Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Β (614)
1 h 57 min1991PG
The filmization of Tom Stoppard's immensely witty Shakespearean spin-off, which changes the tone of "Hamlet" from a tragedy to a comedy. Adventures of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two lesser characters from Hamlet, as they romp around the castle.
Directors
Tom Stoppard
Starring
Gary OldmanRichard DreyfussTim Roth
Genres
ComedyDrama
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Producers
Emanuel AzenbergMichael BrandmanLouise StephensThomas J. Rizzo
Studio
MGM
Rating
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

614 global ratings

  1. 76% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 11% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on April 1, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
My favorite movie ever, but not the first time I saw it.
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This is my favorite movie. I like Shakespeare and appreciate Hamlet. There is just something about the surrealistic tale that Tom Stoppard weaves in this movie that captures my imagination. I first watched it in college. It was recommended by my favorite professor. I didn't like it that much. Due to the admiration of my professor, I read Hamlet, watched the Mel Gibson and Sir Laurence Olivet versions of Hamlet and watched it again. I was mildly impressed. In successive viewings I have come to treasure the simple, subtle complexity of Stoppard's weaving of his remarkably plausible backstory with the actual text of Shakespeare's play. It is far more than I would have guessed as a boy of 21. It gets better with successive viewings and years of life. I have watched it intermittently for over twenty years. Some of the silly lines, that aren't inherently humorous on the surface, are among my favorite jokes of all time.

Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are perfect as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Hamlet who question the nature of reality, leading Stoppard to imagine them as two souls who can't remember exactly who they are and who can't see the obvious in front of their eyes. As Tim Roth observes, "there are alternatives but not choice". Even with the excellent performances of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfus steals the show as the player. Donald Sumpter, Joanna Miles, Ian Richardson give strong performances in their roles. I initially hated Iain Glen's performance as Hamlet. I still see it as a weak point in the film but have come to appreciate it.

Among the strengths of the play and film is that the commentary of the Player applies to Shakespeare in general as well as the play that all the characters are trapped in. The humor and word play Stoppard writes mirrors the humorous elements of Shakespeare's writing that are often lost in the archaic language of the time. Gary Oldman also delivers a variation on Hamlets famous "to be or, not to be" speech that is profound and haunting. This speech is one of the best I have ever heard or read.

I consider the Hangover one of the funniest comedies ever. This comedy is the opposite. The Hangover overwhelms with sheer crude audacity, but very good writing. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead weaves a subtle joke with remarkable wisdom that doesn't jump out and knock the viewer over. It is an elegant film that becomes increasingly humorous and satisfying over years. Like wine it is an acquired taste with complex flavors. An appreciation for Shakespeare and theatre is helpful. This is not a film for everyone. It is a precious gift for some. I am grateful that the admiration of my favorite professor was enough for me to consider it beyond my first viewing.
72 people found this helpful
Zachary LittrellReviewed in the United States on July 28, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Richard Dreyfuss, on the other hand, is very, very alive
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Sure, sure, sure, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth do a splendid job as joined-at-the-hip friends, snarling and joking with each other as they wander gloomy empty sets. But make no mistake, this is secretly Richard Dreyfuss's movie. You haven't lived until you've seen Richard Dreyfuss's Player paramime his way through the climactic Hamlet fight scene, or happily offer Guildenstern a little one-on-one time with his (all-male) actors. Of course the sets in this movie are sparse, because Dreyfuss chewed up all the scenery.

If you watch the first 30 minutes and aren't having fun, then you can be rest assured this movie isn't for you. It's a lot of wordplay, odd camera work, and lines delivered erratically to an invisible audience. It manages to capture the bleak feeling of Hamlet, and it barely even features the guy. Instead, it's basically two schmucks, one a neurotic and the other a simpleton, who find themselves in Shakespeare's absurd, unforgiving universe.

