Hamlet - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hamlet Reviews

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½ March 8, 2018
Transitioning works of Shakespeare to the screen doesn't always work out, but this one does just fine.
½ September 11, 2017
Laurence Olivier directed and starred in this fine version of Hamlet. Olivier's portrayal sets the standard for subsequent film editions. The film's staging, lighting, and camera angles are particularly splendid.
August 27, 2017
An achievement for its time, and definitely a noteworthy performance by Olivier, this picture, however, is ultimately boring and has since been done better (Kenneth Branagh's version).
½ May 3, 2017
One of the most masterfully crafted and lovingly watchable Shakespeare adaptions to grace the screen, Laurence Oliviet's version of Hamlet is deservingly his magnum opus.
April 29, 2017
10 out of 10:

It may not be for you if your looking for accuracies to the play, but if you love films, You'll have no problem with this well acted and directed film.
½ January 12, 2017
Modernly slow. An excellent Shakespeare stage to screen adaptation in the young maturity of film.
December 11, 2016
Of course I wasn't expecting the full 4 hour play, but I was disappointed by the exclusion of some things. As for Oliver's delivery; rather lethargic and irritating.
July 11, 2016
É uma adaptação correta, com ótima fotografia e direção de arte caprichada. Mas dilui a obra a ponto de limar três personagens importantes: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern e Fortinbras.
July 8, 2016
A great and ambitious screen adaptation of Shakespeare's classic, Laurence Olivier's Hamlet earns its reputation as a classic due to its excellent performances and daring cinematography.
Super Reviewer
May 22, 2016
William Shakespeare's tragedy of the Danish prince is brought to vivid life by the great Sir Lawrence Olivier; this is film-making at its finest, the greatest play in all literature magnificently directed and preformed by the greatest actor of his era, a perfect combination. Olivier's powerhouse performance won him a richly deserved Academy Award for Best Actor, and it is one for the ages. Olivier's brooding, tormented Hamlet is informed by the ghost of his murdered father the King of Denmark that his incestuous, adulterer brother Claudius, played superbly by Basil Sydney has poisoned him to covet his throne and his Queen Gertrude, played wonderfully by Eileen Herlie. Hamlet will seek vengeance from the nefarious Claudius for his foul deeds. The climatic, show-stopping fencing duel between Hamlet and Laertes is suspenseful and masterfully choreographed, the feverishly exuberant swordplay in that fatal encounter is a real stunner. The sets and production design are exquisite: Desmond Dickinson's gorgeous deep-focus black & white cinematography is impressive; with marvelous extreme close-ups and the use of shadow and light with wide angles. There are impeccable supporting performances by Jean Simmons, Norman Wooland, Peter Cushing, Stanley Holloway, Anthony Quayle, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Christopher Lee. But it is the the mercurial ferocity of Olivier's brilliant acting that dominates this motion picture.This cinematic gem won 4 Oscars including Best Picture; the first non-American production to take the Academy's top prize, and Best Actor: Sir Lawrence Olivier. A must-see for any true connoisseur of the cinema! Highly Recommended.
January 25, 2016
One of the greatest films of all time. Olivier creates a perfect setting, the castle is vast yet intimate. Magnificent score, camerawork and lighting. Benefits from discarding minor characters Fortinbras, Rosencratz, etc.
Does anyone know why Hamlet just didn't inherit the kingship when his father died.? I guess we wouldn't have the play/film if this were so! (Claudius would have had no motive to murder his brother).
The film gives you a real sense of Hamlet's confusion. It's within his nature but also he probably doesn't want to be a royal with the responsibilities that entails, especially in those times. I don't agree with Horatio at the end who lauds Hamlet as a potentially wonderful King. Someone who cannot be decisive would have been a disaster as a leader.
Anyhow, this is arguably Shakespeare's greatest play and contains some of his most magnificent dialogue.
Info from Wikipedia:
-first non-American film to win Best Film Oscar,
-currently, Olivier one of only two directors to act in his own Best Film.
This film improves with every viewing. I first saw it in 1966, during a Form V school excursion in Newcastle NSW. Fifty years ago!!
August 13, 2015
Laurence Olivier was at his best acting and directing in the greatest play ever written. Powerful and complete it was Olivier's interpretation of Hamlet that adds life to many familiar lines. The greatest actor of the 20th century did credit to Shakespeare and himself. His version of the soliloquy "To be or not to be" is the one to compare all others with.
July 27, 2015
A classic film, and a definitive screen adaptation of Shakespeare's most popular and enduring of plays. I agree with what has been said of this elsewhere: this is a profoundly reflective and psychological experience, one turned inward -- the political themes have all but been omitted from Olivier's vision, and this isn't a bad thing. In any case, Hamlet is a profound catharsis, and Olivier's film is cinematically, as well as dramatically, magnificent.
April 15, 2015
Dark. Captures some Shakespeare magic that contemporary productions seem to miss.
½ March 7, 2015
Hamlets assertive negative mind is unfathomable, Laurence Olivers acting is really delicious and of course his direction. Just don't care if he has omitted some important scenes . The movie was a visual treat. Really amazing.
March 3, 2015
As far as Shakespearian adaptations go, this version of Hamlet is very well done. Sure, it cuts out a few plot lines and even a few characters, but it presents Shakespeare in an authentic, yet easily digestible way. It's interesting that such a straightforward adaptation of an early 17th century play can win Best Picture in 1948.
February 25, 2015
A very trying & accurate re-telling of Shakespeare's masterpiece Hamlet completed owned & operated by Laurence Olivier.

