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The Best Shakespeare film adaptations

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    The Best Shakespeare film adaptations

    Shakespeare is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest English language writers of all time. His beautiful language, insight into portraying human nature, and mastery in writing dirty jokes have all landed him an iconic place in the literary canon. It seems a natural consequence, then, that artists should want to translate Shakespeare’s works into other mediums--including artwork, novelizations, and a seemingly infinite number of screen adaptations.

    But which of these adaptations are the most successful at bringing Shakespeare’s genius to a wider audience?  How can movies compare to the Bard’s original texts themselves? In honor of Shakespeare’s death (April 23), Stacker sought to answer these questions by compiling a list of the 50 best Shakespeare film adaptations. Films were pulled from Shakespeare’s writing credits on IMDb, filtered into only full-length movie adaptations (not filmed stage productions) in English with over 100 audience rating votes, and ranked by their audience scores. Click through the slideshow to find out which movie adaptations were considered the most entertaining and compelling (spoiler: there’s a lot of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh.)

  • Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
    2/ Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

    #50. Hamlet

    Year: 1969

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    The first film on this list is, fittingly, an adaptation of one of the most frequently performed Shakespeare plays: Hamlet, the story of a young prince desperate to get revenge for his father’s murder. This adaptation, directed by Tony Richardson, is close to the text and performed on a small budget, with a minimalist set and merely a shining light to represent Hamlet’s father’s ghost. This was the first version of Hamlet in color.

  • Rank Organisation
    3/ Rank Organisation

    #49. All Night Long

    Year: 1962

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    All Night Long adapts Shakespeare’s Othello, the tragedy of a general consumed by fictitious jealousy over his young wife, into the London jazz scene of the 1960s. The film is performed with less tragedy than the play’s original text (i.e. nobody is stabbed or suffocated), and far more jazz, including performances by Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus.

     

  • Kanin Productions
    4/ Kanin Productions

    #48. A Double Life

    Year: 1947

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    A Double Life is also a retelling of Othello, although this noir film puts a metatextual spin on the play. It tells story of Anthony John (Ronald Colman), an actor infamous for getting too into his roles, who is cast opposite his ex-wife Brita (Signe Hasso) in a stage production of Othello. Colman won an Academy Award for his role, and composer Miklós Rózsa won an Academy Award for the film’s original soundtrack.

     

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    5/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #47. Jubal

    Year: 1956

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    Jubal, or “THE SOMETIMES VIOLENT STORY OF A DRIFTIN' COWHAND!” according to its original print ad, retells the story of Othello within the setting of a 1930’s cattle ranch. Jubal Troop (Glenn Ford) is a traveling cowboy who runs into trouble when Mae (Valerie French), the wife of a rancher who has taken him in, begins to lust after him.

     

  • Movision
    6/ Movision

    #46. The Merchant of Venice

    Year: 2004

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    This adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s more morbid comedies is the first full-length film version of the play that is not a filming of a stage production. While the setting of this film is true to the play, director Michael Radford narrowed the play’s angle to present Shylock (Al Pacino) as a tragic hero victimized by Venice’s rampant antisemitism.

  • New Line Cinema
    7/ New Line Cinema

    #45. My Own Private Idaho

    Year: 1991

    IMDb rating: 7.1

    My Own Private Idaho is a modern reworking of Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V, focusing on the relationship between the crown prince Hal (later King Henry V) and his friend Falstaff. In this movie, Henry V is Scott (Keanu Reeves), a young hustler set to inherit his rich father’s fortune, and Falstaff is Mike (River Phoenix), an older friend and hustling mentor who harbors unrequited romantic feelings for Scott.

     

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    8/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #44. The Merry Wives of Windsor

    Year: 1982

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    The Merry Wives of Windsor also focuses on Falstaff, albeit in a far different capacity than in Shakespeare’s histories: here, Falstaff attempts to court two wealthy married women by sending them identical love letters, who discover his ruse and pretend to respond as a joke. The 1982 film, produced as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Collection, stars Richard Griffiths as Falstaff and was shot on Tudor house set based on locations from the period associated with Shakespeare.

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    9/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #43. The Taming of the Shrew

    Year: 1980

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    This adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, one of Shakespeare’s most often-performed comedies about a swaggering drifter who marries a fiery nobleman’s daughter (partially for her money, partially to prove his masculine power by “taming” her spirit), is also part of the BBC’s Shakespeare Collection.  Director Jonathan Miller cast John Cleese, known for his comedy as part of Monty Python, as the male lead Petruchio--and Cleese plays the character as a staunch Puritan rather than the brash bully of other adaptations.  The choice seems strange, but audiences found Cleese’s performance engrossing.

