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!
Drama1995104 minsDirector: Richard Loncraine
Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine’s bold restaging transplants Shakespeare’s play to an imagined 1930s fascist Britain.
Comedy201494 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.
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.
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.
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.
Comedy201116 minsDirector: Jennifer Lim
The travails of a British-Chinese, would-be Shakespearean actor, in an industry that sees him only as an 'Oriental'.
Animation & Artists Moving Image198581 minsDirector: Derek Jarman
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.
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.
Comedy1998124 minsDirector: John Madden
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.
Gangster198787 minsDirector: Abel Ferrara
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.
Drama2010123 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.
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.
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.
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.
Fantasy1964110 minsDirector: Joan Kemp-Welch
Delightful TV version of the Bard's most fantastic romantic comedy starring Benny Hill, Anna Massey and Peter Wyngarde
Drama197996 minsDirector: Derek Jarman
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.
196718 minsDirector: John Phillips
Two reports from This Week – The Arts on adaptations of Shakespeare, including scenes from Joan Littlewood’s MacBird, and choreographer Martha Graham.
This celebration of silent Shakespeare interweaves a delightful selection of thrilling, iconic and humorous scenes from 24 newly digitised films.