Henry V (1989)
May 24, 2024 3:58 PM - Subscribe

A 1989 British historical drama film written and directed by Kenneth Branagh in his feature directorial debut, based on William Shakespeare's history play of the same name. It stars Branagh in the title role of King Henry V of England, with Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Ian Holm, Brian Blessed, Emma Thompson, Alec McCowen, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, and Christian Bale in supporting roles. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, but only won for Costume.

Gritty adaption of William Shakespeare’s play about the English King’s bloody conquest of France. May pick for Shakespeare Movie Club.

One of the few plays with a Chorus, played by Derek Jacobi. Others are Romeo and Juliet and Henry VIII but Henry V is unique in the number of lines.

Just Watch page.

Letterboxd for those who do.

Plot, in case you want a reminder.

Ebert's opinion, contemporaneous to the movie.
posted by fiercekitten (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I saw this when it came out and man, did it make us drama nerds EXCITED. Cool Shakespeare movies are possible! With costumes and filming on location! Drama would be cool again!

Admittedly, not my fave historical which is Henry IV Pt 1 & 2, but maybe my favorite historical film adaptation? This and Richard III the February Movie Club pick are pretty close in my estimation for different reasons.

Another young heartthrob casting with 14 year old Christian Bale as Boy/Robin, but unlike Keanu from Much Ado I don't think he was really a thing yet. That wouldn't be until 1992's "Newsies" which the kids at the time all recognized that he was the only good thing in the film.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:11 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]

I love many things about this movie but my very favorite thing is BRIAN BLESSED in full plate armor delivering the Bloody Constraint speech to the French court. Utter perfection.
posted by merriment at 4:58 PM on May 24 [15 favorites]

I remember seeing this when it came out (and maybe once since then?) and all the hype surrounding it and Branagh. It was a true spectacle, but, agreeing w/ Ebert on this, not b/c of Branagh's direction, which was great in parts and plodding and incomprehensible in others. I think its success (and it is a success) is due largely to the fact of its absolutely MONSTER cast! The truly impressive thing Branagh did with this movie is stack it with acting titans, and then he put himself up there with them and really held his own.
posted by Pedantzilla at 10:50 PM on May 24

Also the long tracking shot of the battered English troops slogging through the horrible mucky carnage of the battlefield, with all kinds of tragic vignettes happening around them while Non Nobis Domine starts diagetically and then continues to play triumphantly and at increasing volume over top, is pretty indelible.
posted by merriment at 6:26 AM on May 25 [5 favorites]

merriment cites my two favorite parts of the film. Patrick Doyle's "Non nobis, Domine" was the perfect way to end the Agincourt scene, and has been performed many times in public beyond the film. And the great thing about casting BRIAN BLESSED as Exeter is that, for once, he dials it back considerably... but you can feel that power being held in check. When the Dauphin tries to get in his face, BLESSED just looks at him like, boy, I take shits that are bigger and meaner than you, every morning.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:55 AM on May 25 [7 favorites]

as a Medieval nerd, I have always thought this movie delivered one of the most accurate depiction of what a Medieval battle field was probably like. chaos and mud. it's a great movie (also I think one of Willy's best historical plays.)
posted by supermedusa at 10:21 AM on May 25

i saw this as a kid and oh , it is uneven in parts but I don’t care, the language sings - the French princess! Falstaff who I finally understood the sadness, the grimness of the battle - splendid. I am also terribly fond of it because I was so clueless as a teenager that when it was my turn to pick the weekend video rental at boarding school, I enthusiastically picked my favourite film Henry V and so was thus banned from ever going to the video store again. They were very kind about it and left me to finish it while they watched tv reruns in another room.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:21 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]

Another young heartthrob casting with 14 year old Christian Bale as Boy/Robin, but unlike Keanu from Much Ado I don't think he was really a thing yet.

He was the star of Empire of the Sun two years earlier! Very much a thing!
posted by rory at 4:46 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I played the soundtrack to this with my high school band and it was a whole lot of fun.
posted by Quonab at 7:46 AM on May 26

The very first CD I ever bought was the soundtrack to this. Love it unreservedly.
posted by suelac at 8:00 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]

Love this movie as an adaptation and a feeling of what Shakespeare can feel like when done rousingly. (as opposed to read blankly by teenagers in a classroom)

Also, love that scene with Brian Blessed for that it's his plate armor and that he feels like menacing cannonball in that room.

But really that opening with Derek Jacobi as the chorus, the blood doth pump.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:25 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]

Shout-out to Geraldine McEwan, who utterly understood the assignment. Her face when she says "le... coun"!
posted by humbug at 2:09 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Chorus as war correspondent was brilliant.
posted by praemunire at 6:53 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]

Agreed! I was trying to think of what it was that made it so notable and it's the "war correspondent" sensibility.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:51 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]

The Chorus may be my very favorite part of this movie, though I love the whole immoderately. The precision and power and clarity, the way Jacobi punches the words out.
posted by tavella at 11:12 AM on May 31

Yeah, this movie looked great. I saw it as a literature-loving college freshman and thought it was made specifically for me: everyone is good-looking, they act like crazy, the music is good, and the costumes were very cool. As a result, I am mildly afraid to re-watch it. :7)

The folks at The Incomparable podcast discussed it a few years ago, and it came up again recently when they discussed the movie "Dead Again" (which features several of the same actors).
posted by wenestvedt at 11:58 AM on June 3

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