Laurence Olivier was an acclaimed British actor and director who was known for his versatility and range.
He had a prolific career spanning over six decades and won numerous awards and accolades, including multiple Academy Awards and a knighthood. Olivier’s performances on stage and screen are still remembered and revered today.
Some of Olivier’s best-known movies include “Wuthering Heights” (1939), “Rebecca” (1940), “Henry V” (1944), “Richard III” (1955), “The Entertainer” (1960), and “Sleuth” (1972).
Each of these films showcases Olivier’s immense talent and his ability to bring complex characters to life on the screen. Olivier’s performances were often praised for their intensity, depth, and emotional resonance.
In addition to his acting career, Olivier also directed several successful films, including “Henry V,” “Richard III,” and “Hamlet” (1948), which won multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Best Laurence Olivier Movies
Olivier’s contributions to the film industry have left a lasting impact and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest actors of all time.
1. Wuthering Heights (1939)
“Wuthering Heights” is a 1939 romantic drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. The film is based on Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel of the same name, which is considered a classic of English literature.
The story follows the passionate and tumultuous relationship between Heathcliff (played by Olivier), an orphan boy taken in by the Earnshaw family, and Cathy (played by Oberon), the daughter of the family.
Despite their deep love for each other, their relationship is plagued by jealousy, revenge, and social conventions, and their lives become entwined with those of the people around them.
The film is known for its striking cinematography, which captures the stark beauty of the Yorkshire moors where the story takes place. It also features a memorable score by composer Alfred Newman, which enhances the emotional impact of the story.
Laurence Olivier’s performance as Heathcliff is widely considered one of the highlights of the film, with his brooding intensity and emotional depth capturing the complex character of the tormented hero.
Merle Oberon’s performance as Cathy is also praised for her beauty and her ability to convey the character’s passionate nature.
Overall, “Wuthering Heights” is a classic romantic drama that remains a timeless and powerful exploration of love, passion, and social class.
Its unforgettable performances, beautiful cinematography, and haunting score make it a must-watch for fans of classic cinema and literature.
2. Rebecca (1940)
“Rebecca” is a 1940 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the lead roles.
The story follows a young woman who falls in love with a wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter (played by Olivier), and marries him.
She moves to his estate, Manderley, where she is haunted by the memory of his first wife, Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances.
As the young woman tries to navigate her new life and unravel the secrets of Manderley, she becomes increasingly obsessed with Rebecca and the hold she still seems to have over Maxim.
“Rebecca” is a masterful exercise in suspense and psychological tension, as Hitchcock expertly crafts a film that keeps the audience on edge throughout.
The film also features a standout performance from Fontaine as the young woman, who is at once vulnerable and determined in her quest to uncover the truth about Rebecca.
The lush cinematography and haunting score add to the overall atmosphere of the film, making it a classic of the thriller genre.
3. Pride and Prejudice (1940)
“Pride and Prejudice” is a classic romantic drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and released in 1940. The film is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel of the same name and stars Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy.
The movie follows the story of the Bennet family, who are looking to marry off their five daughters to suitable men of means.
When the wealthy and reserved Mr. Darcy arrives in the area, Elizabeth initially dislikes him, thinking he is arrogant and prideful. However, over time, the two begin to develop feelings for each other, despite the interference of other characters and misunderstandings between them.
The film was well received upon its release and is still considered a classic adaptation of Austen’s novel. Garson and Olivier deliver strong performances in their respective roles, and the film is notable for its lush period costumes and settings.
However, some critics and Austen fans have criticized the film for taking some liberties with the story and characters, as well as for the changes made to the ending.
4. Hamlet (1948)
“Hamlet” is a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s famous play of the same name, directed by Laurence Olivier and released in 1948.
Olivier also starred as the titular character, Hamlet, a young prince of Denmark who seeks to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle, who has taken the throne and married Hamlet’s mother.
The film follows Hamlet’s journey as he struggles with the weight of his responsibility to his father’s memory and the chaos that erupts around him.
Along the way, he falls in love with Ophelia, but his growing madness threatens to consume him and all those around him.
Olivier’s “Hamlet” is considered one of the greatest film adaptations of Shakespeare’s play, known for its stunning visuals, powerful performances, and innovative direction.
