Laurence Olivier Movies

Laurence Olivier in his Oscar® winning role in 1948's Hamlet.

Laurence Olivier in his Oscar® winning role in 1948’s Hamlet.

Want to know the best Laurence Olivier movies?  How about the worst Laurence Olivier movies?  Curious about Laurence Olivier box office grosses or which Laurence Olivier movie picked up the most Oscar nominations? Need to know which Laurence Olivier movie got the best reviews from critics and audiences and which got the worst reviews? Well you have come to the right place….because we have all of that information.

One of our goals here at Ultimate Movie Rankings is do a career movie page on every member of the American Film Institute’s Top 50 Greatest Screen Legends list. Another one of our goals is knock out all the requests on our Request Hotline.   So when I saw that Laurence Olivier had four requests for a movie page and that he is ranked as the 14th greatest screen legend on the AFI list…..we knew it was time to finally do an Olivier movie page.  Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was an Oscar® winning English actor.  Although he gained his fame by dominating the British stage….he still managed to appear in over 50 movies in 6 different decades.

His IMDb page shows 86 acting credits from 1930-1989. This page will rank 48 Laurence Olivier movies from Best to Worst in six different sortable columns of information.  Television appearances, shorts, documentaries, movies not released in North America and some of his early 1930s movies were not included in the rankings.

Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972's Sleuth

Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972’s Sleuth

Laurence Olivier Movies Can Be Ranked 6 Ways In This Table

The really cool thing about this table is that it is “user-sortable”. Rank the movies anyway you want.

  • Sort Laurence Olivier movies by co-stars of their movies.
  • Sort Laurence Olivier movies by adjusted domestic box office grosses using current movie ticket cost
  • Sort Laurence Olivier movies by domestic yearly box office rank
  • Sort Laurence Olivier movies how they were received by critics and audiences.  60% rating or higher should indicate a good movie.
  • Sort by how many Oscar® nominations each Laurence Olivier movie received and by many Oscar® wins each Laurence Olivier movie won
  • Sort Laurence Olivier movies by Ultimate Movie Rankings (UMR) Score.  UMR Score puts box office, reviews and awards into a mathematical equation and gives each movie a score.
  • Use the search and sort button to make this page very interactive.

Stats and Possibly Interesting Things From The Above Laurence Olivier Table

  1. Ten Laurence Olivier movies crossed the magical $100 million domestic gross mark.  That is a percentage of 20.83% of his movies listed. Spartacus (1960) was his biggest box office ht when looking at adjusted domestic box office gross.
  2. An average Laurence Olivier movie grosses $74.40 million in adjusted box office gross.
  3. Using RottenTomatoes.com’s 60% fresh meter.  36 of Laurence Olivier’ movies are rated as good movies…or 75.00% of their movies. Rebecca (1940) is his highest rated movie while Inchon (1982) was his lowest rated movie.
  4. Twenty Laurence Olivier movie received at least one Oscar® nomination in any category…..or 41.66% of his movies.
  5. Nine Laurence Olivier movie won at least one Oscar® in any category…..or 18.75% of his movies.
  6. An average Ultimate Movie Ranking  (UMR) Score is 39.86.  25 Laurence Olivier movies scored higher than that average….or 52.08% of his movies. Rebecca (1940) got the the highest UMR Score while Inchon (1982) got the lowest UMR Score.
Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier in 1940's Rebecca.

Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier in 1940’s Rebecca.

Possibly Interesting Facts About Laurence Olivier

1. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Steyning, West Sussex, England.

2. Laurence Olivier’s road to stardom Cliff Notes style….As a teenage, Olivier studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama.  He then joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and gained notoriety for his stage work.  After appearing in a couple of minor movies he got a contract with RKO and headed to Hollywood.  When his RKO movies and Perfect Understanding with Gloria Swanson were box office disasters he headed back to the British stage.  In 1938 Hollywood came calling again. This time things went much better for Olivier as 1939’s Wuthering Heights and 1940’s Rebecca were box office and critical successes and earned Olivier his first two Oscar® nominations.  Olivier would remain a star until his passing in 1989.

