10 Ingenious Shakespeare Adaptations on Film

The best of this week’s (admittedly lean) DVD releases is Coriolanus, the sleek and muscular Shakespeare adaptation from star and first-time director Ralph Fiennes. He’s been angling to bring the play to the screen for nearly a dozen years now, since he first played it on the London stage, and when the time came to do so, he did what many a filmmaker before him has done to make Shakespeare tenable to today’s audience: he modernized it. But the text is so open, and his staging is so robust, that the interpretation works; it couldn’t feel more timely and appropriate, with (perhaps intentional, perhaps accidental) allusions to the Tea Party, Congressional dysfunction, and the Occupy movement that land without the clumsiness that so often batters political cinema.

In honor of a job well done, we’ve assembled ten other films that altered the Bard’s plots and texts in a similarly entertaining fashion. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Richard III (1995)

Ian McKellan was not yet a star of comic book and Tolkien adaptations when he stated in Richard Loncraine’s 1995 film of Shakespeare’s tragedy, which he’d done at the Royal National Theatre in London. It was the actor’s idea to update the story to 1930s-era Britain, giving the title character a decidedly Third Reich flavor; he did the first draft of the screenplay himself (Loncraine is also credited). The changes are mostly cosmetic, though the altering of the era does present a bit of a challenge when it comes to one of the play’s most famous lines: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (McKellan and Loncraine turn it into a plea for a reliable mode of transport after his jeep gets stuck). But for the most part, the twist works, and makes this one of the more intriguing Shakespeare films of recent years.