Henry V (1944)

henry v poster 1944 movie review laurence olivier
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Laurence Olivier was king of Shakespeare, interesting blend of visuals

Henry V's character isn't fully developed for those not familiar with the other plays

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Henry V

Studio:  Two Cities Films

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  November 22, 1944 (UK)/April 3, 1946 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

henry v laurence olivier globe theater throne

Are you punking me, dude?

King Henry V of England (Laurence Olivier) has taken war to France.  With beliefs that he has claim to the throne of France, Henry has rallied his people to fight for the good of England.  As Henry tries to measure the will of his people, avenge his pride, and expand his kingdom, he also seeks for a means to find peace…and it could take the form of France’s Princess Katherine (Renée Asherson).

Directed by Laurence Olivier, Henry V (with the longer title of The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt) is a Shakespearian drama adaptation of the classic William Shakespeare play.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration—Color, and Best Music—Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.  Olivier won an honorary award for outstanding achievement as actor, producer, and director for bringing Henry V to the screen.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #41).

henry v laurence olivier horseback armor

Henry’s first speech was really “Let’s go kick some ass, guys!”

Olivier was a master of Shakespeare and was a big person in bringing it to the screen.  The adaptation of these classic plays are stage adaptation…and what you’d expect from Shakespeare…which isn’t for everyone.

The story is a story of war and the conquering power of England.  The film was released as a means to stir British patriotism and moral during World War II as the war in Europe (and in particularly France) raged.  The character of Henry V develops over the other Shakespeare plays Richard II, Henry IV—Part 1, and Henry IV—Part 2, and while it is a standalone, it helps build the character as a whole in personality and actions…something that is a bit missing from the movie if you aren’t familiar with the plays.

Olivier is perfect in his delivery and presentation.  He performed the role before and just gets Shakespeare’s tone and delivery.  He has a nice supporting cast but it is a play for and about Olivier’s lead.

henry v laurence olivier princess katherine renee asherson

Damn…how can I turn down that haircut, King Henry?

What stands out about the film are the visuals.  The movie was shot in Technicolor and vivid and bold.  It was the only Technicolor camera in England at the time, and the movie moves from scene portrayed as a stage performance in a replica of the Globe and shifting to location shooting.  It gives a weird feel to the film that also gives it a unique style.

Henry V is a Shakespeare play, and it doesn’t do a lot to “modernize” it.  Olivier performs at his best and the film looks great.  It is the style and performance that makes the film worth seeking out especially considering you are getting to see one of the most world renown Shakespeare actors at his peak.  With nice, clean newly restored version of the film, it is as alive and vibrant as ever.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response