3.  Laurence Olivier was nominated for 10 acting Oscars® and 1 directing Oscar®.  He won the Best Actor Oscar® for 1948’s Hamlet.  He also received two Honorary Oscars® in 1947 and 1979.

4.  Laurence Olivier is one of five actors or actresses to get 10 or more acting Oscar® nominations.  Olivier and Bette Davis got 10 nominations.  Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn got 12 nominations and Meryl Streep has 126 nominations….ok she only has 19 but it seems like she gets one every year.

5.  Laurence Olivier also received 5 Golden Globe® nominations….winning twice, 9 Emmy® nominations…winning 5 times, 10 BAFTA nominations…winning twice and won two Razzie® awards….though he probably did not want those Razzies®.

6. Laurence Olivier was married three times in her life.  His first marriage to Jill Esmond lasted from 1930 to 1940…they had one child.  His second and most famous marriage was to Vivien Leigh…it lasted from 1940 to 1961.  His final marriage was to Joan Plowright from 1961 to his death in 1989…they had three children.  While researching this page I came across an excellent website that looks at Olivier and Vivien Leigh….highly recommend that you check this site out.

7. Roles Laurence Olivier turned down or was seriously considered for:  Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole role), Lolita (James Mason role), The Godfather (Marlon Brando role), Cleopatra (Rex Harrison role)  Being There (Melvyn Douglas role) and I Confess (Montgomery Clift role).

8.  Laurence Olivier was knighted in 1947, made life peer in 1970, awarded the Order of Merit in 1981.

9.  Some thoughts on Olivier.  Charlton Heston on Sir Larry….”I consider him, in common with my colleagues, the finest actor alive.”  Spencer Tracy on Larry….”he is the greatest of them all”.

10.  Some tidbits from Laurence Olivier’s memorial service.  Olivier’s trophies were carried in a procession: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. carried the insignia of Olivier’s Order of Merit, Michael Caine bore his Oscar® for lifetime achievement, Maggie Smith a silver model of the Chichester theatre, Paul Scofield a silver model of the National, Derek Jacobi the crown worn in Richard III (1955), Peter O’Toole the script used in Hamlet (1948), Ian McKellen the laurel wreath worn in the stage production of “Coriolanus”, Dorothy Tutin the crown worn for King Lear (1983), and Frank Finlay the sword presented to Olivier by John Gielgud, once worn by the 18-century actor Edmund Kean.

Check out Laurence Olivier’s movie career compared to current and classic stars on our Most 100 Million Dollar Movies of All-Time page.  If you want a deeper look at Olivier’s number one movie then this Rebecca movie page by Steve Lensman is an outstanding source of information.

And finally…sadly we could not find box office information on these 4 Olivier movies.  1931’s The Yellow Ticket which has critic/audience rating of 63.75%, 1931’s Potipher’s Wife with a critic/audience rating of 61.75%, 1933’s No Funny Business with a critic/audience rating of 55.25% and 1935’s I Stand Condemned with a critic/audience rating of 37.00%.

AFI’s Top 25 Screen Legend Actors….with links to my movie pages on the Screen Legend

2.   Cary Grant
16. Orson Welles
21. Buster Keaton

 

For comments….all you need is a name and a comment….please ignore the rest.

Academy Award® and Oscar® are the registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences.  Golden Globe®, Emmy® and Razzies® are registered trademarks.

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40 thoughts on “Laurence Olivier Movies

