The Best Films Based On Shakespeare

Welcome to the best Films Based on Shakespeare list! Motion pictures that draw inspiration from the Bard are a big part of drama, but also comedy. We've focused on films influenced and based on Shakespeare's plays, and if you want more you can always check out the extensive library at CinemaParadiso.co.uk. We've compiled a list with some of the best Shakespeare adaptations, and we guarantee you'll find something you like. Between classics and some newly released films, let this list be your inspiration for the next movie night.

  • Forbidden Planet (1956)

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    1h 34min

    We're starting off on our journey through the best films based on Shakespeare's plays with a sci-fi title from 1956 - Forbidden Planet. Yes, it is set in the future, but that just shows how the Bard influences filmmakers to use their imagination. The characters and isolated environment have been compared to William Shakespeare's The Tempest. The plot contains certain story analogues to the play. Forbidden Planet is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen. Rent it on DVD for the 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition and Blu-ray with plenty of additional features such as 2 Follow-up vehicles starring Robby the robot and TCM original documentary: Watch the skies!

    Director:
    Fred M. Wilcox
    Cast:
    Walter Pidgeon, Marvin Miller, Anne Francis
    Genre:
    Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Collections
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

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    104 minutes

    If you want an all-star cast, then look no further. Much Ado About Nothing and its 1993 adaptation have plenty to offer, drama, farce and laughs adorned with recognizable wit. Fast moving, yet intricate tale of love and romantic combat, follows young lovers Hero and Claudio, soon to wed, and their conspiracy - with the help of Claudio's commanding officer, Don Pedro - to get verbal sparring partners Benedick and Beatrice to wed as well. During this whole story, meddling Don John plots to ruin the wedding. The film stars Kenneth Branagh (also directed by Branagh), Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale and Denzel Washington among others.

    Director:
    Kenneth Branagh
    Cast:
    Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves
    Genre:
    Drama, Comedy, Romance
    Availability:
    DVD
  • West Side Story (1961)

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    2h 26min

    Often cited as the greatest love story ever told, it is not strange it's actually based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a musical set against a backdrop of gang warfare in 1950s New York. However, the film was actually adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name. The film was nominated for staggering 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture, that way becoming the record holder for the most wins for a film musical. This retelling of Romeo and Juliet is truly one of the best showcasing the tragic and fateful love of two people on opposing sides, and it's also accompanied with some of the most well-known original songs that propelled it to its status as a classic.

  • Romeo and Juliet (1968)

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    132 minutes

    Here is a story of Romeo and Juliet coming straight from an Italian director, Franco Zeffirelli, and a story that doesn't need a special introduction. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey play two main roles of star-crossed lovers - the film won two Oscars, but unfortunately not the one for Best Picture. Interestingly, this is the last Shakespearean film to be nominated for Best Picture to date. You can see, probably the most popular version of the tragic story, on DVD and Blu-ray, bringing vitality and insight to the most enduring love story ever written. It appealed to a younger audience because it was the first film to use actors who were close to the age of the characters.

    Director:
    Franco Zeffirelli
    Cast:
    Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery
    Genre:
    Classics, Drama
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Hamlet (1948)

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    2h 33min

    Our next entry is one of the greatest Hamlet interpretations to this date, and it comes from Laurence Olivier, both playing the main role and serving as the director. These are the classics that are hard to surpass by contemporary film industry. Hamlet was a ground-breaking film in more ways, but maybe most memorable is that it was the first British film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film follows the overall story of the play, but cuts nearly half the dialogue and leaves out two major characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Now you can see this cinematic masterpiece on Blu-ray, remastered and accompanied with additional content including stills galleries.

    Director:
    Laurence Olivier
    Cast:
    Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, John Laurie
    Genre:
    Drama, Collections, Classics
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Henry V (1989)

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    132 minutes

    We continue our list with Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, BAFTA and Academy Award winning production based on Shakespeare's play of the same name about the heroic and ruthless king. Branagh has made a career of writing, directing and starring (here in the main role) in Shakespearean films, very successfully we might add. Among the talent-packed cast are Brian Blessed, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Derek Jacobi, Paul Scofield, Emma Thompson and Christian Bale. Henry V has been praised by critics and it is considered one of the best film adaptations of Shakespeare's work. The film won a BAFTA for best directing and an Academy Award for best costume design.

  • Throne of Blood (1957) Kumonosu-Jô

    1h 44min

    Macbeth had numerous adaptations to this date, and Akira Kurosawa's version is undoubtedly at the top. Throne of Blood changes the setting from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan and Japanese language, but still it captures the spirit of the original William Shakespeare's play. Add to that his signature visual storytelling and you get one of the greatest Kurosawa films and Shakespearean adaptations. The film stars Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada in the lead roles. Rent Kurosawa's masterpiece on Blu-ray to get access to special features worth watching, such as Interview with filmmaker George Lucas, Introduction to Sanjuro and The Art of Akira Kurosawa.

    Director:
    Akira Kurosawa
    Cast:
    Toshirô Mifune , Minoru Chiaki, Isuzu Yamada
    Genre:
    Drama, Classics, Collections
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Ran (1985)

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    2h 35min

    Here is our second Akira Kurosawa entry on the best films based on Shakespeare list. Ran tells the story of a bitter power struggle within the family of Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji, very like the story of Shakespeare's King Lear. This epic tragedy is also co-written and edited by Kurosawa - by many considered one of his finest achievements. Be sure to check it out on DVD or Blu-ray to get an insight how the film was made and other additional content including Portrait of Akira Kurosawa by Japanese cinema expert and interpreter Catherine Cadou and Akira Kurosawa: The epic and the intimate: Documentary on the director. The film won two BAFTAs and an Academy Award for Costume Design.

    Director:
    Akira Kurosawa
    Cast:
    Tatsuya Nakadai, Seizô Katô, Akira Terao
    Genre:
    Classics, Action & Adventure, Drama, Collections
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Macbeth (1971) The Tragedy of Macbeth

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    2h 14min

    Macbeth, also reffered to as the Scottish play, makes our next entry on the best of Shakespeare based films. Highly rated 1971 adaptation is directed by Roman Polanski and stars Jon Finch as the titular character and Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth. The story needs no special introduction, but let us just remind you that this is the story of the Highland lord who becomes King of Scotland through treachery and murder, prompted by the supernatural prophecy of three witches and his ambitious Lady. Macbeth won a BAFTA for Best Costumes and if you rent it on DVD you get to enjoy in the best quality, as well as other special features.

    Director:
    Roman Polanski
    Cast:
    Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw
    Genre:
    Drama, Classics, Collections
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
  • Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight (1965) Campanadas a medianoche

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    1h 51min

    We finish the best of Shakespeare with Falstaff and film Chimes at Midnight. This Shakespearean full-length feature stars and is directed by Orson Welles who said the core of the film's story was "the betrayal of friendship." Story centres on Sir John Falstaff and the father-son relationship he has with Prince Hal (a substitute for estrangement from his father) played by Keith Baxter. In other roles, you can see performances by John Gielgud as King Henry IV, Margaret Rutherford as Mistress Quickly and Jeanne Moreau as Doll Tearsheet. Interesting fact about the film is that the film contains no true soliloquies, since characters are never alone.

    Director:
    Orson Welles
    Cast:
    Orson Welles, Ralph Richardson, Jeanne Moreau
    Genre:
    Drama, Classics, Comedy, Collections
    Availability:
    DVD, Blu-ray
We hope you'll enjoy in these titles as we believe these are some of the best Shakespeare adaptations. If you're in need of more drama, try browsing our extensive collection of over 90,000 titles, and don't forget you can rent DVD and Blu-ray with our Free Trial offer!

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