10 Modern Shakespeare Adaptations Worth Checking Out

There have been a number of modern takes on the 'Bard' over the years and while they don't all capture the magic of his original works, there are plenty of film adaptations that deserve to be seen!


'O' by Tim Blake Nelson

Adapted from: Othello

A violent high school drama centered around a basketball team. The narrative doesn't quite work as with many Shakespeare adaptations, it tries to fill in too much in the time it has. That being said, there are still plenty of strong performances (especially Mekhi Phifer) that make this adaptation worth a watch.


Romeo + Juliet

Adapted from: Romeo and Juliet

When I first watched Romeo + Juliet (1996) growing up, I found it pretentious and hard to follow. Now, I find myself appreciating risks it takes more and more. Leo Di Caprio and Claire Danes really do the roles justice as well as strong ensemble performances by the likes of John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau and Miriam Margolyes. Set in "Verona Beach" which screams Miami, Baz Luhrman creates a colorful, pop punk 90s time capsule that will never leave your mind.


She’s the Man

Adapted from: Twelfth Night

Though it may only be loosely based on Twelfth Night, this high school comedy is so endearing in it's lead and premise, I can't but liking it. A star vehicle for Amanda Bynes, playing a student that disguises herself to play on a male soccer team. Her great onscreen chemistry with Channing Tatum makes this a fun, digestible family film that can give young audiences an early insight into Shakespeare's timeless themes and comedy.


Hamlet (2009)

Adapted from: Hamlet

Featuring a cast with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, this 2009 Royal Shakespeare production finds ways of keeping Shakespeare fresh in a modern setting. There have been many iterations of the Dane over the years so it's always interesting to see a fresh take done so dynamically by the Doctor. This cinematography is simple yet effective in creating a claustrophobic palace with surveillance cameras tracking every bit of drama erupting from its inhabitants.


West Side Story

Adapted from: Romeo and Juliet

One of the most memorable Shakespeare adaptations of all time as well as one of most beloved musicals of all time. An huge success on Broadway, the film adaptation of West Side Story created a new type of movie musical that has influenced film more than any other movie on this list. With Spielberg's remake coming out later this year, the now classic take on a tale of lovers from rival gangs, will resonate for years to come.


Richard III (1995)

Adapted from: Richard III

Arguably capturing Sir Ian Mckellen greatest ever performance on film, this version of Richard III set in a fascistic 1930s Britain, deserves to be seen just as much as any comedy on this list for it's scintillating depiction of what might have been.


My Own Private Idaho

Adapted from: Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V

You may not even realize at first that My Own Private Idaho (1991) is based on Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2 and also Henry V. Gus Van Sant's film stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as two Gay Hustlers travelling through the North West. This loose Shakespearean adaptation is criminally underrated and offers powerful emotional performances from its leads.


10 things I Hate About You

Adapted from: Taming of the Shrew

Writing about all these Shakespeare adaptations in a row, I’m realizing how many of these came out in the 90s. How is it one of my least favorite Shakespeare plays is one of my favorite ever adaptations. Well quite simply, it builds on its classic story and is the of the most successful adaptations on this list that seamlessly modernizes its premise.


Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Adapted from: Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon and Shakespeare? A surprisingly formidable combination. This black and white Rom Com style set in Santa Monica is a real gem of an adaptation that takes a risk in it's subtlety and the for the most part, it pays off. No big name actors, no big spectacles, but it doesn't need it.


Coriolanus (2011)

Adapted from: Coriolanus

One of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays still resonates in it's political messages today. Ralph Fiennes does an excellent effort at the helm of both the director and the titular role in a modern warfare setting. With commanding support from Vanessa Redgrave and Gerard Butler, this polished retelling is a benchmark of a what a Shakespearean film adaptation can be.

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