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The Worst Shakespeare film adaptations

  • The Worst Shakespeare film adaptations

    All the world may be a stage in Shakespeare’s world, but all the world is definitely not a movie theater when it comes to film adaptations of Shakespeare’s best work. While some adaptations of Shakespearean classics go fairly well (Kenneth Branagh seems to have figured the adaptation game out), there are many more that don’t deserve the right to be affiliated with The Bard. For every “10 Things I Hate About You” (based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”), there are ten like “Tromeo and Juliet” which made this list. As Shakespeare wrote in “Henry IV, Part 2,” “a man can die but once,” but apparently his reputation can be muddled by filmmakers many times after his death.

    In honor of William Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616, Stacker has compiled a list of all of the cinematic flops created in the name of the greatest playwright history has ever known. Using IMDb user ratings from most respected to most reviled, this list tracks all sorts of Shakespeare-inspired films from a Western version of King Lear starring Patrick Stewart, to an animated retelling of Romeo and Juliet where the lead characters are… seals? Click through to see all the ways Shakespeare’s masterpieces have been remade in the name of the box office.

  • #50. Macbeth

    Year: 1983

    IMDb rating: 6.8

    This “Scottish Play” follows a man’s ruthless ambition in his quest for power and the result is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. The 1983 BBC TV adaptation is a mostly faithful straightforward recreation of the source material, although director Jack Gold cut out the Hecate scenes and the English doctor’s report to Malcolm.

  • #49. Hamlet

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 6.8

    Mel Gibson teamed up with legendary Shakespearean film director Franco Zeffirelli for this dark production of Shakespeare’s classic tale of political conspiracy and supernatural vengeance. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars, but the only Academy Award nominations it received were for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

  • #48. Romeo + Juliet

    Year: 1996

    IMDb rating: 6.8

    Perhaps the most well-known story in Shakespeare’s canon, “Romeo and Juliet” tells the story of star-crossed lovers from warring families in Verona. In “Romeo + Juliet,” Australian director Baz Luhrmann takes two major stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, and places them in the title roles of this modern gangster-themed adaptation while still using the original dialogue of the play.


  • #47. Julius Caesar

    Year: 1950

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    This low-budget 1950 production of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s rise and fall was essentially a glorified student film starring Charlton Heston as Mark Antony. Shot in and around Chicago, the budget was a paltry $15,000 and the response paled in comparison to the 1953 adaptation starring Marlon Brando.

  • #46. Romeo and Juliet

    Year: 1936

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    The New York Times liked this version of forbidden love so much, it included the production in their “Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made,” along with the 1968 version as well.

  • #45. Macbeth

    Year: 2015

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    This recent adaptation of Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender as the Scottish general and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. While the film competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it didn’t enjoy much commercial success, earning just over $16 million worldwide.

  • #44. Romanoff and Juliet

    Year: 1961

    IMDb rating: 6.6

    “Romanoff and Juliet” was actually a play first that transformed the traditional Romeo and Juliet story into a Cold War-inspired fable of two children of ambassadors (one Russian, one American) who fall in love. The film version of the play starred Sandra Dee of “Gidget” fame as the American girl.

  • #43. The Tempest

    Year: 1979

    IMDb rating: 6.6

    Shakespeare’s island play of a shipwreck and the mysterious forces of magic at work got the Derek Jarman film treatment with costumes of various eras and a recent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

  • #42. Tempest

    Year: 1982

    IMDb rating: 6.5

    This adaptation came only 3 years after the 1979 production, but opted to set the story in the present with a New York City architect as the lead character who travels to the Greek isles as part of a midlife crisis. “Tempest” holds the delightful distinction of being Molly Ringwald’s feature film debut.

  • #41. A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Year: 1999

    IMDb rating: 6.5

    One of Shakespeare’s most-adapted works, this film takes the story of misguided love between two couples and their journey into an enchanted forest and uproots it to 19th Century Italy with a cast of Hollywood heavyweights like Christian Bale, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Stanley Tucci.

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