Given that he is the world’s most revered author, one would safely assume Shakespeare and film go hand in hand. Shakespeare had been adapted long before the medium of film. It was first seen back when the stage was the ideal source of entertainment. Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have adapted almost all of Shakespeare’s works to the screen. To put things into perspective, over 420 feature length versions of Shakespeare’s plays have been filmed.
With so many movies to choose from, it is difficult to narrow down “the best.” Film is subjective and so are the plays themselves. My enthusiasm for Shakespeare is almost equivalent to my passion for movies. I know that not everyone feels the same way. From personal experience, I know many people who cannot fathom reading Shakespeare let alone watching it. The fact is that even if it is not a direct adaptation, a lot of your favorite films are based on Shakespeare in some way. Films like 10 Things I Hate About You, The Lion King, and West Side Story contain elements from Shakespeare’s works. I did not mean to come across as judgmental or as a snob in any way. I just wanted to show you how influential Shakespeare has been throughout the history of movies.
These are not the films I will be discussing in this piece. I will be focusing on adaptations of specific plays whether they are loose or faithful. I have tried my best to include as many different genres, decades, and plays as possible with only ten slots. My only guideline was to choose only one film per play and only one actor per play. I could have easily compiled this list with the works of Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles alone. My goal is to provide some starting points to try and make Shakespeare films as accessible as I can. With the upcoming release of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, I thought it would be appropriate to put this together.