Hamlet (1969)

G  |   |  Drama  |  9 April 1970 (UK)
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Nicol Williamson takes the lead role in this star-studded 1969 version of William Shakespeare's tragedy. Prince Hamlet mourns both his father's death and his mother's remarriage to Claudius... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Dignam ...
Ben Aris ...
Clive Graham ...
Peter Gale ...
First Player / Gravedigger
John J. Carney ...
Player King (as John Carney)
Richard Everett ...
Robin Chadwick ...
Ian Collier ...


Nicol Williamson takes the lead role in this star-studded 1969 version of William Shakespeare's tragedy. Prince Hamlet mourns both his father's death and his mother's remarriage to Claudius. When the ghost of Hamlet's father appears to him and tells him that Claudius has poisoned him, Hamlet swears revenge. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

death | tragedy | revenge | prince | ghost | See All (51) »


The Hamlet of our time, for our time. See more »




G | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 April 1970 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Shakespeare's Hamlet  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Extra lines, made to sound like Elizabethan English, were actually added to this version because the order of two crucial scenes was reversed and this could not have been done with the play as written. Director Tony Richardson places Hamlet's taunting of Polonius after the "get thee to a nunnery" scene with Ophelia rather than several scenes before. See more »


At c. 147 minutes Gertrude's fillings, obviously the result of C20th dentistry, can be seen clearly. See more »

Crazy Credits

The names of the film's cast and the names of the characters they play are recited by an offscreen voice rather than shown on the screen, in the manner of 'Francois Truffaut' 's "Fahrenheit 451". See more »


Version of Le duel d'Hamlet (1900) See more »

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User Reviews

Review of Hamlet (1969)
23 August 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Portrayals of Hamlet always seem to provoke a personal response that stimulates vocabulary and reflection, without addressing the central dilemma of the tragedy; a reflection perhaps of the powerful influence of the central character who imposes his contemplative posturing on his reviewers as he does on stage and in film.

Widely regarded as the greatest play of the greatest writer in the English language, it is easy to understand why Hollywood stars turn to Hamlet for proof of their status as serious actors. Yet, to be a success in a film or television version requires so much more than the boyish good looks of a Richard Chamberlain (1970), the Max Max certainty of Mel Gibson (1990) or even the studied intensity of Laurence Olivier (1948).

In Nicol Williamson we find a temperamental, anti-establishment, questioning actor who is at his very best in Hamlet (1969). Perhaps he understood more than any other actor of the modern era why Hamlet says what he says, doesn't do what he doesn't do and finally does what he does.

No English play has produced so many commentaries or provoked so much analysis as Hamlet. Like the Mona Lisa's smile, there is an essential attraction in the enigma which defies casual analysis. As a child, it took me a long time to appreciate my father's gentle humour in passing the twin verdicts that "It wasn't written by Shakespeare but by someone else with the same name" and "Hamlet is alright, but it is full of quotes".

Nicol Williamson's genius is evident not only in the set-piece soliloquies that illustrate countless anthologies, but in the minor gestures and less-well-known asides that give such depth and perspective on Hamlet. Just as you might check a new dictionary to see if the definition of "rant" is superior to Dr Johnson's "high sounding language unsupported by dignity of thought" (1755), you might see a performance of Hamlet and note how the actor handles the intonation of "except my life, except my life, except my life". Not even the sweet steam radio voice of John Gielgud (1948) or the majestic splendour of Richard Burton (1964) can match the intoned pathos of Nicol Williamson.

Team GB's recent successes in achieving 7 of the 10 gold medals available for track cycling at the London 2012 Olympics have been ascribed to coach Dave Brailsford's obsession with successive minor improvements in what has become known as a "doctrine of marginal gains". When comparing Nicol Williamson's performance to his predecessors, we find that our Scottish-born actor from Birmingham demonstrates a marked marginal gain in almost every scene.

If Tony Richardson's direction is unduly restrictive in putting Nicol Williamson in sharp close up lying down in bed for most of the "To be or not to be" speech, he surely cannot be faulted further for bringing out fine performances from Gordon Jackson, Anthony Hopkins, Roger Liversy and Marianne Faithful.

The reviews expressed on this website vary from the "Absolutely Horrific" of 20 March 2000 from "Movie Fan from Tennessee" to "highly recommend this movie" of 2 September 2001 from "Denise from Ohio". Every viewer will have a personal response and quite rightly so; but for me, this is the best ever film version of Hamlet. It preserves the mystery, illustrates the history, vivifies the comedy and reveals magnificently the Tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.

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