Othello (1995 film)

Last updated
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Oliver Parker
Screenplay byOliver Parker
Based on Othello
by William Shakespeare
Produced byLuc Roeg
David Barron
CinematographyDavid Johnson
Edited by Tony Lawson
Music by Charlie Mole
Columbia Pictures
Castle Rock Entertainment
Dakota Films
Imminent Films
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing (United States)
Rank-Castle Rock/Turner (United Kingdom) [1]
Release date
  • December 15, 1995 (1995-12-15)
Running time
123 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$11 million
Box office$2.8 million (United States)

Othello is a 1995 drama film based on William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name. It was directed by Oliver Parker and stars Laurence Fishburne as Othello, Irène Jacob as Desdemona, and Kenneth Branagh as Iago. This is the first cinematic reproduction of the play released by a major studio that casts an African American actor to play the role of Othello, although low-budget independent films of the play starring Ted Lange [2] and Yaphet Kotto [3] predated it.



This film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello . Othello, a Moor who has secretly married his native Venetian lover Desdemona, is assigned to fight against a Turkish invasion attempt on the island of Cyprus. During the battle, he was accompanied by his faithful lieutenant, Cassio. When Othello finally arrives at Cyprus, however, the Turkish invasion fleet has been wrecked by a storm, and, reunited with Desdemona, who had volunteered herself to go with him, leads his men and the people of Cyprus in a celebration.

Iago, Othello's trusted companion and ensign, envies Othello's prosperous life and Cassio's lieutenancy and, convinced that both of them had slept with his own wife, Emilia, plans to ruin both by manipulating Othello into believing that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio and is pregnant with Cassio's child. He arouses Othello's suspicion and jealousy gradually and then plants Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's clothing for Othello to find. When he does, he is convinced of Desdemona's infidelity and, in a rage, decides to kill both her and Cassio.

Othello smothers Desdemona, who dies just as Emilia enters the bedroom. Emilia then tells Othello the truth behind Iago's lies and he realizes what he has done. The authorities and Othello turn on Iago, and, after a running fight, capture and beat him. In despair, Othello stabs and wounds Iago. Othello then kills himself, and Iago is taken away to be tortured and executed.



The film received largely positive reviews, especially for Branagh's Iago. Branagh was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance. [4] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Branagh's superb performance, as the man whose Machiavellian scheming guides the story of Othello's downfall, guarantees this film an immediacy that any audience will understand. ... Mr. Fishburne's performance has a dangerous edge that ultimately works to its advantage, and he smolders movingly through the most anguished parts of the role. ... Anna Patrick is particularly transfixing in the role of Emilia, Iago's wife and Desdemona's servant, who scathingly articulates some of the play's feminist undercurrents." [5]

As of May 2022, the film holds a rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews with the consensus: "Perhaps less than the sum of its parts, Othello is still highly entertaining and features excellent performances from Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh." [6]

Related Research Articles

<i>Othello</i> 1603 play by William Shakespeare

Othello is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, probably in 1603, set in the contemporary Ottoman–Venetian War (1570–1573) fought for the control of the Island of Cyprus, a possession of the Venetian Republic since 1489. The port city of Famagusta finally fell to the Ottomans in 1571 after a protracted siege. The story revolves around two characters, Othello and Iago. Othello is a Moorish military commander who was serving as a general of the Venetian army in defence of Cyprus against invasion by Ottoman Turks. He has recently married Desdemona, a beautiful and wealthy Venetian lady much younger than himself, against the wishes of her father. Due to its enduring themes of passion, jealousy, and race, Othello is still topical and popular and is widely performed, with numerous adaptations.

<i>Otello</i> Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iago</span> Fictional character in Shakespeares Othello

Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello. Iago is the play's main antagonist, and Othello's standard-bearer. He is the husband of Emilia, who is in turn the attendant of Othello's wife Desdemona. Iago hates Othello and devises a plan to destroy him by making him believe that Desdemona is having an affair with his lieutenant, Michael Cassio.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Desdemona</span> Character in Othello

Desdemona is a character in William Shakespeare's play Othello. Shakespeare's Desdemona is a Venetian beauty who enrages and disappoints her father, a Venetian senator, when she elopes with Othello, a Moorish Venetian military prodigy. When her husband is deployed to Cyprus in the service of the Republic of Venice, Desdemona accompanies him. There, her husband is manipulated by his ensign Iago into believing she is an adulteress, and, in the last act, she is murdered by her estranged spouse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brabantio</span> Character in Shakespeares Othello

Brabantio is a character in William Shakespeare's Othello. He is a Venetian senator and the father of Desdemona. He has entertained Othello in his home countless times before the play opens, thus giving Othello and Desdemona opportunity to fall in love. He is furious upon learning they have eloped, and Desdemona's decision is reported to be the cause of his death in the last act. The character has no counterpart in Shakespeare's source material for the play and is apparently the Bard's complete invention. He appears in the first act only and is mentioned in the fifth.

<i>Othello</i> (1965 British film) 1965 film by Stuart Burge

Othello is a 1965 film based on the National Theatre Company's staging of Shakespeare's Othello (1964-1966) staged by John Dexter. Directed by Stuart Burge, the film stars Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Joyce Redman, and Frank Finlay, who all received Oscar nominations, and provided film debuts for both Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon.

