224 user 83 critic

Hamlet (1996)

PG-13 | | Drama | 25 December 1996 (USA)
1:44 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarrying the murderer, his uncle. Meanwhile, war is brewing.



(play), (screenplay)
3,633 ( 220)
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Hamlet (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, finds out that his uncle Claudius killed his father to obtain the throne, and plans revenge.

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Stars: Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates
Henry V (1989)
Action | Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In the midst of the Hundred Years' War in 1415, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd
Othello (1995)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The evil Iago pretends to be friend of Othello in order to manipulate him to serve his own end in the film version of this Shakespeare classic.

Director: Oliver Parker
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Kenneth Branagh, Irène Jacob
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Young lovers Hero and Claudio, soon to wed, conspire to get verbal sparring partners and confirmed singles Benedick and Beatrice to wed as well.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves
Hamlet (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Prince Hamlet struggles over whether or not he should kill his uncle, whom he suspects has murdered his father, the former king.

Director: Laurence Olivier
Stars: Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, John Laurie
Hamlet (TV Movie 2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

The RSC puts a modern spin on Shakespeare's Hamlet in this filmed-for-television version of their stage production. The Prince of Denmark seeks vengeance after his father is murdered and his mother marries the murderer.

Director: Gregory Doran
Stars: David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Six former college friends, with two new friends, gather for a New Year's Eve weekend reunion at a large English countryside manor after ten years to reminisce about the good times now long gone.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson
Dead Again (1991)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An amnesiac and a private eye find they might have a past life connection.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

When two young members of feuding families meet, forbidden love ensues.

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Stars: Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery
Drama | Horror | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

When the brilliant but unorthodox scientist Victor Frankenstein rejects the artificial man that he has created, the Creature escapes and later swears revenge.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter
Richard III (1995)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

The classic Shakespearean play about a murderously scheming king staged in an alternative fascist England setting.

Director: Richard Loncraine
Stars: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Two minor characters from the play, "Hamlet" stumble around unaware of their scripted lives and unable to deviate from them.

Director: Tom Stoppard
Stars: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss


Cast overview, first billed only:
Riz Abbasi ...
Attendant to Claudius
David Blair ...
Attendant to Claudius
Peter Bygott ...
Attendant to Claudius
Charles Daish ...
Stage Manager


Hamlet, son of the king of Denmark, is summoned home for his father's funeral and his mother's wedding to his uncle. In a supernatural episode, he discovers that his uncle, whom he hates anyway, murdered his father. In an incredibly convoluted plot--the most complicated and most interesting in all literature--he manages to (impossible to put this in exact order) feign (or perhaps not to feign) madness, murder the "prime minister," love and then unlove an innocent whom he drives to madness, plot and then unplot against the uncle, direct a play within a play, successfully conspire against the lives of two well-meaning friends, and finally take his revenge on the uncle, but only at the cost of almost every life on stage, including his own and his mother's. Written by John Brosseau <brossj5683@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violent images and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

25 December 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

William Shakespeare's Hamlet  »

Box Office


$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$148,321 (USA) (27 December 1996)


$4,414,535 (USA) (11 April 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Kenneth Branagh's decision to shoot in 65mm was largely inspired by a film format seminar conducted by visual consultant Rob Hummel. Hummel convinced him to use the format because of high-resolution and certain shots could only be achieved in 65mm. Also, Branagh once said that the intention was to give a sweeping feel to the play, hearkening back to the 1960s - epics like Lawrence of Arabia (1962). See more »


Light stand visible in the mirror just before and during a soliloquy. See more »


Hamlet: Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not "seems."
See more »


Version of The DuPont Show of the Month: Hamlet (1959) See more »


In Pace
Performed by Plácido Domingo
Text researched and adapted by Russell Jackson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Not to be missed
26 February 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Part of the genius of Branagh's interpretation of Hamlet is in the use of the techniques of the cinema to enhance the production. Branagh has not condensed the acts like some mass market soup, as was done in Olivier's 1948 Oscar-winning production, or in, say, Zeffirelli's 1989 Hamlet lite starring Mel Gibson (both excellent, though, within their scope), but has kept every word while directing our understanding so that even those only casually familiar with the play might follow the intent and purpose with discernment. Recall that for Shakespeare--the ultimate actor's playwright who wrote with precious few stage directions--interpretation was left to the direction and the actors, an open invitation that Branagh rightly accepts.

