13 films you didn’t know were based on Shakespeare plays

The Lion King? She's the Man? Warm Bodies? Maybe you need to watch these again...

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Shakespeare films

William Shakespeare’s histories, tragedies and comedies have inspired countless acclaimed adaptations – but did you know these movies owed the great playwright a debt of thanks too? Go on a journey of discovery on the Bard’s birthday…

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The Lion King – Hamlet

The Lion king original
Walt Disney Studios

Take one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays about a prince taking back the throne from his conniving, murderous uncle after his father’s death. Throw in some pitch perfect savanna creatures and a devastating wildebeest scene and you’ve got The Lion King.

You can watch The Lion King – and the remake – on Disney Plus with a seven-day trial or £59.99 a year subscription (£5.99 a month). You can also get the remake on DVD here.

You can read the original Hamlet here.

Let The Devil Wear Black (Hamlet)

If you’re in the mood for a throwback (and aren’t we all), try and spot The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks in this seedy flick.

Get Let the Devil Wear Black on DVD.

You can read the original Hamlet here.

O (Othello)

The manipulation, jealousy and angst so integral to Othello are placed where they rightfully belong: in high school.

You can read the original Othello here.

10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew)

10 Things I Hate About You

All it took was a few chords of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and a cheeky grin from Heath Ledger to convince girls everywhere that maybe being tamed isn’t the worst thing in the world.

10 Things I Hate About You is available to rent on Amazon Prime. The DVD is also available here.

You can read the original The Taming of the Shrew here.

She’s the Man (Twelfth Night)

Before he was Magic Mike, Channing Tatum was a simple soccer player pursuing a girl pursuing a woman dressed as a man. Times were so much simpler back then.

You can buy She’s The Man on DVD here.

You can read the original Twelfth Night here.

King of Texas (King Lear)

Patrick Stewart sports a ten-gallon hat and a passable Southern accent in this Western about a self-made ranch tycoon whose daughters reject him after receiving their sizeable inheritance. Ouch.

You can buy the King Lear book here.

A Thousand Acres (King Lear)

Before she bewitched the world on American Horror Story, Jessica Lange played one of the daughters pitted against their father when inherited land is disputed. We could do with more horror, TBH.

A Thousand Acres is available on DVD here.

You can buy the King Lear book here.

West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet)

Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in West Side Story, Getty

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing. Just what Bill Shakespeare would have wanted for his birthday.

You can buy the Romeo and Juliet book here.

Warm Bodies (Romeo and Juliet)

Film reviewer Richard Larson said “The ubiquity of Shakespeare’s original template allows Warm Bodies some leeway in terms of believability, where otherwise it sometimes strains against its own logic.” We say: “Shakespeare with zombies – awesome!”

You can buy the Romeo and Juliet book here.

My Own Private Idaho (Henry IV and Henry V)

It’s sort of a coming-of-age/road movie/Shakespeare hybrid that shouldn’t work but somehow does. Also: Keanu Reeves.

You can get My Own Private Idaho on DVD here.

You can buy the book for Henry IV here and the book for Henry V here.

Big Business (The Comedy of Errors)

Comedic veterans Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin pull double duty to play two sets of mismatched twins and remind us why hairspray was invented.

You can buy Big Business on DVD here and you can get the book for The Comedy of Errors here.

Get Over It (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

A sort of “before they were famous” ensemble cast of Kirsten Dunst, Colin Hanks, Zoe Saldana and Mila Kunis band together for a Midsummer Night’s Dream play within a Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired movie.

You can buy Get Over It on DVD here and you can get the book for A Midsummer Night’s Dream here.

Men of Respect (Macbeth)

The story of a man consumed by his need for power made sense as a mobster flick. What doesn’t make sense is a ’90s New York gang members going on about “men of woman born.”

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You can read Macbeth here.