The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Olivier’s performance as Hamlet.
5. Carrie (1952)
“Carrie” is a horror novel by Stephen King, published in 1974. The story revolves around a high school student named Carrie White who possesses telekinetic powers. Carrie is a shy and introverted girl who is bullied by her classmates and abused by her religiously fanatic mother.
The novel is narrated through different perspectives, including newspaper articles, letters, and excerpts from books. The story climaxes when Carrie is humiliated at her high school prom, causing her to unleash her telekinetic powers in a violent rampage.
“Carrie” was Stephen King’s first published novel and was a commercial success. It has been adapted into several movies and TV shows, including a 1976 film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Sissy Spacek in the title role.
The novel has become a classic in the horror genre and is often regarded as one of King’s best works.
6. Richard III (1955)
“Richard III” is a 1955 film adaptation of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, directed and produced by Laurence Olivier. Olivier also stars in the title role as Richard III, the ruthless and power-hungry king of England who stops at nothing to secure his grip on the throne.
The movie is widely regarded as one of the greatest Shakespearean adaptations of all time, and Olivier’s performance as Richard III is considered to be one of his finest.
His portrayal of the cunning and manipulative king is both chilling and mesmerizing, and his delivery of the famous soliloquies is nothing short of brilliant.
The film also features an impressive supporting cast, including Claire Bloom as Lady Anne, John Gielgud as the Duke of Clarence, and Ralph Richardson as the Duke of Buckingham.
The production design and costumes are also noteworthy, with the film’s visuals creating a vivid and immersive world that perfectly captures the atmosphere of medieval England.
Overall, “Richard III” is a must-watch for fans of Shakespearean adaptations and anyone who appreciates great acting and filmmaking.
Olivier’s performance is simply outstanding, and the film as a whole is a
7. ITV Play of the Week (1955–1974)
ITV Play of the Week was a British television anthology series that aired from 1955 to 1974 on the ITV network.
The series featured a new play every week, ranging from dramas to comedies, and showcased the work of both established and emerging playwrights.
The series was produced by various production companies over the years, including Associated-Rediffusion, Granada Television, and Thames Television.
Many well-known actors appeared in the series, including Laurence Olivier, who starred in several productions, including “The Moon and Sixpence” (1959) and “Othello” (1965). Other notable actors who appeared in the series include John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Joan Plowright, and Judi Dench.
The series was an important platform for British theatre and provided a showcase for new and established talent. Some of the most memorable productions included “A View from the Bridge” (1966), “The Caretaker” (1960), and “The Birthday Party” (1960).
The series also adapted classic works of literature, such as “Great Expectations” (1959) and “Pride and Prejudice” (1958).
ITV Play of the Week was a significant contributor to the cultural landscape of British television and helped to establish the medium as a legitimate art form.
The series was a showcase for some of the best writing, acting, and directing talent in the country and provided audiences with thought-provoking and entertaining drama for almost two decades.
8. The Devil’s Disciple (1959)
“The Devil’s Disciple” is a 1959 film directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Laurence Olivier.
The film is based on a play by George Bernard Shaw, which is set during the American Revolutionary War and explores themes of patriotism, morality, and personal identity.
The story follows the adventures of Dick Dudgeon (played by Kirk Douglas), a reckless and rebellious young man who becomes embroiled in the revolutionary cause despite his cynicism and lack of faith in the movement.
He crosses paths with Reverend Anthony Anderson (played by Burt Lancaster), a local pastor who is accused of being a revolutionary leader and faces execution at the hands of British forces.
As the two men clash over their different beliefs and values, they both discover unexpected depths of character and find themselves drawn to the same woman, Judith Anderson (played by Janette Scott).
Laurence Olivier delivers a memorable performance as General Burgoyne, the British commander who is determined to crush the revolutionary forces and bring the rebellious colonists to heel. His commanding presence and dry wit add depth and complexity to the film’s portrayal of the British side of the conflict.
Overall, “The Devil’s Disciple” is an engaging and thought-provoking drama that offers a fresh perspective on the American Revolution. Its strong performances, witty dialogue, and lush period detail make it a must-watch for fans of historical drama and classic cinema.
