Hamlet is a 1948 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, adapted and directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. Hamlet was Olivier's second film as director, and also the second of the three Shakespeare films that he directed (the 1936 As You Like It had starred Olivier, but had been directed by Paul Czinner). Hamlet is the only one of Olivier's directorial efforts to be filmed in black and white, and was the first British film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also the first sound film of the play in English. A 1935 sound film adaptation, Khoon Ka Khoon, had been made in India and filmed in the Urdu language. Olivier's Hamlet is the Shakespeare film that has received the most prestigious accolades, winning the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. However, it proved controversial among Shakespearean purists, who felt that Olivier had made too many alterations and excisions to the four-hour play by cutting nearly two hours worth of content. Milton Shulman wrote in The Evening Standard "To some it will be one of the greatest films ever made, to others a deep disappointment.
This Hamlet, a Best Picture winner, unfortunately stands as one of the stagier productions of the famous play. Gone are (among other scenes) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; in their stead we get more of Laurence Olivier, who also directed, as the put-upon prince of Denmark. Olivier chews scenery with the best of them, playing the tights-clad Hamlet as a sort of prissy boy who’d probably rather be eating grapes. Olivier’s direction is problematic, too, jerky and obvious, drawing your attention to the constant camera pans and away from the action. Still, a solid rendition if the classic play, though not really deserving of its platitudes. (At least, not any more.)