I've now seen 15 different productions of Hamlet. This is a list of all of them, in chronological order of when they were made, and a few of my thoughts on them. If I've blogged about them more fully elsewhere, I've linked to that post with the production's date.
BTW, when I say "film" or "stage" for them, I mean that either they were made as a film or are a filmed stage production. Not that I've seen all the "stage" versions actually on stage -- I've only seen it performed truly live once.
Have you seen any of these? Have you seen some that aren't on this list? Do you have any favorites? Or any you're eager to see?
1948 (film) -- Laurence Olivier. The one everybody talks about. I've only seen this once, and ought to see it again before I pass judgement on it, but my initial impression was not exactly favorable. I did like Jean Simmons as Ophelia.
1965 (stage) -- Richard Burton. The one with the best "O, Vengeance!" ever. Hume Cronyn is possibly my favorite Polonius, and the cast overall is solid. They play the whole thing in modern street clothes as if it were a final rehearsal before the costumes arrive, and with minimal scenery and props, which strips the whole production of distractions and makes you focus on the words and acting. And of course, Burton has a wonderful voice, and his performance is excellent. I dearly love this version, and absolutely recommend it.
1969 (film) -- Nicol Williamson. The boring one. I did like how they twisted the nunnery scene to make it playful and cool instead of mean. And Anthony Hopkins is a great Claudius. But overall, skip.
1980 (stage) -- Derek Jacobi. The one where everyone is really nice. Patrick Stewart plays a pretty cheerful Claudius, and Polonius (Eric Porter) is fairly benign. Jacobi is a mournful Hamlet, gentle and pensive and soft-spoken. Worth seeing, especially if you want to see it in Elizabethan costumes.
1990 (film) -- Mel Gibson. The one where people get hung up on the Oedipal interpretation, even though the Jacobi version is not much different. But it's a very accessible production. I like Gibson in the role so much, as he's got lots of practice playing off-balanced characters and does it well. Helena Bonham Carter is a very effective Ophelia, Glenn Close is not too distracting as Gertrude, Alan Bates makes a really menacing Claudius, and Ian Holm is a conniving Polonius that makes you wonder if he can really be the same guy who plays sweet old Bilbo Baggins. I do recommend this version, despite the ick factor.
1990 (stage) -- Kevin Kline. The one I really ought to see again some time. I don't remember it much at all, other than that I didn't like it well enough to buy a copy or see it a second time.
1996 (film) -- Kenneth Branagh. The one with allllllll the famous people in it that is reeeeeeeally long. It uses pretty much the full text, and it's magnificent in scope and scale. Great acting from Branagh as Hamlet, Kate Winslet as Ophelia, and Derek Jacobi as Claudius. And my favorite Horatio ever: Nicholas Farrell. If you're willing to spend four hours on it, see this one.
2000 (film) -- Ethan Hawke. The one where Hamlette finally finds the perfect Laertes in Liev Schreiber. And I really love Julia Stiles as Ophelia. Bill Murray is an excellent Polonius -- might tie with Hume Cronyn as my favorite. Kyle MacLachlan is a nicely menacing Claudius, and Sam Shepherd is a very sympathetic Ghost. And Hawke is a very young, very easy-to-worry-about Hamlet. But I love Liev Schreiber as Laertes, and that's all there is to it. I heartily recommend this one.
2000 (film) -- Campbell Scott. The one set in America in the early 20th century. It's got a good Horatio (John Benjamin Hickey) and awesome costumes. Scott is a pensive and interesting Hamlet. Worth finding if you've seen some of the more well-known adaptations and want to broaden out.
2002 (stage) -- Adrian Lester. The one set in India or somewhere equally Eastern. This one cuts up the text and reassembles it a bit oddly, but it's a nifty production. The sets are really vivid and interesting.
2004 (stage) -- Simon Keenlyside. The opera. Keenlyside is a delightful Hamlet, very sympathetic. It's opera, so the text isn't the same as the play, especially since it's based on the French translation by Alexandre Dumas. It has a totally different ending! And a super-creepy Ghost. If you at all like opera, try it out.
2006 (film) -- Daniel Wu. The Chinese one that's awfully violent. It's actually titled The Banquet, or Legend of the Black Scorpion. It's fascinating if you're really into Hamlet and want a fresh retelling that does not stick to the play or use the text. Or if you like Chinese movies about ninjas and stuff. Otherwise, skip.
2009 (stage) -- David Tennant. The one where Captain Picard and Dr. Who square off. Excellent modernization, and Patrick Stewart plays the scariest, smoothest, slipperiest Claudius ever. I like Peter De Jersey a lot as Horatio, but this is clearly the Tennant/Stewart show, and everyone knows it. I definitely recommend this one.
2009 (stage) -- Jude Law. The one I saw live on Broadway. The one I would love to see again, except the fools who run the theater didn't think to capture it on film. Gugu-Mbatha Raw played Ophelia as timid and innocent. Matt Ryan played Horatio, and he was soooooo good. One of my favorite Horatios. Jude Law was, of course, excellent as Hamlet -- very active and angry and into pacing around barefoot. How I wish they'd filmed it.
2015 (stage) -- Benedict Cumberbatch. The one I didn't see live, but saw as a telecast. Yesterday. Cumberbatch was a very emotional and accessible Hamlet, and Ciaran Hinds was a formidable Claudius. Sian Brooke made a compelling and piteous Ophelia. Everyone else was acceptable, though I was disappointed by Leo Bill's Horatio and his extremely limited stage time.