Happy Birthday, Shakespeare! 5 Movies You Didn't Realize Were Shakespeare-Inspired

If you didn't know (and how could you not), it's William Shakespeare's 450th birthday! (If you didn't get him a present yet, nbd, he's a pretty cool guy.) We tend to think that's kind of a big deal, especially because he was sorta, kinda, the foundation for anything and everything we read, watch, or see in theaters today. Even the things you never dreamed were Shakespearean, like, oh, I don't know, perhaps a beloved children's movie about lions...?

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by Caitlyn Callegari

10 Things I Hate About You

Weren’t we all Kat, yearning for the love and affection of Heath Ledger, err, Patrick, despite him being a totally aloof douche? Well, we suppose that Kat had her own slew of faults too, which is why this unlikely, head-butting pair was the best thing to ever happen to 1999. (You know, other than the millennium). Despite this being one of my all time FAVORITE movies, it was most certainly Shakespeare’s baby first. This movie was based on…

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...The Taming of the Shrew

Hollywood took some liberties– Kat should be Kate, Patrick Verona should be Petruchio who is from Verona (slick move), Cameron is Lucentio (we’re not really seeing the connection there), and the scene is most certainly not set in California high school. The sentiment is the same, well except that whole misogynistic theme that Katherine finally learns to obey Petruchio. *shudders* This modern day version turns Shakespeare’s comedy on it’s head by showing that Kat and Patrick have tamed themselves by learning how to get along with one another. That’s a much happier ending than the original (although it was a comedy and Shakespeare was a pretty satirically smooth kinda guy). And about that whole “shrew” business…

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She's The Man

This movie was the culmination of Amanda Bynes’ finest work (according to me). She parades around in drag for almost the entirety of the movie pretending to be her brother, Sebastian, and after awhile you do start to forget she’s not actually him. This movie also stars the delicious Channing Tatum, a fellow Illyra Prep student, who unwittingly falls in love with the annoying yet endearing, cross-dressing Bynes, which proves for a lot of um, confusion.

This topsy turvy plot was based on…

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Twelfth Night

Shockingly, the play is quite similar. There’s the whole modern day high school thing again but, hey, it’s an adaptation it’s not meant to be exact. The plays main points are the frivolousness of upper class teenage/young angst, gender, and all around ridiculousness. Shakespeare originally wrote it for the “opposite day” kind of Christmastime festivities that the young lawyers would partake in to let loose from all their hard work. It’s good to see that it’s still entertaining the masses to this day.

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The Lion King

A young prince is left to fend for himself and lead his country which has gone (been going) to ruin after his father’s untimely death. There’s an evil uncle, two silly best friends, and an all-consuming love interest. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Because it’s…

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While The Lion King is considerably less dark (save for Mufasa’s murder which STILL haunts me to this day), the major plot points are the same. Of course, there’s no suicide, or adulterous mother– in fact The Lion King has really strong, centered female characters which we love and which was sorely lacking in Hamlet. It’s also begins the story with Simba’s birth whereas we are only introduced to Hamlet as his disillusioned post-grad self. All in all, The Lion King is Hamlet…with lions… and baboons, and hyenas and stuff.

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West Side Story

The Jets vs.The Sharks. You’ve never seen tight pants-wearing men that snap and prance look so fierce in your whole life, have you? This star-crossed love story between Tony and Maria was nothing new, just modified into a (then) modern day New York-ified version of what is possibly Shakespeare’s most famous play…

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Romeo and Juliet

Okay, so this one you may have guessed. The Sharks and the Jets were just the feuding Montagues and Capulets disguised as not-so-scary gangsters. Maria and Tony just wanted to partake in some teenage lovin’ like Romeo and Juliet but no one would let them be. Total bummer.

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We’re pretty sure Julia Stiles just starred in everything in the 90’s. O, starring the aforementioned Stiles as Desi and Mekhi Pheifer as Odin, tackled the topics of racism, rage, hormones, and jealousy. Also, Pheifer and Josh Hartnett were all kinds of super hot.

This movie was based on…

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*Cough cough* If the title of “O” didn’t give it away and the shortening of the name Desdemona to “Desi,” perhaps you were cued in by the plot which again is merely differentiated by modern day high school (What a plot device!). It’s pretty crazy to think that the themes of Othello are still pertinent to us today, despite the 400 year time gap in between when the play was penned and when the movie was filmed.

Image: Lionsgate