What are the best Shakespeare films? This is a question that’s been asked time and time again.

To help answer this question, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite film adaptations from Shakespeare’s plays!

For those who want to see one of Shakespeare’s plays brought to life through film, this list is for you.

There are various ways in which people can enjoy watching their favorite play come alive on screen.

Some prefer the stage, others like the cinematic experience, but there is something to be said about seeing your favorite movie adaptations of Shakespeare.

This article will explore some of the most popular movies based on Shakespearean work and

why they’re worth checking out if you haven’t seen them already!

Best Shakespeare Movies

What are the best Shakespeare films? This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many great options.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

The 1996 film Romeo + Juliet was a high-budget, star-studded adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

The film starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles as the doomed lovers who defied their families to be together.

It is told through an interweaving series of events that unfolds on two different worlds: Verona Beach, CA, and Verona Italy.

The movie explores themes such as family legacy, love, at first sight, teenage rebellion against parents’ wishes, teen violence, parental cynicism over teenagers’ feelings for each other when they are not reciprocated (as in this case), and finally how these all lead to tragedy due to misunderstandings between the two families.

In 1996, director Baz Luhrmann released the film version of Romeo + Juliet.

With a modernized setting and soundtrack by renowned artists such as The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and Eric Clapton this rendition is nothing like the original Shakespeare play.

Romeo + Juliet [Blu-ray] [1996]
  • New HD master approved by director Baz Luhrmann
  • "Shaking Up Shakespeare" Picture-in-Picture mode with interactive commentary by Baz Luhrmann...
  • From the Bazmark Vault - Never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage
  • Concept art and storyboards
  • BD-LIVE: Live Lookup Powered by IMDb

King Lear (1971)

King Lear (1971) is not an easy film to watch but it is well worth your time because this movie will make you think about what really matters in life.

King Lear (1971) is a film adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays.

It was directed by Peter Brook and stars Paul Scofield as the titular King Lear.

The film stars Paul Scofield in the title role of King Lear, with an ensemble cast including Tom Courtenay, Daniel Massey and Alec Guinness.

The story centers around a king who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on their love towards him.

This decision leads to trouble as two of the daughters conspire against their father, while one daughter remains loyal.

Shakespeare: King Lear
  • Various (Actor)
  • Robin Lough (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

 

BEST SHAKESPEARE MOVIES

What Are Shakespeare Adaptations?

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, you know that his work is universal. His plays have been performed and reinterpreted for over 400 years.

A Shakespeare adaptation is a film that is inspired by one or more of Shakespeare’s works.

The most common type of adaptation is one where the playwright’s story has been changed slightly to fit into a modern setting, but that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, filmmakers change virtually everything about the original play and create a completely new work based loosely on the original piece.

 

 

As You Like It (1992)

As You Like It is a 1992 British romantic comedy-drama film.

The film was directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Helena Bonham Carter as Rosalind, Colin Firth as Orlando, Amanda Root as Celia, and Derek Jacobi as Touchstone.

As You Like It is the second of Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean adaptations to be filmed at Elsinore Castle in Denmark (following Hamlet) and features an entirely Danish cast.

The movie follows the adventures of court jester Rosalind, who has been banished from her home because she spurned her father’s choice for her bridegroom.

The 1992 film “As You Like It” is a modernized adaptation of the Shakespearean play.

The movie follows the main character Rosalind as she disguises herself as a man to avoid an arranged marriage and ends up in the forest with her cousin Orlando, who has been banished from his home.

The film has been well-received by critics, but also criticized for its historical inaccuracies.

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As You Like It [Blu-ray]
  • Laurence Olivier (Actor)
  • Paul Czinner (Director)
  • Spanish (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Julius Caesar (1953)

The 1953 film Julius Caesar is a classic example of Shakespearean drama.

The movie, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Marlon Brando as Marc Antony and James Mason as Brutus, offers a look at one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays in both its original form and modernized adaptation.

The film offers new insight into this iconic work that will surely captivate any viewer who appreciates great cinema or just enjoys watching good acting on screen.

The 1953 film adaptation of Julius Caesar is an engrossing portrayal that will leave you breathless.

This story follows the classic tragedy written by William Shakespeare.

Royal Shakespeare Company: Julius Caesar [Blu-ray]
  • Various Artists (Actor)
  • Dewi Humphreys (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)

Twelfth Night (1996)

Twelfth Night is a 1996 film adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare.

It stars Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Imogen Stubbs and Richard Briers.

Directed by Trevor Nunn, it was filmed at various locations in England including Ely Cathedral and Saffron Walden Town Hall. Twelfth Night was released in cinemas on 7 December 1996 to mixed reviews from critics.

Twelfth night is about twin brothers: Sebastian and Viola who are separated when one of them gets shipwrecked during a storm near an island called Illyria.

When the other brother shows up as Duke Orsino’s steward under the disguise of Cesario (Cesario being Viola) he falls in love with

Twelfth Night is a 1996 film adaptation of the Shakespearean play.

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Doctor Who: The Complete Twelfth Series [Blu-ray]
  • Various (Actor)
  • Various (Director)

Angoor (1982)

Angoor is a 1982 Hindi drama film directed by Gulzar, based on Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors.

Two pairs of identical twins are separated at birth and live their lives in different parts of the town, never knowing about each other.

One pair lives in the city, while the other lives in the suburbs. This is one of several movies where Sanjeev Kumar played more than one role. The film stars Sanjeev Kumar (in dual roles), Deven Verma, Moushumi Chatterjee and Aruna Irani.

It won several awards including Filmfare Best Movie Award, Best Director Award (Gulzar), Best Actor Award (Sanjeev Kumar) and Best Comedian Award (Deven Verma).

The story revolves around twins who were separated when they were just babies. Asadulghani played the role of Ashok Chaudhary and his twin brother Sanjeev Kumar plays the role of Bhagwan Das.

The story tells about the hilarious situations that arise when both the pairs meet each other. Their families also get into a mess trying to figure out who is who. Gulzar’s version was a faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play with only some changes made keeping in mind the sensibilities of the Indian audience.

The film won several accolades including National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi and several Filmfare awards. It is considered one of the best adaptations of Shakesperean works in Bollywood.

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Titus (1999)

In 1999, Titus was released to a wide audience.

The movie stars Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange and is directed by Julie Taymor.

It tells the story of Titus Andronicus, a Roman general who has been defeated in battle against the Goths and must now return with his remaining sons to Rome.

When he arrives at the city gates, instead of being met with celebration for defeating their enemies as they had hoped; he is greeted by humiliation from those that are already there.

Hopkins plays the titular character with an earnestness that we don’t often see from him nowadays.

Though he’s known for playing villains or dark characters like Hannibal Lecter, here he has a chance to show off his softer side as well as some of his comedic chops.

Though he’s known for playing villains or dark characters like Hannibal Lecter, here he has a chance to show off his softer side as well as some of his comedic chops.

Titus [Blu-ray]
  • Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming (Actors)
  • Julie Taymor (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Othello (1989)

Othello is a 1989 American film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, directed by Oliver Parker and starring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh. The film received its limited release in the United States on April 22, 1989.

It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and shot on location in Italy. The film follows the plot of the original play, with some changes to the story line.

The film opens as a general sea battle is taking place during a war between Venice and Turkey.

Othello appears to be winning the fight until Iago manages to give false orders and disable Othello’s ship. Othello then sees Desdemona kissing Cassio and becomes enraged.

Shakespeare: Othello
  • Joanna Vanderham, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Hugh Quarshie (Actors)
  • Iqbal Khan (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

The Bad Sleep Well (1960) is a film that exposes the dark side of Japanese society.

The movie follows an investigation into a series of murders, which are all linked to one man’s attempt to get revenge on those who wronged him during World War II.

This movie is worth your time because it sheds light on how easy it was for people in Japan after WWII to forget and ignore their past crimes.

This is one of the director’s lesser-known works, and you may not have heard of it before.

However, with its themes such as greed and corruption in Japan’s corporate world – topics that are still relevant today.

The movie was directed by Akira Kurosawa and stars Toshiro Mifune, Yuzo Kayama, Masayuki Mori, and Eijirô Tôno.

The Big Sleep
  • Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely (Actors)
  • Howard Hawks (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) is an American film directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle based on the play by William Shakespeare.

It was made by Warner Bros. as part of its prestigious Vitaphone series of films, mostly because they were one of the few studios that had not yet filmed a version of the famous play. The film starred James Cagney (Bottom), Olivia de Havilland (Hermia), Mickey Rooney (Puck), Dick Powell (Lysander), Joe E. Brown (Flute/Thisbe), and Victor Jory (Oberon).

The play within a play featured Ian Hunter as Quince. The film is notable for its extensive use of Technicolor, which was still in its infancy at the time.

The cinematography was by James Wong Howe. Felix Mendelssohn’s music for the play was used under the direction of Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

With a budget close to two million dollars and using the entire Warner Bros. backlot, as well as many sound stages, this production utilized hundreds of extras, elaborate costumes and sets, and special effects galore in bringing Shakespeare’s tale to life.

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Midsummer Night's Dream [Blu-ray]
  • Kathryn Hunter, David Harewood, Tina Benko (Actors)
  • Julie Taymor (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

In 1993, Kenneth Branagh directed a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” that is full of joy and humor.

This movie was the first all-talkie version of the story, which also features an all-star cast.

The director makes it his goal to keep this beloved play as true to its original form as possible while still being able to make cinematic changes for modern audiences.

In doing so, he creates a movie that is both entertaining and educational for students studying Shakespearean classics in their English classes.

In 1993, Kenneth Branagh directed a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” that is full of joy and humor.

The play is set in Messina, Italy where the Prince has set out to find himself a bride.

A group of friends is at home waiting for him while they discuss their own love lives and how they’re going to get married soon.

One night two people show up claiming that there was an accident with the prince and he died which sends everyone into a frenzy trying to figure out who this woman is so she can be told the news about her husband’s death.

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Much Ado About Nothing [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard (Actors)
  • Kenneth Branagh (Director) - Kenneth Branagh (Writer)
  • English, French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Hamlet (1921)

Hamlet (1921 film) is a lost film based on the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, adapted for the screen by John L. Balderston and starring H. B. Warner as Hamlet, E. A. Brady as Horatio, and Mary Philbin as Ophelia.

It was directed by James Whale and produced by Fox Film Corporation and its star, Ronald Colman, obtained the rights to adapt it from Warner Bros., who had previously filmed it in the silent era with John Barrymore in the lead role.

The production of an American sound film of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays marked a turning point in the British film industry’s attitude toward spoken dialogue for films, which was largely considered untheatrical and beneath serious consideration until this time.

Hamlet [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

Richard III (1955)

Richard III is a play by William Shakespeare about the life of King Richard III. The play was first published in 1597,

but it has been adapted for film many times since then with different directors and actors.

One of the most recent adaptations is from 1955 directed by Sir Laurence Olivier starring himself as Richard III.

Richard III (1955) is a British black and white film production that follows the story of King Richard’s rise to power before his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, leading up to his defeat on the battlefield against Henry Tudor and eventual murder after he had reigned for two years as king over England.

The film captures the director’s best-known stage performance as he plays King Richard III with chilling intensity.

Richard III [Blu-ray]
  • Richard III (Special Edition) - Blu-ray Used Like New
  • Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent (Actors)
  • Richard Loncraine (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 Things I Hate About You is a 1999 American romantic comedy film directed by Gil Junger and starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik.

The screenplay, written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, is a modernization of William Shakespeare’s late-16th century comedy The Taming of the Shrew.

In the story, new student Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) is smitten with Bianca (Oleynik) and, in order to get around her father’s strict rules on dating, attempts to get bad boy Patrick (Ledger) to date Bianca’s ill-tempered sister Kat (Stiles).

The film is titled after a poem written by Kat about her bittersweet romance with Patrick. Much of the filming took place in Seattle, with many scenes shot at Stadium High School.

The plot, loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, centers on the turbulent relationship between Kat (Julia Stiles), a strong-willed, feminist activist, and Patrick (Heath Ledger), a new student at Padua High who has fallen for her.

10 Things I Hate About You (10th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles (Actors)
  • Gil Junger (Director)
  • English, French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

King Lear (1971)

King Lear, a play by William Shakespeare, is about an old king who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters.

The youngest daughter Cordelia refuses to say anything nice about her sisters and as punishment she is disinherited.

King Lear is Shakespeare’s shortest and most compressed play.

The film adaptation by Peter Brook that was released in 1971, while not as famous as his other works, still retains the quality of a great Shakespearean production.

In fact, it is often considered provocative for its analysis of society and how people interact with each other.

King Lear (1971) is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by the same name.

It stars Peter O’Toole as King Lear, a man who divides his kingdom between two daughters and one son.

The film follows the original story closely with minor changes to make it more believable and understandable for modern audiences.

Shakespeare: King Lear
  • Various (Actor)
  • Robin Lough (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

Maqbool (2003)

Maqbool (2003) is a Bollywood crime tragedy film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and starring Pankaj Kapur, Irrfan Khan, and Tabu.

The film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. It is set in the backdrop of organized crime and corruption that prevailed in Mumbai (then Bombay) in the 1980s.

The film was screened at several film festivals and received positive reviews from critics who praised its screenplay, direction, cinematography, and background score. Maqbool was not a commercial success in India but it performed well overseas including in the UK.

Set in contemporary Mumbai, Maqbool is the story of two gangsters, Maqbool (Khan) and Abbaji (Kapur), with the former being the protégé of the latter.

The cast also included Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, and Masumeh Makhija as well as Piyush Mishra, who also wrote the lyrics for five songs.

Chimes at Midnight (1966)

Chimes at Midnight (1966 film based on Shakespeare) Chimes at Midnight is a 1966 film by Orson Welles, his first feature in twelve years. It was also the only film he made in Spain.

It was based on several works by William Shakespeare: mainly King Richard II, which Welles adapted into what some critics have described as a “fantasia.”

The actors who played the characters in Chimes at Midnight are not necessarily the same actors who played them in the original Shakespeare plays or films. In fact, Welles was known to rewrite scenes as he filmed, so that they bore little resemblance to the original scripts.

According to one critic, “Chimes at Midnight is not a film that can be reviewed; it is a country that has to be entered.”

Orson Welles himself said: “It’s an attempt to create a cinematic equivalent of literature; an interpretation of four great scenes from Shakespeare … What I’ve done is take four great writers and make films out of their greatest scenes … My ambition is to make films that will be considered not movies but cathedrals.”

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Chimes at Midnight (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Chimes at Midnight (Criterion)
  • Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Keith Baxter (Actors)
  • Orson Welles (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Hamlet (1964)

In 1964, director and actor Laurence Olivier released his version of Hamlet.

It was the first film adaptation with an all-star cast.

The movie starred Olivia de Havilland, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave, and Claire Bloom.

It is based on a play of the same name written by William Shakespeare that takes place in Denmark during the medieval era.

The film follows Prince Hamlet’s quest for revenge after his father has been murdered, which leads to many tragic events that plague not only himself but all those around him.

Hamlet is an appropriate title because it refers to the protagonist who deals with grief, anger, betrayal, and regret throughout this story.

One of the most important and influential plays in Western literature, Hamlet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare.

Hamlet [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

Throne of Blood (1957)

The Throne of Blood is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa that has been called “the supreme achievement of his later period.”

The plot is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the film uses many stylistic techniques to produce an atmosphere of horror.

It was a huge success in Japan when it was released but received mixed reviews from Western critics at the time.”

The 1957 Akira Kurosawa film Throne of Blood is a samurai adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The movie follows the same basic storyline as in the original play, but with many artistic liberties taken to make it more interesting and visually appealing.

For instance, Lady Miki has an affair with her husband’s brother, not his best friend like in the play.

This provides for a much more dramatic climax scene when she is caught by her husband while trying to seduce him after he kills his enemy.

Kurosawa moved the setting from Scotland to medieval Japan where he was able to add all sorts of traditional Japanese elements including costumes and sets that are wildly different than anything you might see in Western films at this time.

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Throne of Blood [Blu-ray]
  • Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Minoru Chiaki (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

What Are The Best Shakespeare Movie Adaptations?

As a lover of all things Shakespeare and movies, I wanted to share with you my favorite adaptations.

These are the ones that really stay true to the original meaning and feeling while still being entertaining enough for modern audiences.

The first one on this list is Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Hamlet from 1996.

It was filmed in an old-fashioned style with lots of close-ups and beautiful shots that make it feel like you’re watching a play rather than a movie.

A question that many people have asked themselves is what are the best Shakespeare movie adaptations?

The first one on the list is a modern adaptation of “Hamlet.” This version stays true to the original play’s dialogue and feel, but with updated visuals.

Next up is a movie that takes Hamlet’s story in an interesting direction by turning it into a revenge thriller starring Liam Neeson as Othello…

We will go over some of his most popular and well-known plays and give a short synopsis as well as which movies have been made based on them.

The Tempest: There is no movie adaptation for The Tempest, but it is the final play in Shakespeare’s canon.

It tells the story of Prospero, who was duke of Milan before his brother Antonio overthrew him with help from Alonso, king of Naples.

He uses magic to control the dangerous creatures on an island he lives on with his daughter Miranda and servant Ariel (who is actually a spirit).

When Alonso finally arrives at Prospero’s island after being shipwrecked there

Shakespeare is one of the most prolific playwrights in history. It should come as no surprise that many movies have been made from his work.