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6 Movies That Are Secretly Shakespeare Retellings

by  | April 23

Some reimaginings or retellings of Shakespeare’s plays are pretty easy to spot, whether it be from the title or just from being set during Elizabethan times. However, other retellings are a little sneaky about the inspiration for their plots. Are your favorite movies secretly presenting you with some of the most celebrated plays in history? Let’s revel on this Shakespeare Day by looking at some cinematic reinterpretations of the Bard.

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

by William Shakespeare

1) 10 Things I Hate About You

Based on: The Taming of the Shrew

So maybe this one isn’t such a secret. A tale of teenagers in love gets a little help from everyone’s favorite bard, boosting it to classic status. Cameron wants to date the beautiful Bianca, but she can’t go out with anyone unless her sister Kat is also dating someone. Thus, Cameron bribes the new kid Patrick to woo Kat, which he does successfully. However, Patrick starts to realize that he has feelings for Kat too…which is right when Kat finds out about the bet. Full of teen angst, great music, and a ton of big- name stars early in their career (RIP Heath Ledger, we miss you), 10 Things I Hate About You really brings out the romantic in all of us.

via GIPHY

2) Deliver Us from Eva

Also based on: The Taming of the Shrew

Yes, another Taming of the Shrew adaptation, but this time we’re dealing with adults. Eva is a perfectionist who is always looking out for her little sisters. This means being especially critical of their husbands, who eventually enlist Ray to woo her and get her out of the picture so they can live in peace. And while the story of The Taming of the Shrew is relatively simple, Deliver Us from Eva throws in kidnapping, faking a death, and even a soap-opera-style reveal at a funeral. Transformed into a look at early 2000s life, the film stars Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J, who make a great couple with some real chemistry. It hits home how even though the Bard’s version hasn’t aged all that well, there is still a good story underneath the Renaissance gender politics.

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Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

by William Shakespeare

3) She’s the Man

Based on: Twelfth Night

If you’ve never heard of Twelfth Night, you’re not the only one—it’s not one of the most taught of Shakespeare’s plays. While I will always encourage you to go out and read the original, you can definitely get the main plot from watching She’s the Man. Viola, played by Amanda Bynes, dresses up like a boy (under the name Sebastian) to compete on an all-male soccer team at a prestigious boarding school. She soon develops feelings for her roommate and teammate Duke, who only has eyes for Olivia. Olivia, however, is more interested in Sebastian. It’s a tale of romantic entanglements so crisscrossed, it makes that ball of holiday lights in your garage look orderly. Still, for the kind of comedy and romance that Shakespeare specializes in, this adaptation can’t be beat.

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Henry IV, Part 1

Henry IV, Part 1

by William Shakespeare

4) My Own Private Idaho

Based on: Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V

Now onto the indie scene, we have Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves back in 1991. The part of the film that follows the three plays of the Henriad, a.k.a. Shakespeare’s series of plays that follow the life of the monarch who would be known as King Henry V. This plot point particularly has to do with Reeves’s character, Scott. Scott is a rebellious and carefree kid who hangs out with street kids, but will ultimately inherit his father’s fortune. The growth of and then change in Scott mirrors that of Henry V, ultimately both a triumph and a tragedy for those involved. If this comparison is piquing your interest, or if you just want to see baby-faced Phoenix and Reeves, then I encourage you to watch the movie.

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The Tempest

The Tempest

by William Shakespeare

5) Forbidden Planet

Based on: The Tempest

This one is an oldie but goodie—one you might have seen in a film class or if you’re big into sci-fi. Many people don’t know, however, that this tale of daring astronauts finding a mysterious planet is, in fact, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. That’s right, the Bard going where no bard has gone before. A group of astronauts, led by a young Leslie Nielsen, end up on Altair IV, where they meet Dr. Morbius and his daughter Altaira, who have been stranded there. While the ending is pretty different from The Tempest, all the elements of a good Shakespearean retelling are present in Forbidden Planet—love, drama, and a little bit of magic...er, science.

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Othello

Othello

by William Shakespeare

6) O

Based on: Othello

In case you didn’t know, Julia Stiles starred in two Shakespearean retellings—the aforementioned 10 Things I Hate About You and this film, a retelling of Othello as a high school basketball drama. Odin, a star player on the team, draws the ire of Hugo, the coach’s son, who thus plots to destroy him. And, like the play it’s based on, Hugo does so by making Odin think his girlfriend, Desi, is cheating on him. ends just as tragically as the play, but the real draw is Josh Hartnett as Hugo, who is chilling as the devious and vicious Iago parallel. Grab the tissues for this intense drama, and then grab a copy of the play itself.

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A reporter by trade, Sara Roncero-Menendez is a lover of horror, sci-fi, and all things pop culture. From indies to classics to even the strangest genre pieces, all movies, TV shows, and books are fair game for a binge-fest. Follow her on Twitter @sararomenen or at her website, www.sara-roncero-menendez.com