The complex method of optical characterization of thin metal films with overlayers consisting of three types of measurements has ben developed and testified. It based on both transparency measurements and multi-angle reflectance ellipsometry including the surface plasmons excitation regime. The computation of layers thicknesses and their optical constants by the solution of the inverse ellipsometric problem using the modified method of general search and special choice of fitting function has been carried out. The method was used for Au and Ag layers evaporated on GaAs, InP or quartz substrates.© (1997) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.