  1. All right, here’s my take on this:
    #31 Clash of the Titans – Loved it as a kid. Olivier has one major scene and plays it beautifully. #30 The Prince & the Showgirl – It’s good without being great. It’s like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the same stage. Wonderful, but awkward.
    #29 The Boys from Brazil – It’s a good movie. Larry was ill and terribly thin but did his best. His scene with Uta Hagen is remarkable.
    #28 Dracula – Pretty much the same comment from the prior movie. Larry was ill but did his best.
    #27 The Devil’s Disciple – Superb cast, but not really the best performance by Larry. He himself said so. Maybe it was the director’s fault.
    #26 Nicholas and Alexandra – The movie is ok but Larry has a tiny and completely forgettable role. Shouldn’t be on the list.
    #25 Khartoum – Beautiful performance, following his extraordinary Othello in the theater.
    #24 Carrie – Horrible depressing melodrama. William Wyler should be emabarassed by it.
    #23 Bunny Lake is missing – Overrated and silly. The ending is pathetic. It’s worth it because of the mere presence of Larry and Noel.
    #22 A Bridge too far – Didn’t see it.
    #21 Seven per cent solution – Same comment as #26.
    #20 Clouds over Europe – Fun movie, good performance, and always great to see Larry and Ralph together.
    #19 A Little Romance – Movie made to showcase young and lovely Diane Lane. Larry is wonderful as the french pick-pocket. Very sweet.
    #18 Battle of Britain – I was bored. For fans of war aircrafts and aereal scenes only. Good to see Larry with Michael Redgrave, though.
    #17 That Hamilton Woman – Didn’t age well. Pretty good but far from great.
    #16 Fire over England – Same deal. But in this one, Viv is dropdead gorgeous.
    #15 Term of Trial – Fairly interesting film where Larry plays a humble teacher, with above average cast. It’s ok but pretty forgettable.
    #14 Oh! What a lovely war – Might have worked on the stage, but as a film I was bored to tears. #13 The Bounty – Same comment as #26.
    #12 Marathon Man – Wonderful through and through.
    #11 The Entertainer – Same deal. And Larry’s favourite.
    #10 49th Parallel – Shouldn’t be in the top ten. Movie’s ok but Larry’s accent is laughable.
    #9 Othello – In my book, this is number one. Not only Larry’s best performance but probably the best performance by an actor in acting history. A masterpiece.
    #8 Pride and prejudice – A little outdated and it’s a shame it’s in B/W but still a very respectable version. Both Larry and Greer are brilliant and the screenplay is by none other than Aldous Huxley!
    #7 Richard III – Too grandiose and somewhat of a vanity project. Worked better in the theater, in 1944. But it’s still pretty good and people should see it, nonetheless.
    #6 Sleuth – I absolutelly love it. Wonderful through and through.
    #5 Wuthering Heights – Still the quintessential love tragedy. And I adore Merle, so it still works for me.
    #4 Henry V – A masterpiece. Light years ahead of Brannagh.
    #3 Hamlet – Hasn’t aged so well but still a theatrical master class. Shame Olivier cut so much of the text.
    #2 Spartacus – I absolutelly love it. Wonderful through and through.
    #1 Rebecca – Not at all my favourite. But a good movie and Joan Fontaine was adorable.

  2. BRUCE I wrongly placed this post initially on Vivien Leigh’s page and have now copied it to Larry’s. When you get the opportunity perhaps you would delete it from Vivien’s – she’s not getting credit for Larry’s work as well! Apologies for inconvenience. BOB

    1 I warmly welcome the update of the stats for this greatly respected thespian’s movies. Although he was a prominent leading man in the early decades of his career from the 1960s onward Larry mixed occasional lead roles with strong supporting parts in the films that he selected, though for the joint lead role in Sleuth in 1972 along with Michael Caine Larry was nominated for an Oscar as were Michael for that film and Marlon Brando for the Godfather

    2 Marlon won the Oscar but Larry got his revenge when he and MB were both nominated in the same respective roles for the prestigious New York Film Critics’ prize along with Al Pacino for his portrayal of Don Corelone’s son in Godpop. The voters were deadlocked as to whether Brando or Pacino’s performance was the better so Larry was given the prize as what Wikipedia terms as the “compromise” candidate. Michael Caine who has before and since been nominated for other awards and has won some of them showed that year that he could compete for acting honours with three actors who are still perceived as the among the best of all time, with Michael nowadays considered part of that select group***

    3 Larry’s submergence in numerous supporting roles didn’t matter in his case because his prestige as both a cinematic and a stage Great is so awesome that he continues to be revered within both mediums and indeed one got the impression that perhaps the theatre was his primary love where he is credited by many observers as having overshadowed even wonderful stage legends Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud
    ***IMDB’s list of 2 months ago which claims to be the “ultimate” in the ranking of all-time great actors puts Brando 2nd, Pacino 4th, Larry 12th, and Caine 14th. Not bad for a chap with a cockney accent!

