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The 10 Best Movies Adapted From A Shakespeare Play

18 November 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by Sonja Hetzel

6. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)

Westside-Story

I don’t see any (on-screen) chemistry between Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood, but they were oh-so-pretty. The production design was rather forgettable, but the soundtrack made up for it. If not for “The Sound of Music”, this would have been my favourite film by Wise. This update of “Romeo and Juliet” would come alive when someone (or everyone) was singing or dancing. (My favourite tune was “Tonight”.) When it was Maria’s turn to shine, I could imagine the Bard smiling somewhere up there.

 

7. Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli, 1968)

romeo_and_juliet_1968

Forget Baz Luhrmann’s version, even the latest by Carlo Carlei. Zeffirelli’s was THE quintessential version. My image of Juliet was blond-haired, until Olivia Hussey played the role. (Talk about perfect casting.) After watching it, I wanted to fly to Verona and stand on Juliet’s balcony, waiting for my Romeo. Enough said.

 

8. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh, 1989)

henry-v

Branagh’s first big-screen adaptation of the Bard’s play was his best. It would be unfair to compare his version to Olivier’s. (I don’t think one was better than the other, as I rather looked at it as a play worth adapting again and again.) Branagh’s depiction of Henry V, the second English monarch who came from the House of Lancaster, was that of a commanding figure. (It didn’t cross my mind that the actor was short.) Then there was Emma Thompson, unforgettable too. (She would appear in “Much Ado About Nothing”, Branagh’s next Shakespeare production.)

 

9. Othello (Oliver Parker, 1995)

Othello_1995

Iago was the most-memorable villain that Shakespeare created. Some would argue the villains in “King Lear” and “Titus Andronicus”, but I beg to disagree. It was his charm, which he would use to the hilt. (Jealousy was his only reason.) Branagh played this character with such gusto, such that I preferred his performance over his depiction on Hamlet. (I would be undecided if it was Henry V.) If not for him, then I don’t think Oliver Parker’s version would be highly recommended. (Olivier had his version too, which was released in 1965.)

 

10. Richard III (Richard Loncraine, 1995)

richard-iii-1995

There were instances when you must be creative, in able to appreciate a written material a little more. Such was the case here, where Richard Loncraine drew from the aesthetic of the Third Reich, resulting to a different Britain in the 1930s. (When my instructor in British Cinema asked me about it, my response was it was such a site.) Ian McKellen’s performance deserved an Oscar nomination. (It wouldn’t surprised me if this film was the reason he was casted in “Apt Pupil”, where he gave another masterly performance.) Look out for Robert Downey, Jr., sporting historical costumes. (Did he imagined, back then, that he would play Tony Stark? Maybe.)

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