'Romeo and Juliet' Gets Bad Reviews, so Watch These 10 Shakespeare Adaptations Instead

Julian Fellowes' (Downton Abbey) adaptation of Romeo and Juliet opened this weekend to less-than-starry reviews. Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth play the star-crossed lovers in an old-fashioned re-telling, with an emphasis on old. Creators hoped would inspire a new generation to fall in love with Shakespeare, but, unfortunately, it seems it's more of a snooze. So what other Shakespeare adaptations should you see instead of Romeo and Juliet? Well, any of these 10 films. How do we love these? Let us count the ways.

Julian Fellowes' (Downton Abbey) adaptation of Romeo and Juliet opened this weekend to less-than-starry reviews. Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth play the star-crossed lovers in an old-fashioned re-telling, with an emphasis on old. Creators hoped would inspire a new generation to fall in love with Shakespeare, but, unfortunately, it seems it's more of a snooze. So what other Shakespeare adaptations should you see instead of Romeo and Juliet? Well, any of these 10 films. How do we love these? Let us count the ways.

'Romeo and Juliet' (1968)

An absolute classic and a favorite amongst High School English teachers on the last week of school. Leonard Whiting is still so dreamy as Romeo, especially with that mod hair. It’s also one of the few film versions of Romeo and Juliet where the leads are truly convincing as naive, yet desperately in love teenagers.

Image: Romeo and Juliet, BHE Films

'Romeo and Juliet' (1996)

Baz Luhrman’s rock and roll version was wild, bright, bombastic, and so very very Baz. We loved it. Little Leo! Clare Danes’ ugly crying! Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd! We also loved that Baz’s spin still feels fresh nearly 20 years later. There are dozens of old and sad Shakespearean adaptations, and we can’t get enough of an open-shirted Friar Laurence and cross-dressed Mercutio (Harold Perrineau still steals the film).

Image: Romeo and Juliet, Twentieth Century Fox Film

'10 Things I Hate About You' (1999)

When teen rom-coms were at an absolute high, 10 Things I Hate About You left the rest in the dust as The Taming of the Shrew was brought to life in Padua High. All you need to make Shakespeare’s most problematic comedy lovable: Heath, Julia, JGL, and Larisa. Alas, don’t forget a few Kleenex. Watching Heath sing in the bleachers will break your heart.


Image: 10 Things I Hate About You, Touchstone Pictures

'Much Ado About Nothing' (2012)

Joss Whedon’s black and white 2012 retelling is sleek, cheeky, and everything that a “modern” take on Shakespeare should be. The cast is to die for and the breakneck witticisms are mastered in a way only Whedon could.

'Love’s Labour's Lost' (2000)

Kenneth Brannagh’s version will remind you of a classic Hollywood musical from the 1930s — except that it stars Matthew Lillard and Alicia Silverstone. Just in case you haven’t gotten over your ‘90s bad boy crushes and yearning to be Cher Horowitz, here they are singing (in verse!) AND dancing. A perfect campy flick for a night in.


Image: Loves Labour's Lost, Pathe Pictures International

'Titus' (1999)

Halloween is just around the corner. Julie Taymor’s adaptation of Titus Andronicus starring Anthony Hopkins (yes, this movie is that creepy) is scary, strange, and gruesome. You’ll never look at pie or a scarecrow the same way again.

Image: Titus, Clear Blue Sky Productions

The Lion King (1996)

Oh I just can’t wait to... avenge my father’s death and be tortured by my uncle who married my widowed mother. Apparently, Disney’s affinity for dead parents in their kids movies can be traced to good ‘ol Billy Shakes — Lion King is simply an animated retelling of Hamlet. Though the real Hamlet probably couldn’t just Hakuna Matata his way out of his internal struggle.

Image: Disney

Scotland, PA (2002)

Macbeth set in a rural Pennsylvania burger joint in the 1970s with Christopher Walken as Lieutenant McDuff. Would you like your SHAKEspeare with a side of fries? (Terrible pun, macabre comedy.)


Image: Scotland, PA, Abandon Pictures

O (2001)

The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were big on teen heartthrobs and Shakespearean adaptations. This one stars Mekhi Phifer as Othello, Julia Stiles (again!) as Desi (that’s Desdemona, kids), as well as Josh Hartnett and Andrew Keegan. And yes, there is a basketball subplot.

Image: O, Lions Gate Films

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

We’re calling this one an adaptation because, well, many MANY of the facts about Shakespeare’s life in this film are adapted. Namely the fact that neither William Shakespeare nor Christopher Marlowe were as handsome as Joseph Fiennes and Rupert Everett. It also won buckets of awards, including an Oscar for Judi Dench who was in the film for roughly 10 minutes. It’s a must-watch for any aspiring actor on how it’s done.

Image: Shakespeare in Love, Universal Pictures, Miramax Films