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Shakespeare on Film

All the world's a cinema! How a century and more of filmmakers have raided, remade and refashioned the bard.

Shakespeare arrived in moving pictures before they could even talk. The master's work lent an air of gravitas, respectability and permanence to a young medium. As film grew bigger and more ambitious, so filmmakers were drawn to Shakespeare's endless bounty of resonant plots and epic conflicts, his mastery of psychology and character.

Shakespeare's universal, elemental themes survive any translation, any reinterpretation. His plays have been filmed in Russian, in Japanese, in Hindi and dozens of other languages. They have appeared as musicals, as westerns, as sci-fi. Kurosawa transported the 'Scottish Play' to feudal Japan. Laurence Olivier's 1944 Henry V may tell of war with France, but its audience would have had in mind a more contemporary enemy. Even four centuries after his death, Shakespeare plays still speak to our times as well as his.

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Shakespeare on Film

RECOMMENDED

View Macbeth
Macbeth
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Macbeth 2015 15

Fassbender is ferocious as the Scottish king in Justin Kurzel’s red-blooded and viscerally atmospheric Shakespeare adaptation.

113 mins France Director. Justin Kurzel

View Hamlet
Hamlet
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Hamlet 1913

Johnston Forbes-Roberston gives his famous performance of Hamlet in this ambitious early Shakespeare feature

54 mins United Kingdom Director. Hay Plumb

View Bill
Bill
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Bill 2015 PG

The Horrible Histories team’s take on Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’, following the hopeless lute player as he leaves his home to follow his dream.

93 mins Great Britain Director. Richard Bracewell

View Next
Next
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Next 1989

Two virtuoso performances in one – Shakespeare's complete works presented in puppet form by a master of animation

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Barry Purves

View Coriolanus
Coriolanus
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Coriolanus 2010 15

Ralph Fiennes stars and directs in the brutal Shakespeare adaptation about a fallen hero who hungers for bloody revenge against his city.

123 mins United Kingdom Director. Ralph Fiennes

View Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film
Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film
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Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film 2016 U

This celebration of silent Shakespeare interweaves a delightful selection of thrilling, iconic and humorous scenes from 24 newly digitised films.

62 mins United Kingdom

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View Richard III
Richard III
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Richard III 1995 15

Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine’s bold restaging transplants Shakespeare’s play to an imagined 1930s fascist Britain.

104 mins United Kingdom Director. Richard Loncraine

View Sir Ian McKellen introduces Richard III (1995)
Sir Ian McKellen introduces Richard III (1995)
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Sir Ian McKellen introduces Richard III (1995) 2016

Sir Ian McKellen reflects on his most renowned on-screen Shakespearean role, reprised from Richard Eyre's acclaimed National Theatre production.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Jon Spira

View Peg of Old Drury
Peg of Old Drury
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Peg of Old Drury 1935

Anna Neagle is on luminous form in this exuberant account of celebrated actress Peg Woffington's rise to fame in Georgian London's Theatreland.

76 mins United Kingdom Director. Herbert Wilcox

View Mercutio's Dreaming
Mercutio's Dreaming
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Mercutio's Dreaming 2011

The travails of a British-Chinese, would-be Shakespearean actor, in an industry that sees him only as an 'Oriental'.

United Kingdom Director. Jennifer Lim, Daniel York

View Welcome to Shakespeare Land!
Welcome to Shakespeare Land!
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Welcome to Shakespeare Land! 2016

Travel back in time to a bygone Stratford-upon-Avon through the lens of the BFI's fascinating collection of Shakespeare-themed travelogues.

14 mins United Kingdom Director. Oliver Cheetham

View The Angelic Conversation
The Angelic Conversation
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The Angelic Conversation 1985 PG

The Angelic Conversation sees Derek Jarman conjure an evocative and radical visualisation of Shakespeare’s love poems. With narration by Judi Dench and music by Coil.

81 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

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 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

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

View Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love
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Shakespeare in Love 1998 15

A creatively stymied bard finds love and inspiration in the form of one of his players, a cross-dressing actress, in the impeccably crafted, Oscar-winning period romance.

123 mins USA Director. John Madden

View Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night
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Twelfth Night 1910

Vitagraph’s charming 1910 interpretation features some notably lively performances.

11 mins USA Director. Charles Kent

View King John
King John
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King John 1899

The first ever Shakespearean film - once thought to be lost - with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the title role.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. William Dickson

View King Lear
King Lear
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King Lear 1910

An early Italian take on King Lear notable for its vibrant stenciling and impressive use of outdoor locations.

