Popular Media Inspired by Shakespeare

Tania Thompson
 | Aug 22, 2016
Shakespeare in Love

Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love.

Aaron Posner adapted Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice into a brand new play, District Merchants, and set the story in post-Civil War Washington, D.C. It’s not uncommon to find Shakespeare's plays adapted to new stories and settings. Here are some examples.

Forbidden Planet

10 things I hate about You

The Lion King
  • Paying Homage to many Shakespeare Plays
    • Shakespeare in Love is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, with nods everything from As You Like It to Twelfth Night. Cast includes Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench.
  • Based on The Tempest
    • Forbidden Planet (1956) has the action move from an island to a distant planet, with Prospero becoming the spacecraft-wrecked Dr. Morbius and Ariel becoming Altaira. Cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen and Robby the Robot.
  • Based on Romeo and Juliet
    • Warm Bodies (2013) is more than just a zombie movie. The star-crossed lovers are a zombie and human whose love is forbidden. Cast includes Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.
  • Based on Twelfth Night
    • She’s the Man (2006) has the lead character (Viola) disguising herself as her twin (Sebastian) and taking his place at an elite boarding school.  Cast includes Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.
  • Based on Taming of the Shrew
    • Deliver Us from Eva (2003) follows Eva, who is set up with Master Player Ray to ‘tame’ her bad attitude. Cast includes LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union.
    • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is the story of Bianca who can’t date Cameron until her older sister begins to date. Cast includes Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger.
  • Based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Get Over It (2001) follows high schoolers who stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the drama in real life begins to mirror Shakespeare tale. Cast includes Ben Foster and Kirsten Dunst.
  • Based on King Lear
    • A Thousand Acres (1997) is the story of a dying man who divides his estate among his three daughters. Cast includes Jason Robards, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
    • Ran (1985) is an Akira Kurosawa film about an aging warlord’s children who are pitted against him.
  • Based on Hamlet
    • The Lion King  (1984) follows Scar who kills his brother, Mufasa, to become king.
    • Strange Brew (1983) is the story of Bob and Doug who plot against their awful Uncle Claude. Cast includes Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.
    • The Bad Will Sleep (1960) is an Akira Kurosawa film about a corporate corruption and a man who seeks revenge for the death of his father.
  • Based on Henry IV and Henry V
    • My Own Private Idaho (1991) follows Bob Pigeon, a Falstaff character, who mentors two young street hustlers. Cast includes Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix.
  • Based on Macbeth
    • Men of Respect (1990) is the story of the mafia and one family’s takeover from another. Cast includes John Turturro and Katherine Borowitz.
    • Throne of Blood (1957) takes the setting from Scotland to Japan.
  • Based on The Comedy of Errors
    • Big Business (1988) is the oft-told tale of two sets of twins separated at birth and raised by rich and poor families. Cast includes Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin.