This is the first of many films featuring both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Cushing plays the comical Osric, and Lee plays a soldier.
This is the only major film version of "Hamlet" that entirely omits the characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Laurence Olivier was severely criticized for leaving them out of the film, as they provide many opportunities for Hamlet to behave in a sarcastically humorous way toward them, and many felt that Olivier probably would have played these moments brilliantly. However, Olivier did retain a few of Guildenstern's lines ("put your discourse into some frame", etc.) and gave them to Polonius.
When the movie was released Laurence Olivier said it had been filmed in black and white for artistic reasons. The true reason, as he later admitted, was that "I was in the middle of a furious row with Technicolor".
With this film, Laurence Olivier became the first person ever to direct themselves to a best actor or actress Oscar. Roberto Benigni in La vita è bella is the only other actor to achieve this feat.