Guildenstern: "Wasn't that the end?"
Player: "You call that an ending? With practically everyone still on his feet? My goodness, no! Over your dead body!"
9 people found this helpful
EntropyStoatReviewed in the United States on December 27, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Hilarious. Thought-provoking. Perfect.
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R&G are Dead has always been one of my favorite plays (well, since I first read it) and this is a wonderful screen adaptation. Not only is the acting great, the movie is directed by the writer, so we get to see everything exactly as he intended it. I love the casting choices, and the dynamic between the two leads is wonderful.
That being said, this movie is not for everyone. The humor here is absurdist (as Stoppard often is), and the overall themes are existentialist, and that's not everyone's cup of tea. This is not a play(movie) to make you feel cheerful or fulfilled, and it WILL NOT leave you with answers. If you finish watching this and feel confused, vaguely depressed, and as though you aren't quite sure about the nature of reality, you've probably understood it as well as anyone is going to. If, like me, you enjoy feeling that way, keep coming back to this play (either read or watch it). Every time you do, your understanding of it and appreciation for it will change.
You do need to be familiar with Hamlet, ideally the original play and its themes, tho remembering what you learned about it in High School will probably be sufficient.
In my mind, this play is as much of a classic as Hamlet itself, and whether you end up liking it or not, this movie adaptation is absolutely worth a watch.
5 people found this helpful
M. L. PetersReviewed in the United States on July 27, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Clueless characters bumbling through the famous story
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A funny, absurdist spin on Shakespeare's Hamlet, focusing on the pair of peripheral characters
The main performances were very good - - Tim Roth and Garry Oldman as.. .well... one of them is Rosencrantz and the other is Guildenstern... we're never quite sure which is which and neither are they... Iain Glen does a fine job as Hamlet - - I hope sometime in his youth he got to play Hamlet on stage. And Richard Dreyfus is superb as a wry and, if I'm not mistaken, meta "Lead Player" - - the leader of a troupe of actors.
The Absurdism and dim-wittedness of the story and title characters has some surprising moments of depth and this story one-ups Hamlet by repeating the play within the play motif by having a play within a play within the main story and also an earlier run through which is basically the ending of Hamlet (the play), including the fate of the title pair - -a foreshadowing the dim-witted pair completely miss.
The film is only occasionally laugh out loud funny but is amusing, especially if you know the play, Hamlet, but I don't think that's required to enjoy these characters out of their depth.
3 people found this helpful
Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on May 1, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent performances - approaches being full of itself, but halts
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My rating is more of a 3.5
Thanks for reading!

𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒓𝒆 π’šπ’π’– π’‘π’π’‚π’šπ’Šπ’π’ˆ 𝒂𝒕?
𝑾𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒔, π’˜π’π’“π’…π’”. π‘»π’‰π’†π’š'𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒍 π’˜π’† 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒐 π’ˆπ’ 𝒐𝒏.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an absurdist, existential tragicomedy by Tom Stoppard. The play expands upon the exploits of two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Beckoning what might be considered a niche interest, Stoppard’s work is accurately described as β€˜Shakespearean’. More specifically, it may be hard for audience members that are familiar with β€˜Hamlet’ to make inferences about what scenes seen in β€˜R&GAD’ are inspired by or recreated from it are initiated or come to an end. This speaks much to the fluidity of Stoppard’s writing(as the transitional pieces and elements incorporated are brilliant), but this certainly doesn't make β€˜R&GAD’ universally appealing beyond the context of its contents. This is even more obvious when the importance of certain motifs (like a collection of papers from the β€˜Roman Missal’ that continuously floats around set that are never directly identified as such) is presumed. The dialogue is also largely constructed using words in the average person's vocabulary, but the way they are combined is reminiscent of riddles and easily abandoned meanderings.

To a point this work may be guilty of indulging its affinity for pretentiousness and arrogance, but the cinematography and set design are modestly exquisite; decisions made regarding costumes and setting are meticulous and becoming with the ability to transport modern audiences inside of the mind and writings of Shakespeare himself. Considering the history of this play (which was additionally written by Stoppard and first performed on stage in 1966) it's not a surprise that many of the interactions are better received in person, but the atmosphere of this cinematic version hits all the right notes.

Ultimately β€˜R&GAD’ is written as an exploration of the complexity of two characters Shakespeare treats like h'dourves and doing so requires walking on the thin line that creative liberties allows. Questions regarding fate and identity are meaningfully entertained and pondered with humor (pretty laugh-out-loud humor at that) although this does come at the expense of undemeaning what would have been Shakespeare's (outdated, but essential) understanding of the world and the way individuals find themselves both formally and informally involved (such as through duress and societal expectations, amongst other things) with one another

β€˜R&GAD’ is definitely better suited in the hands of people prepared to casually digest philosophical content, and perhaps if approached on another day or with a different attitude I could find myself calling this easily recommendable. If nothing else the performances provided by Oldman and Roth are rich with chemistry, and the way they interact with one another is nothing short of delectable and organic. All Things considered this is an amicable attempt at addressing the accessibility of Stoppard's work, and it has a place in conversations revolving the ingenuity of playwrights and what they are capable of producing.
One person found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on November 28, 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
Two characters are stuck in a mud of confusion for 2 hrs straining your patience
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was a take-off from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The two played by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman were friends of the prince in the play. The story is completely absurdist throwing the two into one ridiculous situation after another. Most of the story is the two wandering around but not quite in the Hamlet story. They try to figure out what is going on and what they are doing in endless conversations.

