The text of the play is heavily edited. Additionally, Branagh incorporated flashbacks using extracts from Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2 in which Henry interacts with the character of Falstaff, who, in Shakespeare's Henry V, is never seen, merely announced to be deathly ill in Act 2 Scene 1, and dead in Act 2 scene 3. The scenes involve a brief summary of Henry's denouncement of Falstaff primarily with lines from Act 2, Scene 4 of Henry IV part 1 and a brief though important utterance of Henry's final repudiation of Falstaff in Part 2, "I know thee not, old man." The film also uses Falstaff's line "do not, when thou art King, hang a thief" from Henry IV Part 1 but gives it to Bardolph, in order to highlight the poignancy when Henry later has Bardolph executed.
Henry V was made on an estimated budget of $9 million. The film was produced by Bruce Sharman with the British Broadcasting Corporation and Branagh's company Renaissance Films. Principal photography commenced on 31 October 1988 and concluded 19 December the same year. Sixty percent of production was shot on sound stages at Shepperton Studios, while many of the battle sequences were shot on fields adjacent to the Shepperton complex.
Branagh's film is frequently compared with the 1944 film of the play directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. The visual style of Branagh's film is grittier and more realistic than that of Olivier's. For example, his film avoids Olivier's use of stylized sets, and, where Olivier staged the Battle of Agincourt on a sunlit field, Branagh's takes place amid rain-drenched mud and gore. Nearly all of the scenes involving the comic characters were also staged as drama, rather than in the broad, more slapstick way in which Olivier staged them, because Branagh felt that modern audiences would not see the humour in these scenes.
While the text of the Chorus' monologues are the same, the setting for them has been adapted to reflect the nature of the motion picture adaptation of the play. Unlike the other performers, who are dressed in clothing contemporary to the actual Henry V to reflect their characters, the Chorus is dressed in modern 20th century clothing. The opening monologue, originally written to compensate for the limitations of on stage theater to represent the historical scenes presented, is delivered on an empty motion picture sound stage with unfinished sets. The other chorus monologues are delivered on location where the relevant action is taking place. In all cases, the chorus speaks directly to the camera, addressing the audience.
The score to Henry V was written by then first-time film composer Patrick Doyle. It was performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Simon Rattle. The soundtrack was released 8 November 1989 through EMI Classics and features fifteen tracks of score at a running time just under an hour. Patrick Doyle also appeared in Henry V as Court (credited as Pat Doyle), who is the first soldier to begin singing "Non Nobis, Domine" following the conflict at Agincourt.
- "Opening Title/'O! for a Muse of Fire'" (3:34)
- "King Henry V Theme/The Boar's Head" (2:46)
- "The Three Traitors" (2:03)
- "'Now, Lords, for France!'" (2:40)
- "The Death of Falstaff" (1:54)
- "'Once More Unto the Breach'" (3:45)
- "The Threat to the Governor of Harfleur/Katherine of France/The March to Calais" (5:51)
- "The Death of Bardolph" (2:22)
- "'Upon the King'" (4:50)
- "St. Crispin's Day/The Battle of Agincourt" (14:13)
- "'The Day is Yours'" (2:34)
- "'Non Nobis, Domine'" (4:09)
- "The Wooing of Katherine" (2:24)
- "'Let This Acceptance Take'" (2:50)
- "End Title" (2:35)
Doyle was later awarded the 1989 Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Theme for "Non Nobis, Domine".