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Shakespeare inspired movies you might not have realised were

Most people at some point have studied at least one Shakespeare play. With my A level English teacher we spent the whole of the first full term to Christmas, reading as many Shakespeare plays (and Chaucer) as he could fit in. The aim – to get us prepared for the language and moving onto the set texts. We also got to see 2 or 3 Shakespeare plays in London and more locally.  Apart from Olivier’s Hamlet, films weren’t on the curriculum. There are plenty of Shakespeare inspired movies to give an introduction to Shakespeare’s plays, for those who prefer movies to books or theatre.

Check out my list of Jane Austen inspired movies

Of course there are the classics – the adaptations staying faithful to the original story and characters and retaining the title. But there are plenty of movies inspired by Shakespeare, whether they’re set in more contemporary times or cultures. Or are harder to spot if they’re based on Shakespeare’s plays.

shakespeare inspired movies

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Shakespeare inspired movies

Romeo and Juliet 

(Girl and boy from conflicting families meet and fall in love, ends in tragedy)

Warm Bodies – Zombie movie with character R and Julie meeting and him falling in love. 

West side story – musical set in New York of star crossed lovers belonging to rival gangs the Sharks and Jets

Pizza My Heart – modern day film about a man and woman from 2 rival pizzeria owning families, who fall in love much to their families’ disapproval.

Gnomeo & Juliet – an obvious one, with red and blue gnomes. It’s even set in Stratford upon Avon.

Taming of the Shrew 

10 Things I hate about you – teen coming of age movie, with boy trying to woo girl, while the girl’s boyfriend pays another to tame the sister in order for them to go out together. (one of the best romcoms out there in my opinion).

Deliver us from Eva – 3 men get another man Ray, to woo Eva to keep her out of her sisters’ (their girlfriends) lives. It backfires when they fall in love

12th Night

She’s the Man – teen romcom. Away from her twin, Viola pretends to be a boy to play soccer, but then falls for her roommate who’s unaware of her pretence.

Just one of the guys – an aspiring journalist wants to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men, so disguises herself as a boy to gain credibility. But then she falls for a boy while disguised and trouble ensues.

Motorcrossed – a girl secretly poses as her brother his Motorcross race, after she feels guilty of his breaking his leg. They gain their mother’s help behind the father’s back.

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Get Over It – story of a high school student who tries to win back his ex-girlfriend by joining the school play cast she is in performing Midsummer Night’s Dream. No fairies in this version, but scene from the play link it back to Shakespeare’s original.


Men of Respect – 90s crime drama set in the mafia world, that mirrors the tragedy of Macbeth. Ambitions and actions during a rise to power end up being a downfall.

King Lear

King of Texas – western about a self-made ranch tycoon (Patrick Stewart) whose daughters reject him after they received their large inheritance.

A Thousand Acres – daughters pitted against their father when the inherited land is disputed.

Ran – director Kurosawa chose to use a feudal Lord and his 3 sons, rather than daughters. (I studied Kurosawa for my film studies module in my General Studies A Level)


Lion King – a king murdered by his brother and a young prince who will someday avenge his father

Throne of Blood – moving the story of Hamlet into feudal Japan, another Kurosawa directed film.


O –  set in a predominantly white high school with Hugo jealous of the attention and affection black student and basketball player Odin receives especially from the coach, Hugo’s father. Hugo turns on Odin to manipulate others to create his downfall. 

Comedy of Errors

Big Business – twins played by Bette Midler and LilyTomlin as two sets of identical twins mismatched at birth. With one of each twin being reared in a wealthy urban setting, while the others grew up in a poor rural environment

Henry IV and Henry V

My Own Private Idaho – the story of 2 friends (and street hustlers) as they travel from Portland, Oregon to Idaho, then on to Rome, on a journey of self discovery.

The Tempest

Yellow Sky – a western with a band of outlaws coming across a ghost town, inhabited by a woman and her prospector grandfather. He offers up some gold to keep his granddaughter safe while the gang argue over taking all the gold instead.

Forbidden Planet – a space crew land on a utopian planet, with Atla falling for one of the outsides, much to her father’s disapproval, and attempt to prevent it happening.

I’ll also add Shakespeare in Love where different scenes mimic different plays:

  • Will and Violet’s balcony scene (Romeo and Juliet)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola dressing up as a man (Twelth Night)
  • Appearance of a ghost and ‘play within a play’ (Macbeth)

If you’re more of a reader you can read Shakespeare’s Complete Works* or watch films at Prime* (UK).

Which is your favourite version of Shakespeare?

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