• 40 Hamlets, Ranked

    "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

    30. Pamela in Strange Brew (1983)
    Did you know that Strange Brew is (oh so loosely) an adaptation of Hamlet? Think back to your youth: Bob and Doug are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (but also kind of Ophelia), but Pam Elsinore is definitely Hamlet—after all, the day after her father died, his brother Claude married her mother and took over the entire brewery! But now that Pam is 21, she’s taking over. Or trying to.


    29. Phillip as Hamlet in South Park (2001)
    “Oh, I could tell you, buddy, but let it be. Horatio, I am dead. Thou liv’st, guy. Report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied.” It all makes me pine to see the version starring Keanu Reeves in 1995 in Winnipeg (please help me find this online, hive mind). Though it should be said that of course the fellows are not entertained. “Jesus Tapdancing Christ, is this thing ever gonna end?” One day . . .


    28. Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, in Hamlet (1900)
    The fact that Bernhardt was the first female Hamlet ever captured on film, and that she cast herself as the lead in her own production, at the theater she named for herself, gives her points. But all I have to watch is this fencing scene, so I’m afraid I can’t rank her any higher than this.


    27. Bob Denver as Gilligan as Hamlet, in Gilligan’s Island (1966)
    musical Hamlet, to boot. Gilligan always charms. (I’d steal it too.)


    26. Adamo Ruggiero as Marco as Hamlet, in Degrassi: The Next Generation (2005)
    Not too much to go on, Hamlet-wise, but extra points for interrupting Act V to tell your day you’re gay!! DRAMA. In other news, I cannot explain the full-body nostalgia that coursed through me when I rewatched this episode—particularly that intro. Whew. Highly recommend.


    25. Derek Jacobi as Jackson Hedley as Hamlet, in Frasier (2001)
    Jacobi, himself an excellent Hamlet in his day (if not quite my favorite), mocks himself ably in this episode of Frasier—the gasping is an excellent dramatic choice. Jacobi even won an Emmy for this epic butchering of the role.


    24. Kevin Kline as Hamlet in Hamlet (1990)
    He makes a much better Falstaff.


    23. Iain Glen as Hamlet in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
    I do love a comic Hamlet, talking to a chicken.


    22. Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams as Hamlet in The Addams Family (1991)
    But a comic bloody Hamlet is even better.


    21. Richard Grant as Withnail, in Withnail and I (1987)
    Withnail channels Hamlet in the final scene of this glorious classic of British cinema, giving us a final murky look into his distressed psyche and proving that he is, in fact, a very good actor, even if (or perhaps because) only the wolves are there to appreciate it. Never play the Dane, indeed.

    Emily Temple
    Emily Temple
    Emily Temple is the managing editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in June 2020. You can buy it here.

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