Time to trash the list of best Shakespeare movies from Rotten Tomatoes

Turnabout is fair play as the Brits would say.  The infamous movie review website recently dared to rate the 30 best movies based on Shakespeare's plays.  How many do you agree with?  How many selections are truly insipid?  Have fun! <p>

1)  Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" (1989)


2)  Akira Kurasawa's take on "King Lear" with "Ran" (1985) 

3)  Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" (1996) 

4)  Akira Kurosawa's take on Macbeth with "Throne of Blood" (1957) 

5)  "West Side Story" (1961) as an updated NYC version of "Romeo and Juliet" 

6)  "Richard III" (1995) imagines what a Fascist coup in England in the 1930's would have looked like. 

7)  "Romeo and Juliet" by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) 

8)  "The Lion King"  (1994) based on? 

9)  "Henry V" (1948) by Laurence Olivier 

10) "Forbidden Planet" (1956) Sci Fi version of "The Tempest". 

11) "Much Ado About Nothing" by Kenneth Branagh (1993) 

12) "Hamlet" by Laurence Olivier (1948) 

13) "Othello" by Orson Welles (1952) 

14) "Macbeth" by Orson Welles (1948) 

15) "My Own Private Idaho" (1992) by Gus Van Sant and based on "Henry IV" 

16) "Macbeth" (1971) by Roman Polanski 

17) "The Taming of the Shrew" (1976) with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor 

18) "Hamlet" (1990) The Mel Gibson version 

19) "Strange Brew" (1983) according to RT:  "is a booze fueled take on Hamlet". 

20) "Twelfth Night" (1996) with Ben Kingsley 

21) "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1996) by Baz Luhrman with Leonardo Di Caprio. 

22) "William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice" (2004) with Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. 

23) "Prospero's Books" (1991) Peter Greenaway's version of "The Tempest" 

24) "Othello" (1995) with Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh 

25) "Titus" based on "Titus Andronicus" with Anthony Hopkins (1999) 

26) "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999) with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer 

27) "O" (2001) the teen version of "Othello" 

28) "Scotland, PA" (2002) with Bad Company Music and based on? 

29) "10 Things I Hate About You" (1999) based on? 

30) "Hamlet" (2000) with Ethan Hawke 

{;-) Dan in Miami 

PS:  My guess is that Coaster will go nowhere near this thread since hot cars and roller-coasters are not depicted in these flicks. 



Did you like this post? Vote Up or Down.


Wally_Pipp's picture

Number 8, The Lion King, I think is supposed to be based on Hamlet.

Number 29, 10 Things I Hate about You, is based on The Taming of the Shrew. I personally prefer the Bruce Willis/Cybil Shepard version of the Taming of the Shrew in one of their Moonlighting episodes. Although I suppose you could say the entire series of Moonlighting was one long retelling of the Taming of the Shrew.

Best regards, Wally

That 1995 version of OTHELLO

FearlessFreep's picture

The NEW YORKER critic said about Kenneth Branagh's Iago, "Who steals this movie steals trash."


The artist formerly known as Zorro.

Mr Freep was that reviewer referring to "Othello" the play or...

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

...Mr Branagh's version of it?  Haven't seen that particular flick but it does have Laurence Fishburne and Branagh in starring roles.  They usually have something interesting to add to the characters they portray.

Believe it or not I actually did see the Orson Welles version of "Othello" in the theater.  Unfortunately it was a horrible print and quite a few years ago.  I can't remember much about it because the quality of the film they showed that day was too distracting.  Plus it starred Orson Welles as Othello in black face.  Really.  I think I had nightmares for at least 3 nights after viewing it.

{;-) Dan in Miami

Throne of Blood

michael3b's picture

Is one of the best movies I've ever seen-period.  They don't call Kurosawa the master for nothing.  They do call him Jimbo for no apparent reason, though.

The reason for Kurosawa's name

FearlessFreep's picture

So they can call out to him, "Yo, Jimbo!"<8^p

I liked the Lady Macbeth in THRONE OF BLOOD. Japanese women know how to be passive-aggressive!

RAN is also a masterpiece.


The artist formerly known as Zorro.

I'd *mostly* agree with the top 10.

HS's picture

Although I never saw Richard III.  Branagh's Henry V was outstanding, as was his Hamlet, if a bit long to sit through.  He definitely rivals Olivier from back in the day.  I never saw the modern Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, but I saw all three other versions mentioned here, and they're each worth seeing, even the Mel Gibson version.

I would put "O" higher on the list - if only for the last 10 minutes.

And - both good and bad - who can forget Polanski's Macbeth, with graphic violence and nudity - did we REALLY need the old, saggy-titted witches to be nekkid?


Also, re. Scotland PA

HS's picture

I think it is (very loosely) based on Macbeth.

I'm still not sure what The Lion King is based on - fantastic film though it may be.  King Lear?


Yeah, Dan. Like it's *MY* fault...

Coaster's picture

Like it's my fault Shakespeare didn't write about either fast cars or roller coasters? FYI, I actually knew Ten Things I hate About You was based on The Taming of the Shrew.

I dislike West Side Story.  Tough gang bangers breaking out into song are as ridiculous as a chimp in the White House and laughably so. The musical dancing Sharks and Jets are more out of place on the streets of New York City than that bow-legged dinosaur from Cloverfield.

My fav on the list is Forbidden Planet though I had no idea that it was based on Tempest.  I can't wait for the Lucas remake starring Mark Wahlberg, Paris Hilton, C3PO, and a giant ghostley Fozzie Bear Muppet.

C3PO is no Robbie the Robot!

Rajah's picture

Isn't that you snapping your fingers at the beginning of 77 Sunset Strip?

Competitive dancing is now a big part of gang fighting

Olivier's Richard III is better than McKellen's

Phantasee's picture

But I don't see it on the list. McKellen removed far too many scenes, partly for vanity's sake, I think. Also, where's Orson's Chimes at Midnight? Branagh lifted some of the battle sequences practically scene for scene in his Henry V, which I agree was great.

And because I don't mind Pacino chewing the Venetian scenery, I'd rate his Shylock higher, and add his Looking for Richard to the list.

The very best Shakespeare tribute? The Harold Hecuba episode on Gilligan's Island, of course.  


"Richard III" is hard to judge

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

Some scholars think that Shakespeare was paid to do a hatchet job on Richard III the king in his play.  Since I don't know enough Elizabethan politics I can't really comment on that.


 The Ian McKellen version dares to imagine what England would have looked like if the Fascists of 1930's England had been successful at taking over their government as Hitler and Mussolini were in their countries.


 I did watch it recently but only after drinking excessively. 

Frankly the prospect of the UK going Fascist was just too much for me to take in a sober state.

 The movie certainly should be given credit for coming up with a mind bending premise.


 {;-) Dan in Miami


 PS:  Comparing the Olivier and McKellan versions is apples and oranges since the two movies have different goals in mind.  Or do they?


Nowaday's, however, it's not

jazzdrive3's picture

Nowaday's, however, it's not that hard to imagine a UK fascist state.  Not even hard to imagine a US fascist state.  The US already has incorporated large portions of what is technically fascist, like corporatism and aggresive warfare, ever since FDR admired that man Mussolini.

I actually have the Richard Burton version of Hamlet

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

It would be great to see it but my computer's DVD drive is on the fritz.  That guy Burton could read the phone book and make it interesting.

{;-) Dan in Miami

Finally saw the Richard Burton version of Hamlet

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

Or acually the first half.  Couldn't make myself watch the whole thing.  Very low production values.  Maybe I am a bit spoiled but this is just a very poor quality film of the play, recorded as performed on the NYC stage.

We have come to expect much better production values, such as the Shakespeare films done by Mr. Branagh.  These flicks are not cofined to the stage.   

Come to think about it why bother to put a play on a stage?  Movies are much better because you can film them anywhere.

{;-) Dan in Miami




You saw a video of that version?

FearlessFreep's picture

We're lucky that such a famous production was filmed at all.


Netflix has the Richard Burton version of Hamlet

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

In grainy black and white.


{;-) Dan in Miami


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.