14 mins Italy Director. Gerolamo Lo Savio

View Introduction to Silent Shakespeare
Introduction to Silent Shakespeare
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Introduction to Silent Shakespeare 2016

Discover why filmmakers in the silent era turned to the works of William Shakespeare for inspiration.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Oliver Cheetham

View Hamlet
Hamlet
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Hamlet 1910

A selection of Hamlet’s most famous scenes are reproduced in this Italian production from 1910.

5 mins Italy Director. Mario Caserini

View Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
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Julius Caesar 1908

A selection of key scenes from Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy, in this American adaptation from 1908.

5 mins USA Director. William V. Ranous

View King Lear
King Lear
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King Lear 1909

This silent Shakespeare adaptation features some impressive effects, including a storm scene evoked by scratches into the film itself.

13 mins USA Director. William V. Ranous

View The Winter's Tale
The Winter's Tale
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The Winter's Tale 1913

Memorably framed by a depiction of Shakespeare himself, this is one of the most successful (and longest) of the surviving silent Shakespeare films.

43 mins Italy Director. Baldassare Negroni

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

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

View China Girl
China Girl
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China Girl 1987 18

Abel Ferrara creates a modern day Romeo & Juliet in gritty New York City, centring on the doom relationship between an Italian boy and Chinese girl.

90 mins USA Director. Abel Ferrara

View Food of Love
Food of Love
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HD

Food of Love 1997 15

Richard E. Grant leads a dramatic reunion as friends and lovers gather to perform Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in Stephen Poliakoff’s romantic comedy.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Stephen Poliakoff

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

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

View All Night Long
All Night Long
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HD

All Night Long 1962 15

Othello is transposed to the 1960s Soho jazz scene as a malevolent drummer sows mistrust between husband-and-wife jazz luminaries.

95 mins United Kingdom Director. Basil Dearden

View Sir Ian McKellen introduces All Night Long
Sir Ian McKellen introduces All Night Long
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Sir Ian McKellen introduces All Night Long 2016

Sir Ian McKellen champions one of the less traditional Shakespeare adaptations, which updates Othello to the 1960s Soho jazz scene.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Jon Spira

View Beauty and Brightness No. 4
Beauty and Brightness No. 4
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Beauty and Brightness No. 4 1925

All of London's a stage in this summery, Shakespeare-themed tour of the capital.

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Harry B. Parkinson

View Warwick Pageant
Warwick Pageant
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Warwick Pageant 1906

Crowds of thousands came to see a stadium-sized theatrical spectacle.

17 mins United Kingdom

View Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
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HD

Romeo and Juliet 1954 PG

Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall are the star-crossed lovers in the ravishingly filmed 1954 adaptation.

138 mins United Kingdom Director. Renato Castellani

View Romeo of the Spirits
Romeo of the Spirits
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Romeo of the Spirits 1976

A homeless ex-actor's remembrance of lines from Shakespeare reflects his own desperate situation on the hostile streets of London.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Nikolas L. Janis

View Hamlet
Hamlet
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Hamlet 1976

The line "the counterfeit presentment of two brothers" inspires a radical rethink of Hamlet, starring identical twins.

67 mins United Kingdom Director. Celestino Coronado

View Macbeth
Macbeth
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Macbeth 1945

Two scenes from Shakespeare's famous Scottish tragedy, with Wilfred Lawson and Cathleen Nesbitt as a fine murderous duo.

16 mins United Kingdom Director. Henry Cass

View Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
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Julius Caesar 1945

Forceful staging of the famous forum scene from Shakespeare's tragedy about honour and betrayal in ancient Rome.

19 mins United Kingdom Director. Henry Cass

View You Made Me Love You
You Made Me Love You
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HD

You Made Me Love You 1933 U

A loose adaption of The Taming of the Shrew, with Thelma Todd as a spoilt heiress who can’t stand her suitor.

70 mins United Kingdom Director. Monty Banks

View A Link with Shakespeare
A Link with Shakespeare
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A Link with Shakespeare 1950

Have you ever wondered what goes into the manufacture of a bicycle chain? A Coventry company attempts to boost interest by linking to their most famous regional landmarks.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Men Are Not Gods
Men Are Not Gods
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HD

Men Are Not Gods 1936 U

A theatre critic's secretary is caught up in a love triangle involving the stars of a production of Othello.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. Walter Reisch

View Richard III
Richard III
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Richard III 1911

A fascinating record of F.R Benson’s famed production at Stratford’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

20 mins United Kingdom

View The Volunteer
The Volunteer
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The Volunteer 1943

Entertaining and evocative Fleet Air Arm drama-doc propaganda piece, written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

46 mins United Kingdom Director. Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

View National Youth Theatre
National Youth Theatre
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National Youth Theatre 1966

Inside a youth production of Coriolanus in the run-up to its West End debut

29 mins United Kingdom Director. John Crome, John Bloom

View Romeo E Giulietta
Romeo E Giulietta
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Romeo E Giulietta 1927

