On Friday, Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing hits theaters. The film is being lauded as one of the funniest screen versions of William Shakespeare’s work. Whedon’s rendition will join a long list of film adaptations of Shakespeare, whose material has served as the source material for everything from 10 Things I hate About You to West Side Story. In celebration of Shakespeare’s return to the big screen, we’ve rounded up the 15 best adaptations in modern film history.
15. Hamlet (2000)
Bill Murray, Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles star in this modern-day version of Shakespeare’s play (the first of multiple Hamlet entries). It’s rewarded for its efforts to turn the story into a tech thriller.
Director Julie Taymor (The Lion King, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark) was the first to bring Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus, to the big screen. While it doesn’t fully come together, it’s visually stunning and features wild performances from Jessica Lange and Alan Cumming.
13. Forbidden Planet
Probably the most unexpected adaption of a Shakespeare play, this sci-fi flick takes on The Tempest. It has all the campy delight of early space, adventure films.
12. Scotland, Pa.
Macbeth is reworked as a dark comedy staring Christopher Walken and Andy Dick as one of the witches. It’s interesting concept that is mostly rewarded for it’s creative adaption.
11. 10 Things I Hate About You
Taming Of The Shrew was never more hilariously vapid than this take that featured Heath Ledger in one of his first staring roles. This film ranks among teen comedy royalty.
10. Twelfth Night
Helena Bonham Carter’s first entry on this list involves her falling for a woman who is dressed as a man who is secretly in love with another man, etc and so on.
Julia Stiles third and final entry on the list is definitely the darkest of the three Shakespeare films she has done. The film turns Othello into tragedy about school violence in a post-Columbine world.
8. Hamlet (1990)
Mel Gibson does a great job of channeling the title character’s idiosyncrasies that it makes one wonder if it was a sign of the crazy to come later in the actor’s life.
7. My Own Private Idaho
Director Gus Van Sant’s story of two street hustlers subtly combines excerpts of Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
6. Romeo + Juliet
Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star as two lovers torn between two fighting families. The most familiar of Shakespeare’s plays gets an injection of adrenaline and a ’90s soundtrack that brings life to the story.
The film tells the story of King Lear through the eyes of Japanese lord Mōri Motonari, an aging patriarch dividing up his kingdom amongst his three daughters err sons in this adaptation.
A strong cast, including Gerald Butler, Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes, turn this tragedy into a modern, visceral epic that is also visually striking.
3. The Lion King
This film on its own is a standout for many reasons but its a smart adaptation of Hamlet that kids didn’t realize they were getting an early dose of Shakespeare.
2. West Side Story
Probably the most famous adaptation of Romeo And Juliet, this movie musical is a classic that still holds up today. Bringing the story to New York City where gangs serve as rivaling families.
1. Richard III
This adaptation of the play of the same name is largely considered one of the best film adaptations of Shakespeare. The film smartly fast forwards the plot to the 1930s in a fictionalized Britain under a fascist coup.
Finally, the trailer for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. What do you think? Will it ultimately rank among the best of the best?
The film hits theaters Friday, June 7th.