     

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    10/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #42. Kiss Me, Kate

    Year: 1953

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    Kiss Me, Kate is also a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, albeit with a more modern setting and meta implications: it tells the story of a divorced pair of actors playing Katherine and Petruchio in a musical version of Shakespeare’s play. This film directly adapted the Broadway production of the same name, Cole Porter’s most successful musical and the first winner of the Best Musical Tony award in 1949.

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    11/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #41. The Taming of the Shrew

    Year: 1967

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    When we said The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most often-performed comedies, we weren’t joking. Director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 version is a more classical adaptation than the BBC’s 1980 film, shot in Italy and full of swagger and humor, but it still cuts out significant portions of the original play’s subplots.

  • Belwether Pictures
    12/ Belwether Pictures

    #40. Much Ado About Nothing

    Year: 2012

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    Joss Whedon, better known for his work in superhero movies, directed the 2012 film version of Much Ado About Nothing--a comedy best understood when one learns that “nothing,” in Shakespeare’s day, was a slang term for female genitalia. Whedon left the plot and dialogue of the original play mostly unchanged, but set the story in the modern day and shot the film at his and his wife’s house in Santa Monica, California. Filming took place over under two weeks while Whedon was on vacation from post-production of The Avengers.

  • Universal Pictures
    13/ Universal Pictures

    #39. Shakespeare in Love

    Year: 1998

    IMDb rating: 7.2

    Shakespeare in Love is not directly based on any one particular Shakespeare play, but it is full of allusions to various works, as well as true historical people and events. The film, directed by John Madden with a screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, details how a frustrated Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is inspired to write Romeo and Juliet after meeting and falling in love with the lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow).

     

  • Lenfilm Studio
    14/ Lenfilm Studio

    #38. King Lear

    Year: 1971

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    Director Peter Brook adapted King Lear, the tragedy of an aging king whose daughters turn on him, into a bleak tale about the dangers of human violence. To go along with the theme of emptiness, there is no background music in this film--not even during the opening credits.

  • BHE Films
    15/ BHE Films

    #37. Othello

    Year: 1965

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    This adaptation of Othello stars famous Shakespeare actors Laurence Olivier in the titular role (a Venetian general of Moorish descent) and Dame Maggie Smith as Desdemona (Othello’s young wife, whom he is driven to kill by fabricated jealousy). This is, so far, the only Shakespeare film for which all main actors have received Academy Award nominations, but Laurence Olivier has faced criticism for his role, which he played in blackface.

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    16/ Castle Rock Entertainment

    #36. In the Bleak Midwinter

    Year: 1995

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    In the Bleak Midwinter, named after the Christmas carol, tells the story of an out-of-work actor who leads a Christmas production of Hamlet at his sister’s local church in the town of Hope, Derbyshire. Unsurprisingly, the actor finds hope along the way. This big-hearted picture is the first Shakespeare film by legendary director Kenneth Branagh in which he did not act.

     

  • Two Cities Films
    17/ Two Cities Films

    #35. Henry V

    Year: 1944

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    Henry V is often considered a great patriotic story for Britain, as it chronicles the nation’s victory over France at the Battle of Agincourt during the 100 Years’ War; Shakespeare’s portrayal of the British army’s ability to best a much larger French force presents both the glories and atrocities of war. Director and star Laurence Olivier focused on the positives in his 1944 adaptation, designed to rouse patriotic spirit near the end of World War II, and was successful both commercially and critically.

  • Renaissance Films
    18/ Renaissance Films

    #34. Twelfth Night

    Year: 1996

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    Trevor Nunn’s 1996 adaptation of Twelfth Night doesn’t stray too far from the original comedy about mad romances complicated by gender confusion. Nunn set his film in the late 19th century, filmed on location in Cornwall, and cast several major stars, including Richard E. Grant as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Nigel Hawthorne as Malvolio, and Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia.

  • Touchstone Pictures
    19/ Touchstone Pictures

    #33. 10 Things I Hate About You

    Year: 1999

    IMDb rating: 7.3

    10 Things I Hate About You is well-known as a high school romance classic, but its plot is actually a modern, teen-friendly adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.  Kat (Julia Stiles) is Shakespeare’s angry Katherine, Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is her sweet younger sister, and delinquent Patrick (Heath Ledger) is Petruchio, the “bad boy” roped into pretending to date Katherine so that new student Cameron (Lucentio) (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) can go after Bianca. Kat’s speech at the end of this movie is far more romantic than Katherine’s in the original play.

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    20/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #32. Macbeth

    Year: 2005

    IMDb rating: 7.4

    The 2005 adaptation of Macbeth is part of “ShakespeaRe-Told,” a BBC series of modern retellings of four of the Bard’s most classic plays put into the modern day. Peter Moffat and Mark Brozel brought the Scottish play, in which a lord murders his king to take power, into a three Michelin star restaurant, starring James McAvoy as head waiter Joe Macbeth.

