Movies you might not know were based on Shakespeare

Of course, Shakespeare is renowned as one of Britain’s finest minds; many of his plays are still treading the boards around the world today. But did you know that so many movies take inspiration from his famous stories? Here we look at a few classics, all favourites for the outdoor cinema, that have undergone a modern makeover.


10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

A cult classic, this coming-of-age film propelled Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to worldwide stardom.

As newbie Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) is touring his new high school, he sets eyes on Bianca who is the beautiful, innocent sophomore. However, it transpires that she isn’t allowed to date until her older sister does. Therefore, it’s up to Cameron to find someone to date the “shrew”, Kat (Stiles). He enlists the help of Patrick Verona (Ledger), a bad boy with a mysterious reputation. Typical high school drama ensues as Patrick vows to “tame” Kat.

Sound like you’ve heard the story somewhere else? Well, that’s because this classic is based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’


The Lion King (1994)

Disney’s The Lion King is a true classic that is shared from generation to generation. With a score composed by Hans Zimmer and the original animation featuring A-list actors like Matthew Broderick (Simba) and James Earl Jones (Mufasa), it’s almost easy to forget that the story isn’t completely original. In fact, it’s based on one of Shakespeare’s most famous works: Hamlet!

Yes, really, The Lion King is the story of a king murdered by his brother and a young prince who will someday avenge his father. Who knew?!

West Side Story (1961)

West Side Story is regarded as one of the greatest musical films of all time.

Another favourite for outdoor cinemas and drive-in movies, West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet!

The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same title. Set in the mid-1950s in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. The musical explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.  The musical was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture. A second film adaptation of the same name by Steven Spielberg was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and six other Oscar nominations, winning one. 

Next time you’re watching one of your favourite films – keep an eye out for Shakespeare links! In fact, you can spot references in lots of popular culture. For example, The Simpsons have tackled William Shakespeare on numerous occasions with episodes ‘Much Apu About Nothing’, ‘Midsummer Nice Dream’ and ‘Do the Bard Man’, which saw Homer, Bart and family playing various characters from Hamlet.

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