The Most Popular Shakespeare DVDs
All the world's a stage, according to the Bard, but sometimes a person just wants pop a DVD into the player and enjoy a movie. Fortunately, filmmakers love Shakespeare and there are hundreds of films and documentaries based on his thirty-eight plays. Whether you're looking for some fun romantic comedies or wanting to learn more about the world's greatest playwright, you're sure to find something on this list to indulge your Shakespearean interests.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This light romantic and fictionalized biography of Shakespeare stars Joseph Fiennes in the titular role and Gwyneth Paltrow as his love interest, Lady Viola. Shakespeare struggles with writers block, a disastrous first draft of "Romeo and Ethel" and the impending closure of his theatre when he meets the star-crossed Viola. As the story unfolds, the audience is rewarded with snippets of dialogue and subplots mined from Shakespeare's original works.
Henry V (1989)
Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in this film that was so absolutely delicious, it launched a decade of Hollywood love for the Bard. Henry leads the underdog British to victory at Agincourt. Branagh's epic delivery of the St. Crispin's day speech is so good that you'll feel your heart pump faster. Good thing too, because it may just skip a beat later when he romances Katherine (Emma Thompson).
Director Akira Kurosawa brings King Lear to life as an elderly warlord in feudal Japan. His sons are at war with each other while the foolish and prideful king gives in to flattery and fights the truth and honesty of his youngest son. The film has become a benchmark among cinema students due to its tight cinematography and ambitiously choreographed battle scenes.
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as the Danish prince. This film is a must see for the eclectic yet successful casting. Kate Winslet, Gerard Depardieu, Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams all make memorable appearances in the film.
West Side Story (1961)
This famously reinterpreted version of Romeo and Juliet sets the lovers in a fantasised mid-century New York. In a loosely veiled study of race and class, the teens are members of rival gangs. As the actors dance and sing their way into battle, the film comes across as quirky to the modern audience. Nevertheless, it has become a much loved adaptation of Shakespeare's most popular play.
Simon Schama's Shakespeare
In this BBC documentary, Simon Schama explains Shakespeare's motivations, methods and history in the context of his life in sixteenth century London. He examines the court intrigues that influenced the tragic plays - Hamlet, Richard II and Macbeth and draws comparisons between those plays and the courts of King James and Queen Elizabeth.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
You may know Leslie Nielson for his roles in the Airplane and Naked Gun films, but long before he became famous for starring in absurdist comedies, Nielson claimed his fame by bringing Shakespeare's The Tempest to outer space. And it made sense, as the world was about to enter the space race, that a fantasy about shipwrecks and unknown lands would be set on a distant planet. True Shakespeare geeks will have fun interpreting the film's characters, especially Caliban, the noble savage, brought to the screen as Robbie the Robot.
The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are at their feisty best in this adaptation by director Franco Zefferelli. Lavish set and costume designs provide plenty of visual appeal and the leads do great justice to Shakespeare's witty and acerbic dialogue.
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1996)
Young audiences rushed to theatres and started studying Shakespeare when teen obsessions Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes joined forces as the fated lovers. This version of the play pitted Montagues against Capulets after a wild house party in modern Verona Beach, California.
Honourable Mention: Slings and Arrows
This Canadian television series has become a cult classic amongst Shakespeare enthusiasts. The series revolves around a Shakespearean Theatre company led by a crazed actor, haunted by guilt and the tragic death of his estranged friend. With witty dialogue, jealous lovers, a ghost and even a Yorick-inspired skull to talk to, the series writers bring the spirit of Shakespeare to the small screen.