The plot is amazingly complex & gripping but the language of this film is sadly way to close to the original & very difficult to follow.

By far in my opinion the most dull of the Best Picture winners. May appeal to Shakespeare enthauists but not me.
December 10, 2014
Review In A Nutshell:

Hamlet, the film that introduced me to the works of William Shakespeare and Laurence Olivier; A personal story about death, grief, revenge and insanity. A film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1949, and graciously winning four, including Best Picture. It is now 2014, more than 50 years has passed and does a film like Hamlet still have a spot in the hearts of contemporary and future audiences? It is hard to say, and for one who has only seen Olivier's adaptations of the playwright's works, I cannot display an intelligent comparison and analysis; but what I am confident with, is that Hamlet has a strong and firm place on my mind as it opened my eyes of cinema that I have been reluctant to venture for so long.

By now, this would be my third or fourth viewing of Olivier's Hamlet, and with each passing viewing and contemplation, I find more elements about it that intrigue me, but it has also solidified the aspects of its production that I find to be inferior. I have not read the source material, therefore I cannot state how much of this film remains faithful, but since Kenneth Branagh's same adaptation in 1966 seem to have a larger running time and created at a time where thematic restrictions have been looser, I assume that film would demonstrate something much more faithful. Regardless Olivier's take is faithful or not, it still is an effective character and thematic study, one that uses classic melodrama and deliver it in such a way that remains faithful to stage productions and innovative for its cinematic audiences; similar to what was brought for Henry V. Henry V has proven to the world that Olivier could make it as a director, showing scope and intelligent use of the source material; Hamlet broke more ground by proving that he is also competent in telling intimate stories of fragile and emotionally plagued characters. I found Olivier's take on Henry V to be simplistic, lacking interesting qualities that would allow the audiences to be at awe with b his fascinating journey. Hamlet features a figure that is complex, full of darkness shaped in a form of grief and madness, carrying an abundance of pain; it was because of this that I was frequently engaged, wanting to explore more of the character, fascinated on the way he sees and reacts to certain things. Olivier does not hold back and lets the audience get in deep under the character's skin, allowing them to understand what he is going through and prevent him from being seen as villainous in his quest for revenge.

Though most of the film's characters in Hamlet were interesting enough to follow, I did however feel confused with Ophelia, as the film seems to push her as an important figure to the story, I wasn't able to understand or empathise with the character at all. There were moments in the film where she, let's just say, "did" something and I just sat there thinking why? This may not be a problem to those who have read the play and has some knowledge behind the intentions of the character, but since Olivier keeps most of it in Hamlet's perspective and shaping the characters around him through his perspective, I was left distant with Ophelia.

Henry V was a big achievement in its transition to cinema due to its usage of the lovely Technicolor, which enticed many of its viewers with the idea of Shakespeare's world popping to life with lively sets and blooming colors. This was one of the central reasons on why I thought Henry V was a beautiful directorial debut from Olivier. Hamlet seems to have achieved the opposite. What we have here is a black and white shot of a gloomy tale, supported with cramped and uneventful sets, and effects like smoke and shadow filling the entire frame. In choosing this approach, what Olivier actually achieved was something much more effective as it resonates strongly with the dire themes of its narrative, and it achieves this sense of simplicity without feeling too amateurish and instead coming off as artistic and profound. There was never a dull visual moment in Hamlet.

The performances in this film was a step-up from Olivier's previous film, but it also features more insightful characters that are allowed enough time to be fleshed out and become important to the viewing experience. First and foremost, Olivier is wonderful as Hamlet. He demonstrates a level of commitment that his other cast members are nowhere near of achieving, that being said, the supporting cast members are not terrible, they simply just were not as memorable or as extravagant as Olivier. Olivier did have the difficult task on being the lead for the film, which takes up about 90% of the film's overall story, and does this while providing direction to his cast and crew; I cannot help but be impressed with this as some would have cracked and have fallen short in a couple of instances, here the issues seem to have been kept at a minimum. There was one moment in the film that did give me a bit of shivers down my spine as it was happening, and it was the scene between Olivier and Eileen Herlie - who plays Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, and they were confronting each other in Gertrude's bedroom, antagonising her of the sins she has committed. Herlie is a theatre actress and one could feel the intensity that one would expect from that profession into her performance in this film, it was one of the rare moments in the film where someone actually outshines Olivier; in short, it was a beautiful scene.

Hamlet may not be difficult for contemporary audiences due to its dated production and melodramatic tendencies, but for those who are able to place their mindset of an audience member during 1948 and see it for what it is; I can guarantee one would find themselves lost in Hamlet's dark and gloomy atmosphere.
November 1, 2014
well acted and iconic eerie scenery, but it is at times dull despite some harsh plot cuts
½ July 29, 2014
(First and only viewing - 1/10/2011)
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