King Lear on Film and DVD
Here is our guide to currently available films of Shakespeare's King Lear:
King Lear (2008) directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Ian McKellen is a made for television film and DVD of the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company theatre production. Also starring Frances Barber, Romola Garai, Sylvester McCoy and Jonathan Hyde, the production was notorious for the storm scene which McKellen played naked from the waist down. King Lear was broadcast on terrestial television in 2008. 150 minutes. Available on DVD. For more production information including cast, crew and filming details click here.
King Lear (also known as Korol Lir) (1975) directed by Grigori Kozintsev and featuring Yuri Yarvet, this is one of the greatest films of Shakespeare ever made. With a sweeping score from Dmitri Shostakovich, a translation into Russian by Boris Pasternak, passionate and committed acting from all the cast and Kozintsev's unique vision, this Russian King Lear is simply stunning. It is also uniquely one of the few King Lears which was created purely as a film and not a filmed theatre production. 132 minutes. Available on DVD and Video. Click here for more information on Kozintsev's King Lear including cast and crew details and how to buy a copy.
King Lear (1971) directed by Peter Brook and starring Paul Scofield is another one of the greatest films of Shakespeare ever made. The theatre production on which it is based was recently voted the greatest ever Shakespeare performance in the history of The Royal Shakespeare Company. Brook's harsh, post-nuclear setting, brings to life the thoroughly modern existential perspective in which the characters chillingly exist. Irene Worth is harrowing as Goneril and Scofield magnificently gruff as Lear. Filmed in Denmark and visually influenced by Bergman and Beckett. 132 minutes. Available on DVD and Video. For further details on Peter Brook's King Lear including cast, crew details and how to obtain a copy click here.
King Lear (1997) directed by Richard Eyre with Ian Holm in a filmed for television version of the award-winning National Theatre production. Also featuring Barbara Flynn, Amanda Redmond, Victoria Hamilton as Lear's daughters. Eyre's well-spoken and clear production focusses on the domestic story of King Lear and his relations with his children. Ian Holm gives a very moving and emotional performance. Originally produced on the BBC Performance Series. 150 minutes. Available on DVD and Video. Click here for more information on Richard Eyre's film production of King Lear including full details and how to get a copy.
King Lear (1984) with Laurence Olivier, Diana Rigg, Colin Blakely, and John Hurt as the Fool. Produced for Granada Television and directed by Michael Elliot, this was Olivier's final Shakespeare screen appearance before his death in 1989. Olivier won an Emmy for his tragic and moving portrayal of the fatherly aspect of King Lear. Also starring Brian Cox, David Threlfall, John Hurt, Colin Blakely, Anna Calder-Marshall and Leo McKern. 158 minutes. Available on DVD and Video. Click here for more information on Laurence Olivier's King Lear and how to get a copy on DVD.
King Lear (1999) Directed by and starring Brian Blessed, this version unusually features a female fool played by Hildegarde Neil. Blessed's sturdy stature and booming voice dominate the film, and the cast also includes Jason Riddington, Mark Burgess, Phillipa Peake and Caroline Lennon. 190 minutes. Available on DVD.
King Lear (1974) Starring James Earl Jones, this is a filmed performance of Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival production in Central Park. The film has been made by Broadway Theatre Archive, directed by Edwin Sherin and also features George Dzundza, Raul Julia, Rosalind Cash, Rene Auberjonois and Paul Sorvino. 176 minutes. Available on DVD, Video and Download.
King Lear (1953) Taken from a television broadcast Live on the Omnibus in 1953, Orson Welles excels as King Lear. The film was directed by Andrew McCullough and the actors were directed by Peter Brook. The production also stars Lloyd Bochner, Natasha Parry, Micheal MacLiammoir, Beatrice Straight and Bramwell Fletcher. Being a live broadcast there is some of the feel of a filmed stage performance, both in excitement, energy and real-time mistakes: In the storm scene, King Lear's moustache comes loose. 76 minutes. Available on DVD. Click here for more information on Orson Welles' King Lear including full cast and production details.
King Lear (1982) The BBC Classic Shakespeare Collection with Michael Hordern was directed with style by Jonathan Miller, who focuses on the medical and physical deterioration of Lear in madness. With Michael Kitchen relishing his role as an scheming Edmund, countered by Anton Lesser as Edgar. The three sisters are played by Penelope Wilton, Gillian Barge and Brenda Blethyn, and the Fool by Frank Middlemass. 180 minutes. Available on DVD. For more information on the BBC King Lear click here.
King Lear (1976 ) Patrick Magee stars as Lear in the Thames Television production of the play. Magee is excellent and the co-stars are uniformly good with stand-out performances from Ronald Radd and Patrick Mower, but the part of the Fool is severely cut in this version. 110 minutes. Available on DVD.
The Plays of William Shakespeare - The Tragedy of King Lear (1982) Produced by Bard Productions and The Shakespeare Film Society, this version is filmed as if the audience were in Shakespeare's time, and attempts to recreate the Elizabethan Sixteenth Century atmosphere. Starring the renowned stage, television and film actor Mike Kellin as King Lear, with Darryl Hickman, Charles Aidman, David Groh, and Kitty Winn. 182 minutes. Available on DVD.
Silent Shakespeare - King Lear (1910) . A collection of early silent film versions of Shakespeare's plays, Silent Shakespeare includes the Italian King Lear (Re Lear) directed by Gerolamo Lo Savio and starring Ermete Novelli. 16 minutes. Black and White Silent. Available on DVD. For more information on Silent Shakespeare and fuller details of King Lear click here.