William Shakespeare's plays have everything: Comedy, tragedy, action and off-color jokes -- which is why he was so popular with theatergoers of all walks of life.
Today, not everyone is comfortable with his early modern English, and that's OK. Many writers and filmmakers have adapted his works to a variety of time periods, settings and languages. (A "Star Trek" character once remarked, "You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.") In honor of the Bard's 448th birthday, here are some great movies based on his plays, all available through the SC LENDS library consortium.
"10 Things I Hate About You," based on "The Taming of the Shrew": Cameron, a new student at Padua Stadium High School, is smitten with pretty Bianca Stratford. When she informs him that she is not allowed to date until her ill-tempered older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) begins dating, Cameron sets out to find a date for Kat.
"O," based on "Othello": Odin ("O") James has a lot going for him. He's the star of the basketball team, has just received the MVP award and he's dating Desi (Julia Stiles again), the dean's daughter. Jealous Hugo, the coach's son, plans O's downfall in a disturbing chain of events including carjacking, assault and murder.
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"She's the Man," based on "Twelfth Night": This high school comedy's tagline says it all: "Everybody has a secret ... Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian who is really Viola whose brother is dating Monique so she hates Olivia who's with Duke to make Sebastian jealous who is really Viola who's crushing on Duke who thinks she's a guy ..."
"The Lion King," based on "Hamlet": "The Lion King" was originally released in 1994. It was re-released in 2002 as an IMAX movie, and re-re-released last year in 3-D. It's one of my favorite adaptations of "Hamlet." (Trust me; I took a college English class that did nothing but analyze film adaptations of "Hamlet.") When young Simba's uncle murders his father, Simba must decide whether to flee or confront his evil uncle.
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," based on "Hamlet": What do two minor characters do when they're not onstage? Find out in this play adapted into a movie. The clueless pair (played by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman) stumble into Elsinore Castle, where something odd is happening. Will they ever really know what's going on? Fans of absurdist humor will love this one.
"Romeo Must Die," based on "Romeo and Juliet": Kung fu action ensues in this remake of "Romeo and Juliet." Jet Li is an ex-cop investigating his brother's murder. During the investigation, he falls in love with the daughter of an American mob boss.
"Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood," based on "Macbeth": Set in medieval Japan, Throne follows the tragedy of Taketoki Washizu who, encouraged by his power-hungry wife, works to fulfill a prophecy that he will become emperor. Also check out "Kurosawa's Ran," another kung-fu movie based on "King Lear."
"Scotland, Pa.," based on "Macbeth": In this version, a hard-working but content fry cook is drawn into a web of deception and murder by his ambitious wife, who thinks she can do a better job than the restaurant's current manager.
Fans of Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly," "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog") should look for his adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing," coming to film festivals later this year.