    Reply

  3. 1 Some film historians who argue that screen acting should be natural and not ‘stagy’ have opined that Laurence Olivier’s theatrically orientated style was not wholly suited to the screen where he was not as spontaneous and fluid as say Cary Grant or James Stewart. On the other hand I have mentioned previously that when Deanna Durbin retired in the late 40s she shunned show business for the rest of her life apart from giving just one interview in France in 1983 to renowned film historian David Shipman. In the 1970s Shipman wrote a quartet of acclaimed books about 4 personalities whom he considered were among the greatest FILM MAKERS of all time, Chaplin, Brando, Hitchcock – and Olivier. Shipman called those 4 The Movie Makers.

    VIDEO COMMENTS
    (1) A rash of great posters with a specially chilling one from Marathon Man and I loved the posed stills of Larry and MM and him and Sir Maurice Micklewhite. Apparently Monroe was so unpunctual and prone to self-indulgent histrionics on the set of Prince of Showgirl that Larry who directed the movie said “Never again.”
    (2) Bruce and you agree on 4 of the Top 5 with him omitting from the 5 Henry V and including Sleuth. I wonder why?
    (3) When preparing for his role in Carrie Larry hired Spencer Tracy to tutor him in speaking with an American accent. I’m glad you included that one.
    (4) Overall whatever the pedants say your video selections seem to me to represent a range of performances that any actor would be proud of whatever their medium and I feel that your pictorial amply demonstrates that the camera loved Olivier as much as the stage did. Dammit if only he had been Irish and not English ! Anyway a superb 9.3/10 presentation and a most valuable document on an all-time Great career. A true ‘collector’s item’
    PS: Why is Bruce neglecting the Brits these days – we’re still waiting on stats updates for Lord Olivier, “Mr Mason.” and Flynn’s old hellraising pal Niven

    1. Hi Bob, thanks for the kind words. When I started producing youtube videos on actors a couple of years ago I wondered if I’d ever get to do the classic British and American stars, I was only using box office grosses at that time and getting box office info on old movies wasn’t easy.

      Bruce’s site was a treasure trove of stats and info but I wasn’t a fan of ‘adjusted grosses’ back then, my thinking was that despite all the calculations it wasn’t completely accurate and there were variables like ‘cheap seats’, ‘expensive seats’. ‘roadshow presentations’ etc that affect the box office total. Plus I preferred worldwide grosses to domestic.

      Anyway by switching to ratings I found a way to include all the great stars in my videos and make sure most of their best films were on there. Looking at Bruce’s Olivier chart – Spartacus is no.1 on adjusted gross chart which I have no problem with. But other great actors may get a less than great movie sitting at the top.

      Sleuth no.2 on Bruce’s critics chart, hmm, I’m a big fan but did Bruce give it a shot in the arm I wonder? I admit to propping up my favorites on occasion, Dracula (1979) is a little higher on my Olivier chart. Btw Hitchcock’s Rebecca beat all those Shakespeare greats without any help from me and Bruce has it at no.1 too. I’m sure Flora was well pleased. 🙂

      I’ve done 3 of Shipman’s quartet, only Chaplin left.

      1. 1 Thanks for your further explanations Steve. I agree that variables such as those that you mention mean that it can’t be guaranteed that adjusted grosses can be nailed to the last dollar. Another particular problem is that in a given year whereas the average rental is say 33% of the gross special deals can be struck that allow producers to charge exceptionally high rentals for important blockbusters at least during their runs in the big cities. For example Paramount was able to get nearly 64% of the Godfather’s gross in the early weeks of its release.

        2 However I see that as a problem only if you are looking at the box office of a single movie but a survey that covers all of an actor’s movies across his/her career will probably encounter ‘swings and roundabouts’ so that one gets a BROAD idea of an actor’s overall gross and how it compares with the box office of other stars. I’ve never been able to work out why in the old days (a) we were always given just rentals instead of gross figures and (b) why there was so little information available about worldwide grosses. Even when occasionally figures were quoted they were often contradictory. For example Wikipedia states that Apocalypse Now’s ACTUAL gross was $150 million which would equate to about $485 million in 2016 dollars whereas the prestigious US magazine Newsweek stated unequivocally that the film grossed around $200 million in 1979/80 [$640 mil today]

        3 The inconsistency could be explained by what James Coburn called the “creative bookkeeping” as Coppola may have been trying to hide money to avoid paying out
        profit points due and indeed it is certain that he had to be taken to court before he would cough up some of the money he owed. We shall probably never know what that film earned
        and clearly if producers are going to lie about a film’s earnings no inflation adjustment system can function perfectly. We should therefore be grateful to Bruce for bringing some sense to all the confusion so that we have at least the best possible broad idea of what went on at the box office years ago. Certainly nobody else is going to help us there.
        Great back-chatting with you again

        1. Interesting info on Apocalypse Now, Bob, cheers! It was a sizable hit whichever way you look at it. I wonder what the big attraction was for moviegoers in 1979 – Coppola? The Vietnam War? Brando? The hype?

          Olivier on Brando – “Brando acted with an empathy and an instinctual understanding that not even the greatest technical performers could possibly match.”

          Olivier on Caine – “Wonderfully good company, ceaselessly funny and a brilliant actor.”

          Olivier on Monroe – “Look at that face – she could be five years old!”

          1. 1 Whilst you obviously need stars and a topic that appeals to audiences I think the success of Apocalypse Now was also in good measure due to the hype and indeed at first they thought that they had a flop on their hands at least in relation to its then massive budget, and according to that Newsweek article I mentioned they went in for the “hard sell”.

            2 Some new good quotes thanks. In the TV sitcom Frasier, Niles is attempting to convince Frasier that he Niles has sufficient acting skills to carry a local play and he reminds Frasier of his success in High School plays when observers told him that “I had the charm of Danny Kaye, the magnetism of Marlon Brando and the dramatic skills of Laurence Olivier.”

            3 There was an episode of Friends in which Matt Le Blanc who plays a struggling actor in the sitcom lands a cameo in a Heston movie and he on his way to the set when he accidentally falls into a garbage container. Therefore he arrives on the set smelling of garbage and he apologises to Chuck [in a guest star role] and says “Mr Heston I’m your new supporting actor but I regret that I stink.” Chuck replies “Don’t worry you’ll do all right. I’ve worked with Laurence Olivier and he confessed to me that when he was up and coming there were many performances in which he too stank.”

    2. Hey Bob….good comment…..a Sleuth is a great movie….which is why it got a spot in the Top 5…..hey Steve no tinkering on my part to get Sleuth that high. Bob you will be happy to know that I have just updated the Laurence page…..it will be tomorrow’s post.

  4. Hey Lyle….I had to go to a Olivier biography to get a box office number for that one so I am not as confident in the box office number compared to when I get the number from Varitey or ledgers.. It was a huge box office disappointment….MGM had high high hopes for it….but they did not even come close to getting their money back for this one. I have not seen Pride and Prejudice….but I am hoping to in the near future. I agree with you about The Prince and the Showgirl….anytime you get two screen legends together is always a good watch. Glad you liked the page and thanks for the visit and the comment.

  5. Hello Bruce.
    Thanks for doing a page on Laurence Olivier. My favorite Olivier performance was as Darcy in 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice”, which is one of my favorite Greer Garson films as well. And despite some negative reviews I also thought he was quite funny in 1957’s “The Prince and the Showgirl” which is one of my favorite Marilyn Monroe films which I always thought was highly underrated by film critics. I also like the fact that this page gave me box office information on another Anthony Quinn film which I didn’t have, 1968’s “The Shoes of the Fisherman”. Thank’s again, Bruce.

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