Hamlet (2009)

A thrilling version of the Bard's classic tragedy.
  • Review Date: June 5, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 182 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Evil deeds do not go unrewarded in this classic Shakespearean tragedy where almost everyone dies in the end. Unfortunately, some innocents also die as collateral damage, as a terrible crime sweeps up everyone in its path.

Positive role models

Few of the characters stand out as good examples, as they are all motivated by selfish desires to pursue actions that range from venal to evil. Hamlet plots to kill his uncle in revenge, while his uncle commits murder out of a greedy desire for the throne. Other characters also lie and scheme in pursuit of power, vengeance, or due to anger.


Some intense arguments, and several scenes feature fights involving daggers, swords, or handguns. Several characters die.


A few bawdy discussions, though the Shakespearean phrasing makes them unlikely to be offensive. Indeed, the words will probably go over the heads of most young viewers.


No words that will be considered risque to 21st century viewers.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this compelling interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, set in modern times, is filled with scheming, betrayal, violence, and intrigue. Like most Shakespearean tragedies, this tale ends with more than a few deaths and little to leave viewers upbeat. On the positive side, it's thoughtfully done and could whet teens' appetite for more of the Bard.

What's the story?

Still mourning his father’s death, Hamlet (David Tennant), crown prince of Denmark, is dismayed when his uncle Claudius (Patrick Stewart) marries his mother and assumes the throne in one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies. The troubled prince is even more shocked when he’s visited by his late father’s ghost, who reveals that his death was no accident and demands that Hamlet seek revenge upon the killer: Claudius. The news pushes him over the edge into madness (or does it?) as Hamlet crafts a plan to expose his uncle’s betrayal, a plan that will have tragic and unexpected results.

Is it any good?


In what was originally a TV movie, this classic tale is transported to modern times by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here, the complicated revenge plots and counterplots employ swords and daggers as well as pistols. These modern touches make the scenes look familiar, but the language remains the same. Some viewers may have struggled with Shakespeare’s beautiful poetry in school, but it leaps off the screen when delivered by these powerful performers. Tennant is especially fun to watch as he mugs for the camera and alarms other characters while seemingly in the throes of madness. His goofy faces are tinged with despair, revealing the depths of Hamlet’s misery.

That’s important because Hamlet is not only one of Shakespeare’s most famous stories, it’s also one of his longest, and this production clocks in at just over three hours. If viewers start getting distracted, feel free to take a break then come back for the exciting conclusion. It’s worth watching all the way to terrible tragic finale.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about madness. Was Hamlet truly crazy, or was he faking it as part of a scheme to expose the king?

  • What do you think about this production? Does it hold up after being transported into modern times? Why do these classic stories continue to be reworked?

Movie details

DVD release date:May 4, 2010
Cast:David Tennant, Patrick Stewart
Director:Gregory Doran
Run time:182 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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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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Teen, 14 years old Written bythewarriorpoet December 29, 2014
age 13+
I was pleasantly surprised by this 2009 remake of Shakespeare's classic. The acting was phenomenal, although the video quality was not as good. But that doesn't matter. What matters is the story. Some may say that Hamlet does not have good messages, but the point of Hamlet is not to teach a message. It is to look into a mirror. Hamlet is not a hero. Claudius is not a villain. These are two men pitted against each other, willing to use any method they can to exterminate their opponent. This is not a pleasant movie, nor an uplifting one. And as I have said many times to my friends and family, Shakespeare is a genius. He understands the human mind and lust for revenge and despair. I recommend this heartily.
Adult Written bytolkien geek mi November 12, 2013
age 15+

A Mildly Disturbing Masterpiece

RSC keeps almost every line of dialogue in the Shakespearean tragedy. So when it comes to inappropriate content...it's exactly as listed in the Bard's famous script. The performances by Tennant, Stewart and Mariah Gale are phenomenal. While that makes the film incredibly engaging, it also makes it very disturbing. Overall, the plot is gripping and the acting great. The cinematography is wonderful, my one complaint is that the costume department could use some work. I started reading the Shakespearean tragedies when I was eleven, but I wouldn't recommend it. This rendition bears all the linguistic complexity of the original (dialogue which, even beautifully rendered, is enough to baffle most adults), with frighteningly beautiful performances and gut wrenching emotions.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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