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Shakespeare

A specially selected folio of Shakespeare adaptations exclusively for BFI Player+ subscribers.

From Kurosawa's classics to acclaimed productions from the RSC, here are some key works in the history of Shakespeare on film. Scholarly subscribers can rewatch to their hearts desire; the uninitiated can journey to the “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

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Shakespeare
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View Henry V
Henry V

Henry V 1944 U

Laurence Olivier rouses an all-star cast and an imperiled nation with his magnificent adaptation of Shakespeare's warrior monarch.

137 mins United Kingdom Director. Laurence Olivier

View Sir Ian McKellen introduces Henry V (1944)
Sir Ian McKellen introduces Henry V (1944)
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Sir Ian McKellen introduces Henry V (1944) 2016

Sir Ian McKellen introduces Laurence Olivier's classic adaptation of Henry V, a rousing wartime classic which McKellen contrasts with Kenneth Branagh's more circumspect 1989 version.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Jon Spira

Laurence Olivier’s film is considered the first truly cinematic Shakespeare film. This lavish Technicolor production was backed by the UK government as a wartime morale-booster.

View Hamlet
Hamlet

Hamlet 1948 U

The first British film to win the Best Picture Oscar remains one of the strongest examples of Shakespeare on film.

155 mins United Kingdom Director. Laurence Olivier

Olivier was unable to source as high a budget for his next film, but his expressionistic use of black and white fitted the Danish tragedy’s mood of gloomy introspection.

Hamlet was a triumph; the first non-American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and one of only two films in which an actor has directed himself to a Best Actor Oscar.

View Throne of Blood
Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood 1957 12

A master of period-drama, Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) recasts Macbeth as a Japanese warlord in one of the greatest Shakespearean adaptations.

109 mins Japan Director. Akira Kurosawa

View Sir Ian McKellen introduces Throne of Blood
Sir Ian McKellen introduces Throne of Blood
Watch for free 1 mins

Sir Ian McKellen introduces Throne of Blood 2016

The champion of BFI's Shakespeare on Film season introduces Akira Kurosawa's great Macbeth adaptation.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Jon Spira

The first of Kurosawa’s three masterful adaptations relocates the Scottish play to Feudal Japan. His focus on mood and atmosphere over dialogue reinforced Shakespeare’s cinematic potential.

View The Bad Sleep Well
The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well 1960 PG

The first film made by Akira Kurosawa's own production company is a dark tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge.

135 mins Japan Director. Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa followed his successful adaptation of Macbeth with this looser translation of Hamlet, updating the action to modern Japan for a dark story of corporate corruption.

Kurosawa wasn’t the first to give Hamlet a modern setting; Edgar G. Ulmer's noir Strange Illusion came in 1945. Other playful variations include Hamlet Goes Business and The Lion King.

View Ran
Ran
HD

Ran 1985 12

Akira Kurosawa’s visually spectacular epic transplants Shakespeare’s King Lear from Celtic Britain to feudal Japan.

155 mins France Director. Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa's final Shakespeare was this epic and extravagantly coloured restaging of King Lear.

The great filmmaker interweaves themes from the play with elements from traditional Japanese folklore, including the legends of Mōri Motonari.

View Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar 2012 12

Gregory’s Doran’s innovative Shakespeare interpretation transplants the action to post-independence Africa.

150 mins United Kingdom Director. Gregory Doran

The stage is still the origin of most Shakespearean innovations: RSC's acclaimed 2012 production posits the play in modern Africa with an all-black cast.

Gregory Doran’s reimagining follows in the footsteps of Shakespeare greats such as Orson Welles, whose African-set ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth of 1936 was also a critical sensation.

View Macbeth
Macbeth

Macbeth 2001

Antony Sher stars in the Gregory Doran’s acclaimed RSC production, lauded as the finest adaptation of the Scottish play for over a quarter of a century.

145 mins United Kingdom Director. Gregory Doran

Gregory Doran also directs Antony Sher in one of the most acclaimed Shakespeare productions of recent years.

The stage success has been inventively reconceived for this film, with an edgy, fly-on-the-wall energy that utilises the unique space of London’s Roundhouse to great effect.

View Macbeth
Macbeth

Macbeth 2009 12

Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood star as Macbeth and his Lady in Rupert Goold's immediate and visceral adaptation.

150 mins United Kingdom Director. Georgina Lamb, Rupert Goold

One of our most revered Shakespearean actors, Patrick Stewart was nominated for a Tony Award for his commanding performance as the Scottish King.

Director Rupert Goold utilises the mysterious location of the underground labyrinth in Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire, to craft and intense and claustrophobic interpretation.

View Time Flies
Time Flies
HD

Time Flies 1944 U

Fast-talking funnyman Tommy Handley visits Elizabethan England – and ends up teaching Good Queen Bess con tricks – in this snappy time-travel comedy.

88 mins United Kingdom Director. Walter Forde

Not an adaptation, but rather an example of how Shakespeare himself has been portrayed on film. In this light comedy, a music-hall performer zips back in time to meet the Bard.

Screen depictions of Shakespeare occur throughout cinema history, up to recent films like Shakespeare in Love and Bill. (Both also available to rent on BFI Player.)

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