  • Chal Productions
    21/ Chal Productions

    #31. Looking for Richard

    Year: 1996

    IMDb rating: 7.4

    Looking for Richard is a combination restaging of Shakespeare’s Richard III and documentary into examining the writer’s role in the modern cultural consciousness. It was both directed by and stars Al Pacino, playing himself and the historic king; Pacino hoped to market Shakespeare to the average American through this work.

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    22/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #30. Julius Caesar

    Year: 1953

    IMDb rating: 7.4

    In 1953, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adapted Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of the Roman politician killed by his fellow Senators before he can take too much power for the big, colorful screen. The film was highly regarded critically, and marked a shift in reputation for Marlon Brando, who starred as Caesar.

  • Renaissance Films
    23/ Renaissance Films

    #29. Much Ado About Nothing

    Year: 1993

    IMDb rating: 7.4

    Much Ado About Nothing is one of Kenneth Branagh’s more well-acclaimed adaptations of a Shakespearean comedy.  In this retelling, the setting is classic, but the actors are superstars, including Branagh himself as Benedick, his (at the time) wife Emma Thompson as Benedick’s lover Beatrice, Denzel Washington as Don Pedro, Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Michael Keaton as Constable Dogberry. The film also features composer Patrick Doyle, who wrote the soundtrack for this and other Branagh movies, in a singing cameo.

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    24/ PH Consulting

    #28. Romeo.Juliet

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    Of the many Romeo and Juliet adaptations that have been filmed over the years, this 1990 movie by producer, director and cinematographer, Armando Acosta is one of the wackiest. This film presents the tragic play as a story about the stray cats of Venice, rescued by an eccentric bag lady and set to sail for America. It was filmed by capturing hours of footage of cats, then adding voice-overs by famous actors such as John Hurt, Ben Kingsley, and Dame Maggie Smith. The whole thing is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet score.

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    25/ Richard Price TV Associates Ltd.

    #27. King Lear

    Year: 2008

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    The 2008 King Lear TV movie was adapted from a Royal Shakespeare Company production, directed by Trevor Nunn, which finished its run shortly before filming began. Sir Ian McKellen, who starred as Lear, appeared nude in the original stage production, but was censored in the movie adaptation when PBS rebroadcast it to American audiences.

  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
    26/ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)

    #26. Othello

    Year: 2001

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    Geoffrey Sax’s Othello film is a modern retelling of the play, set within the London police force and told in modern English.  It stars Eamonn Walker as John Othello, the new Commissioner of Police, Keeley Hawes as his young wife Dessie Brabant, and Christopher Eccleston (best known as the Ninth Doctor in “Doctor Who”) as jealous detective Ben Jago.

  • London Film Productions
    27/ London Film Productions

    #25. Richard III

    Year: 1955

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    Richard III was another major Shakespeare film directed, produced by, and starring Laurence Olivier, as the titular king whose Machiavellian rise to power served as a warning to later leaders.  Although this film was not critically acclaimed when it was released, it broke many box office records in the U.S.A.; the British Film Institute has suggested that it “may have done more to popularise Shakespeare than any other single work.”

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    28/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #24. Yellow Sky

    Year: 1948

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    Similar to Jubal (#48 on this list), Yellow Sky reimagines a classic Shakespeare play as an American western film.  In this case, the source material is The Tempest, a Romantic play focusing on Prospero, an exiled duke and master of magical arts who brings (via a magical shipwreck) the brother who usurped his throne, along with other nobles, to the deserted island where he lives with his daughter, Miranda, in order to help them realize the errors of their ambition.  In Yellow Sky, Prospero and Miranda become “Grandpa” (James Barton) and his granddaughter “Mike” (Anne Baxter), the sole occupants of a ghost town, and the shipwrecked nobles become a gang of outlaws led by James "Stretch" Dawson (Gregory Peck), who falls in love with “Mike.”

  • Columbia Pictures
    29/ Columbia Pictures

    #23. Macbeth

    Year: 1971

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    Director Roman Polanski was inspired to adapt Macbeth for the big screen after his wife, actress Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson family. The film did poorly at the box office as critics turned up their noses at the gratuitous violence, but its reception has improved over time, landing it a spot on this list.

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    30/ Mayfair Entertainment International

    #22. Richard III

    Year: 1995

    IMDb rating: 7.5

    The 1995 adaptation of Richard III transports this history play to 1930s England, positioning Richard as a prince aiming to usurp his brother’s throne and rule as a fascist dictator. The movie features a star-studded cast including Sir Ian McKellen as Richard III, Dame Maggie Smith as the Duchess of York, Nigel Hawthorne as George, Duke of Clarence, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Rivers.  Richard III was widely acclaimed in the British film world; it was nominated for five BAFTAs and won two (best costumes and best production design.)

