Hamlet (1996)

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Hamlet (1996) Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Shakespeare's great tragedy -- all of it.
  • PG-13
  • 1996
  • 266 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sword fights and poisoning.


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynduns February 5, 2010

Best adaptation to date

The problem I have with most Shakespear-based films is that they either remove scenes/dialogue or try to modernize it. This, however, is the closest we will EV... Continue reading
Adult Written byInuzukaKana October 10, 2019

The Best Version Everyone Needs To Watch

It's the only good film adaption of Hamlet I've ever watched. It's the truest, most beautifully portrayed, and wonderfully acted version, and it... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNapoleon15 April 15, 2013


Kenneth Branagh decided to adapt the whole, unabridged text. The result, a 3.5 hour masterpiece with a star studied cast. There is not one actor that does a bad... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bywho3697cares November 8, 2009
Do yourself a favor and watch Laurence Olivier's version instead.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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