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Shakespeare at the Movies

Shakespeare at the Movies

It’s been 400 years in the making. Not an abundance of the people around at the time knew it but April 23rd 1616 was a sad year in the world of literature. The amazingly unique William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, passed away at a quite young 52 years.

Celebrating a playwright is unusual but this guy is iconic, The Bard was his calling card with plays and sonnets being translated into every living language and performed more than any other playwright including into various modern retellings into the 21st century. Movies of all kinds from classic literature adaptations to new works always stand the test of time due to Shakespeare’s involvement. With too many to name, I have picked my top 10 Shakespeare related films.


Based around The Taming of the Shrew, opposites attract as Australia’s own, the late great Heath Ledger, participates in an unattainable dating game to help his friend take out her sister with the father’s blessing.


Immaculate British thespian Kenneth Branagh took control of a Shakespeare resurgence after his slick ‘Henry V’ with this excellent star-studded fluff piece of breezy romantics luckily prompting Keanu Reeves to actually act.


What is depicted as the inspiration of the original facts based on Romeo & Juliet, this Oscar controversial winning tale is filmmaking perfection mixing love-honour-deception, pure entertainment treading the boards.

MACBETH – 1948

The unpredictable Orson Welles put a stamp on Shakespeare as the 11th Century Scottish nobleman dedicated to act ruthless and let all around know he is King. Adored at by film students around the world, it’s a benchmark.

William Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET – 1996

One of the first real commercial updates of classic Bard, Australia’s own Baz Luhrmann took the star crossed lovers tale pumping young enigmatic Leo DiCaprio among others with beautiful dialouge and modern vision.

RAN – 1985

Legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa took the enigmatic triumphant King Lear into the art of Samurai, one of the finest looking epics of the 1980s featuring staggering battle sequences and testament of obedience.

GET OVER IT – 2001

Almost questionable adaptation of the wonderful Midsummer Night’s Dream begins with an awesome opening musical scene that emerges into teen mediocre not before cool Shakespeare overtones and general bard love.

HAMLET – 1996

Mel Gibson shocked many when announcing he would adorn the page boy haircut to become the Prince of Denmark but although abridged, this Hamlet was a box office and audience friendly success. Holds up today.


Believe it or not, this 1950s much loved creature feature was inspired by The Tempest. What would have the Bard thought of outer space insignia disturbing the intergalactic peace, this is a classic and remains riveting.


The animated feature film flop certainly deserves a better following. Adapted from the Bard’s great tragic love story, this children’s turn of events involving mini garden statues may feel a stretch but it is extreme family fun.

Honourable mentions…

HAMLET – 1996

Word-for-word four hour event spectacular filmed in glorious 70mm CinemaScope featuring a yet to be equaled diverse cast including Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Kate Winslet, and many many more.

TEMPEST – 1982

Loose retro interpretation almost builds on original Bard atmospherics.

Shane A. Bassett

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