Gold nanorods with well-defined aspect ratios are homogeneously incorporated within poly(vinyl alcohol) thin films and subsequently aligned by heating and stretching the nanocomposite films. The spatial alignment of the nanorods is directly proved using transmission electron microscopy. The polarization-dependent optical response of the rods is measured and compared with a dipole model. Excellent agreement is found. Additionally, irradiation of the film with nanosecond laser pulses (1064 nm) leads to selective reshaping of the nanorods into nanospheres, and we demonstrate that this effect can be used to micropattern optical structures into the films.