the skeleton was definitely that of Richard, part of his skull had been sliced off by a sharp weapon.

Nominated for 1 Oscar - Best Actor (Laurence Olivier)

IMDB rating 7.5

King Richard: "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith in Othello (1965)
Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith in Othello (1965)
Othello (1965) poster
Othello (1965) poster

Othello (1965) Directed by Stuart Burge. 165mins.

Laurence Olivier - Othello
Maggie Smith - Desdemona
Frank Finlay - Iago

Also starring Joyce Redman, Derek Jacobi and Robert Lang.

A filmed stage production of Shakespeare's play, in full 70mm widescreen Technicolor and stereo sound.

Some reviewers mocked Olivier for playing the role in blackface and deepened vocals, one critic saying that the person sitting next to her kept asking "When is he singing 'Mammy'?"

Nominated for 4 Oscars - Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Supporting Actor (Frank Finlay) and Best Supporting Actresses (Maggie Smith & Joyce Redman).

IMDB rating 7.2

Othello: "One that loved not wisely but too well."

Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Chimes at Midnight (1965) UK Title - Falstaff. Directed by Orson Welles. 115mins.

Orson Welles - Falstaff
John Gielgud - Henry IV

Also starring Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, Marina Vlady and Walter Chiari.

The film is based on a recurring character in three of Shakespeare's plays, Sir John Falstaff, the three plays are Henry IV p.1, Henry IV p.2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Falstaff gets a mention but no lines in Henry V, the character is included in filmed versions of the play, George Robey plays him in Olivier's movie and Robbie Coltrane plays Falstaff in Kenneth Branagh's 1989 movie.

Chimes at Midnight was one of Welles favorites of his own movies.

IMDB rating 7.9

Falstaff: "We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow."

The Taming of the Shrew (1967) poster
The Taming of the Shrew (1967) poster
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

The Taming of the Shrew (1967) Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. 122mins.

Elizabeth Taylor - Katharina
Richard Burton - Petruchio

Also starring Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Alfred Lynch and Michael York.

Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni were originally considered for the lead roles.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor co-produced the film and waived their usual salaries, opting to take a percentage of the box office instead.

The film cost $4m and grossed $12m worldwide.

Tagline - A motion picture for every man who ever gave the back of his hand to this beloved... and for every woman who deserved it. Which takes a lot of people!

Nominated for 2 Oscars - Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

Golden Globe Award Nominations for Best Film Comedy / Musical and Best Actor Comedy / Musical (Richard Burton)

IMDB rating 7.0

Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp; in faith, you are too angry.
Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.

Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Romeo and Juliet (1968) poster
Romeo and Juliet (1968) poster

Romeo and Juliet (1968) Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. 138mins.

Leonard Whiting - Romeo
Olivia Hussey - Juliet

Also starring John McEnery, Milo O'Shea, Robert Stephens and Michael York as Tybalt.

Costing $1m and grossing $39m worldwide, Zeffirelli's movie was the most popular Shakespeare movie of them all at the time. It's box office record would be broken 30 years later by a modern version of the same play.

Olivia Hussey was only 15 when she started filming, Leonard Whiting was 17, their nude scene resulted in the film being re-rated from G to PG.

It was the first time that actors playing the two roles were close to the age of the characters in the original play.

Nominated for 4 Oscars winning 2 - Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 7.7

Romeo: "But soft. What light through yonder window breaks?"

Julius Caesar (1970) poster
Julius Caesar (1970) poster



Julius Caesar (1970) Directed by Stuart Burge. 117mins.

Charlton Heston - Marc Antony
John Gielgud - Julius Caesar

Also starring Jason Robards, Richard Johnson, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain, Diana Rigg and Christopher Lee.

This was the second time Charlton Heston has played Mark Antony, he first played the role in an independent film production of Julius Caesar in 1950, Heston was 25. He would play the part once more in Antony and Cleopatra (1972).

Filmed in the UK and Spain.

IMDB rating 6.1

Mark Antony: Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war.

Macbeth (1971) poster
Macbeth (1971) poster

Macbeth (1971) Directed by Roman Polanski. 140mins.

Jon Finch - Macbeth

Also starring Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw, Terence Bayler and John Stride.

Lady Macbeth: "Out, damned spot! out, I say!"

The film was made by 'Playboy Productions', Hugh Hefner was one of the producers.

"It's an original film by an original film artist, and not an interpretation" Roger Ebert

Macbeth was rated 'R' for nudity and bloody violence.

BAFTA award winner for Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 7.5

2nd Witch: "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."

