Olivier's fantastic, star studded 1955 movie was a key piece in my political education. Shakespeare created a neat bit of propaganda for his Tudor patrons. Whatever its historical inaccuracies, it created such a compelling narrative that there hasn't been a King Richard of England for more than 500 years. But the play is more than just propaganda, or it would not have remained relevant beyond the Tudor's reign. What keeps the play relevant is its keen political analysis and the fabulously villainous Richard.
I first saw the movie when I was 17 or 18. It taught me that getting power, using power and keeping power are three different things. Just having a crown doesn't make you King. That power and office are not the same was a significant revelation to me at the time.
Olivier's portrayal of Richard is definitive. Nobody since has been able to play the part without taking Olivier into account. As my father says, Olivier's Richard raises skulking to an art. The movie is very stagey, but reminiscent of contemporary paintings, like Frossart's. This is my favorite of all Shakespeare films.
Killing of Wat Tyler by Jean Frossart.