Hamlet [Special Edition] [2 Discs] [DVD] [1996]

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Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
86% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (6 out of 7)

Special Features

  • Introduction by Director/Star Kenneth Branagh
  • Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Shakespeare Scholar Russell Jackson
  • New Digital Transfer From Original 70mm Elements
  • Soundtrack Remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Featurette To Be on Camera: a History With Hamlet
  • 1996 Cannes Film Festival Promo
  • Shakespeare Movies Trailer Gallery.


At least the 22nd time William Shakespeare's most famous tragedy has been brought to the screen, Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of Hamlet was the first to preserve Shakespeare's entire text, uncut and unabridged. Moving the action into the 19th century, Branagh cast himself in the title role and, as in his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, assembled an eclectic group of actors that mixed veteran Shakespearean performers (including John Mills, Judi Dench, John Gielgud, and Derek Jacobi) with Hollywood stars not known for interpreting the Bard's work (among them Robin Williams, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, and Jack Lemmon). However, unlike most interpretations, it's the women who really carry the show, with the two best performances delivered by Kate Winslet as Ophelia and Julie Christie as Gertrude. As usual, Hamlet finds himself torn over what to do after the death of his father and his mother's hasty remarriage. Branagh's version of Hamlet was also notable on a technical level, as it was filmed in the 70-mm format for increased visual clarity and detail. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Kenneth Branagh
    Kenneth Branagh - Hamlet
  • Richard Attenborough
    Richard Attenborough - English Ambassador
  • Brian Blessed
    Brian Blessed - The Ghost
  • Julie Christie
    Julie Christie - Gertrude
  • Derek Jacobi
    Derek Jacobi - Claudius

Overall customer rating

would recommend to a friend
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    A Powerful Prince of a Movie!


    Hamlet is perhaps the best drama ever written originally for the theatre, unlike Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, and The Lord of the Rings, which were all based on books. Kenneth Branaugh's film version is complete and unabridged, and we get to hear each and every one of Shakespeare's original words in this powerful play. Hamlet is full of wisdom and insights, particularly from Polonius (Richard Briers) who counsels his children Laertes (Michael Maloney) and Ophelia (Kate Winslet) to be true to themselves in order not to be false to others, and not to spend too much money on clothes - good parental advice that is every bit as applicable today as it was in the 1500's and 1600's! We are also painfully aware of Polonius' misgivings about Ophelia's and Hamlet's romance, as the wise man can perceive how emotionally the prince happens to be. Later on, Hamlet murders Polonius in cold blood! Another strong piece of wisdom occurs early in the production, when one guard reminds another that Christmas time is so holy that evil creatures and evil thoughts dare not walk the earth, and we are reminded to observe that sacred season as such. Lastly, with a stroke of genius on director Kenneth Branaugh's part, as Hamlet (Branaugh) introduces his troupe of actors as being of the highest caliber, we actually get to see a real theatrical legend: Charlton Heston! Yet despite its glimmering maxims and magnificent acting, Hamlet is still a very dark story. The Prince, in an attempt to avenge his father's murder, contemplates suicide - and Ophelia actually goes completely crazy and then dies by her own hand. He spouts out irrational (though well-written) rubbish about how his uncle/stepfather King Claudius can find the recently deceased Polonius by sending a messenger to heaven, and, if that person cannot find him there, to go and look for him in the other place himself! This is pure treason! The only way Claudius can send a messenger to heaven is by committing murder, and the only way he can go to the other place himself is by dying and going to blazes! It is hard to believe that Hamlet is insolent enough to literally tell the king to go to blazes! Unfortunately for Hamlet, and for the audience, the poor prince is not given any rays of hope as he sinks deeper and deeper into despair - "To be, or not to be? That is the question!" Even though Shakespeare was a Christian and wrote for a Christian audience, Hamlet envisions a private eternity of misery for himself in which he ceases even to exist. I also wonder why Shakespeare did not give him a priest to try to talk him out of the trouble Hamlet sinks himself into, as he does with Romeo and Juliet. Could this be an oversight on Shakespeare's part, or did he deliberately give the priest only a ceremonial position, leaving the Royal Family of Denmark to deal with their own emotional upheaval? While all of this is very depressing, it makes for an excellent psychological drama, written by a man whose passion in life was the theatre, and who even compared the whole world to a stage! Nevertheless, Hamlet is absolutely magnificent, and well worth seeing over and over again!

    I would recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    Finally, in the format it deserves!


    The most complete version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet to ever be put to film is finally on DVD, and it has never looked more stunning. This film was even hard to find on VHS after its theatrical run. The mere scope of the project lends itself in such a complimentary way to wide screen TV's But the fact that this is on DVD is such a small part of the treat. The cast of this film are of such a fantastic caliber, they deliver their performance in such a way, it is as though they are staging the play live on an epic set of the grandest scale. Kenneth Branagh has chosen to deliver the character with only an underlying sense of tragedy, but not disclosing his melancholy to those he doesn't trust. He instead puts on a multidimensional character that seems to have gone completely mad from the grief of his father's passing, and his mother quickly marrying his uncle, thus making his performance passionate, and even many times comedic. Branagh sees that the best way to deliver a Shakespearean play is to deliver a tragedy comically, and deliver a comedic play tragically. I am proud to finally own this film on DVD. A+

    I would recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    The 2nd Definitive HAMLET...For Now.


    Ever since "The Tragicall Historie Of Hamlet, Prince Of Denmarke" by William Shakespeare was first performed in 1600 at the Globe Theater in London, there have been countless film versions of the classic tragedy of murder, family loyalty, corruption, love and revenge. But, never has it been told like this...until now. For the first time, William Shakespeare's greatest work is presented in its entirety on film by accomplished Shakespearean director, actor, writer & producer Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V," Dead Again," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"). The film is a masterpiece of filmmaking. At 242 minutes, it is certainly not for those with short attention spans or for those who do not enjoy Shakespeare. The film presents a lot of subleties which are lost in other film interpretations. Shakespeare would be proud. The movie includes a fascinating featurette on the making of the film. The movie also includes an informative introduction by director/star Kenneth Branagh. Rated PG for some violence.

    I would recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    How noble in reason


    While frequently touted as the first unabridged screen version of the Bard's classic (and arguably, definitive) tragedy, true fans will notice the addition of a single word, and the change of another... However, shot in gorgeous 65mm film amidst stunning visual scenery, few other shortcomings can be found for this piece. The audience, entering Branagh's world with wonder and more than a little trepidation, are left exactly as this reviewer: speechless.

    I would recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    Great Looking Edition of a Rare Cinematic Treat

    • My Best Buy® MemberMember

    This Blu-ray manages to approach the clarity that I saw with the theatrical film print back when the movie was first released. The image is quite breathtaking in many scenes. I wish that Warner and Branagh had found some more behind-the-scenes footage of this epic production, but the Blu-ray DigiBook presentation is quite nice.

    I would recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

    ego shows through


    This is a well directed performance and many of the performances are good. Kate Winslet makes a great Ophelia. However, Branagh had no business casting himself in the lead role. His poor performance almost makes the movie unwatchable. This might be worth trying out once, but I can't get past Branagh's acting enough to suggest buying it.

    No, I would not recommend this to a friend

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    draws you in

    • Verified PurchaserVerified Purchase
    • My Best Buy® Elite MemberElite Member

    Hamlet has been filmed many times; this is one of the best versions. Director and actor Kenneth Branagh has brought this powerful story to the screen in a highly accessible way. Even some who typically find Shakespeare difficult may find this version draws them in.

    I would recommend this to a friend

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