Best Shakespeare Films | 32 Shakespeare Films Every Actor Must Watch!
Best shakespeare films

Best Shakespeare Films

Written by on | Shakespeare

This is a list of what we consider to be the best Shakespeare films. There are a number of other great adaptations which use Shakespeare’s storylines and characters as inspiration and modernise the text; however, this list only features films that have remained true to Shakespeare’s text. Some, of course, have been more liberal with the text than others, but for the most part these films have attempted to honour Shakespeare’s text.

All of these films include actors who speak Shakespeare’s words expertly, which make them a goldmine for actors. Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Olivier are some of of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time and their performances in the films within this list are outstanding. You will see also that a number of iconic directors feature again and again. These include Franco Zeffirelli, Julie Taymor, Kenneth Branagh, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. These directors all have a unique way of bringing Shakespeare’s work to the screen.

Watching these films is a fantastic way to familiarise yourself with Shakespeare’s great plays. Film is an excellent medium to finally see all that Shakespeare had us imagine for hundreds of years. However, remember that in Shakespeare’s time the emphasis was always on listening to his text, not the visual component. Relying too heavily on the visual component can be the downfall of many Shakespeare films. At their best, a great Shakespeare film is a visual marvel, but also a wonderful aural experience.

We would love to hear what you think are the best Shakespeare films, so let us know your thoughts below…

NOTE: Hollow Crown is technically defined as a TV series. However, each episode is a full length film, and well it’s brilliant, so it’s on the list!

  • Chimes at Midnight
    1
    Chimes at Midnight

    Orson Welles (1965)

  • Hollow Crown
    2
    Hollow Crown

    Richard Eyre, Rupert Goold, Dominic Cooke, Thea Sharrock (2012)

  • Macbeth
    3
    Macbeth

    Roman Polanski (1971)

  • Hamlet
    4
    Hamlet

    Kenneth Branagh (1996)

  • Romeo and Juliet
    5
    Romeo and Juliet

    Baz Luhrmann (1996)

  • Titus
    6
    Titus

    Julie Taymor (1999)

  • Hamlet
    7
    Gregory Doran

    Gregory Doran (2009)

  • King Lear
    8
    King Lear

    Peter Brook (1971)

  • Coriolanus
    9
    Coriolanus

    Ralph Fiennes (2011)

  • Henry V
    10
    Henry V

    Kenneth Branagh (1989)

  • Much Ado About Nothing
    11
    Much Ado About Nothing

    Kenneth Branagh (1994) 

  • Richard the Third
    12
    Richard the Third

    Richard Loncraine (1996)

  • Twelfth Night
    13
    Twelfth Night

    Trevor Nunn (1996)

  • Taming of the Shrew
    14
    Taming of the Shrew

    Franco Zeffirelli (1967)

  • Hamlet
    15
    Hamlet

    Laurence Olivier (1948)

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    16
    A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Michael Hoffman (1999)

  • Julius Caesar
    17
    Julius Caesar

    Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1953)

  • As You Like It
    18
    As You Like It

    Kenneth Branagh (2006)

  • Much Ado About Nothing
    19
    Much Ado About Nothing

    Joss Whedon (2012) 

  • Othello
    20
    Othello

    Orson Welles (1951)

  • Henry V
    21
    Henry V

    Laurence Olivier (1944)

  • Richard III
    22
    Richard III

    Laurence Olivier (1955)

  • Othello
    23
    Othello

    Oliver Parker (1995)

  • The Tempest
    24
    The Tempest

    Julie Taymor (2010)

  • King Lear
    25
    King Lear

    Richard Eyre (2018)

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    26
    A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Max Reinhardt, William Dieterle (1935)

  • Macbeth
    27
    Macbeth

    Justin Kurzel (2015)

  • Prospero’s Book
    28
    The Tempest

    Peter Greenaway (1991)

  • Hamlet
    29
    Hamlet

    Franco Zeffirelli (1990)

  • The Tempest
    30
    The Tempest

    Derek Jarman (1979)

  • Love Labour’s Lost
    31
    Love Labour's Lost

    Kenneth Branagh (2000)

  • Hamlet
    32
    Hamlet Ethan Hawke

    Michael Almereyda (2000)

I hope this list was helpful and has got you excited to go and watch some Shakespeare!

I’m sure this list will lead to plenty of debate, but I hope that is the case. At the end of the day I want to encourage as many actors as possible to be reading, watching and listening to the works of Shakespeare. I hope this list helps guide you towards some of the great film adaptations of his work. The vast majority of these actors from Anthony Hopkins to Ian McKellen, have all come from the theatre and within these films are some of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time.

Copyright: these images have been included here for educational purposes and listed to support the original copyright owners. 

About the Author

StageMilk Team

is made up of young professional actors and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew Hearle, Luke McMahon, Indiana Kwong, Patrick Cullen and many more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

About the Author

StageMilk Team

is made up of young professional actors and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew Hearle, Luke McMahon, Indiana Kwong, Patrick Cullen and many more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

One response to “Best Shakespeare Films”

  1. Avatar Kim Titus says:

    Roman Polanski’s film version of the Scottish Tragedy belongs on the list. Also Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is an excellent version.

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