Shakespeare’s plays are some of the most enduring pieces of literature. Despite having been penned in the 16th and 17th century, it was a sure fire thing that once films were invented that we’d be seeing Shakespeare movies. Movies of Shakespeare plays come in all forms – original, adapted, musical, black and white and color. They have been produced as early as 1933 and as late as 2011. For those who struggle to read them, because let’s face it, they aren’t easy, what better way to appreciate these wonderful stories than as Shakespeare movies? Here are 7 Movies of Shakespeare Plays that if you haven’t seen, you should.
Probably the most well known of all the bard’s play, it goes therefore that most Shakespeare movies are of Romeo and Juliet. There’s the modern adaptation with Leonardo Dicaprio and Clare Danes, the animated Gnomeo and Juliet, various adaptations such as West Side Story, but to me it is the Franco Zeffirelli version that is the must see. Beautiful cinematography creating the perfect ambience for our star crossed lovers, and the stunning Olivia Hussey as Juliet.
See a cast list for a Shakespeare movie that includes Brits Emma Thomson and Kenneth Branagh and there’s no surprise, but what about when you throw Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton into the mix? Shot in stunning Tuscany, this comedic drama is a delightfully complex dance of dialogue that compels you to listen, as much to watch the various shenanigans.
There have been various adapted movies of Shakespeare plays that take them from their original time period and thrust them into the present or even the future. Purists don’t tend to enjoy them but one that did win acclaim from all quarters is Richard III. British stage heavyweight Sir Ian McEllan’s 1995 version sees the battleground shift from the 15th century to 1930’s Fascist England.
There are two equally worthy versions of Henry V. One was made in 1944 and starred Sir Laurence Olivier, and the other was made in 1989 by Kenneth Branagh. As they both stay very true to the original script, it really comes down to a matter of taste as to which you prefer. Staunchly English, the ‘St. Crispin Day’ speech has spawned a number of patriotic quotes. I personally prefer the Olivier version – there is so much gravitas in his delivery.
I personally love it when you see an actor in a very unexpected role. In this case it is Al Pacino playing Shylock, the Usurer (moneylender) Jew in the Shakespeare movie – The Merchant of Venice. This story has a fiendish plot with one of the most intelligent twists ever conceived. Despite the title, there is also a story of love running as a subplot.
Who better to play a feuding couple than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor? The story of how Petruccio woos ill-tempered, sharp-tongued Katherine is richly captured by Franco Zeffirelli (his second entry in this list) in this lavish production.
Released in 2010, the Julie Taymor version of The Tempest bravely switches the sex of the main character of Prospero from male to female with Helen Mirren in the role. If you want a good juicy story about the fight between brawn and brains, this one should hold your interest.
At first thought, movies of Shakespeare plays might not be to your taste but if you’ve never seen one, give one a try – you may well find a new passion!
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