Hamlet (1996) Movie Poster Image

Hamlet (1996)



Shakespeare's great tragedy -- all of it.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 266 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Sword fights and poisoning.


Hamlet and Ophelia make love onscreen, incarnating a relationship only suggested in the text. No nudity.

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

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids will see Hamlet and Ophelia making love (without nudity), plus sword fights and poisonings. This is the only full-length production of the play on film.

What's the story?

This version of Shakespeare's great tragedy is a grand accomplishment -- the whole of the play without edits. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The dead King, Hamlet's father, walks the land and Fortinbras of Norway threatens war. Hamlet's mother has abruptly married Claudius, the new King and Hamlet's uncle. Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh) is despondent and curses his mother. Meanwhile, Hamlet's lover, Ophelia (Kate Winslet) is ordered by her brother, Laertes, and father, Polonius, to avoid Hamlet. The ghost confirms that Claudius is the murderer, and Hamlet puts on a play in hopes of outing him. In a fury, Hamlet kills Polonius. Ophelia goes mad and commits suicide. Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel in which Laertes himself is killed and Gertrude is mistakenly poisoned. Then Claudius is killed by Hamlet and Hamlet felled by a poisoned sword. Fortinbras enters and, before he dies, Hamlet pronounces him the most likely candidate to win the crown.

Is it any good?


There are a number of reasons to recommend this rousing adaptation of Hamlet. The cast is superb, and as both director and actor, Kenneth Branagh shines. The actors don't simply recite lines; they discover the meaning of Shakespeare's words as they speak them. Shot in widescreen 70mm, the movie looks gorgeous. Most versions of Hamlet are heavily edited, and this is a chance to see the entire play in all its glorious complexity.


Here is a Hamlet with all of his rage and confusion on display, a young man seeking revenge for his father's murder who hesitates to take action, his inner turmoil mirrored in the court's politics. The intricate, unedited plot runs over four hours, but the rewards are great for viewers who stick it out. Some of the celebrity cameos hit (Billy Crystal as the First Gravedigger), while some completely miss (Jack Lemmon as Marcellus), but the leads are uniformly brilliant. A bravura accomplishment and a great addition to any collection.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether it makes Shakespeare's work more accessible. Did the actors help you understand the arcane language? Why do you think the director choose to commit the entire play to film rather than trim it as other film versions do?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 1996
DVD/Streaming release date:April 18, 2000
Cast:Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, Kenneth Branagh
Director:Kenneth Branagh
Studio:Castle Rock Entertainment
Run time:266 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:Mature Themes

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Teen, 13 years old Written byShakespeareFan December 19, 2008

A must-see movie.

Kenneth Branagh embodiment of Hamlet's character is the best you will ever see. Truly Amazing.
Parent Written byLDMommaofthree May 14, 2013

Not for children of any age. Nudity!

I let my children watch this movie because the review on this site said there was no nudity. TRAGIC! There was nudity. And, it came without any warning. No child should watch this movie. It is only an adult movie. Although the filming is beautiful, and the movie extremely well done, Hamlet is seen in the memory of Ophellia as laying together nakid. This happens a couple of times and near the beginning when the brother is giving her counsel. As well, in a scene after the King ghost comes, there is a woman in the room dressed like a prostitute. At this point, I turned off the movie. My hope from the review on this site was that I would be able to anticipate a love scene, it should have been said that it is a flash in her memory. I am very grieved my children saw the beginning of this movie. Had I been able to anticipate it and fast forward, I wouldn't have minded, but this was so upsetting!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 16 years old Written bywho3697cares November 8, 2009
Do yourself a favor and watch Laurence Olivier's version instead.


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