Happy 451st birthday to William Shakespeare, not-so-arguably the greatest writer in the history of literature. And to celebrate the Bard’s big day, we’ve compiled a list of five of the greatest modern films based on his work.
The cast: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi
While the 1948 version featuring Laurence Olivier won a Best Picture Oscar, we pick the Kenneth Branagh take on “Hamlet”; from 1996 over both the early film and the Mel Gibson movie from 1990. The Branagh version include every word of the play, for which he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscar for not actually adapting the play. The story: It’s the tale of a young Danish prince who plots revenge after discovering his uncle Claudius killed his father to obtain the family’s throne. Shakespeare-wise, it doesn’t get much more tragic than this, folks. In addition to Branagh, Julie Christie and Derek Jacobi, the stellar cast also includes Billy Crystal, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, the late Robin Williams and the late Jack Lemmon.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1999)
The cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, Calista Flockhart
The story: Will’s most popular comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows four young lovers and a group of actors as they interact with royalty and woodland fairies in an enchanted forest. And don’t forget the weaver who’s magically (semi) transformed into a donkey! A crazy love story with an unlikely yet fantastically cohesive cast.
“Much Ado About Nothing’ (1993)
The cast: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves
The story: Soon-to-be-married lovers Hero and Claudio have a plan: to somehow get Benedick and Beatrice to walk down the aisle as well. No easy feat mind you, given that they’re both confirmed singles. Oh, and they don’t exactly get along, either. Keanu Reeves in a Shakespeare film? Trust us, it works.
“Romeo + Juliet’ (1996)
The cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo
The story: This gritty, modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s most famous romance sees star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet put aside their families’ sworn differences to run away together. Well, try to run away together. Spoiler: things don’t end so well. The perfect film for teens who normally shy away from Will’s prose.
“Shakespeare In Love’ (1998)
The cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck
The story: Netting seven Oscars — including “Best Picture’ — Shakespeare In Love spins the yarn of young Will suffering from writer’s block and a lack of cash. Fortunately, he meets the woman of his dreams, who inspires him to pen the one and only Romeo and Juliet. A pitch-perfect “what if?’ comedy with charm to spare.