King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

Movie Adaptations

Further study Movie Adaptations

There are many movies based on King Lear that don’t use the original script or setting. The most famous is Ran, by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, which imagines Lear’s story unfolding in feudal-era Japan. Four movies use most or all of Shakespeare’s original text, but only three of them are widely available:

King Lear, 1971
Director: Peter Brook
Notable cast: Paul Scofield

Although Brook’s movie divided critics when it was first released, this film has become the definitive big-screen version of King Lear and has influenced many theatrical productions of the play. Scofield’s Lear is tyrannical and unsympathetic, and the early critics who disliked the movie found Brook’s vision too bleak. However, many critics now recognize this version as a powerful and faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

King Lear, 2008
Director: Trevor Nunn
Notable cast: Ian McKellen

Nunn’s film is a recording of his theatrical production of King Lear, filmed for British television. Many critics were impressed by McKellen’s performance, but others found that the camera did not capture the power of the original theatrical production. This adaptation is the only one to use virtually all of Shakespeare’s text.

King Lear, 2018
Director: Richard Eyre
Notable cast: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Andrew Scott

This movie was made for British and American television. This adaptation moves the play’s action into a modern setting, and Shakespeare’s text is heavily cut, but critics agree that the movie is faithful to Shakespeare’s play. Many found Hopkins’ performance as Lear especially moving.