A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Revenge and death are prominent themes, as are scheming and betrayal. Some portrayal of suicide. Loyalty is shown by some. May inspire new audiences to explore Shakespeare's works.
Positive Role Models
Characters are all generally motivated by selfish desires. Hamlet seeks revenge and is conniving in his methods. He feigns "madness," although his mental state does appear troubled. Claudius is ruthless in his desire to obtain power.
Violence & Scariness
Several poisonings, stabbings, and suicides -- although nothing is shown graphically.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some brief kissing and holding. A character could be interpreted as having inappropriate feelings for his mother.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Occasional use of "damn" and "God." The language used is taken from Shakespeare's original play and may prove tricky for some to understand.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink wine and there are brief displays of drunkenness.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this 1948 Oscar-winning version of Hamlet is based on William Shakespeare's classic play and is both directed and stars Laurence Olivier. The language of the film is entirely based on Shakespeare's work. While there is no profanity -- apart from "damn" and "God" -- the dialogue is often hard to follow for those unfamiliar with Shakespearean plays. There are few positive messages from the movie, with characters motivated by revenge and power. A key theme of the movie is death, and while very little is depicted graphically, characters talk about it consistently, and several are killed both on and off screen. A character dies by suicide -- drowning -- but this is shown in abstract form. During some of the sword fighting scenes, blood is depicted and some characters die after being poisoned. But it all feels dramatic rather than violent or scary. There is some depiction of drunkenness. Hamlet (Olivier) has a relationship with his mother, Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) that's steeped in subtext. At two hours and 34 minutes long, younger audiences may struggle with the running time. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The movie was a multiple Oscar and BAFTA winner on its release in 1948 -- the ony Shakespeare adaptation to ever win the Best Film Oscar and the first British movie to win the award. While the use of sets and effects were impressive in the 1940s, by today's standards this version looks and feels more like a stage play. Where it continues to excel is the quality of performance. Olivier remains the yardstick by which all Hamlet performances are measured, and the supporting cast -- including the likes of Peter Cushing and Patrick Troughton -- are on equally good form.
Despite praise for his performance, Olivier's version of Hamlet has been criticized by some. Having cut the play's four-hour running time and omitting two characters -- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern -- Shakespeare purists claim the movie fails to capture the full embodiment of the play. However, with Shakespearean dialogue rattled off at such a rate and a still substantial two hours and 32 minutes running time, this remains a tough watch for youngsters, and perhaps adults too.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Books for Theater Kids
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate