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!
Short documentary20169 mins
Discover why filmmakers in the silent era turned to the works of William Shakespeare for inspiration.
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.
Memorably framed by a depiction of Shakespeare himself, this is one of the most successful (and longest) of the surviving silent Shakespeare films.
Short documentary20161 mins
Sir Ian McKellen reflects on his most renowned on-screen Shakespearean role, reprised from Richard Eyre's acclaimed National Theatre production.
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.
Short documentary20161 mins
Sir Ian McKellen champions one of the less traditional Shakespeare adaptations, which updates Othello to the 1960s Soho jazz scene.
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.
Interest film19257 minsSilent Location: Westminster
All of London's a stage in this summery, Shakespeare-themed tour of the capital.
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.
War194442 mins Location: Denham
Entertaining and evocative Fleet Air Arm drama-doc propaganda piece, written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
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
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
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.
Travelogue194010 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon
A tour of Stratford-upon-Avon's houses and hamlets, stomping ground of a young William Shakespeare.
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.
Non-Fiction19151 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon
Proud locals hold a double celebration in Shakespeare's home town.
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.
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.
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.
Travelogue192512 minsSilent Location: Stratford-upon-Avon
A picturesque portrait of Stratford-on-Avon in the 1920s, evocatively photographed by British cinema pioneer Cecil Hepworth.
Amateur film19644 minsSilent
Macbeth, Julius Caesar and other Shakespearean characters let their hair down at home.
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.
Travelogue192611 minsSilent Location: Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Scenic views of the Bard's stomping ground, Stratford-upon-Avon, in this charming early travelogue.
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
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.
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.
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.