April 2, 2009

Much Ado About Shakespeare Adaptations

I started to title this "My 5 Favorite Shakespeare Adaptations," but soon discovered there was no way I could narrow it down that much--even ten was too difficult. I still have this sneaking suspicion I'm missing a few. As for the plays, Romeo and Juliet was my Rosaline and then I read Hamlet and that was it for me. I was head over heels--I've even dated a few Hamlets, unfortunately. Henry V and Macbeth take third place. If I'm forgetting any or you disagree with my choices, take me to task in the comments. --Kim

12. The Taming of the Shrew dir. Franco Zeffirelli with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

11. Tempest (1982) with John Cassavetes, Susan Sarandon, Gena Rowlands, Raul Julia, and Molly Ringwald

10. Henry V (1989) with Kenneth Branagh (Love the St. Crispin's Day speech in the video below.)

9. The Merchant of Venice (2004) with Al Pacino and Joseph Fiennes

8. Hamlet (1948) with Laurence Olivier

7. Hamlet (1996) with Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet

6. Romeo + Juliet (1996) dir. Baz Luhrmann, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

5. Throne of Blood (1957) dir. Akira Kurosawa

4. Shakespeare In Love (1998) with Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth (meh) Paltrow, co-written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, which is a combination of Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night

3. Much Ado About Nothing (1993) with Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, and Denzel Washington

1. Romeo and Juliet (1968) dir. Franco Zeffirelli

And I have to add Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) written and dir. by Tom Stoppard, starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, which is more of a spin-off than an adaptation, although the play Hamlet co-exists within the movie and drives the plot.


  1. Oh my god, I almost cried at both Branaugh clips! I think it was the music in both. I need to go download the "Sigh No More" song right now.

    I actually liked the Mel Gibson Hamlet. Does that make me crazy? Probably a little, huh?

  2. You know, I had that one in there and in all the shuffling around I took it out. I couldn't decide where to put it. I always think of Cher's line in Clueless: "Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn't say that. That Polonius guy did." It deserves to be on the list.

  3. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Thank God Shakespeare is able to survive any number of adaptions.