Hamlet (1990) Movie Review: Franco Zeffirelli (1923-2019) Tribute

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

Franco Zeffirelli was one of the greatest directors of all time.  Even though he only received one “Best Director” Academy Award nomination, he created aesthetically beautiful Shakespearean adaptations that have stood the test of time as visual marvels.  His bold attempts to adapt Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet allowed modern audiences to understand and appreciate the poetic power of two of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.  Zeffirelli’s passing is definitely tragic, but at least he gave the world a wide range of films that include the contemporary classic Hamlet in 1990.

A Toast!

This film features an all-star cast that includes Mel Gibson in the title role and Glenn Close as “Gertrude.”  This film marks the first time that Glenn Close participated in a Shakespearean production, and she is absolutely fantastic even though she STILL has never won an Oscar, which includes her (in)famous loss to Olivia Colman in 2019.  Hamlet is a breathtaking film because of its Oscar-nominated production design and costume design, and this film is very sumptuous indeed.

Beer Two

Even though this film looks beautiful, such beauty is somewhat superficial.  That is because this film really is just another remake of Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  A similar criticism has been applied to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017) because many people believe that Disney’s live-action remakes are nothing more than just “cash grabs.”  Coincidentally, that film and Hamlet both received Academy Award nominations in the same two previously mentioned categories.  The film also feels a bit rushed because it basically condenses a four-hour play into a 135-minute film.  Just because a film is a spectacle does not mean that it is spectacular.


This version of Hamlet might not be the greatest adaptation of all time, but at least it allows audiences to enjoy what is perhaps the greatest play ever written.  Hollywood is somewhat notorious for remaking classic stories and films (which includes the somewhat unnecessary remake of Disney’s Cinderella in 2015), but that is partially because some stories really do stand the test of time.  Franco Zeffirelli might be dearly departed, but audiences can still admire his contributions to the extensive history of film-making.

Hamlet (1990) Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every famous line and moment that many people already know

Sip Your Drink Slowly: during the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy

And One Final Toast: to the directorial genius of one of the most innovative and audacious directors in cinematic history!  RIP Franco Zeffirelli <3

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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