Othello

by: William Shakespeare

Movie Adaptations

Othello, 1952
Director: Orson Welles
Notable cast: Orson Welles

This low-budget, heavily edited version of the play stars Orson Welles as Othello and took four years to complete while Welles raised the funds. Despite the barebones production, critics now praise it for its brevity and cinematic sophistication.

Othello, 1965
Director: Stuart Burge
Notable cast: Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith

The Caucasian actor Laurence Olivier appears in blackface for the role in this movie, but his performance was for some time considered the definitive interpretation of the role. The film version was also notable for being the first in which Iago, portrayed by Frank Finlay, is implied to experience homoerotic desire which leads him to viciously lash out against Othello.

Othello, 1995
Director: Oliver Parker
Notable cast: Laurence Fishburne, Kenneth Branagh

Director Oliver Parker embedded references to previous theatrical and film adaptations in this interpretation of the play.

In addition to these more classical adaptations, the plot and characters of Othello have been featured in a number of loose adaptations where significant shifts are made to the setting, plot, or language. Examples of these film adaptations include 1962’s All the Night Long, which shifts the action to underground jazz clubs and features an ending in which the Othello and Desdemona characters happily reconcile, and 2001’s O, which transposes the plot into an American high school setting and stars Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles.