Henry V: Kenneth Branagh’s Audacious Debut

Kenneth Branagh makes a stunning feature directorial debut with this adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Different in style than Olivier’s famous 1946 version (also Oscar nominated), Branagh takes a bolder, more visual and visceral, in short, less conventional and respectful strategy to the text.

After the Chorus (Derek Jacobi) introduces the play, the young king of England Henry V (Kenneth Branagh) begins an angry dialogue with King Charles of France (Paul Scofield). The king’s son, Dauphin (Michael Maloney), insults Henry and the argument leads to war.

In flashback, Henry is seen as a young man drinking in a tavern with Falstaff (Robbie Coltrane), Bardolph (Richard Briers), Nym (Geoffrey Hutchings), Pistol (Robert Stephens), and Mistress Quickly (Judi Dench).

Henry and his captain Fluellen (Ian Holm) assemble an army and invade France. The French outnumber the British troops, yet Henry leads them to victory in the Battle of Agincourt after delivering the celebrated St. Crispin’s Day Speech.

Throughout this struggle, Henry also courts and wins Katherine (played by Emma Thompson, Branagh’s real wife at the time).


Oscar Nominations: 3

Actor: Kenneth Branagh

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton


Oscar Awards: 1

Costume Design

Oscar Context

The winner of the Best Actor Oscar was another Brit, Daniel Day-Lewis for “My Left Foote.”

Oliver Stone won the Best Director Oscar for “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Running time: 138 minutes.