Musical short featuring a duet from the Gounod opera

6 mins United Kingdom

View Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew
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Taming of the Shrew 1923

The Shrew gets a taste of her own medicine from a rumbustious Petruchio

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Edwin J. Collins

View Oh'phelia A Cartoon Burlesque
Oh'phelia  A Cartoon Burlesque
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Oh'phelia A Cartoon Burlesque 1919

To bob, or not to bob? That is the question for Ophelia in this early animated Hamlet, starring a far from gloomy Dane

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Anson Dyer

View Music Box
Music Box
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Music Box 1957

Stage comedy legends The Crazy Gang perform an uproarious extract from A Midsummer Night's Dream in this 1957 TV variety show.

26 mins United Kingdom Director. Douglas Hurn

View Shakespeare Land
Shakespeare Land
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Shakespeare Land 1957

Shakespeare's Warwickshire - home of the half timbered heritage trail and the place that will be forever linked to its most famous son.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Shakespeare's Country
Shakespeare's Country
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Shakespeare's Country 1940

A tour of Stratford-upon-Avon's houses and hamlets, stomping ground of a young William Shakespeare.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Shakespeare Memorial Theatre
Shakespeare Memorial Theatre
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Shakespeare Memorial Theatre 1926

"O for a muse of fire" - or not, as Shakespeare's Memorial Theatre in Stratford is gutted by flames.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Stratford upon Avon
Stratford upon Avon
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Stratford upon Avon 1958

Stratford celebrates the birthday of its most famous son.

12 mins United Kingdom

View Shakespeare Land
Shakespeare Land
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Shakespeare Land 1910

Elegantly attired men and women while away a sunny afternoon on the banks of the River Avon in this idyllic Edwardian travelogue.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Midsummer Night's Dream
Midsummer Night's Dream
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HD

Midsummer Night's Dream 1964

Delightful TV version of the Bard's most fantastic romantic comedy starring Benny Hill, Anna Massey and Peter Wyngarde

112 mins United Kingdom Director. Joan Kemp-Welch

View Glastonbury Past and Present
Glastonbury Past and Present
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Glastonbury Past and Present 1921

Druids, kings and mystics - rekindling the ancient spirit of Glastonbury.

67 mins United Kingdom

View Memorial Procession in English Country Town
Memorial Procession in English Country Town
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Memorial Procession in English Country Town 1915

Top-hatted gents (one Japanese) parade through the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon to mark Shakespeare's birthday and St George's Day.

United Kingdom

View Stratford-on-Avon
Stratford-on-Avon
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Stratford-on-Avon 1925

A picturesque portrait of Stratford-on-Avon in the 1920s, evocatively photographed by British cinema pioneer Cecil Hepworth.

12 mins United Kingdom

View To Shakespeare's Memory
To Shakespeare's Memory
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To Shakespeare's Memory 1927

Pomp and ceremony in Stratford-upon-Avon for the Bard's birthday

10 mins United Kingdom

View The Tempest
The Tempest
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HD

The Tempest 1979 15

Derek Jarman’s brooding and darkly symbolic third feature is considered by some to be the most evocative Shakespeare adaptation ever to reach the screen.

95 mins United Kingdom

View Toyah Willcox on The Tempest
Toyah Willcox on The Tempest
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Toyah Willcox on The Tempest 2014

Toyah Willcox discusses working with Derek Jarman on The Tempest, in which she plays Miranda, and considers the director’s legacy.

9 mins United Kingdom

View The Magic Behind The Tempest (1979)
The Magic Behind The Tempest (1979)
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The Magic Behind The Tempest (1979) 2016

Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on Derek Jarman's 1979 production of The Tempest, with access to a remarkable collection of notebooks, photos, scripts and designs from the film.

17 mins United Kingdom Director. Oliver Cheetham

View Shakespeare's Country
Shakespeare's Country
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Shakespeare's Country 1926

Scenic views of the Bard's stomping ground, Stratford-upon-Avon, in this charming early travelogue.

11 mins United Kingdom

View British and Best
British and Best
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British and Best 1928

A progressive design by a pioneering female architect beats all comers to become the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford

1 mins United Kingdom

View Shakespeare at Harrow
Shakespeare at Harrow
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Shakespeare at Harrow 1957

Harrow’s schoolboys perform a scene from King Lear in this short film looking at the school’s theatrical endeavours.

12 mins United Kingdom

View Around the Town No.110
Around the Town No.110
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Around the Town No.110 1922

An unconvincing Shakespeare mopes in Stratford, an Edward VII stand-in sups in Norfolk, and French actresses posture in London.

4 mins United Kingdom

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