Reader Poll: Modern Films Based on Shakespeare Plots

After I saw Ten Things I Hate About You (with the wonderfully saucy, soft-girl-in-a-hard-shell Julia Styles), a friend pointed out that the plot was cribbed from “The Taming of the Shrew.”


Later I saw the Amanda Bynes vehicle She’s The Man on an airplane, and though it reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield’s cross-dressing romp Ladybugs, it was easy to see “The Twelfth Night” in all that modern high-school subterfuge.


So help a blogger out here with some more movies based on Shakespeare but with time, place or character re-sets.

Follow-up question: Do you think old Billy Shakes wrote all those plays, or was he heading up a manuscript mill under a composite authorship like Tom Clancy wound up doing?


Filed under history, media

20 responses to “Reader Poll: Modern Films Based on Shakespeare Plots

  1. Bb

    Don’t forget Clueless, which is a brilliant re-telling of Emma. And Bridge Jones’ Diary, which is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice.

  2. Try O, a take on Othello and another Julia Stiles movie! It’s about a star basketball player who is also the only black student in his high school.

  3. JM

    Apparently The Lion King is Hamlet.

  4. Reeeeallly…they took one of the most complex pieces of English literature and made it into a cartoon? Masterful.

  5. 108spirits

    I thought the Lion King was a ripoff of a Japanese cartoon?

  6. slwerner

    I wasn’t going to mention it, since it isn’t a Shakespeare work redone, but since Bb has already expanded the examples to include Jane Austen, one of my personal all-time favorites is Roxanne with Steve Martin And Daryl Hannah – a rather clever adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano De Bergerac [useless trivia, likely of interest to no one other than myself – a young Damon Wayan’s had a bit part in Roxanne before his In Living Color days, and back when he still had hair (I did warn that it was going to be useless trivia)].

  7. Roxanne was quite a good flick. I saw it last year after I had read “Cyrano de Bergerac” while vacationing in Italy and France. I don’t think they could make a movie with that kind of subtlety today…the guy would have to be a cringeworthy omegafied geek.

    To take yet another step of connection, Sting wrote the Police’s breakthrough hit “Roxanne” after spotting a street poster of Cyrano he saw in Paris’ red light district. I think Sting identified with the image of a man of great talent and value who nonetheless saw himself as irrepressibly flawed and unlovable.

    The characters in his songs certainly reflect it (Roxanne, Every Breath You Take, Mad About You, The Hounds of Winter) and his narcissistic, mercurial public image certainly reinforces it.

  8. Bb

    Oh dear, my face is read. I have no idea why I got Shakespeare and Austen mixed up! Retract my earlier comment!

  9. SayWhaat



  10. I love stuff like this. 10 Things I Hate About You was fun – I adored Josh Gordon Levitt in what I believe was his first big role. Of course, Heath Ledger was dreamy then, so sad. I love Taming of the Shrew – Petruchio had such tight Game!

    I can’t think of other Shakespeare adaptations. They tend to be modernized in their settings but usually the dialogue is left intact. My favorite Shakespeare film is Henry V with Kenneth Branagh. (Did you know Branagh is Gaelic for Walsh?)

    In the Austen camp, I would add the Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice.

    Personally, I would love to see a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliffe as Brooding Loner has made many a panty wet.

  11. “I love stuff like this.”

    Chiiick craaaack…

    Branagh and Emma Thompson made a great Captain Save-A-Ho movie in “Dead Again.” I’ve heard it’s difficult to fit in the same area code as KB’s ego.

  12. rick moranis

    Strange Brew is Hamlet

  13. SayWhaat

    Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice

    NO. This was not Bollywood!

    Delete from memory! Delete, delete!

  14. There’s a pretty good Richard III with Ian McKellen set in a 1930s style, though it’s actually the play, not just based on it.

  15. I thought “O” was excellent.

  16. Twenty

    “Forbidden Planet” is rather similar to “The Tempest”.

    McKellen’s R3 kicked ass.

    Willy the Shake wrote the plays.

  17. Anacaona

    I think there was a miniseries with The Tempest made into the south and with black slaves as part of the cast and of course Hellen Mirren had a new version with her as Prospero. I also love Henry V with Ian Mackellen and Midsummer’s night dream with Michelle Peiffer, Kevin Kline and all star cast. Four a lot of good cast also Keneth Branagh version of much ado about nothing with a very young Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale, Emma Thomson

    But modernized Shakespeare with teens there is Get over it (midsummer night’s dream) with Kirsten Dunst.

    Women dressed as men had been done a couple of times Motocrossed and One of the guys. Of course it does, is the perfect “you are just as good as the guys!” girl power plot. I’m surprised there are no more.

    And showing my Twilight creds both Midsummer’s night dream and the Merchant of Venice are part of the inspiration of Breaking Dawn.

  18. Anacaona

    It seems that only Susan and me loved Bride and Prejudice. I like everything and the songs were really good (no life without wife was waaay catchy). The only issue I had was that Jane was supposed to be prettier than Lizzy and really Aishwarya Rai is probably the most beautiful woman in the planet if it wasn’t because she had to play the lead she should had been Jane and no the other way around, YMMV.

  19. @Susan
    I would love to see a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliffe as Brooding Loner has made many a panty wet.

    I think there already is one. If I remember correctly, MTV had something to do with it. After “Heath” runs away from what he believes is Cathy’s rejection of him, he becomes a famous rock star. The movie also twists the original story by hinting that Cathy’s daughter with “Hendrix” (Don’t ask me why they changed Linton’s name to that) is actually Heath’s daughter. (I’m not crazy about that. I know that in the original story Heathcliff becomes everyone’s father in a way, but they didn’t have to make it literal in Catherine’s case.)

    I believe the BBC did some modern retellings of familiar Shakespeare plots. The stories were faithful to the original plays, but the dialogue was completely modernized. I caught Much Ado about Nothing (which I thought was okay), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which is always interesting, no matter what people do with it), and The Taming of the Shrew (which was EXCELLENT).

  20. Sancho

    A Thousand Acres (book, then movie) is A re-telling of King Lear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s