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5 Greatest Shakespeare movie adaptations


Date Posted: 27 December 2015


Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in "Macbeth".

World-famous English poet and playwright William Shakespeare may have passed away nearly 400 years ago, but his enduring legacy still remains strong even until today.

So there's "Macbeth", the latest movie adapted from Shakespeare's famous play of the same name which stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Already a festival and award darling especially after it was nominated for the coveted Palme d'Or at the recent Cannes 2015, "Macbeth" has been through numerous release date changes in Malaysia (once even removed from the lineup!), but now is finally scheduled for 7 January 2016.

Since we'll be seeing "Macbeth" in cinemas in a few short weeks, we have compiled a handpicked list of five greatest Shakespeare movies ever made thus far!

1. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles star in "10 Things I Hate About You"

A war between opposite genders, especially those in the high school comedies were actually nothing new, but then first-time feature director Gil Junger managed to turn the otherwise clichéd genre inside out with his contemporary update of William Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew". The result was fun and witty, with plenty of sharp dialogues and loads of upbeat rock soundtrack featuring bands such as Letters To Cleo and Save Ferris. Then there's the winning young cast, including great performances from Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Larisa Oleynik.

2. Hamlet (1996)

(L-R) Michael Maloney and Kenneth Branagh engaging in a fencing duel in "Hamlet".

Widely considered as William Shakespeare's finest play, "Hamlet" has been adapted a number of times including the 1948 Oscar-winning version starring and directed by Sir Laurence Olivier, as well as Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 version starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close. But of all the "Hamlet" adaptations here, it was the Kenneth Branagh's 1996 version that ranked the best of the lot. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score, this was a completely unabridged cinematic version that ran over four hours. Die-hard fans of Shakespeare's works should not give this a miss.

3. Macbeth (1971)

(L-R) Francesca Annis and Jon Finch in the scene from "Macbeth".

Prior to the 2015 version of "Macbeth", there was the infamous Roman Polanski's ultra-violent version which starred Jon Finch as the title character and Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth. The movie didn't particularly shy away with its depiction of graphic violence and nudity. Although it received mixed reviews, Roman Polanski's "Macbeth" remained one of the most inspiring and provocative Shakespeare movie adaptations ever made in the '70s.

4. West Side Story (1961)

One of the amazing musical numbers in "West Side Story".

Based on the hit Broadway musical inspired by William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise's "West Side Story" was highly regarded as one of the greatest film musicals ever made. The movie was particularly famous for its inventive yet energetic musical numbers including "The Jet Song", "America", "I Feel Pretty" and "Cool". Not to forget was Robbins' dazzling choreography, as well as a pitch-perfect cast headlined by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer playing star-crossed lovers. "West Side Story" was so popular during its initial release that it bagged an incredible total of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

5. William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

(L-R) Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet".

William Shakespeare's often told "Romeo and Juliet" play has been adapted to movies since 1908, but Australian director Baz Luhrmann offered something radically different than your usual Shakespeare offering. Filmed in a contemporary style, Luhrmann presented his own version with "Romeo + Juliet" where rival gangs used guns instead of swords and the setting took place in modern-day Verona Beach. Filled with great soundtrack, the movie was best remembered for pre-"Titanic" young star Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and former TV star of "My So-Called Life"-turned-feature actress Claire Danes as Juliet.

"Macbeth" opens in cinemas nationwide on 7 January 2016.

Writer: Casey Chong




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