The 5 best film adaptations of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare remains one of the most famous writers in the world. His works are studied around the world and it is no surprise that his stories have affected many other artists who use his masterpieces as inspiration for their own creations. Shakespeare’s works were told and adapted in obvious and subtle ways. Below is a ranking of five contemporary Shakespearean tales that fit the plots into modern settings and demonstrate creativity, entertainment, and reverence for Shakespeare’s brilliant storytelling.

5. “O” (2001) based on “Othello”

2001’s “O” tells the story of black student-athlete Odin, played by Mekhi Phifer, who shines as the MVP of his basketball team and has a beautiful and popular girlfriend named Desi, played by Julia Stiles. O’s coach (played by Martin Sheen) and his teammates adore him, with one exception: Hugo, played by Josh Hartnett, who is the basketball coach’s son and a teammate of Odin. Hugo resents Odin’s acclaim and strives to destroy him through manipulation. To achieve his ends, Hugo befriends Odin and feeds him lies about Desi cheating on him. Hugo fosters mistrust between Odin and everyone in his life, ultimately leading to his downfall. In this way and countless others, “O” mirrors the plot of Shakespeare’s “Othello”.

The film features classic “Othello” themes, such as jealousy and passion, all set against a contemporary high school setting. The film also features inclusive themes of race and adversity, making for an intense, fresh, and original narrative.

4. “Get Over It” (2001) based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Another teen romance from 2001, this film adapts “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” into the context of a high school play; the students recreate a musical production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the plot of which is reflected in the actions of the student actors. High schooler Berke, played by Ben Foster, tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, played by Melissa Sagemiller. In the process, he falls in love with Kirsten Dunst’s character, Kelly, in classic romantic comedy style. The film also stars famous actors from the early 2000s, Mila Kunis and Shane West.

As the film departs from the original plot of the play to allow for contemporary updates, the blending of the rough skeleton of the story arc and on-stage scenes creates clear parallels between the film and Shakespeare’s comedy. .

3. “She’s the Man” (2006) based on “Twelfth Night”

In third place comes “She’s the Man,” a popular comedy and modern take on “Twelfth Night.” Amanda Bynes stars as a soccer player named Viola, who takes on the identity of her brother, Sebastian, and attends a boarding school where she can play soccer as a boy after her school scraps the girls’ team . The play “Twelfth Night” features twins separated in a shipwreck, while in this film, Sebastian and Viola are separated in two different schools. Viola falls in love with her roommate and team captain, Duke, played by Channing Tatum, who doesn’t know her true identity, much like in the play.

“She’s the Man” incorporates comedy and a modern setting to effectively tell the same story while entertaining the audience. It also features a now-iconic pop culture moment, where Duke surprises Viola as “Sebastian” with a tampon, who pretends it’s for a nosebleed and inserts it into her nose.

2. “The Lion King” (1994) based on “Hamlet”

A beloved Disney classic, ‘The Lion King’ has become a favorite with children and adults across the world – but few people know it’s a contemporary tale by Shakespeare. In the cartoon “The Lion King”, Matthew Broderick voices the lion prince Simba. His father and King Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, is killed by his brother Scar, played by Jeremy Irons. Although the story makes for a great Disney movie, it borrows much of the main plot from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Audiences can see the story of a king murdered by his brother and a young prince who sets out to avenge his father. In “The Lion King”, the lionesses become Scar’s servants, while in Hamlet the queen is forced to marry the traitorous uncle. Simba’s friends Timon and Pumba are apparent iterations of Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Overall, “The Lion King” remains one of Shakespeare’s strongest tales as it presents the main plot of the original story in a completely new light and reaches a wide range of audiences.

1. “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999) based on “The Taming of the Shrew”

The beloved 1999 teen romantic comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” takes the top spot as the best Shakespeare adaptation set in modern times. It closely follows the trajectory of “The Taming of the Shrew,” telling the story of Padua high school students and sisters Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik), whose father won’t let Bianca out until Kat does. To circumvent this restriction, Bianca’s aspiring suitor, lovesick Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) convinces self-absorbed pretty boy Joey (Andrew Keegan) to pay off the school’s mysterious rebel named Patrick (Heath Ledger) to “tame” Kat.

Many characters even share a similar name to their Shakespearean counterpart. For example, Bianca is Bianca, Kat is Katherina, and Patrick is Petruchio. The film also features various references to the play and to Shakespeare himself. In the film, Kat is referred to as “the shrew” during one of the early scenes, and Kat’s best friend is obsessed with Shakespeare and even has a picture of him in her locker. He can also be heard quoting him more than once throughout the film.

With the various references to the original play and the fidelity to the original mixed with modern fun, “10 Things I Hate About You” remains an example of a near-perfect Shakespeare retelling; it does justice to the original while delighting audiences with its quirky charm.

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