Welles, Worthington and beyond: six Macbeths to give Michael Fassbender a run for his money

1. He may make use of Shakespeare’s words, but Orson Welles is the only real star of the 1948 adaptation: he was director, screenwriter and leading man, employing a committed if unpersuasive version of a Scottish accent in the latter role.

More interesting still was the stage production Welles presided over in New York’s Harlem 12 years earlier, a “voodoo Macbeth” which had the distinction of being the first black professional production of Shakespeare.

Orson Welles as Macbeth Credit: Atlas Photography/Atlas Photography

2. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, latterly antagonistic stars of the X-Men superhero franchise, have both taken on the role of Macbeth in theatrical productions that were filmed for the big screen.

Michael Fassbender would have been well advised to study both McKellen’s towering performance in Trevor Nunn’s 1976 version, opposite Judi Dench’s Lady Macbeth; and Stewart’s award-winning turn, which came in Rupert Goold’s 2007 Soviet-themed adaptation.

Kate Fleetwood and Patrick Stewart; and Ian McKellen and Judi Dench Credit: Alastair Muir; Rex Features

3. The Bard may not get a mention in the credits of Throne of Blood, but Kurosawa’s 1957 version of Macbeth is considered by many to be the finest screen adaptation of the play.

At the heart of the film is Toshirô Mifune, a stormy, swaggering force of nature.

Toshirô Mifune with Isuzu Yamada in Kurosawa's 'Throne of Blood'

4. Partly disguised by a dubious sideswept hairdo, Sam Worthington, star of Avatar and Clash of the Titans, made an early screen appearance in this 2006 update set among the modern-day gangsters of Melbourne.

With guns, nightclubs and a multitude of lurid shirts, it may remind viewers of Baz Luhrmann’s more successful Shakespeare adaptation Romeo + Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, and released a decade earlier.

5. Former SAS man Jon Finch took the lead in Roman Polanski’s 1971 version, the first film the director made after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the followers of Charles Manson.

The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael argued that there were disturbing echoes of the Manson murders in Polanski’s depiction of the killing of Macduff’s wife and children.

Francesca Annis and Jon Finch in Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth' Credit: Allstar/Cinetext/COLUMBIA/Allstar/Cinetext/COLUMBIA