Antony and Cleopatra (1972) Japanese poster
Antony and Cleopatra (1972) Japanese poster



Antony and Cleopatra (1972) Directed by Charlton Heston. 138mins (160mins)

Charlton Heston - Marc Antony
Hildegard Neil - Cleopatra

Also starring Eric Porter, John Castle, Freddie Jones and Julian Glover.

Charlton Heston had wanted Diana Rigg for the role of Cleopatra.

IMDB rating 6.0

Cleopatra: "My salad days. When I was green in judgment, cold in blood. To say as I said then!"

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V (1989)
Kenneth Branagh as Henry V (1989)
Henry V (1989) poster
Henry V (1989) poster

Henry V (1989) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 137mins.

Kenneth Branagh - King Henry V

Also starring Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, Robert Stephens, Robbie Coltrane and Christian Bale.

Kenneth Branagh's directorial debut, he was 28. The film cost $9m to produce and was critically acclaimed.

Nominated for 3 Oscars including Best Director and Best Actor (Branagh), winning for Best Costume Design.

Nominated for 6 British Academy Awards including Best Actor (Branagh), winning for Best Director.

IMDB rating 7.7

King Henry: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

Mel Gibson as Hamlet (1990)
Mel Gibson as Hamlet (1990)
Hamlet (1990) poster
Hamlet (1990) poster

Hamlet (1990) Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Mel Gibson - Hamlet
Glenn Close - Gertrude
Alan Bates - Claudius
Helena Bonham Carter - Ophelia

Also starring Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Stephen Dillane and Nathaniel Parker.

Mel Gibson's only previous Shakespeare performance was as Juliet (!) in an all male production of 'Romeo and Juliet' in Australia.

Nominated for 2 Oscars - Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

BAFTA Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Alan Bates).

IMDB rating 6.7

Hamlet: "The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

Prospero's Books (1991) poster
Prospero's Books (1991) poster

Prospero's Books (1991) Directed by Peter Greenaway. 129mins.

John Gielgud - Prospero

Also starring Michael Clark, Michel Blanc, Erland Josephson, Isabelle Pasco and Kenneth Cranham.

A stylised adaptation of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'.

The film includes opera, mime, dance and animated sequences.

Prospero was Sir John Gielgud's favourite stage role.

IMDB rating 6.7

Prospero: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Much Ado About Nothing (1993) poster
Much Ado About Nothing (1993) poster

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 111mins.

Kenneth Branagh - Benedick
Emma Thompson - Beatrice

Also starring Richard Briers, Kate Beckinsale, Brian Blessed, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington as Don Pedro.

Filmed in Toscana, Italy.

Kenneth Branagh was married to Emma Thompson at the time, they later divorced.

Kate Beckinsale's first movie, she was 19.

Golden Globe Nomination for Best Comedy / Musical.

Cost $8m - Box Office $22.5m

IMDB rating 7.3

Benedick: “I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue.”

Othello (1995) poster
Othello (1995) poster

Othello (1995) Directed by Oliver Parker. 123mins.

Laurence Fishburne - Othello
Irene Jacob - Desdemona
Kenneth Branagh - Iago

Also starring Nathaniel Parker, Michael Maloney and Michael Sheen.

Laurence Fishburne was the first African-American to play Othello on film.

Michael Sheen's movie debut.

Tagline - Envy, greed, jealousy and love.

Cost $11m - Box Office $2.8m (US)

IMDB rating 6.8

Iago: "I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs."

Richard III (1995) poster
Richard III (1995) poster

Richard III (1995) Directed by Richard Loncraine. 104mins.

Ian McKellen - Richard III
Annette Bening - Elizabeth Woodville
Robert Downey Jr. - Lord Rivers

Also starring Jim Broadbent, Nigel Hawthorne, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas.

A stylised modern take of Shakespeare's play, set in an alternate Britain in the 1930s.

Tagline - Power Conquers All.

Nominated for 2 Oscars - Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor (Ian McKellen)

Cost $10m - Box Office $2.6m (US)

IMDB rating 7.4

Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York."

Al Pacino in Looking for Richard (1996)
Al Pacino in Looking for Richard (1996)

Looking for Richard (1996) Directed by Al Pacino. 112mins.

Al Pacino - Richard III

Also starring Penelope Allen, Harris Yulin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, Aidan Quinn and Alec Baldwin.

Al Pacino directed and also plays Richard III and himself in this documentary about the play and it's historical background.

It was shot over 4 years during which Pacino starred in other movies, 80 hours of film footage was cut down to 2 hours by six editors.