One only needs to see one scene and figure out and be confused at the same time about what the movie is about. In one instance they see Hamlet and think something is the matter with him. They decide to role play with one being Hamlet and for the other to ask him questions to try to deduce what is going on with the prince. It would seem this is an attempt at the Socratic method but the problem is one of them doesn’t understand what they’re doing and it goes nowhere.

The movie has witty and smart moments, but at just under two hours becomes one of endurance to see whether you can stick with a story that long as nothing is every resolved. It’s like the two are stuck in the mud of confusion.
C
2 people found this helpful
B. MaroldReviewed in the United States on July 8, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
You must see Hamlet before watching this movie!
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Watching this movie without being familiar with the characters and story of Shakespeare's play, "Hamlet" is like watching a ballet without having a clue as to the story. It is not impossible to enjoy without knowing "Hamlet", but it makes the experience ever so much better. Note that some productions of "Hamlet" give the Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern subplot little attention, and may even cut it out entirely. See Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" to get the full picture (it's a darn good rendition of the play as well.)

The biggest single plus for the film is that it does not only tell the backstory of two minor characters in "Hamlet", played marvelously played by Gary Oldman as Rosenkrantz and Tim Roth as Guildenstern. It also tells a lot about the backstory of the troupe of traveling "tragedians", the company commissioned to put on the play which Hamlet hopes will wake the conscience of the king. This supplies the third lead character, "The Lead Player" played by Richard Dreyfuss.

When either Dreyfuss or other Hamlet scenes are on the screen, everything seems about right. There are even some of Hamlet's more famous scenes played out, with Shakespeare's words. But when the two title characters are along, a sense of deep unreality sets in. For example, at the very beginning of the film, there is a conceit where Rosenkrantz finds a coin in the road and starts flipping it over and over, and it continually comes up heads. Guildenstern bets against that several times, and loses every time, until they reach a count of over 100 heads. Something about their world has become unstuck. It is to this play what the appearance of the specter is in "Hamlet". Something is not right in their world. It's the kind of unreality we sense in Peter Greenaway's films, especially because the visual plays such an important part. Contrary to Roger Ebert, there are visual clues which would be missed on the stage.

Over half of the movie rests on the shoulders of the name leads, and for an audience who is used to seeing Oldman as the perfect villain or Tim Roth as the small time robber "Pumpkin" in "Pulp Fiction", these roles really show a new side of their talent. Roth has the same English accent as "Pumpkin", but Oldman is in an entirely new place. I could hardly take my eyes off him. They are innocents in a chaotic world which is destined to crumble around them.

Since so much depends on the dialogue between the two, some professional reviewers have said the play was unsuitable for the screen. I would counter that what the camera gives us is close-ups of the faces, especially of Oldman and Roth, and captures the most subtle expressions, which would have been missed from the mezzanine of a large theatre.

Let's be fair. This movie asks a lot of its viewers, in addition to the need to see Hamlet. It is not for everyone. But, for those who really like subtlety and a unique kind of mystery, this is for you.
23 people found this helpful
Annie Van AukenReviewed in the United States on August 9, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
"... for all the points of the compass, there's only one direction....and time is its only measure."
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Tom Stoppard's ROSENKRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD won four Tonys in 1968, including Best Play. Its 420 performance Broadway run was from 1/8/68 to 10/19/68.

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In truly one of the cleverest concepts ever, Stoppard explores the characters, idiosyncrasies and motives of two minor players from Shakespeare's "Hamlet." At times R & G participate in Will's Danish-set tragedy exactly as written, at others they step out of it and observe the cryptic goings on in Castle Elsinore, speculating on what each event means.

Most brilliant of all is a puppet show of how Prince Hamlet's mother came to marry his murdered father's brother that's watched by faceless mutes who represent the people being depicted, who are angrily observed by the actual new king and his bride, who are spied upon by R&G. This echoing mirror effect is taken in by us, five times removed from the original regicide.

It's an astounding sequence that's just one of many in a supelative period motion picture packed with sparkling dialogue. After experiencing this, you'll never see Hamlet again without connecting the two works.

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Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 IMDb viewer poll rating.

(7.5) Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (UK/USA-1990) - Gary Oldman/Tim Roth/Richard Dreyfuss/Joanna Roth/Iain Glen/Joanna Miles/Donald Sumpter
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