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Richard III (1995 film)

Richard III
Theatrical poster
Directed by Richard Loncraine
Produced by Stephen Bayly
Lisa Katselas Paré
Written by William Shakespeare (play)
Ian McKellen
Richard Loncraine
Starring Ian McKellen
Annette Bening
Jim Broadbent
Robert Downey Jr.
Kristin Scott Thomas
Maggie Smith
Adrian Dunbar
Dominic West
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Edited by Paul Green
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • 29 December 1995 (1995-12-29)
Running time
104 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £6,000,000

Richard III is a 1995 drama film adapted from William Shakespeare's play of the same name, starring Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, John Wood, and Dominic West.

The film relocates the play's events to a fictionalized fascist version of Britain in the 1930s.


  • Concept 1
  • Plot 2
  • Cast 3
  • Awards 4
  • Reception 5
  • Soundtrack 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The film's concept was based on a stage production directed by Richard Eyre for the Royal National Theatre, which also starred McKellen. The production was adapted for the screen by McKellen and directed by Richard Loncraine.

The film is notable for its unconventional use of famous British landmarks, often using special effects to move them to new locations. The transformed landmarks used include the following:

The visually rich production features various symbols, uniforms, weapons, and vehicles that draw openly from the aesthetic of the Third Reich as depicted in Nazi propaganda (especially Triumph of the Will) and war films. At the same time, obvious care is put into diluting and mixing the Nazi references with recognizable British and American uniform styles, props, and visual motifs (also familiar to the average cinemagoer). The resulting military uniforms, for instance, range from completely Allied in cases of positive characters to almost completely SS in the case of Richard's entourage. Another example of this balanced approach to production design is the choice of tanks for battle scenes between Richmond's and Richard's armies: both use Soviet tanks (T-55s and T-34s respectively), mixed with German, American, and British World War II-era vehicles. To convey the out-of-place nature of the common-born Queen Elizabeth, she is reconfigured as an American socialite similar to Wallis Simpson, and she and her brother are treated with marked disapproval by members of the Court.

Perhaps the play's most famous line—"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"—was recontextualized by the more recent setting; during the climactic battle, Richard's jeep becomes stuck, hung up on a pile of debris, and his lament is cast as a plea for a mode of transport with legs rather than wheels.

In a surprising ending, Richard refuses to be captured and leaps down to his death with the "wrong" closing line: "Let us to't pell-mell; if not to heaven, then hand-in-hand to hell". As Richard falls, the camera focuses on Henry, who is smiling at the camera just as Richard had throughout the film and thereby implying that he will be just as bad a king as Richard. Richard falls, grinning triumphantly, into the inferno and is followed by the eerily upbeat tune "I'm Sitting On The Top Of The World" (Ray Henderson, Joe Young and Sam Lewis) in the classic version sung by Al Jolson.

The film enlarges the role of the Duchess of York considerably by combining her character with that of Queen Margaret, as compared with Laurence Olivier's 1955 film version of the play, in which the Duchess hardly appeared at all and Queen Margaret was completely eliminated. The roles of Rivers, Grey, Vaughan, and Dorset are combined into Rivers. The death scenes are shown rather than implied as in the play, and changed to suit the time (Hastings is hanged rather than beheaded) and historical accuracy (Clarence dies by having his throat cut in a bathtub, rather than being drowned in a wine barrel). Lord Rivers—who usually dies offstage (or, in the case of Olivier's film, offscreen)—is impaled by the device of a sharp spike spurting up from the bottom of his mattress while he lies in bed during sex with a woman in a hotel room. Each character's pre-death monologue is also removed, except that of Clarence and Buckingham.

McKellen himself stated on his website:

When you put this amazing old story in a believable modern setting, it will hopefully raise the hair on the back of your neck, and you won't be able to dismiss it as 'just a movie' or, indeed, as 'just old-fashioned Shakespeare.[2]


The film is based on Shakespeare's play of the same name, written in approximately 1592. Unlike the 1955 film starring and directed by Laurence Olivier, this production combines the roles of the Duchess of York and Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI.



    • Best British Film
    • Best Actor - Ian McKellen
    • Adapted Screenplay
    • Best Costumes (won)
    • Best Production Design (won)


Richard III received universal acclaim from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 8.1/10.[5] Empire magazine gave the film 4/5 stars, referring to it as "fascinating" and "cerebral".[6] Jeffrey Lyons stated that the film was "mesmerizing",[7] while Richard Corliss in Time referred to the film as "cinematic".[7] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "the picture never stops coming at you".[7] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars (out of four) and included the film among his Great Movies list.[8]

Brighton's Royal Pavilion, in a shot quite similar to the one in the film.


The soundtrack to Richard III was released on February 27, 1996.

No. Title Artist Length
1. "The Invasion"   Trevor Jones 1:37
2. "Come Live With Me"   Stacey Kent 5:40
3. "Now Is the Winter of Our Discontent"   Trevor Jones 1:01
4. "Mortuarty"   Trevor Jones 1:26
5. "Bid Me Farewell/I'll Have Her"   Trevor Jones 1:21
6. "Clarence's Dream"   Trevor Jones 3:04
7. "Crimson"   Trevor Jones 3:13
8. "Clarence's Murder"   Trevor Jones 2:05
9. "The Tower"   Trevor Jones 2:06
10. "The Blessing"   Trevor Jones 0:27
11. "Conspiracy"   Trevor Jones 0:35
12. "Toe Tappers"   Trevor Jones 2:14
13. "Let Sorrow Haunt Your Bed"   Trevor Jones 1:29
14. "The Reach of Hell Long Live the King"   Trevor Jones 1:15
15. "Good Angels Guard You"   Trevor Jones 0:28
16. "Coronation Haze"   Trevor Jones 1:11
17. "Prelude from Te Deum"   Trevor Jones 1:41
18. "The Golden Dew of Sleep"   Trevor Jones 0:30
19. "My Regret"   Trevor Jones 2:46
20. "Pity Dwells Not This Eye"   Trevor Jones 0:25
21. "Westminster"   Trevor Jones 3:14
22. "My Most Grievous Curse"   Trevor Jones 0:49
23. "The Duchess Departs"   Trevor Jones 0:52
24. "The Devil's Temptation"   Trevor Jones 0:54
25. "Richmond"   Trevor Jones 0:52
26. "Defend Me Still"   Trevor Jones 2:47
27. "I Did But Dream"   Trevor Jones 0:45
28. "Elizabeth and Richmond"   Trevor Jones 1:37
29. "My Kingdom for a Horse"   Trevor Jones 0:39
30. "Battle"   Trevor Jones 4:42
31. "I'm Sitting on Top of the World"   Al Jolson 1:49
32. "Come Live With Me"   Stacey Kent 5:40
Total length:


  1. ^ Stern, Keith (1995). "Richard III: Notes". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "The 68th Academy Awards (1996) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Prize Winners". Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Richard III". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Errigo, Angie. "Empire's Richard III Movie Review". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Stern, Keith (1995). "Richard III: Reviews". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (7 October 2009). "Richard III Movie Review & Film Summary (1996)". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Richard III Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 

External links

  • McKellen's website about the film including an annotated copy of the screenplay.
  • Richard III at the Internet Movie Database
  • Richard III at AllMovie
  • Interactive video interview with McKellen on Shakespeare, Richard III and Richard's opening speech. Includes McKellen introducing a clip from his film.
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