5 Movies That Are Surprisingly Inspired By Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is perhaps the world's most popular writer—with an extensive body of work and immeasurable impact on pop culture, there's no shortage of influence one may credit to him. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the English language has been greatly enriched by terms he invented, some of which are "green-eyed" to describe being jealous, "lonely", "swagger", "critic", "dauntless", "unreal", and much more. Theatre (or film, for that matter) would not be the same without iconic plays like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, and the like.
To celebrate the poet's legacy, we round-up five movies that have been inspired by Shakespearean tropes and narratives—some of which you might have missed! Scroll through to find out which films were actually inspired by the legendary writer:
1/5 Taming of the Shrew | 10 Things I Hate About You
This 90's cult classic is a modernised take on the Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew. 10 Things I Hate About You stars Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik. The story begins when Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) falls for Bianca (Oleynik). To date her, he needs to get around her father's strict rules. Bianca is not allowed to date unless her older sister, Kat, does first. Cameron persuades Patrick (Ledger) to pursue Kat, who is notoriously ill-tempered, introverted, and abrasive.
The film actually takes a lot from the Shakespearean comedy, even retaining the female character's names. Patrick is an allusion to The Taming of the Shrew's Petruchio, whereas Cameron could be seen as an amalgamation of Gremio, Lutencio, and Hortensio (Bianca's suitors). Although there have been criticisms of the play's objectification of women, the film adaptation strives to veer away from the same pitfalls. A romantic comedy, in essence, 10 Things I Hate About You is a loveable tale of courtship, modern relationships, and the fickleness of romance.
Tatler Tip: Don't miss out on the famous Heath Ledger song number!
2/5 Julius Caesar | Mean Girls
It might surprise some to know that this high school comedy is actually reminiscent of the Shakespeare drama, Julius Caesar. Remember the famous "Brutus is just as cute as Caesar" line from Gretchen? A quick nod to the beloved poet! In Mean Girls, Regina George's reign as high school queen bee is challenged by new-comer, Cady Heron. Through a series of manipulations and mischief, Cady slowly overshadows Regina, thus symbolically taking the role of Brutus. The play on the other hand focuses on Brutus's moral dilemma as he and Cassius plot to murder Caesar. Chockfull of oratory lines and ethical conundrums, Julius Caesar is easily one of Shakespeare's most successful tragedies. Mean Girls takes a similar premise and twists it beyond recognition. A comedy that translates almost as satire, the film uses the movie genre to criticise middle-America/high-school politics.
3/5 Twelfth Night | She's The Man
This zany rom-com is actually written after Shakespeare's Twelfth Night conversely titled, What You Will—a shipwreck comedy written around 1601. Lead characters in the movie, She's The Man, carry eponymous names and storylines with the play. Crossdressing, misdirection, and gender-bending tropes, She's The Man is definitely a fun watch! Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum star as Viola and Duke Orsino respectively. Bynes disguises herself as her twin brother, Sebastian, in order to join Duke's soccer team. A hefty and convoluted plot carries the characters from tricky scenarios all the way to Viola's big reveal.
This Shakespeare-inspired comedy brings the poet's premise to the modern day with sports and gender criticism in tow. Best not to be taken too seriously, this over-the-top comedy is considered by many a rom-com classic!
4/5 Hamlet | Lion King
Set in Denmark, the Shakespeare play follows Prince Hamlet as he plots against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered his father in order to seize the throne. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and is considered among the most powerful and influential works of world literature, with a story capable of endless adaptation. So adaptable in fact that the classic Lion King that we know and love actually takes a few cues from it! The striking scene in which dear Mufasa gets trampled over by wildebeests is one that still garners online buzz among netizens. Simba's rise and eventual revenge against Scar is reminiscent of Hamlet's journey to defeat Claudius. This timeless tale of redemption is one that is often seen in film and television dramas. Lion King gets a special mention for its stellar adaptation (and matching popular appeal)!
5/5 Romeo & Juliet | Warm Bodies
In fair Verona... where we lay our scene. A fan of Shakespeare's most famous play? It might scorn you to know that this zombie romantic thriller is in fact inspired by the tragic classic. From two separate houses, Capulet and Montague, Juliet and Romeo fight against family duty and nature in order to be together. Warm Bodies carries the same plot, but instead of separate houses, Julie (Teresa Palmer) and "R" (Nicholas Hoult) are separated by literally, life and death. Fans of magic realism will greatly appreciate how far this movie suspends one's disbelief. As the zombie "R" is nursed back to the land of the living through Julie's true love, the movie's eccentric plot somehow mimics the Shakespearean classic. Two lovers torn apart by virtue and circumstance? Nothing is more relatable!