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Hamlet (1990)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  18 January 1991 (USA)
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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, finds out that his uncle Claudius killed his father to obtain the throne, and plans revenge.



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Title: Hamlet (1990)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Murray ...
Richard Warwick ...
Dave Duffy ...


Hamlet returns to Denmark when his father, the King, dies. His mother Gertrude has already married Hamlet's uncle Claudius, the new King. They urge Hamlet to marry his beloved Ophelia. But soon the ghost of Hamlet's father appears and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet must choose between passive acquiescence and the need for a vengeance which might lead to tragedy. Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

king | denmark | ghost | prince | revenge | See All (92) »


The extraordinary adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tale of vengeance and tragedy.




PG | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

18 January 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amlet  »

Box Office


$20,710,451 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The play uses the words "honest" and "honesty" many times, because the drama carries the themes of both honorableness and truthfulness/deceit. When Hamlet asks Ophelia if she is honest, that word, in Shakespeare's time, first meant honorable and secondly meant truthful. He was asking if she was good. When he asks her if she is fair, he doesn't ask whether she considers herself impartial and principled, but whether she considers herself beautiful. Of course, Hamlet puns all the time, so the audience should anticipate all possible meanings of his words. See more »


The hole in the curtain when Polonius is stabbed. See more »


[first lines]
Claudius: Hamlet! Think of us as of a father. For let the world take note: you are the most immediate to our throne. And with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you.
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Version of Hamlet (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Movie Review
29 October 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Hamlet Movie Review

The movie "Hamlet," released in January 18, 1991, shows director Franco Zeffirelli's selections of Shakespeare's original Hamlet and reflects one intriguing possibility of the text. There are various interpretations of each character and the story; however, no one vision can adequately encompass every perspective of the play. The text, of course, will always exist in permanent form and it is up to the individual's interpretation to make the story their own. Zeffirelli did a terrific job at directing such a complex story into a film easily understood by viewers.

In most translations from books to movies, producers sacrifice certain elements to narrow the focus and make the film unique to his style. The use of film techniques, compared to the Victorian stage plays, allows different dramatic developments in the story. Thus, the movie unfolds at a different pace than stage play, creating a whole new dynamic between scene transitioning. Christopher de Vore's skill as a screenwriter accurately portrays the characters without detracting from Shakespeare's language. For example, the prologue in the beginning of the movie demonstrates the enthrallment of Hamlet Senior as a ghost. Retaining the originality to the dialogue in the text, the movie is still unique to the director's vision. Most importantly, the director's interpretation of the story works well in developing the depth of each character without creating a new twist in the story of "Hamlet." Although he cut some essential parts from the play, Zeffirelli employed his own style and created an amazing tribute to Shakespeare. He edited parts of the movie and rearranged it to create a story that would make sense to contemporary audiences. Through this, he gives in an apparent life to the play which moves well from beginning to end.

Shakespeare's play is not at all about the story. The story is just the outer armor on which some life altering metaphoric structure is built around. For example, Hamlet Junior bellows, "Tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis true." From Hamlet Junior's first meeting with Hamlet Senior's ghost, he is profoundly disturbed and begins to question his mentality and judgment of reality. Ironically, he pretends to be crazy to conceal his true plans to kill his uncle Claudius. Zeffirelli has a fine sense of coloring in each scene with movement between light and dark, and good and evil. Zeffirelli focuses on the characters and allows them lead the storyline without compromising the text's originality.

One complaint is that Mel Gibson seemed to be too old for the role of Hamlet, thereby making Glenn Close too young to be Gertrude. The issue of Hamlet's age has always been a problem. According to the text, he is supposed to be in his thirties; however, that makes some of his relationships with Ophelia, for instance, seem pedophiliac. Yet, if Hamlet is portrayed too young, the depth of his thought is almost impossible to imagine. I thought he was a good actor; particularly in reciting the Shakespearean lines is something I have found most important to my understanding of the story. His passion clearly portrays a son who has gone through madness over his father's death, contemplation of murdering his uncle, and the incestuous marriage of his mother. Gibson not only gives a convincing depiction of Hamlet's cloak of madness, but also shows us the desperation of the character in his quiet moments as Hamlet is not a man who could not make up his mind, but rather, one who riddled with uncertainty. Thus, Gibson spends much of the film alternating between mania-induced impulsiveness and paralyzing inability to function with sanity. Glenn Close is amazing as she portrays Gertrude as a real character, with traits both shameful and empathetic. Helena Bonham-Carter's performance is astounding as well, especially her moment of lunacy as Ophelia in reacting to the death of her father, Polonius. The cast of characters in this version of Hamlet was more than enough to bring Shakespeare's stage theater alive on screen.

Overall, I believe that this is a good foundation to understanding the language of Hamlet further, and would be supplemented with the Shakespearean text. I commend Zeferelli as a master filmmaker for his directing skills. I would promote this acclaimed film to anyone who has ever marveled at Shakespearean language and would like to watch a film literature as well.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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