Watch Twelfth Night (1996) | Prime Video

Twelfth Night (1996)

 (1,062)7.22 h 13 min1996PG
Twelfth Night” – one of William Shakespeare’s most wild and raucous romantic comedies – begins when Viola and Sebastian, nearly identical-looking siblings, survive a disaster at sea.
Trevor Nunn
Helena Bonham CarterImogen StubbsNigel Hawthorne
English [CC]
Audio languages
Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started.
Add to Watchlist
Add to
By ordering or viewing, you agree to our Terms. Sold by Services LLC.
Write review

More details

Supporting actors
Imelda StauntonSir Ben Kingsley
Stephen EvansDavid Parfitt
Warner Bros.
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Purchase rights
Stream instantly Details
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Available to watch on supported devices

Other formats


4.6 out of 5 stars

1062 global ratings

  1. 79% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 8% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
Write a customer review
Sorted by:

Top reviews from the United States

Mis0Reviewed in the United States on January 17, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
My favorite movie of all time!
Verified purchase
I LOVE this movie! I'm a big Shakespeare fan, and 12th Night is my all time favorite Shakespeare comedy. The way that this movie was done, is not only a credit to the original piece, but they even improved on it! I'm very much a stickler for ORIGINAL TEXT. I hate it when the original text of the play is edited or modernized. I really dislike (but understand) when they edit out parts of the play. From my memory, I would say that there is a very minimum of editing out in this version... and the additions they made, which normally I would object to, really did add to the play. They also re-arranged a few scenes, keeping the text, and that ALSO worked to the advantage of the play.

Now, even though 12th Night is my favorite... I am fully aware of how unbelievable the ending can be most of the time it's done. It's just not believable. This film makes it 100% believable. It's 100% acceptable for the ending to be plausible, because of the way the scenes were done and the extra physical elements that were added. If you know the play, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, I don't want to spoil it, but trust me, you need to see it. If you need more information, the fact that a woman is pretending to be a man, and falls in love with another man (who falls in love with her, thinking that she is male... but being straight...) there is that tension and desire with confusion that really SHOULD be there, but is not written in the text. That is what makes this movie great.

My favorite character of the play/film has always been the fool, played by Ben Kingsley. May I just say that Ben Kingsley is the BEST actor I have EVER seen in this role. The character of the fool in this play was specifically written by Shakespeare for the actor (of his day) to play. This was a new (then) concept of the wise fool. This fool does not do physical or low comedy, but is the ONLY character in the entire play who is not some kind of unintentional fool. This fool is where all the wisdom comes from. He's the only character who knows exactly what is going on, but allows everything to happen as it will. So often this character is not grasped by those playing it, or they have trouble playing it. It takes actual wit and cleverness to really pull off this character and Ben Kingsley has that. He's masterful in the role and truly inspiring. If you want an example of the ALL TIME best performance of this character, this is IT! So, of course, this being my favorite character in my favorite play, the fact that he does the role perfectly makes it absolutely fantastic for me.

All of the acting is excellent! ALL of it! When Viola is sacrificing her physical self, both temporarily (losing her lovely hair) and permanently (destroying her voice) for her role as a boy, it's heartbreaking. Her love is very real. The love Sebastian has for Antonio and vice versa is very much felt. The pompous attitude, forbidden lust and later, the complete downfall of Malvolio is both hilarious and enthralling. Sir Toby Belch and Maria are also believable and funny in their plotting and romance. The much used Sir Andrew Aguecheek is over-the-top -but in a perfect way! I adored the little bit they threw in there costume-wise for him. Orsino and Olivia are both characters where their love should not and (sadly, in most productions) never is honestly believable in the end, but for this film it is 100% believable and set up for complete success by the director and the actions of the actors. Sure, she's married a total stranger, but we get the feeling that it'll all be ok, BECAUSE OF THE ADDITIONS! If we'd not seen that first scene where they made that relationship of the twins come alive for us and we knew their bond, their love and their spirit, it just wouldn't be the same.

