Hamlet (1991)

  • Review Date: September 19, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1991
  • Running Time: 135 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Mel Gibson emotes as the doleful Dane.
  • Review Date: September 19, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1991
  • Running Time: 135 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Sword fights and a poisoning.


Hamlet mimes sexual intercourse (fully clothed) and his mother kisses her grown son suggestively.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this version of Hamlet is played to suggest an incestuous relationship between the Prince of Denmark and his mother, Queen Gertrude. In one angry scene, Hamlet mimes sexual intercourse (fully clothed) while berating Gertrude for marrying his uncle before his father was cold in the grave. His mother, in turn, kisses her grown son suggestively.

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What's the story?

The King of Denmark is dead. Wasting no time, Queen Gertrude (Glenn Close) marries Claudius, the dead man's brother and the new king. Prince Hamlet (Mel Gibson), son of the dead king, is horribly morose; he curses his mother and suspects his uncle of murder. When the ghost of Hamlet's father appears to him and entreats him to avenge his murder, the angry, heartbroken son sets out to prove Claudius' treachery, but is hindered by his increasingly troubled psychological state. This film version captures all of the high-drama of Shakespeare's timeless play as characters within the castle Elsinore's walls are tossed about by deceit, revenge, secrets, lies, loyalty, passion, heartbreak, murder, suicide, painful self-realization, and more.

Is it any good?


A brusque but engaging spectacle, the movie features a streamlined script, plenty of action, and an excellent supporting cast. Mel Gibson plays the deranged prince with vigor and gives the well-known tragedy teen appeal. This version strips down the engaging story so kids will understand it easily. For example, Hamlet and Ophelia's (Helena Bonham-Carter) relationship is made less ambiguous. Lavish sets and costumes lend the movie an old world feel that ideally suits the impassioned revenge story.

However, this adaptation loses some of the texture of the original. There's no political intrigue, nothing's rotten in Denmark except Hamlet's fragile mental state. By emphasizing Hamlet's emotional and rational dissolution, director Franco Zeferelli's (Romeo and Juliet) focuses on the Freudian sexual tension between mother and son. Gibson delivers a performance that is more than passable, but he lacks the verbal expressiveness of Kenneth Branaugh in his 1996 Hamlet.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the limitations and advantages of bringing a Shakespeare play to the screen. Did you find the play's arcane language more accessible? What about special effects? Why do you think the play's running time was cut in half? Did that help or hurt the story?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 18, 1991
DVD release date:May 12, 1995
Cast:Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter, Mel Gibson
Director:Franco Zeffirelli
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Book characters
Run time:135 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:Parental Guidance Suggested

This review of Hamlet (1991) was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written bymilograamans August 2, 2009
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written bycatwiz97 December 31, 2009

Fans of Shakespeare, come here.

I thought it was...good.
Adult Written bytiara718 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

on point!

i thought mel did a stand up job! it was an excellent film!


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