DGA Winner for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary

IMDB rating 7.2

Richard III: "And thus I clothe my naked villainy, with old odd ends stolen out of holy writ, and seem a saint when most I play the devil."

Hamlet (1996)
Hamlet (1996)
Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet in Hamlet (1996)
Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet in Hamlet (1996)

Hamlet (1996) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 242mins.

Kenneth Branagh - Prince Hamlet
Julie Christie - Queen Gertrude
Billy Crystal - First Gravedigger
Gérard Depardieu - Reynaldo
Charlton Heston - The Player King
Derek Jacobi - King Claudius
Jack Lemmon - Marcellus
Rufus Sewell - Fortinbras
Robin Williams - Osric
Kate Winslet - Ophelia

Also starring Richard Briers, Brian Blessed, Judi Dench, Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud, John Mills and Ken Dodd.

The first movie adaptation of Hamlet to include all the text from the play.

Branagh's Hamlet is a feast for the eyes and filled with famous stars but it had mixed reviews and was not a box office success, costing $18m the film grossed just $4.7m in North America.

Nominated for 4 Oscars - Best Screenplay, Best Music (Patrick Doyle), Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

BAFTA Nominations for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 7.7

Hamlet: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio - a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft."

Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Romeo + Juliet (1996) poster
Romeo + Juliet (1996) poster

Romeo + Juliet (1996) Directed by Baz Luhrmann. 120mins.

Leonardo DiCaprio - Romeo
Claire Danes - Juliet

Also starring John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino and Paul Rudd.

A highly stylized modern version of Shakespeare's play, set in the 1990s.

The highest grossing film adaptation of a Shakespeare play to date.

15 year old Natalie Portman was considered for Juliet and was screen tested but she looked too young for the film.

Oscar Nomination for Best Art Direction.

Nominated for 7 BAFTA Awards winning 4 - Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Production Design and Best Music.

Cost $14.5m - Box Office $147.5m

IMDB rating 6.8

Mercutio: "A plague on both your houses."

Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Shakespeare in Love (1998) poster
Shakespeare in Love (1998) poster

Shakespeare in Love (1998) Directed by John Madden. 123mins.

Gwyneth Paltrow - Viola de Lesseps
Joseph Fiennes - William Shakespeare
Geoffrey Rush - Philip Henslowe
Colin Firth - Lord Wessex


Also starring Ben Affleck, Simon Callow, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I

A fictionalised romantic drama based on real people from Shakespeare's time.

Julia Roberts wanted to play the role of Viola in an earlier attempt to make the film.

Nominated for 13 Oscars winning 7 - Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Music (Stephen Warbeck), Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Nominated for 15 BAFTA Awards winning 3 - Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench) and Best Film Editing.

Cost $25m - Box Office $289.3m

IMDB rating 7.2

Viola de Lesseps: (disguised as Thomas Kent) Tell me how you love her, Will.
William Shakespeare: Like a sickness and its cure together.

Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Dominic West, and Anna Friel in A.Midsummer.Night's.Dream (1999)
Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Dominic West, and Anna Friel in A.Midsummer.Night's.Dream (1999)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999) Directed by Michael Hoffman. 116mins.

Kevin Kline - Nick Bottom
Michelle Pfeiffer - Titania
Rupert Everett - Oberon
Stanley Tucci - Puck

Also starring Calista Flockhart, Anna Friel, Dominic West and Christian Bale as Demetrius.

"Purists will quibble, but A Midsummer Night's Dream is a playful, sexy piece of work - just what the Bard might have conjured up for a movie adaptation of his beloved spring-fever comedy. The film is over the top - and willfully so... As might be expected, Kevin Kline steals the show with his hearty gifts for comedy... Michelle Pfeiffer plays it regal, pouty and come-hither as Titania. Her seduction of Bottom, turned to an ass under the spell of Puck (Stanley Tucci with horns and impish grin), is riotous." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Cost $11 - Box Office $16m (US)

IMDB rating 6.3

Lysander: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Titus (1999)
Titus (1999)

Titus (1999) Directed by Julie Taymor. 162mins.

Anthony Hopkins - Titus Andronicus
Jessica Lange - Tamora

Also starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Matthew Rhys, James Frain, Alan Cumming and Colm Feore.

The first film adaptation of Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus.

Tagline - If you think you know Shakespeare....think again.

Oscar Nominated for Best Costume Design.

Cost $20m - Box Office $2m (US).

IMDB rating 7.1

Tamora: "The eagle suffers little birds to sing."

Love's Labour's Lost (2000) poster
Love's Labour's Lost (2000) poster

Love's Labour's Lost (2000) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 93mins.

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Nathan Lane, Adrian Lester, Matthew Lillard, Natascha McElhone, Alessandro Nivola and Alicia Silverstone.

The first movie adaptation of 'Love's Labour's Lost', first published in 1598.

A musical version of the play updated to the 1930s with Cole Porter songs and Busby Berkeley dance sequences.

Tagline - A New Spin on the Old Song and Dance

IMDB rating 5.9

The Princess: "Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye."

Hamlet (2000)
Hamlet (2000)

Hamlet (2000) Directed by Michael Almereyda. 112mins.

Ethan Hawke - Hamlet
Kyle MacLachlan - Claudius
Diane Venora - Gertrude
Sam Shepard - Ghost
Bill Murray - Polonius
Liev Schreiber - Laertes
Julia Stiles - Ophelia

Hamlet: "To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil."

A modern day version of the play, set in Denmark.

Ethan Hawke, aged 29, is the youngest actor to play Hamlet on film.

Tagline - Passion. Betrayal. Revenge. A Hostile Takeover is Underway.

Box Office - $2m

IMDB rating 5.9

Polonius: "This above all - to thine own self be true."

The Merchant of Venice (2004)
The Merchant of Venice (2004)

The Merchant of Venice (2004) Directed by Michael Radford. 138mins.

Al Pacino - Shylock
Jeremy Irons - Antonio
Joseph Fiennes - Bassanio
Lynn Collins - Portia

Also starring Zuleikha Robinson, Kris Marshall and Charlie Cox.

The first full length big screen version of the play, other adaptations had been filmed for TV.

Ian McKellen was considered for Antonio and Cate Blanchett was up for the role of Portia.

Dustin Hoffman wanted to play Shylock but Pacino had already been cast.

BAFTA Nomination for Best Costume Design.

“All that glitters is not gold.”

Cost $30m - Box Office $21.4m

IMDB rating 7.1

Shylock: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

As You Like It (2006)
As You Like It (2006)

As You Like it (2006) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. 127mins.

Starring Kevin Kline, Bryce Dallas Howard, Romola Garai, Alfred Molina, Brian Blessed and David Oyelowo.

As You Like It was released theatrically in Europe, it premiered on the HBO TV channel in the United States.

Tagline - Romance... or Something Like it.

Goldan Globe Nomination for Best Actress in a Made for TV Movie (Bryce Dallas Howard).

SAG Winner for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries (Kevin Kline).

IMDB rating 6.3

Jaques: “All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players"

Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones in The Tempest (2010)
Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones in The Tempest (2010)
The Tempest (2010) poster
The Tempest (2010) poster

The Tempest (2010) Directed by Julie Taymor. 110mins.

Helen Mirren - Prospera
Felicity Jones - Miranda
Djimon Hounsou - Caliban
Ben Whishaw - Ariel

Also starring Alfred Molina, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Reeve Carney, Alan Cumming and Russell Brand.

Shakespeare's play with an interesting gender-switch, Prospero is played by Helen Mirren and renamed Prospera.

The film received mixed reviews and failed at the box office, costing $20m it has grossed less than $1m.

Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 5.3

Miranda: "O Brave new world - that has such people in it."

Rhys Ifans in Anonymous (2011)
Rhys Ifans in Anonymous (2011)
Anonymous (2011) poster
Anonymous (2011) poster

Anonymous (2011) Directed by Roland Emmerich. 130mins.

Rhys Ifans - Earl of Oxford
Vanessa Redgrave - Queen Elizabeth I
Rafe Spall - William Shakespeare

Also starring David Thewlis, Edward Hogg, Xavier Samuel and Joely Richardson.

Fictionalised events suggesting that the Earl of Oxford may have been the true author of William Shakespeare's work. The great Bard of Avon is depicted as a bumbling, clueless oaf in this movie.

Tagline - Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

Oscar Nomination for Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 6.8

Ben Jonson: You cannot play Romeo!
William Shakespeare: What! Why not? I'm perfect for the role. Perfect! Only Will Shakespeare can pump life into Romeo's veins... and his codpiece.

Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler in Coriolanus (2011)
Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler in Coriolanus (2011)
Coriolanus (2011) poster
Coriolanus (2011) poster

Coriolanus (2011) Directed by Ralph Fiennes. 123mins.

Ralph Fiennes - Caius Martius Coriolanus
Gerard Butler - Tullus Aufidius

Also starring Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson.

The first feature film adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

A modern day adaptation set in an alternate reality Rome.

Ralph Fiennes directorial debut. Fiennes first played Coriolanus in London's Almeida Theater in 2000.