9. The Entertainer (1960)
“The Entertainer” is a 1960 British drama film directed by Tony Richardson and starring Laurence Olivier in the lead role. The film is based on the play of the same name by John Osborne.
Olivier plays Archie Rice, a failing music hall performer who is struggling to keep his career and his personal life afloat in the face of changing times and a changing society.
As the film unfolds, we see the toll that Archie’s lifestyle takes on his relationships with his family and the people around him, and we witness his descent into despair and disillusionment.
“The Entertainer” is a powerful and poignant examination of the decline of a once-great performer, and the film is anchored by Olivier’s magnetic and nuanced performance as Archie Rice.
The film is also notable for its incisive commentary on post-war Britain and the ways in which societal changes were affecting the country and its people.
Overall, “The Entertainer” is a timeless classic of British cinema, and a must-watch for fans of Olivier and British drama.
10. The Moon and Sixpence (1959 TV Movie)
“The Moon and Sixpence” is a 1959 made-for-television movie adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same name.
The movie was directed by Ralph Nelson and starred Laurence Olivier as Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker who abandons his wife and children to pursue his passion for painting in Paris.
The film follows Strickland’s journey as he struggles to become a successful artist, despite his lack of training and experience.
He meets several other artists, including Dirk Stroeve (played by Noel Purcell) and Blanche Stroeve (played by Glynis Johns), with whom he forms complicated relationships.
Laurence Olivier delivers a powerful performance as the enigmatic Strickland, whose single-minded pursuit of his artistic vision leads him down a path of self-destruction.
The movie’s themes of obsession, passion, and the cost of artistic genius are explored with nuance and depth, making it a compelling adaptation of Maugham’s novel.
While the film is not as well-known as some of Olivier’s other works, it remains a notable entry in his filmography and is worth watching for fans of the actor and the source material.
11. Term of Trial (1962)
“Term of Trial” is a British drama film directed by Peter Glenville and released in 1962. The film stars Laurence Olivier as Graham Weir, a disillusioned and alcoholic schoolteacher who has lost his passion for teaching and struggles to connect with his students.
The story is set in the 1950s and is based on a novel by James Barlow. The film explores issues of class, morality, and social injustice, as Weir becomes involved with one of his troubled students, Shirley Taylor, played by Sarah Miles.
Weir’s relationship with Shirley raises questions about his motives and leads to accusations of impropriety from the school authorities.
“Term of Trial” is notable for its strong performances, particularly from Olivier and Miles, as well as its portrayal of a complex and morally ambiguous protagonist.
The film also features a notable supporting cast, including Simone Signoret, Hugh Griffith, and Roland Culver. The film received critical acclaim upon its release and was nominated for several awards, including a BAFTA for Best British Film.
12. Uncle Vanya (1963)
“Uncle Vanya” is a play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, first published in 1897. The play revolves around the relationships and tensions between a group of characters living in a country estate in Russia.
The titular character, Uncle Vanya, is a middle-aged man who has spent his life managing the estate for his brother-in-law, Professor Serebryakov.
As the play progresses, the characters’ frustrations and unfulfilled desires are brought to the surface, leading to conflicts and confrontations. The play touches on themes such as unrequited love, existential ennui, and the search for meaning in life.
The play has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, and television, and has been widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern theater.
The 1963 production of “Uncle Vanya” was directed by Laurence Olivier and starred Michael Redgrave in the title role. The production was highly acclaimed and helped to revive interest in Chekhov’s works in the English-speaking world.
13. Othello (1965)
“Othello” is a 1965 film adaptation of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, directed and produced by Stuart Burge.
The movie stars Laurence Olivier as the villainous Iago, who manipulates the titular character, Othello, played by Maggie Smith, into believing that his wife Desdemona has been unfaithful.
The film is renowned for Olivier’s performance as Iago, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest Shakespearean performances of all time.
Olivier’s portrayal of the conniving and scheming Iago is chilling, and he brings a depth and complexity to the character that is both mesmerizing and terrifying to watch.
Maggie Smith also delivers a strong performance as Desdemona, Othello’s loyal and virtuous wife who is tragically caught up in Iago’s plot. The chemistry between Olivier and Smith is palpable, and their scenes together are among the film’s most powerful and memorable moments.
