The 25 best Shakespeare-to-screen adaptations

To film, or not to film, that is the question. We rank the answers.

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It would seem a no-brainer: Combine the world's most revered dramatist with today's most popular medium. Alas, translating the Bard to the big screen has proved trickier than anyone ever thought. In ranking the 25 most successful attempts, TONY tapped its Film and Theater experts. Their only ground rule: No plots about the playwright himself—such as this week's thriller, —would be eligible. (Sorry, Shakespeare in Love fans). But any adaptations of the plays themselves, loose or faithful, were fair game.

So if top-25 lists be the food of love, read on. And if we've forgotten your favorite title, please flourish your poison pen in the comments section below.

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Users say

10 comments
Liz
Liz

I was expecting more Shakespeare, fewer adaptations. Either way, Ethan Hawke's "Hamlet" is an enormous misstep.

pratik mitra
pratik mitra

kozintesev should have been there in the list!

Travis
Travis

Do some proofreading. Keanu Reeves is Don John, not Don Pedro.

Andrew
Andrew

And what about Othello (1995) and As You Like It (2006)? You can't go wrong with Kenneth Branagh.

Albert
Albert

Although it's controversial, Olivier's 1965 "Othello" should have been included, and I would never have put Baz Luhrmann's desecration of "Romeo and Juliet" on the list. And what about the Orson Welles "Macbeth"?

Andrew
Andrew

Despite the negative reviews, I'm actually rather pleased with this list - so much so, in fact, that I've been using it as a reference as to which Shakespeare adaptations to watch. Yet I too am not without my reservations. That the 1996 Hamlet should below the 2000 version, and that the 1990 version should not be included, is inexcusable. Of all the films on this list, the one I think least worthy of being included is that adolescent schizophrenic cacophony of gaudy ostentation Romeo + Juliet (1996), although I understand why it is included (not why it ranks so highly, however). Still, there are some notable films that have been unduly neglected, some of which other users have previously mentioned: West Side Story (1961), 10 Things I Hate about You (1999), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), and the grossly underrated The Tempest (2010). I have not seen Coriolanus (2011), though I'm sure it lives up to its hype.

richard brooks
richard brooks

A Shakespeare cinematic list that doesn't include Grigory Kozintsev's Hamlet (1964) and King Lear (1971) loses all validity.

Rebecca E
Rebecca E

The fact that Baz Luhrman's awful "Romeo and Juliet" and Ethan Hawke's dismal "Hamlet" are both on this list and Ralph Fiennes' superb Coriolanus, "West Side Story", and "10 Things I Hate About You" are not makes little to no sense. Also, Keanu Reeves was unwatchable in "Much Ado..."

Pete
Pete

I'm sorry, I can't trust a list that includes Forbidden Planet but not the BBC version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart. Or a list that ranks Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet below the 1968 version.