10 Best William Shakespeare Film Adaptations

8. The Hollow Crown: Richard II (Rupert Goold, 2012)

The Hollow Crown Richard II Ben Whishaw

The only TV entry on our list is also the most recent, from the BBC's highly acclaimed adaptations of Shakespeare's second tetralogy. The other instalments had their merits too, with Jeremy Irons excelling in the lead role of Henry IV Parts I & II, and Tom 'Loki' Hiddlestone acquitting himself reasonably well in Henry V. But the jewel in The Hollow Crown series is Richard II, featuring Ben Whishaw in one of his finest performances.

Richard II concerns the last two years of the titular monarch's rule. Faced with a dispute between his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and noble Thomas Mowbray, Richard banishes the former for six years and the latter for life. After Bolingbroke's father dies, Richard seizes all his lands and imposes heavy taxes to fund a war in Ireland. Bolingbroke, banished to France, assembles an army and invades England to claim back first his money and then the crown. Richard complies and is imprisoned in Pomfret Castle, where he is murdered shortly after Bolingbroke becomes Henry IV.

Richard II is a compelling tragedy in its own right, in which a powerful leader falls due to a fatal character flaw (in Richard's case vanity) and is supplanted by those closest to him. But it is also an interesting look at the divine nature of kings, and how the physical body of the king relates to the body of England. This theme is drawn out in Rupert Goold's direction, where Whishaw is dressed and shot as a Christ figure, ethereal against Rory Kinnear's scheming and jaded Bolingbroke. It's a brilliant performance which cements the former's status as one of the best actors of his generation.


Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast (http://www.lionheartradio.com/ and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter (http://www.phonic.fm/). Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.