New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Redgrave).

Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain).

BAFTA Nomination for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

Cost $7m - Box Office $1m

IMDB rating 6.2

Coriolanus: "Nature teaches beasts to know their friends"

Ran (1985) poster
Ran (1985) poster

- Films inspired by Shakespeare's plays include -

The Boys from Syracuse (1938) / The Comedy of Errors

Yellow Sky (1948) / The Tempest

Forbidden Planet (1956) / The Tempest

Throne of Blood (1957) / Macbeth

West Side Story (1961) / Romeo and Juliet

Ran (1985) / King Lear

The Lion King (1994) / Hamlet

10 Things I Hate About You (1999) / The Taming of the Shrew

O (2001) / Othello

She's the Man (2006) / Twelfth Night

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Comments 13 comments

Geekdom profile image

Geekdom 3 years ago

That Shakespeare sure know how to tell a good story. I love Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing and enjoyed Gibson's Hamlet more than Branagh's. Love the tribute to the bard.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Geekdom, Mhatter99, thanks for commenting, always appreciated.

I've written movie hubs on other authors, I thought it was time to do one on arguably the greatest writer of them all. I especially enjoyed choosing suitable quotes for each entry. "Parting is such sweet sorrow."


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 3 years ago from Virginia

My thoughts while viewing your hub (1) Damn ...Mickey Rooney has been around forever (2) Leslie Howard....there needs to be a movie about his life as an actor and a spy (3) Of the many Larry Olivier Shakespeare movies....Hamlet is my least favorite....though it won the most awards (4) Bad movie buff....I have not seen any of the Orson Wells Shakespeare movies (5) Taylor and Burton's Taming of the Shrew is one of their better movies together....although I still prefer the Bruce Willis/Cybil Sheppard Taming of the Shrew version from their television show Moonlighting in the mid 1980s. (6) Thank goodness you were able to find a Chuck Shakespeare movie...lol. (7) One of the few early Leo DiCaprio movies I like is Romeo and Juliet. (8) Just seeing pictures of Shakespeare in Love...makes me think....how did Saving Private not win Best Picture of the year. (9) Anonymous is one of my favorite movies over the last two years....with Rhys Ifans giving his best performance ever (10) I recently watched Helen Mirren's The Tempest and Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus....gotta give the edge to The Tempest...as I found Coriolanus to be a grueling movie watching experience.

Very interesting hub....and a hub that will need to be constantly updated as Shakespeare movies will always be made.

Voted up and across the board.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment, observations and votes.

I was tempted to add a few more but thought 35 films was plenty for this article. I've probably seen more classic Shakespeare films than you and you have seen more modern Shakespeare films than I. :)

I haven't seen the gender switching version of The Tempest or Coriolanus yet, they are on my must see list.

I will recommend one film not in the article, Theatre of Blood, a horror film starring Vincent Price as a Shakespearean actor who plots revenge on his critics. One of the horror legend's best performances.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I really enjoyed this Shakespeare trip. I've seen a number of these movies, but none had more influence on me than Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet." My mother took me to sit it 1n 1948. I memorized the "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy (It luckily got me a 100 on an English test.) Great stuff.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks William F. Torpey, appreciate the comment, glad you liked the article. I wish I could memorise more than a couple of lines from Shakespeare's plays but I can't even remember what I had for lunch, my memory is like a sieve. You saw Hamlet in 1948? Whoa! :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I sure did, Steve. Even at my young age I loved it. But, like you, my memory -- which was never great -- has pretty much left me. When I'm playing golf I remember a key swing thought on one hole and on the next hole I'm wondering what it was that I wanted to remember. Even Hamlet's soliloquy has hidden somewhere in my brain.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

I don't think I would have been a good stage actor, remembering EVERY word from those plays? No way. I would have walked out on to the stage, skull in hand, staring at the audience for a minute or two and than I'd silently walk off. :)

Thanks for posting.


novecento 3 years ago

Great hub. I enjoyed the pictures you uploaded. The section about Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet in particular brings back memories of GCSE English Literature!

Keep up the good work :)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks novecento, appreciate the kind words. Writing this hub has had me revisiting some of these films. The blu-ray release of Olivier's Henry V is excellent and highly recommended.


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 3 years ago from Scotland

Brilliant collection of marvelous movies. The genius of Shakespeare mixed with the imagination and inventiveness of so many talented directors, writers and actors makes an incredibile mix.

Voted up


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Shinkicker, appreciate the comment. It is fascinating to see Shakespeare's most famous plays filmed by various directors in their own styles and settings.

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