Othello (1995 film)

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Theatrical Release Poster
Directed byOliver Parker
Screenplay byOliver Parker
Based onOthello
by William Shakespeare
Produced byLuc Roeg
David Barron
CinematographyDavid Johnson
Edited byTony Lawson
Music byCharlie Mole
Distributed bySony 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.


Othello, a Moor who has married a young Venetian gentlewoman, 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 has 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, suspicious that Othello has slept with his own wife, Emilia, plans to ruin both, first by getting Cassio fired and replacing him, and then by manipulating Othello into believing that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. He arouses Othello's suspicion and jealousy gradually and then plants Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's room. When Othello finds out about the handkerchief, he is convinced of Desdemona's infidelity and, in a rage, decides to kill her and have Cassio assassinated by Iago.

Othello smothers Desdemona, who dies just as Emilia enters the bedroom, but Cassio is only wounded by Iago's stooge, Roderigo. When Iago is confronted, Emilia 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 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]


  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.

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