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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. Play on!

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HamletHamlet

Drama191354 minsSilent

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

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NextNext

Animation & Artists Moving Image19895 mins

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

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Introduction to Silent ShakespeareIntroduction to Silent Shakespeare

Short documentary20169 mins

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

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Leonard Whiting Olivia HusseyLeonard Whiting Olivia Hussey

Inside Film196716 mins

Teenage actors discuss their work with Franco Zeffirelli on Romeo and Juliet.

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Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting Q&A for Shakespeare LivesOlivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting Q&A for Shakespeare Lives

Inside Film201631 mins

The stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet are reunited on stage for the first time since 1968 as part of the BFI and British Council’s Shakespeare on Film.

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Twelfth NightTwelfth Night

Comedy191011 minsSilent

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

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King JohnKing John

Drama18991 minsSilent

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

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King LearKing Lear

Drama191014 mins

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

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The Winter's TaleThe Winter's Tale

191343 minsSilent

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

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HamletHamlet

Period drama19108 minsSilent

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

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Julius CaesarJulius Caesar

Historical drama190812 minsSilent

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

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King LearKing Lear

Period drama190913 minsSilent

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

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

Short documentary20161 mins

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

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

Short documentary20161 mins

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.

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Sir Ian McKellen introduces All Night LongSir Ian McKellen introduces All Night Long

Short documentary20161 mins

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

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Shakespeare on Stage, Screen and Elsewhere with Ian McKellenShakespeare on Stage, Screen and Elsewhere with Ian McKellen

Inside Film201673 mins

Acting legend Ian McKellen discusses his impressive range of Shakespearean performances.

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Beauty and Brightness No. 4Beauty and Brightness No. 4

Interest film19257 minsSilent Location: Westminster

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

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Warwick PageantWarwick Pageant

Non-Fiction190625 minsSilent Location: Warwick

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

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MacbethMacbeth

Period drama194516 mins

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

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Julius CaesarJulius Caesar

Historical drama194519 mins

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

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Link with ShakespeareLink with Shakespeare

Promotional19507 mins Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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.

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Richard IIIRichard III

Drama191120 minsSilent

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

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The VolunteerThe Volunteer

War194442 mins Location: Denham

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

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OthelloOthello

Animation & Artists Moving Image19203 minsSilent

An animated Moor of Venice brings comedy to Shakespeare’s tragedy, in this cut-out cartoon with some neat tricks up its sleeve

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Taming of the ShrewTaming of the Shrew

Comedy192310 minsSilent

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

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Oh'phelia A Cartoon BurlesqueOh'phelia A Cartoon Burlesque

Animation & Artists Moving Image191910 minsSilent

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

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Shakespeare LandShakespeare Land

Non-Fiction19575 minsSilent Location: Hampton Lucy

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

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Shakespeare's CountryShakespeare's Country

Travelogue194010 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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Shakespeare Memorial TheatreShakespeare Memorial Theatre

Non-Fiction19261 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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St George's Day at Stratford-on-AvonSt George's Day at Stratford-on-Avon

Non-Fiction19151 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

Proud locals hold a double celebration in Shakespeare's home town.

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Stratford upon AvonStratford upon Avon

News195813 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford celebrates the birthday of its most famous son.

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Shakespeare LandShakespeare Land

Travelogue19105 minsSilent Location: Royal Leamington Spa

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

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Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Foundation Stone Laying at Stratford-upon-Avon on July 2nd 1929Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Foundation Stone Laying at Stratford-upon-Avon on July 2nd 1929

Non-Fiction192918 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

Leading lights of the Masonic fraternity are uncharacteristically conspicuous in this theatrical ceremony.

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Memorial Procession in English Country TownMemorial Procession in English Country Town

Non-Fiction1915 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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Stratford-on-avonStratford-on-avon

Travelogue192512 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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Family Party - Senat Personal Film - 1964Family Party - Senat Personal Film - 1964

Amateur film19644 minsSilent

Macbeth, Julius Caesar and other Shakespearean characters let their hair down at home.

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To Shakespeare's MemoryTo Shakespeare's Memory

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent

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

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The Magic Behind The Tempest (1979)The Magic Behind The Tempest (1979)

Short documentary201618 mins

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.

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Shakespeare's CountryShakespeare's Country

Travelogue192611 minsSilent Location: Anne Hathaway's Cottage

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

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Sexey's School perform The TempestSexey's School perform The Tempest

News19606 minsSilent Location: Bruton

Sexey’s school put on a Shakespearian production.

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British and BestBritish and Best

Non-Fiction19280 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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Macbeth a TragedyMacbeth a Tragedy

Drama19836 mins

Experimental Shakespeare: prose and poetry, reading and performance, with filming mechanics laid bare

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Around the Town No.110Around the Town No.110

Non-Fiction19224 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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Shakespeare at HarrowShakespeare at Harrow

Documentary195712 mins Location: Harrow School

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

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Romeo E GiuliettaRomeo E Giulietta

Musical19276 mins

Musical short featuring a duet from the Gounod opera

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Glastonbury past and PresentGlastonbury past and Present

Documentary192268 minsSilent Location: Glastonbury

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

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Welcome to Shakespeare Land!Welcome to Shakespeare Land!

Short documentary201614 mins

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

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