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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Richard IIIRichard III

Drama1996104 minsDirector: Richard Loncraine

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

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Drama2015113 minsDirector: Justin Kurzel

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

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Comedy201594 minsDirector: Richard Bracewell

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.

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Food of LoveFood of Love

Drama1997109 minsDirector: Stephen Poliakoff

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

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Shakespeare WallahShakespeare Wallah

Romance1965122 minsDirector: James Ivory

When a young British actress from a touring troupe falls in love with an Indian playboy, the star-crossed lovers must overcome cultural differences and the scheming of a fierce rival.

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Peg of Old DruryPeg of Old Drury

Biopic193671 minsDirector: Herbert Wilcox

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

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Mercutio's DreamingMercutio's Dreaming

Comedy201116 minsDirector: Jennifer Lim and Daniel York

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

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Romeo of the SpiritsRomeo of the Spirits

Drama197620 minsDirector: Nikolas L. Janis

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

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Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet

Drama1954145 minsDirector: Renato Castellani

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

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The BanquetThe Banquet

2006125 minsDirector: Feng Xiaogang

Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) stars is this lavish wuxia based on elements from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ibsen’s Ghosts.

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Drama2012123 minsDirector: Ralph Fiennes

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

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China GirlChina Girl

Gangster198787 minsDirector: Abel Ferrara

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

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Drama197666 minsDirector: Celestino Coronado

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

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All Night LongAll Night Long

Drama196291 minsDirector: Basil Dearden

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

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National Youth TheatreNational Youth Theatre

196629 minsDirector: John Bloom and John Crome

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

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Play On! Shakespeare in Silent FilmPlay On! Shakespeare in Silent Film

Anthology201663 minsSilentDirector: Bryony Dixon and Jane Giles

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

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You Made Me Love YouYou Made Me Love You

Comedy193370 minsDirector: Monty Banks

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

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Men Are Not GodsMen Are Not Gods

Comedy193683 minsDirector: Walter Reisch

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

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