Henry VNovember 8, 1989
The gritty adaption of William Shakespeare's play about the English King's bloody conquest of France.
Release Year: 1989
Rating: 7.8/10 (16,149 voted)
Critic's Score: 83/100
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd
King Henry V of England is insulted by the King of France. As a result, he leads his army into battle against France. Along the way, the young king must struggle with the sinking morale of his troops and his own inner doubts. The war culminates at the bloody Battle of Agincourt.
Writers: William Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh
King Henry V
Duke Humphrey of Gloucester
Duke John of Bedford
Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter
Duke Edward of York
Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop of Ely
Earl Richard of Cambridge
Lord Henry Scroop
Sir Thomas Grey
Sir Thomas Erpingham
(as Daniel Webb)
The great adventure of a king who defied the odds to prove himself a man.
Release Date: 8 November 1989
Filming Locations: Crowlink, East Sussex, England, UK
Box Office Details
Did You Know?
For the French version of the film Gérard Depardieu dubbed Kenneth Branagh.
French soldier wearing blue dies twice of an arrow in the back.
O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention; A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-like Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire crouch for employment.
This film is a chef d'oeuvre, masterpiece, magnum opus, perfection. The
battle scenes are exquisite, the soundtrack is spectacular. Mud &
blood, sweat & tears, man & horse, all become one powerful force on the
field of Agincourt.
Branagh, and the people he surrounds himself with, breathe life into
When you watch Branagh, as Henry, deliver the Feast Of St. Crispian's
Day speech to his weary band of brothers, you will be swept up in his
passion, and find yourself cheering "let us fight" at your TV screen.
Branagh speaks the language of Shakespeare fluidly, naturally. It is
the greatest language he knows, and upon entering his world, you too
will know the glory of Shakespeare.
Non nobis domine, domine Non nobis domine Sed nomini, sed nomini Tu
"O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of
invention! A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to
behold the swelling scene!"
"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of
the world, But we in it shall be remember'd; We few, we happy few, we
band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be
I love Branagh's Henry V because he incorporated all of Henry V's
traits – the roguishly witty Prince Hal, the warmonger, the
imperialist, the opportunist, the master rhetorician, the man with a
miraculous ability to reason in divinity and to debate in commonwealth
affairs and to exhibit military prowess, his piety, his administrative
sagacity, political cunning, arrogance, his cruelty, his affability,
all in all Branagh masterfully wears all the masks of Prince Hal/Henry
V that Shakespeare created.
I love Branagh's version because he recreated as much as he could of
the play and transformed it into an artistic cinematic presentation
(the set designs and that battle sequence at Agincourt and the rich
deep hues of burgundy and brown and sumptuous plums) instead of a
staged presentation, because he remained true to Shakespeare's
ambivalence towards Henry by allowing viewers to be critical of Henry's
choices, he preserved most of the dialogue and presented the scenes in
order, because of Branagh's unparalleled recitation of Shakespearean
dialogue, and because of Patrick Doyle's rapturous, Proustian music
which transports listeners to a paradoxical state of paradisial elysium
and infernal, torturous pain, evoking times and places and battles and
lives long forgotten, a remembrance of things past, a memories forever
faded into royal genealogical charts and myths and legends.
The play is theatrically limited because the events in the play cannot
be adequately represented on stage, which is one reason why Henry V is
ironically one of the most theatrically expressive plays to perform –
the production crew is forced to transcend theatrical convention in
order to faithfully represent the play.
Theatre depends on synecdoche, meaning that what is presented on stage
only represents part of the whole, and this is because of theatrical
restrictions. What we watch is a shadow or illusion of the whole.
In Henry V, Shakespeare expected the audience to actively participate
in the re-enactment of the events being staged.
Shakespeare addresses this throughout the Prologue and Chorus of the
play, by constantly apologizing about the inadequate, confining medium
being used to portray the spectacle before us.
Henry V is the crowning achievement of his Henriad (which spans from
Richard II to Richard III) and of the English history play in general,
and it is grandiosely resplendent with thousands of men and horses,
full-rigged ships, the English fleet leaving Southampton and traversing
the English Channel, and the brutal sacking of an entire town whose
sacking is explicitly described in the dialogue – the firing of
cannons, scaling ladders, town walls that must be physically breached
on stage, characters that appear on the walls looking down at the
siege, the town reduced to rubble, and the King boaring through the
town with a massive army to make an extravagantly celebratory and
unchallenged exit through the gates (is there any room on state for a
set of gates?) of Harfleur.
Thank you Branagh for enriching our imaginations.