A Playlist of 45 Shakespeare Film Trailers, from 1935 — 2021

The Inter­net Movie Data­base cred­its Shake­speare as the writer on 1787 films, 42 of which have yet to be released.

The Shake­speare Net­work has com­piled a chrono­log­i­cal playlist of trail­ers for 45 of them.

First up is 1935’s A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, fea­tur­ing Olivia de Hav­il­land, Jim­my Cagney, Dick Pow­ell, and, in the role of Puck, a 15-year-old Mick­ey Rooney, hailed by the New York Times as “one of the major delights” of the film, and Vari­ety as “so intent on being cute that he becomes almost annoy­ing.”

Tragedies dom­i­nate, with no few­er than six Ham­lets, Shakespeare’s most filmed work, and “one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing and most thank­less tasks in show busi­ness” accord­ing to nov­el­ist and fre­quent film crit­ic James Agee:

There can nev­er be a defin­i­tive pro­duc­tion of a play about which no two peo­ple in the world can agree. There can nev­er be a thor­ough­ly sat­is­fy­ing pro­duc­tion of a play about which so many peo­ple feel so per­son­al­ly and so pas­sion­ate­ly. Very like­ly there will nev­er be a pro­duc­tion good enough to pro­voke less argu­ment than praise.

Lawrence Olivi­er, Nicol Williamson, Mel Gib­son, Ken­neth Branagh, Ethan Hawke, David Ten­nant — take your pick:

Mac­Beth, Richard III, Romeo and Juli­et, and The Tem­pest — a com­e­dy — are oth­er crowd-pleas­ing work­hors­es, chewy assign­ments for actors and direc­tors alike.

Those with a taste for deep­er cuts will appre­ci­ate the inclu­sion of Ralph Fiennes’ Cori­olanus (2011), Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) and Titus, Julie Tay­mor’s 1999 adap­ta­tion of Shakespeare’s most shock­ing blood­bath.

Moviego­ing con­nois­seurs of the Bard may feel moved to stump for films that did­n’t make the playlist. If you can find a trail­er for it, go for it!  Lob­by the Shake­speare Net­work on its behalf, or make your case in the com­ments.

We’ll throw our weight behind Michael Almereyda’s Cym­be­line, fea­tur­ing Ed Har­ris roar­ing down the porch steps of a dilap­i­dat­ed Brook­lyn Vic­to­ri­an on a motor­cy­cle, the bizarre Romeo.Juliet pair­ing A‑list British vocal tal­ent with an all-feline line-up of Capulets and Mon­tagues, and Shake­speare Behind Bars, a 2005 doc­u­men­tary fol­low­ing twen­ty incar­cer­at­ed men who spent nine months delv­ing into The Tem­pest pri­or to a pro­duc­tion for guards, fel­low inmates, and invit­ed guests.

Enjoy the complete playlist of Shake­speare film trail­ers below. They move from 1935 to 2021.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch Very First Film Adap­ta­tions of Shakespeare’s Plays: King John, The Tem­pest, Richard III & More (1899–1936)

Young Orson Welles Directs “Voodoo Mac­beth,” the First Shake­speare Pro­duc­tion With An All-Black Cast: Footage from 1936

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe The­atre in Lon­don

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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