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The first British film to win the Best Picture Oscar remains one of the strongest examples of Shakespeare on film.
Laurence Olivier’s second film as director, his second major Shakespeare adaptation, was for many years one of the most acclaimed of all UK films and the epitome of quality British cinema. While time may have reduced some of its lustre, it remains a striking adaptation full of heavyweight performances from a cast including Jean Simmons, Basil Sydney and John Laurie.
While more recent adaptations may have subsequently upped the cinematographic stakes, Olivier’s direction is remarkably bold for the time, utilising the dark shadows of Film Noir and German Expressionism to lend the tale an atmosphere of gothic introspection. Hamlet was the first non-American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and remains one of only two films in which an actor has directed himself to a Best Actor Oscar.