5 Movies You Should Watch to Celebrate Shakespeare

His plays and sonnets have been hailed as the pinnacle of literature, he’s coined hundreds of phrases and insults we still use today, his stories are inspire countless movies and songs today, and his stories continue to influence our lives today. Who am I talking about? The Bard himself, William Shakespeare, of course! Today is his birthday. To celebrate here are just a few movies you should take a look at that are inspired by his works.

1) Forbidden Planet (1956)

This 1956 adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is considered one of the best, most influential science fiction movies ever made. Walter Pidgeon is the Prospero figure, presiding over a utopian planet with his lovely young daughter (this version’s Miranda) and their droid, which I can only guess serves as this story’s Ariel. As in the original play, the Miranda figure falls in love with one of the outsiders newly stranded on the planet with them. This does not go over well with Pidgeon since he wants to destroy them. Luckily, you don’t have to go too far if you want to watch this movie. YouTube has it online for free!

2) 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)


Every 90s kid and their mother saw this one. And who wouldn’t? It’s a genuinely fun flick that happens to be based on The Taming of the Shrew. This one is a pretty straight-forward update of the play: Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) can’t date Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) until her shrew of an older sister Katherina (Julia Stiles) starts dating as well. To solve this minor problem, Bianca and Cameron set her up with the high school bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger). Bianca is Bianca, Katherina is Katherina, Patrick is Petruchio, and Cameron is Lucentio. See? Pretty straight-forward adaptation minus the complicated dialogue.

3) The Lion King (1994)


In case you still weren’t aware of this little piece of trivia, The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet, with a hint of Bible (specifically the Joseph and Moses stories) mixed in for taste. The story itself isn’t directly lifted from the original play, but the whole Scar killing his brother Mufasa to become king part is. And Timon and Pumbaa? They’re animal versions of Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

4) Warm Bodies (2013)


Instead of going the obvious route and picking West Side Story, I’m going with Warm Bodies as another (loose) adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. The obvious divide between R (Nicholas Hoult) and Julie (Teresa Palmer) is that one’s a member of the undead and the other a human who kills said undead. Clearly they are doomed from the start. And Rob Cordry’s character Marcus sounds he could be the zombie version of Mercutio. And if Warm Bodies isn’t your jam, I also suggest Romeo Must Die. Because Jet Li, that’s why!

5) Ran (1985)


This is just one of Akira Kurosawa’s films inspired by the bard. Ran based on King Lear, a tragedy play about an aging king dividing his kingdom among his daughters. This also happens to be Kurosawa’s final epic film. Instead of three feuding daughters, Hidetora (the King Lear parallel) has three feuding sons. The infighting and the chaos that ensues based on the king’s decisions have a much grander scale than the original play, upping the scale of tragedy and devastation a tad more.

If all you want to watch are Kurosawa films (and who would blame you), The Bad Sleep Well (1960) and Throne of Blood (1957) are adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth respectively.

Honoroable Mention: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)


When you’re celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday, you might as well watch one of his actual plays too, dialogue and all. Since we don’t have access to a time machine, watching movies using the classic dialogue is the next best thing. Our favorite is Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, starring nearly all of our favorite Whedon actors.

The plot is largely unchanged from the original play, the obvious difference being  that it’s set in modern day. Other differences include the switching of Conrade’s gender, consolidating minor roles in Leonato’s aide, expanding Ursula’s role, and adding some background on Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship in the opening scene.

Did you know that he actually filmed this while working on the first Avengers movie?

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The Author

Christina Janke

Christina Janke

Host of Intro to Geek on Her love of all things Mass Effect knows no bounds. She also carries an obsession with comic books, video games, and quirky television shows. Her heroes are Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Gail Simone, and hopes to be just like them when she grows up.