I guess it’s a bit early for Joss Whedon’s just-opened “Much Ado About Nothing” to make the list, but I was surprised that the ingenious deconstruction of a classic text that is “Gnomeo and Juliet” got no recognition. Otherwise, the Shakespeare adaptations you picked are films that Will would have been proud to put his name on.
And, by the way, has anyone figured out how much he would have made in royalties from all the movies he gets credited for? Or from settlements of libel lawsuits for such films as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Anonymous”? If he were alive today he’d have his own studio.
Here are the best of the Bard on the big screen as chosen by readers.
Henry V (1989)
Like the play’s wastrel-to-war-hero protagonist, Kenneth Branagh risked hubris by taking on this cinematic sacred cow as both director and star, but the 28-year-old actor prevailed, earning glowing comparisons to Laurence Olivier’s 1944 version for his efforts. That luster would dim a bit when he strayed into other literary adaptations — his 1994 “Frankenstein,” for example.
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Sorry, Joss, but Sir Ken wins again; he cranks up the Elizabethan comedy to near slapstick, and makes a memorable sparring team with Emma Thompson (his wife back then) as that prickly pair Benedick and Beatrice. Denzel Washington makes a stiff Don Pedro, and Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton try hard — too hard — as Don John and Dogberry.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
A film that captures the spirit of the play and the hearts of adolescents everywhere. As reader Patricia Roha puts it: “My first taste of cinema Shakespeare is still my favorite: Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’: Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, score by Nino Rota — I wore the LP out and memorized most of the speeches. I was 14.”
Richard III (1995)
You can’t beat the opening of Richard Loncraine’s rollicking modernization: the soon-to-be-king Richard (Ian Mc-Kellen), astraddle a tank, bursts through a bunker wall and pops Henry VI and his son with a pistol. Or the equally madcap climax. Reader “MisterBeasley” describes it: “As Richard is driving across a muddy battlefield in a jeep, he ends up on a rock with all four wheels spinning, the perfect setting for ‘My kingdom for a horse!’ ”
There’s no leaving Laurence Olivier off this list, and for many his “Hamlet” is his best adaptation of the Bard, and the consummate embodiment of the melancholy Dane on celluloid. Many have tried to get the “To be or not to be” soliloquy just right, but Sir Larry might be the only one who nails it.
Ever take a date to a movie and soon regret it? That might be the case with the romantically disillusioning “Before Midnight,” and I don’t see “This Is the End” earning a goodnight kiss, either. What are your most memorable “last date” movies? We’ll post the top five June 30. And coming up for July 7: “The Lone Ranger” is one of many
attempts to bring a beloved TV show to the big screen. Which are your favorites?
Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.