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Hamlet (1948)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 29
Fresh: 26 | Rotten: 3

A well-executed labor of love from star and director Laurence Olivier, Hamlet not only proved that Shakespeare could be successfully adapted to the big screen, it paved the way for further cinematic interpretations.


Average Rating: 5/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

A well-executed labor of love from star and director Laurence Olivier, Hamlet not only proved that Shakespeare could be successfully adapted to the big screen, it paved the way for further cinematic interpretations.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 7,303

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Movie Info

Although criticized by Shakespeare devotees upon its release because of director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier's decision to excise large portions of the text, his cinematic version of Hamlet is widely considered the best out of several dozens (and counting). Hamlet (Olivier) is a medieval Danish prince who's still melancholy over the sudden death of his father and the quick, subsequent remarriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) to his uncle, Claudius (Basil Sydney).


Drama, Classics

William Shakespeare, Alan Dent

Sep 19, 2000

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All Critics (29) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (3) | DVD (6)

Sir Laurence Olivier's masterful version of the classic.

February 18, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Despite winning several Oscars, Olivier's (condensed) version of Shakespeare's masterpiece makes for frustrating viewing.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is picture-making at its best, and its showing must be done with the dignity it deserves.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The matter is settled; the filmed Hamlet of Laurence Olivier gives absolute proof that these classics are magnificiently suited to the screen.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Laurence Olivier's famous 1948 interpretation of Shakespeare's play suffers slightly from his pop-Freud approach to the character and from some excessively flashy, wrongheaded camera work.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (3)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Laurence Olivier directed and stars in this astonishing Shakespeare adaptation.

February 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

So stylistically influenced by Welles that it might have been called Citizen Dane.

October 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

This Hamlet, a Best Picture winner, unfortunately stands as one of the stagier productions of the famous play.

February 24, 2013 Full Review Source:

Olivier's classic and personalised version of the troubled Prince of Denmark is still highly atmospheric and intriguing.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Hamlet has been filmed many times, but few can hold a candle to Olivier's portrayal of the Danish prince in 1948.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

One of the best versions of the Bard's.

August 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Olivier always felt that each different Hamlet is an essay, subject to the individual's interpretation.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Olivier's Hamlet is terrific to watch and his performance is great but, like the play, the film is somewhat tedious.

October 31, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Done in different style than Henry V, based on Olivier's metaphor that Hamlet is more like an engraving than a painting, the play was hauntingly shot in b/w, dwelling on the Castle and its massive and gloomy corridors where the action takes place.

July 15, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

A valuable classic.

July 21, 2004
Cinema Signals

Of the four versions of Hamlet that I've seen, this one is the most psychological, the one that truly delves into Hamlet's mind and psyche.

January 30, 2004
Matt's Movie Reviews

The best ever adaptation of Shakespeare's best ever play. Olivier is mesmerising.

February 10, 2003
Sunday Times (Australia)

For its time, one of the best Shakespearean adaptations, even though a lot of the text has been omitted. Olivier's psychological take on Hamlet could be debated today.

October 23, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

If you want to study Shakespeare, and how it should really be done, then watch Laurence Olivier.

September 18, 2002 Full Review Source:

It is everything that it should be: beautiful and haunting, powerful and ultimately tragic.

February 28, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

Audience Reviews for Hamlet

I didn't particularly like this adaptation mainly because of Laurence Olivier's acting. In my perspective, he delivers his lines without emotion and at times seems bored with what he is saying. In several scenes, the music seems to be intruding rather than adding drama to the film. Or maybe it was the angles of the cameras. Either way, I did not *feel it* when Olivier delivered the soliloquies. I also disliked the actress who played Ophelia. Her acting was not convincing at all. I suppose it has its merits as it is a mostly faithful rendition of the play but I think there's better versions out there (i.e. Branagh's version).
July 11, 2011

Super Reviewer

Some consider this to be the definitive screen version of Hamelt, and, while I don't agree with that (and also don't think it should have necessarily taken top honors at the Oscars), I do think this is a very enjoyable and well done take on the story.

Olivier might have been a bit too old to play the lead, and the woman playing his mother was actually quite younger than him, and there is a fair amount of the story that has been removed, but aside from all that, there's a lot to like here.

Much of the film is still framed and staged as if it were a play, but this gives everything a unique look to it. There's also some great gothic and somewhat film-noirishness to the art direction and set design- namely the cavernous chambers of the castle. The film als ohas a wonderful mood and atmosphere going for it, which really enhance this version's focus on the psychological side of the story.

The acting is quite strong, as one might expect given Olivier's reputation, but he's not the only one who excels here. In fact, most if not all of the players do a terrific job.

I actually prefer the Branagh version, as epic an undertaken it is to watch, mostly I think, because it was just more ambitious, even if it tweaked the time period. This is still a really good version though, even if I didn't feel it lived up to its reputation.
June 20, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The definitive cinematic rendition of Hamlet. However, Kenneth Branagh's film version of the complete Hamlet does bring out the faults of the Olivier Hamlet by including everything that Olivier had omitted. But still despite all this, the performances, the photography, the art direction and the musical score of the Olivier Hamlet are perfect. I still consider Olivier's performance to be the best performance of Hamlet I have ever seen. Winner of my Top Shakespeare Films.
March 2, 2010

Super Reviewer

I really like Laurence Olivier and I think he did a great job but still: I BLEEPING HATE HAMLET! Stupid emo kid. The character is just such an inept stuttering moron that I just want to slap him. You could pour your heart and soul into the role (as Olivier clearly did) and you still wouldn't be able to save him. Ugh. I can't stop imagining Hamlet wearing eyeliner and a bad haircut and delivering that 'to be or not to be' soliloquy over the phone to a yawning, unconvinced friend. "I'm really gonna do it this time! Really!" Truth be told though, I did like the scenes where he was being jovial and witty, but I only two come to mind. This film wasn't bad, but I just hate this damn play.
February 20, 2007

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Hamlet, 1948 (DE)
  • Hamlet (UK)
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