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Parents' Guide to

Hamlet (1996)

By Randy White, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Shakespeare's great tragedy -- all of it.

Movie PG-13 1996 266 minutes
Hamlet (1996) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 12+

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 ruined all other versions of Hamlet for me because it was so perfect. Just a warning on the note of sex; there's a scene where Hamlet and Ophelia are obviously getting it on, but you don't see any nudity. The scene is repeated twice; once near the beginning and once near the end. It's fairly easy to skip or explain but if you let your kids watch it they might be twelve or older. If you skip, kids well under twelve can watch and enjoy this. I watched it when I was eight and loved it. Violence is fine, everything else is fine. It's beautiful, funny, and sad. I love it.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
age 15+

Very faithful Hamlet

This is the most faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's play currently available. Branagh takes very few interpretive risks with the text, unlike Gibson, Jacobi, and Tennant, but while this does not make for an exciting re-reading of the play, it does provide a fantastic "baseline" to evaluate other productions. One heads-up: If you are a teacher intending to show this to a class, please be aware that there is some brief nudity in Act IV (the second half of the movie) in a very brief flashback scene in which Hamlet and Ophelia are shown naked on a bed kissing. You do not see frontal nudity, rear ends, or genitalia. More problematic is that during Ophelia's mad scene, when she is referring to "Young men will do't if they come to it," she thrusts her hips into Claudius and then lies on the floor raising and lowering her hips in a manner suggestive of intercourse. Although I personally do not find this offensive as a viewer, I have to be sensitive to the values of my community, and I strongly advise teachers who want to show this to preview this film and make sure that it's acceptable for your school, students, and district. It's an excellent production.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (3 ):

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.

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