So if you've not seen it yet, GET IT AND SEE IT NOW!
29 people found this helpful
Techsan68Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Best Film Adaptation of Shakespeare's Best Comedy
Verified purchase
I've seen Twelfth Night in several stage versions as well as on film. This is the best film version. An all-star cast presents superb performances, but what really stands out is that the actors playing the twin brother and sister actually closely resemble each other, thus making the farce almost believable!
4 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on October 20, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of Shakespeare's best and a great combination of players bring this comedy ...
Verified purchase
One of Shakespeare's best and a great combination of players bring this comedy to life. Never has Shakespeare been so enjoyable. A pair of twins are lost at sea. Each washes ashore in a different place and thinks the other is lost. The girl twin pretends to be her brother twin because a woman should not be travelling alone. She meets and falls for a baron and joins his service acting as his representative in wooing Olivia. Olivia does not care for the baron but falls for the woman she thinks is Sebastian. Sebastian arrives and fall for Olivia. Meanwhile the servants and Olivia's uncle are creating chaos by urging a candidate of their own to woo Olivia while at the same time plotting disaster for Olivia's main household servant by giving him hopes that Olivia returns his amorous feelings. Riotous comedy.
4 people found this helpful
Kathryn ShockleyReviewed in the United States on October 13, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Product not what presented.
Verified purchase
Bought this because I love movies based n Shakespeare's writings. I settled down with a meal ready to watch and was extremely disappointed. A message pops up and says the format doesn't match my DVD player's format. Going onto to say that products purchased overseas will not work. I find this funny because there was no indication anywhere that I can find to say this product was made overseas. I believed it was made in the States for play in the States. I'm very angry because I feel that Amazon robbed me. I have never had this happen before.
Cynthia BazinetReviewed in the United States on November 10, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
I've used this film in class while reading the Shakespearean text with high school students with great success. Imogen Stubbs ha
Verified purchase
This film interpretation is just lovely--and unexpectedly moving. I've used this film in class while reading the Shakespearean text with high school students with great success. Imogen Stubbs handles Viola/Cesario with convincing humanity, never sliding into caricature or camp. The location shoot, the lush score, and the relocation in setting give the film a curiously nostalgic quality, an unexpected bonus. Ben Kingsley as Feste and Richard E. Grant as Sir Andrew both inject their normally flat characters with a complexity easily overlooked in the reading. No easy feat. Well done and well worth your time.
9 people found this helpful
LPower Inkhorn NLP TrainerReviewed in the United States on April 12, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
Ill will and romance in Illyria
Verified purchase
If music be the food of love play on,
Give me excess of it that surfeiting
The appetite may sicken and so die.

In Shakespeare's time women actors were not permitted on the stage. Their roles were usually played by boys or men who could do high pitched tones. You can imagine therefore the dramatic tension that can be created by a somewhat gender bending role, and what that can add to certain romantic situations.

So when a young lady, Viola, and her twin brother, Cesario, get shipwrecked, she washes up alone on the hostile shores of Illyria, where the Duke of Orsino does not allow women in court because he only has eyes for the Duchess. Adopting the guise of the brother she gains the Duke's trust, and he asks her to woo the Duchess in his name. Unfortunately, the Duchess has recently also lost her brother, and sworn off men for seven years.

The Duchess falls in love with Viola as a man, while Viola falls in love with the Duke as a woman, setting up a complicated romantic triangle. Meanwhile, Malvolio literally means ill will, we have music with Ben Kingsley as Feste the clown, and an attempt to mislead the melancholic Malvolio in the ways of love, and a mysterious anonymous message lending farcical elements. You wonder if Viola's brother might have miraculously survived the shipwreck.

In my opinion Imogen Stubbs does an excellent job doing double duty, and Helen Bonham Carter steals the show in every scene. Her facial expressions are priceless.

As a Shakespeare production I have to give Trevor Nunn top marks for delivering a beautiful setting, developing the tension very well, and for the license he takes with the scenes, I particularly like that the twins were a singing duo, and the bath scene. Ben Kingsley's experience and presence as a Shakesperean actor shows through in every scene.

Perhaps best considered as part of a trio of plays including As You Like It, with which it has the thematic similarity of a woman in disguise as a man, and Much Ado About Nothing, a romantic comedy set in Messina.

Twelfth night features the famous saying: Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.

I consider this one of the best renditions of Shakespeare to screen, and if you get a chance, I particularly recommend you check out Zeffirellis [[ASIN:0792165055 Romeo & Juliet]] (Widescreen) starring Olivia Hussey. Sublime.

