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Macbeth (1971)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (original title)
A ruthlessly ambitious Scottish lord seizes the throne with the help of his scheming wife and a trio of witches.


Roman Polanski


Roman Polanski (screenplay by), William Shakespeare (play) | 1 more credit »

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jon Finch ... Macbeth
Francesca Annis ... Lady Macbeth
Martin Shaw ... Banquo
Terence Bayler ... Macduff
John Stride John Stride ... Ross
Nicholas Selby Nicholas Selby ... Duncan
Stephan Chase ... Malcolm
Paul Shelley Paul Shelley ... Donalbain
Maisie MacFarquhar Maisie MacFarquhar ... First Witch
Elsie Taylor Elsie Taylor ... Second Witch
Noelle Rimmington Noelle Rimmington ... Third Witch
Noel Davis Noel Davis ... Seyton
Sydney Bromley ... Porter
Richard Pearson ... Doctor
Patricia Mason Patricia Mason ... Gentlewoman


Roman Polanski's version of Shakespeare's tragedy about a Scottish lord who murders the king and ascends the throne. His wife then begins hallucinating as a result of her guilt complex and the dead king's son conspires to attack Macbeth and expose him for the murderer he is. Written by Jason Ihle <jrihl@conncoll.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

25 December 1971 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

Macbeth See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »


Box Office


$3,100,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono | 3 Channel Stereo (magnetic prints)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Roman Polanski owned a painting by British artist Michael Worrall, which gave him the inspiration to make the movie. The second scene was based on this painting. See more »


Whenever characters ride their horses, the film foleys in the sound of horse hooves running on cobblestones or some other hard unyielding surface. This sound appears even when it doesn't make sense, like at the start of the film when the horses are running across wet sand on a beach. See more »


Macbeth: To know my deed 'twere best not know myself.
See more »


Version of Macbeth (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

A dark and interesting adaptation of a great play
27 April 2005 | by Blade_Le_FlambeurSee all my reviews

Adapting William Shakespeare to the screen can be a dramatically difficult task. His plays are visceral in writing and do not take the time, which novels do, to describe the visual mannerisms of the story. Thus, it is the job of the director (Roman Polanski), writer or writers (Roman Polanski, Kenneth Tynan), and cast (Jon Finch, Francesca Annis) to create a film out of plain dialog. "Macbeth" in particular is a very dark, visual play that requires a skilled level of film-making. In this regard, Polanski, Tynan, and Finch succeed in their creation of 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'.

The story of "Macbeth" revolves around a Scottish soldier named Macbeth (Jon Finch). After a gruesome battle in which Macbeth quells a rebellion, him and his brother in arms Banquo (Martin Shaw) encounter three witches. These witches give a prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Fife, and "king hereafter". Macbeth is confused but ultimately fascinated with becoming the king. When one of these prophecies comes true, Macbeth realizes that it's very possible he will become king. He sends a letter to his wife (Francesca Annis) explaining the events. Lady Macbeth fears that her husband is too weak to seize the opportunity, and manipulates Macbeth into killing the honorable king Duncan (Nicholas Selby) to seize the position. When this happens, Macbeth becomes king but everything fails. Strange events begin to happy in the castle at Scottland, there is mutiny in the ranks, and all of Scottland fears and hates Macbeth. In England two ardent followers of Duncan including his son Malcolm (Stephan Chase) and a member of Scottish royalty Macduff (Terence Bayler) decide that it is necessary to rid Macbeth from power. Consequences come to a head and ultimately everything leads to a violent conclusion in a bloody final stand between Macbeth and the English Army.

Roman Polanski has a history of making dark films. Whether it's the quiet and dreamy atmosphere of 'Rosemary's Baby' or the cool mystery noir of 'Chinatown' Polanski understands how such gloomy film-making can affect the viewer. In 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' Polanski uses this to create a large amount of tension in his story. The characters are violent and ruthless, and the language is a means of starting violent conflict. 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' may have struck a personal chord for Polanski as it was being filmed when his wife Sharon Tate was untimely murdered by the Mason Family. "Macbeth" is in it's own way a dramatic and violent tale, but Polanski accelerates the level of violence to sometimes gratuitous portions. Severed limbers are constantly show with bloodshed every which way. Part of the art "Macbeth" was Shakespeare's ability to convey the sense of increasing danger and blood using only words. There is one sword fight in the end of the play, necessary to filming but it seems Polanski took the major battle scenes and breathed life into them too much. The film has a murky visual style, as if filmed on a low budget. Interestingly enough, ipso facto this murky visual style is a component of the film. The low budget and dark visuals become sensory and contribute to the atmosphere Polanski was trying to form. The cast is able enough, providing the necessary traits to effectively project the dialog and language onto the screen. Most notable is Finch as the torn Scottish king, who's conscience ultimately betrays him.

'The Tragedy of Macbeth' may not be a brilliant adaptation of the popular play, but Roman Polanski has a certain amount of success in the way he films the ideas set out by William Shakespeare. It's too grotesque for it's own good, but in the end it's a solid and worthy counter-part. 8/10

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