Shakespeare on film: what’s your favourite?

You may – or may not – know that I’m currently doing a Shakespeare Studies MA and would be really interested to know the following:

  • What is your favourite Shakespeare FILM and who directed it/starred in it?
  • Why is it your favourite?
  • Did you know the story before you saw the film?

And whilst these are the main things I want to know, please say as much or as little as you want about the reasons for your choice

To help prompt you, some of the better-known versions of Shakespeare on film include:

  • As You Like It (Branagh)
  • Hamlet (Branagh)
  • Hamlet (Zeffirelli)
  • Hamlet (Olivier)
  • Hamlet (Almereyda)
  • Henry V (Branagh)
  • Henry V (Olivier)
  • King Lear (Kozintsev)
  • King Lear (Brook)
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Branagh)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh)
  • Macbeth (Welles)
  • Macbeth (Polanski)
  • Othello (Welles)
  • Richard III (Olivier)
  • Richard III (Loncraine)
  • Romeo and Juliet (Luhrmann)
  • Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli)

I am trying to get as many views as possible and to understand (from your point-of-view) what makes a film a success. Please pass this request on to as many of your friends/colleagues as possible.

Hope to hear from you.


2 thoughts on “Shakespeare on film: what’s your favourite?

  1. Emma Gair

    This has certainly got me thinking… However, in terms of cinema experiences Branagh’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ wins hands-down. That said I also loved his ‘Henry V’ and Luhrman’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. And Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is very iconic… and as for the music from the various films I could go on and on!

    So, why ‘Much Ado About Nothing’? First of all, it’s a lovely, uplifting, happy, ‘feel good’ version of this story with some wonderful performances, not least from Branagh and his then wife, Emma Thompson. It also has one of the earliest, if not the earliest, film appearance by Kate Beckinsale.

    Seeing the film has very warm memories for me because I first saw it on a very special occassion when I took my father to the London premiere as a surprise for his 60th Birthday. I then saw it a number of times both in the cinema and then on video. On one cinema trip I took a younger friend who was in her teens to see it as her first proper exposure to Shakespeare and she was completely blown away by it. It was a really positive experience of Shakespeare for someone who didn’t speak English as a first language and yet had no problem understanding the film.

    I think that is one of the key reasons why this is my favourite Shakespeare film. It turned a centuries old play written in verse into a wonderful, vibrant cinema experience that was easy to relate to and understand despite being presented in a modern genre. It brought something to life that many view as out of date and inaccessible to younger audiences. Something that enables Shakespeare to come alive for new audiences is brilliantly success in my opinion.

    1. admin

      Great choice and one that many people concur with. I think what helps is the accessibility of the language: the original play is 70% prose and the words used are very easily understood, in comparison to say Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 which have a lot of prose but also have a lot of words whose meanings have changed or are archaic.


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