By Meaghan Walsh Gerard
This year, April 23 marks the 455th birthday of William Shakespeare. The prolific writer penned dozens of plays and hundreds of sonnets. He coined terms that have become commonplace today. His brilliant characters and universal themes mean they have continued to influence stories through the centuries. From thrillers that will “make your hair stand on end,*” to Broadway musicals, these are not adaptations put to film. Rather, these movies use Shakespeare as a foundation to tell a story relevant to its audience. It’s been recommended that one “neither a borrower nor a lender be*, but we suggest making an exception in this case. And “as luck would have it,*” you can add these Shakespeare-inspired movies to your queue today.
“How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!”
Renowned director Akira Kurosawa presents King Lear in feudal Japan. Rather than conniving sisters vying for their father’s power, a warlord decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom among his three sons. It was a detailed, large-scale production and was the highest-budget Japanese film in history at the time.
“Things without all remedy / Should be without regard: what's done, is done.”
Florence Pugh plays a young wife, captive to an abusive husband and the strictures of Victorian society. When her husband leaves on business, she tastes a bit of freedom and determines never to return to a life of confinement. Like her namesake, she turns relentlessly murderous. It’s a strong, haunting film.
“I would not wish any companion in the world but you.”
Believe it or not, the sci-fi classic is based on The Tempest. Instead of Prospero and Miranda, there is a magician-like scientist and his daughter living on an isolated planet. Meanwhile, Robby the Robot grants every imagined desire, like Ariel. Plus there is the whole man vs. nature vs. fate vs. self thing. It also features a young Leslie Nielsen.
“These violent delights have violent ends.”
The boisterous American musical is a Romeo and Juliet story. Teenagers from two warring factions try to find room for their love, but when a violent and fatal confrontation comes between them, they are pulled apart. The final climax even revolves around the modern equivalent of the apothecary – the drugstore soda shop.
“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
A smash hit on Broadway, it was quickly made in to a Technicolor film. It’s a play-within-a-play. A group of actors is rehearsing Taming of the Shrew while at the same time their own lives begin to reflect aspects of the show – and hilarity ensues. The romantic comedy is set to a bright Cole Porter score.
*Hamlet and As You Like It
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.