The use of flashback scenes of things implied, such as the amorous union of Ophelia and her Lord Hamlet abed, or of a vast expanse of snow darkened with distant soldiers to represent the threat of Fortinbras' army from without, and especially the vivid remembrance in the mind's eye of the new king's dastardly deed of murder most foul, helps us all to more keenly appreciate just what it is that torments Hamlet's soul. I also liked the intense closeups. How they would have bemused and delighted an Elizabethan audience.

Branagh's ambitious Hamlet is also one of the most accessible and entertaining, yet without the faintest hint of any dumbing down or abbreviation. A play is to divert, to entertain, to allow us to identify with others who trials and tribulations are so like our own. And so first the playwright seeks to engage his audience, and only then, by happenstance and indirection, to inspire and to inform. Shakespeare did this unconsciously, we might say. He wrote for the popular audience of his time, a broad audience, it should be noted, that included kings and queens as well as knaves and beggars, and he reached them, one and all. We are much removed from those times, and yet, this play, this singular achievement in theatre, still has the power to transcend mere entertainment, to fuse poetry and story, as well as the high and the low, and speak once again to a new audience twenty generations removed.

Branagh himself is a wonderful Hamlet, perhaps a bit of a ham at times (as I think was Shakespeare's intent), a prince who is the friend of itinerant players. He also lacks somewhat in statute (as we conceive our great heroes); nonetheless his interpretation of the great prince's torment and his singular obsession to avenge his father's murder speaks strongly to us all. Branagh, more than any other Hamlet, makes us understand the distracted, anguished and tortured prince, and guides us to not only an appreciation of his actions, wild and crazy as they sometimes are, but to an identification and an understanding of why (the eternal query) Hamlet is so long in assuming the name of action. In Branagh's production, this old quibble with Hamlet's character dissolves itself into a dew, and we realize that he was acting strongly, purposely all the while. He had to know the truth without doubt so that he might act in concert with it.

I was also very much impressed with Derek Jacobi's Claudius. One recalls that Jacobi played Hamlet in the only other full cinematic production of the play that I know of, produced in 1980 by the BBC with Claire Bloom as Gertrude; and he was an excellent Hamlet, although perhaps like Branagh something less than a massive presence. His Claudius combines second son ambition with a Machiavellian heart, whose words go up but whose thoughts remind below, as is the way of villains everywhere.

Kate Winslet is a remarkable Ophelia, lending an unusual strength to the role (strength of character is part of what Kate Winslet brings to any role), but with the poor, sweet girl's vulnerability intact. She does the mad scene with Claudius as well as I have seen it done, and of course her personal charisma and beauty embellish the production.

Richard Briers as Polonius, proves that that officious fool is indeed that, and yet something more so that we can see why he was a counselor to the king. The famous speech he gives to Laertes as his son departs for France, is really ancient wisdom even though it comes from a fool.

Julie Christie was a delight as the besmirched and wretched queen. In the bedroom scene with Hamlet she becomes transparent to not only her son, but to us all, and we feel that the camera is reaching into her soul. She is outstanding.

The bit players had their time upon the stage and did middling well to very good. I liked Charlton Heston's player king (although I think he and John Gielgud might have switched roles to good effect) and Billy Crystal's gravedigger was finely etched. Only Jack Lemon's Marcellus really disappointed, but I think that was mainly because he was so poorly cast in such a role. Not once was he able to flash the Jack Lemon grin that we have come to know so well.

The idea of doing a Shakespearean play with nineteenth century dress in the late twentieth century worked wonderfully well, but I know not why. Perhaps the place and dress are just enough removed from our lives that they are somewhat strange but recognizable in a pleasing way. And perhaps it is just another tribute to the timeless nature of Shakespeare's play.

There is so much more to say about this wonderful cinematic production. It is, all things considered, one of the best Hamlets ever done. Perhaps it is the best. See it, by all means, see it for yourself.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

103 of 121 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
What do you think of Branagh? redxsparrow
100 Things You Learned From Hamlet hockeyrocknrolldude
Time for a new Hamlet? kenellenar
which Hamlet movie should I watch? tolis-maltez
Mel Gibson or Kenneth Branagh? starry-eyed_wanderer
'To Be Or Not To Be' Luanna255
Discuss Hamlet (1996) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: