Shakespeare’s vast and dynamic oeuvre has served as inspiration for not only literary works, but also cinematic masterpieces. Directors like Baz Luhrmann and Michael Hoffman have translated the Stratford-Upon-Avon born’s writings directly into movies, but others like Akiro Kurosawa have picked up themes, essences, elements, and the spirit of the plays and transposed them into movies that one could never imagine are based on Shakespearean works.

From recent teen rom-coms to classic animations and smash hit musicals, directors have used Shakespeare’s characters, stories, comedy, and sense of divine justice to bring their masterpieces to life.

9 The Lion King (1994) – Hamlet

Many Disney die-hards love spilling this nugget of information — Shakespeare’s Hamlet inspired huge parts of The Lion King. Both Hamlet and Simba were royalty, whose fathers, the rightful Kings, were killed by jealous uncles (Claudius and Scar in this case).

Rafiki fills in for Horatio, as a friend and guide to Simba, showing him the ghost of Mufasa, who doesn’t tell him to seek revenge like the Shakespearean play, but tells him to return to his responsibilities in the Pride Lands. The symbolism of the graveyard and foreign lands confirms that the feline-filled epic is based on Hamlet.

8 Ran (1985) – King Lear

Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 masterpiece draws direct inspiration from King Lear. The director is known for his Shakespeare-influenced movies, and this one traces the story of an aging Lord Hidetora, who names his eldest son as his successor and banishes his youngest from the kingdom.

The movie is cinematically rich, with epic battle scenes, and moments of betrayal between Hidetora and his eldest, who is spurred on by his vindictive wife Kaede. Ran is a dramatic but beautiful watch.

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7 Throne Of Blood (1957) – Macbeth

Not a direct cinematic transliteration of Macbeth, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood seamlessly integrates elements of the play 11th century Scotland to feudal Japan scenery. Treachery, murder, royal betrayals, and conquests of 16th century Japan are given the quintessential Shakespearean treatment of poetic justice.

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The film follows the Noh style, which is an amalgam of dance, song, poetry, and mime. Taketoti Washizu, a tough general, is prompted by his ruthless wife to follow a path of destruction for eventual glory, just like Macbeth.

6 Omkara (2006) – Othello

This award-winning movie is the second in a trilogy of Shakespeare-influenced films by Vishal Bharadwaj, and one of the best non-English Shakespeare films out there. Omkara, a local politician’s right-hand man rises quickly through the ranks to become a candidate for elections in Uttar Pradesh, India.

When he chooses an upper-class Kesu over Langda to campaign next to him, Langda fakes an affair between Omkara’s wife Dolly and Kesu, which ultimately ends in Omkara killing Dolly. The movie is a criminal thriller version of Shakespeare’s Othello.

5 Forbidden Planet (1956) – The Tempest

The science-fiction flick is a loose adaptation of one of the last plays that the playwright produced in his lifetime. Dr. Edward Morbius lives in isolation with his daughter Altaira on their lonely planet, much like Prospero and Miranda.

With his mastery over technology, Morbius attacks the spacecrafts of men visiting the planet, one of whom is John Adams, the love interest of his daughter. Where The Tempest used magic, Forbidden Planet depicts technology.

4 West Side Story (1961) – Romeo and Juliet

While Romeo and Juliet hailed from feuding families the Montagues and Capulets, Tony and Maria of West Side Story were members of rival gangs, who were vying for control over the Upper West Side of New York (the Jets and Sharks).

Crossed wires, fatal Rumbles, and the unfortunate death of Tony are what finally bring peace between the two gangs. The only difference in the two tales is that Maria survives, despite her grief.

3 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare goes to high school with Patrick and Kat playing Petruchio and Katherine. Kat’s younger sister, Bianca, will only be allowed to date after Kat starts does, so one of Bianca’s suitors pays Patrick to woo Kat.

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Unlike the play, the degree of commitment is not the same (considering the characters are in high school), but the stakes are as high as the bribed Pat eventually does end up falling for feisty Kat but has a big secret to reveal to her. Arguably, 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the best Shakespeare movie adaptations.

 

2 Warm Bodies (2013) – Romeo And Juliet (Based On A Book Inspired By The Play)

This apocalyptic drama gives Romeo and Juliet a zombie twist. Based on the book of the same name, Warm Bodies makes allusions to the play, with Julie falling in love with R, a boy slowly turning into a zombie.

The undead R develops feelings for Julie, even defending her from other zombies as they attack her. A life-saving kiss between the two heals the zombie and gives hope to whatever is left of humankind in their dystopian universe.

1 She’s The Man (2006) – Twelfth Night

Another modern retelling of a Shakespeare play, Viola Hastings, an ace soccer player, takes the decision to impersonate her twin brother Sebastian after the female soccer team gets cut. Things get sticky when she starts to fall for her teammate Duke, played by Channing Tatum, who thinks she is her twin brother.

While Amanda Bynes’ comedic timing and Channing Tatum’s acting prowess elevate the Shakespearean comedy to another level, there are also some highlights featuring David Cross as the Principal and Alex Breckenridge.

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