I have also seen an earlier version of TN with Joan Plowright in the role of Viola, and Alec Guinnes as Malvolio. Unlike this modern version JP looks the same as either a man or a woman, and while she is a good actress, I estimate she may have been about 50 when playing the part, which is probably more suited to a woman in her early 20s like Imogen Stubbs. That version while quite good made me appreciate the dynamism of this one more. It's not just a great play, now it's a great movie.

I think you will love it and I hope this was helpful.
9 people found this helpful
Peter C. MorrisonReviewed in the United States on August 28, 2009
4.0 out of 5 stars
Nunn's Twelfth Night
Verified purchase
Although I am a Shakespeare scholar, I am not what one might call a "purist". That is, I can enjoy film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays which do not include every word of the text, which rearrange lines and/or leave out dozens of lines at a time. Such an adaptation is Trevor Nunn's. He even includes Shakespeare-LIKE added dialogue at the beginning of the film along with scenes which Shakespeare did not write, since, unfortunately, Shakespeare did not have the advatage of cinema. A professor once told me that Shakespeare would have loved film, especially for Antony and Cleopatra, which jumps back and forth frequently between Alexandria and Rome. The same may be said of Twelfth Night, which "cuts" from various outdoor settings in Illyria to Orsino's dwelling to Olivia's house to Olivia's grounds. Trevor Nunn's adaptation takes full advantage of these cinemamatic advantages.

I have one quibble, however, and it is considerable. I know that actors in a film should not "declaim", in stagey deliveries of lines from plays, especially Shakespeare's. However, I do expect the speeches, however "naturally" they are delivered to be intelligible, at audible volume. Such, it seemed to me, is not always the case with Nunn's adaptation. Actors often mumble or practically whisper their lines (especially true of Helena Bonham Carter), and if I were not familiar with the play, I would have no idea of what they are saying. I find it disappointing that the director should not have noted this during the rushes (or whenever) and sharpened the delivery so that more of Shakespeare's irreplaceable lines could be distinctly heard and understood.

However, Trevor Nunn's film of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is remarkably successful in most instances, and this is largely due to the perfect casting.
9 people found this helpful
David CopeReviewed in the United States on February 14, 2007
5.0 out of 5 stars
A classic adaptation
Verified purchase

Acclaimed director Trevor Nunn's film is a classic adaptation of the third of Shakespeare's mature comedies (the others being Much Ado and As You Like It). Twelfth Night is the darkest of these three plays, beginning with Orsino's famous opening soliloquy and continuing its conflicted heroines, the cross-dressing Viola (Imogen Stubbs) and the moody Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter), both of whom are mourning lost brothers. The puritan steward, Malvolio--played masterfully by Nigel Hawthorne, whose appearance recalls famous Malvolios from play posters of bygone eras--is seething with sexual frustration, revealed only when tricked into it via a letter supposedly written by Olivia, yet penned by the tricky servant, Maria (Imelda Staunton). Maria's plotline is wonderfully augmented in this film by the clowns, Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard E. Grant), and Feste (Ben Kingsley).

Nunn's adaptation is distinctive in three ways:

1. his realignment of scenes to emphasize similarities in seemingly disparate circumstances (e.g. the theme of madness, wherein Viola's lost brother Sebastian (Steven MacIntosh) wonders if he is mad even as Malvolio has a nervous breakdown in the dark room). The cuts he makes in the original text are equally appropriate to the change of medium: the story is essentially intact, with an opening non-Shakespearean twist that emphasizes shipwreck as the originating event.

2. Ben Kingsley's emphasis on the revenge motivating Feste--the fact that this seemingly merry fool has a thin skin when Malvolio upbraids him, and lords it over the broken steward at the end of the play. Though this darker interpretation of Malvolio is not the usual happy-go-lucky goof seen too often on North American stages, the text itself does warrant this way of seeing him, and it gives the character much more complexity.

3. The homoerotic attraction between Duke Orsino (Toby Stevens) and Cesario (Viola in disguise)--again, warranted by the text itself--is more fully developed than in many productions, and again, it increases the complexity of Orsino's character even as it emphasizes Viola's intense desire for him even as she is unable to break out of the identity she has created for herself in Orsino's court.

Beyond all this, the film is lush in its use of color, its landscapes and interiors--a delight to anyone who understands and appreciates the complexities of Shakespeare's characters. One only wishes Nunn would continue making films of this sort. I'm waiting for a good adaptation of The Tempest!
16 people found this helpful
See all reviews