The film’s production design and costumes are also noteworthy, with the film’s visuals creating a vivid and immersive world that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the play.
The cinematography is particularly striking, with the use of lighting and shadow adding an extra layer of tension and drama to the film.
Overall, “Othello” is a must-watch for fans of Shakespearean adaptations and anyone who appreciates great acting and filmmaking.
Olivier’s performance alone is worth the price of admission, and the film as a whole is a powerful and emotional exploration of jealousy, betrayal, and tragedy.
14. The Dance of Death (1969)
“The Dance of Death” is a film adaptation of the play by August Strindberg, directed by David Giles and released in 1969.
The film starred Laurence Olivier and Geraldine McEwan in the lead roles of Edgar and Alice, a married couple living in a dilapidated castle on an island. The film also starred Robert Lang as Kurt, an old friend and military colleague of Edgar’s.
The story revolves around the toxic and dysfunctional relationship between Edgar and Alice. The couple constantly bickers, taunts, and manipulates each other, with neither willing to back down or let go of the other.
The arrival of Kurt only serves to exacerbate the tension between them, leading to a violent and tragic conclusion.
Olivier’s performance as Edgar was praised for its intensity and complexity, with critics noting the character’s mix of charm and cruelty. McEwan’s portrayal of Alice was also highly praised, with her performance being described as both sympathetic and chilling.
The film’s bleak and oppressive atmosphere, combined with the strong performances of its lead actors, made it a powerful and memorable adaptation of Strindberg’s play.
However, its intense and claustrophobic nature also meant that it was not a commercial success, and it remains a relatively obscure film today.
15. Sleuth (1972)
“Sleuth” is a 1972 film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. It is based on a play by Anthony Shaffer and is considered a classic of the thriller genre.
The film tells the story of a wealthy and successful mystery writer named Andrew Wyke (played by Olivier) who invites his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle (played by Caine), to his mansion in order to propose a unique and dangerous game.
Wyke proposes that Tindle steal some jewels from his own home, which will allow Wyke to claim the insurance money and provide a clean break for Tindle and his wife.
The two men engage in a battle of wits and manipulation, as they each try to outsmart the other in a series of increasingly complex mind games.
The film is notable for its tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as the intense performances of Olivier and Caine.
It also features a clever and unpredictable plot that keeps viewers guessing until the very end. “Sleuth” is considered a classic of the thriller genre and has been adapted for the stage and screen multiple times over the years.
3 Reasons To Watch Laurence Olivier Movies
Masterful Acting: Laurence Olivier is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, and his performances on stage and screen are a testament to his talent.
He was known for his ability to inhabit a wide range of characters, from Shakespearean heroes to complex anti-heroes, and he brought a depth and nuance to his roles that is still celebrated today.
Whether you’re watching him in a classic film like “Rebecca” or “Hamlet,” or a lesser-known gem like “The Entertainer,” you can be sure that you’re in for a
Cinematic Legacy: Olivier’s impact on the world of cinema extends far beyond his performances. He was a trailblazer in the field of film directing, and his work behind the camera on films like “Henry V” and “Richard III” helped to usher in a new era of Shakespeare adaptations on screen.
He was also a founding member of the National Theatre in London, and his commitment to bringing classical theatre to a wider audience helped to shape the cultural landscape of his time.
Timeless Classics: Olivier’s films have stood the test of time and remain beloved by audiences around the world.
From his early performances in films like “Wuthering Heights” and “Rebecca,” to his later work in films like “Sleuth” and “The Boys from Brazil,” there is no shortage of classic Olivier films to discover and enjoy.
His legacy continues to inspire generations of actors and filmmakers, and his films remain a testament to his enduring talent and influence.
Best Laurence Olivier Movies – Wrap Up
Laurence Olivier is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema. He appeared in over 60 films throughout his career, earning numerous awards and accolades for his performances.
His versatility and range as an actor allowed him to excel in a wide variety of roles, from Shakespearean adaptations to epic historical dramas and contemporary thrillers.
Whether you’re a fan of classic Hollywood films or simply appreciate great acting, these Laurence Olivier movies are sure to impress.