<i>Looking for Richard</i> 1996 film

Looking for Richard is a 1996 American documentary film directed by Al Pacino, in his directorial debut. It is a hybrid film, including both a filmed performance of selected scenes of William Shakespeare's Richard III and a documentary element which explores a broader examination of Shakespeare's continuing role and relevance in popular culture. The film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1996 and it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. Al Pacino won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Documentaries.

Emilia (<i>Othello</i>) Character in Othello

Emilia is a character in the tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare. The character's origin is traced to the 1565 tale, "Un capitano Moro" from Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's Gli Hecatommithi. There, the character is described as young and virtuous, is referred to simply as the ensign's wife, and becomes Desdemona's companion in Cyprus. In Shakespeare, she is named Emilia, is the wife of Othello's ensign, Iago, and is an attendant to Othello's wife, Desdemona. While considered a minor character in the drama, she has been portrayed by several notable actresses on film, with Joyce Redman receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Cassio</span> Character in Othello

Michael Cassio, or simply Cassio, is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's Othello. The source of the character is the 1565 tale "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio; Cassio is unnamed in Cinthio but referred to as "the squadron leader". In the play, Cassio is a young and handsome lieutenant under Othello's command who becomes one of Iago's several victims in a plot to ruin Othello.

Bianca (<i>Othello</i>) Fictional character

Bianca is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's Othello (c. 1601–1604). She is Cassio's jealous lover. Despite her brief appearance on stage, Bianca plays a significant role in the progress of Iago's scheme to make Othello believe that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio. Bianca is traditionally regarded as a courtesan, although this occupation is not specifically designated in the drama. The character was occasionally cut from performances in the 19th century on moral grounds. Bianca is not to be confused with Bianca Minola in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Othello (character)</span> Character in "Othello"

Othello is a character in Shakespeare's Othello. The character's origin is traced to the tale "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio. There, he is simply referred to as the Moor.

<i>Otello</i> (1986 film) 1986 film

Otello is a 1986 film based on the Giuseppe Verdi opera of the same name, which was itself based on the Shakespearean play Othello. The film was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starred Plácido Domingo in the title role, Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona and Justino Díaz as Iago. For the film's soundtrack, Lorin Maazel conducted the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala. The film premiered in West Germany on 28 August 1986 and received a U.S. theatrical release on 12 September 1986. It was nominated for a Bafta Award and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roderigo</span> Character in Othello

Roderigo is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello (c.1601-1604), where he serves as the secondary antagonist of the play. He is a dissolute Venetian lusting after Othello's wife Desdemona. Roderigo has opened his purse to Iago in the mistaken belief that Iago is using his money to pave the way to Desdemona's bed. When the assassination of Michael Cassio runs amiss, Iago fatally wounds Roderigo.

<i>Catch My Soul</i> 1974 film by Patrick McGoohan

Catch My Soul is a 1974 film produced by Jack Good and Richard M. Rosenbloom, and directed by Patrick McGoohan. It was an adaptation of Good's stage musical of the same title, which itself was loosely adapted from William Shakespeare's Othello. It was not a critical success.

<i>Othello</i> (1955 film) 1955 film

Othello is a 1955 Soviet drama film directed by Sergei Yutkevich, based on the play Othello by William Shakespeare. It was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, where Yutkevich received the Best Director Award.

Othello is a 1990 film produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring Ian McKellen, Willard White, Imogen Stubbs, and Zoë Wanamaker. It is based on a stage production of William Shakespeare's play Othello, directed by Trevor Nunn, and later rethought for TV and filmed in a studio. It was shot in a black box theater, so minimal props or scenery were needed, and aired 23 June 1990 on Theatre Night.

<i>Kaliyattam</i> 1997 Indian film

Kaliyattam is a 1997 Indian Malayalam-language tragedy film directed by Jayaraaj. It stars Suresh Gopi, Lal, Manju Warrier, and Biju Menon. The film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Othello, set against the backdrop of the Theyyam performance of Kerala. The film's screenplay is written by Balram Mattannur. Suresh Gopi plays Kannan Perumalayan, the equivalent to Othello. Lal plays Paniyan, the equivalent to Iago. Manju Warrier plays Thamara, the Desdemona version. And Biju Menon plays Kanthan, Cassio's role. Suresh Gopi's role as Kannan Perumalayan was critically acclaimed and it was considered one of his finest acting performances in his career.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cultural references to Othello</span>

In addition to its appearance in the theatre, the character of Othello from the tragic play by William Shakespeare has appeared in many examples in art and culture since being authored by Shakespeare in the early 16th century.

Othello is Liz White's 1980 dramatic adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello. An all black cast and crew, including actor Yaphet Kotto, created the film.

"Othello" is a 1964 Australian television play based on the play by William Shakespeare. It was broadcast on the ABC as part of Wednesday Theatre and filmed in the ABC's Melbourne studios.


  1. "Othello (1995)". BBFC . Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  2. "Othello". 1 May 1989 via www.imdb.com.
  3. "Othello" via www.imdb.com.
  4. "Nominees and Recipients". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved 22 August 2021. Search text: "Branagh".
  5. Maslin, Janet (14 December 1995). "FILM REVIEW;Fishburne and Branagh Meet Their Fate in Venice". The New York Times.
  6. "Othello". Rotten Tomatoes .