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    31/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #21. Measure For Measure

    Year: 1979

    IMDb rating: 7.6

    Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” along with All’s Well that Ends Well and Troilus and Cressida; although he labeled these plays as comedies, they feature psychological drama along with more lighthearted material. This particular play focuses on themes of vice and virtue in the city of Vienna, left with a strict judge in charge while the Duke is away on a diplomatic mission. Desmond Davis’ 1979 adaptation, produced for the BBC and shown in the U.S. on PBS, is considered a faithful depiction of the original work.

  • Mercury Productions
    32/ Mercury Productions

    #20. Macbeth

    Year: 1948

    IMDb rating: 7.6

    Orson Welles, best known for “The War of the Worlds” and Citizen Kane, adapted the screenplay for, produced, directed, and starred in Republic Pictures’ 1948 adaptation of Macbeth. The film was shot on a small budget using leftover sets from the Westerns that Republic Pictures usually produced and failed to deliver in competition with Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (#12 on this list), released the same year. Its reception has grown with time, however, after it was restored and re-released, and it is now considered “eccentric and haunting.”

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    #19. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 7.6

    Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a film adaptation of the absurdist, metatheatrical play of the same name by Tom Stoppard, who also directed the movie. Stoppard focuses on Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) and Guildenstern (Tim Roth), two minor characters in Hamlet who seem to have no identity outside of their relationships to characters in the source text. Although many critics agree that the story’s humor and impact are more effective in the theater than on-screen, Oldman and Roth deliver engaging performances.

  • BHE Films
    34/ BHE Films

    #18. Romeo and Juliet

    Year: 1968

    IMDb rating: 7.6

    Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is largely considered to be the most faithful and most engaging adaptation of Shakespeare’s great tragedy--if you watched any film version of the play in your high school English class, it probably was this one (it certainly was for this writer.)  This film was popular with teenagers because it was the first Romeo and Juliet to cast actors actually close in age to the characters in the play; Leonard Whiting (Romeo) was 17 and Olivia Hussey (Juliet) was 16 at the time, as compared to around 18 and 13 in the play, respectively.

  • Mirisch Corporation
    35/ Mirisch Corporation

    #17. West Side Story

    Year: 1961

    IMDb rating: 7.6

    West Side Story, like the film on the previous slide, retells Romeo and Juliet, but in this version, the connection to the source is far looser. This movie is a direct screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, premiered in 1957, which tells the story of teenage lovers Maria Nunez (Natalie Wood / Marni Nixon singing) and Tony Wyzek (Richard Beymer / Jimmy Bryant singing) separated by gang violence in New York City. West Side Story holds the record number of Academy Awards for a movie musical (10, including Best Picture), and has been marked "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress.

  • Granada Television
    36/ Granada Television

    #16. King Lear

    Year: 1983

    IMDb rating: 7.7

    In this 1983 adaptation of King Lear, director Michael Elliott set the tragedy in an outdoor location similar to Stonehenge. This movie (made for TV) starred Laurence Olivier in his final Shakespeare appearance; he was 75 years old at the time, and the oldest actor to play the role, but won an Emmy for the performance.

     

  • BBC Drama Group
    37/ BBC Drama Group

    #15. Much Ado About Nothing

    Year: 2005

    IMDb rating: 7.7

    The 2005 retelling of Much Ado About Nothing is part of the BBC ShakespeRe-Told series, along with the 2005 Macbeth (#33 on this list). This modern adaptation brings Shakespeare’s plot of quarreling ex-lovers reunited by meddling friends to a twenty-first century TV show, with heroes Beatrice and Benedick as joint anchors.

  • Illuminations
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    #14. Macbeth

    Year: 2010

    IMDb rating: 7.7

    Patrick Stewart stars as the ambitious would-be king Macbeth in the BBC’s 2010 adaptation of the Scottish play, which was adapted by director Rupert Goold from his 2007 stage production at the Chichester Festival Theatre.  The setting of this film is modern, meant to conjure images of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership and draw attention to Macbeth’s tyrannical goals.

  • Renaissance Films
    39/ Renaissance Films

    #13. Henry V

    Year: 1989

    IMDb rating: 7.7

    Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 adaptation of Henry V (in which he both directed and starred) is widely considered to be an incredibly successful Shakespeare film; it has a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and won Branagh several awards, including a BAFTA for best direction. Unlike Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (#36), which is staged on stylized sets, Branagh’s adaptation is gritty and realistic, bringing this classic patriotic story into the modern day.

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    40/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #12. Forbidden Planet

    Year: 1956

    IMDb rating: 7.7

    When it was released in the 50’s, Forbidden Planet pioneered many aspects of science fiction, such as a far-from-Earth setting and faster-than-lightspeed travel. However, the movie was actually heavily inspired by The Tempest: in it, a crew of space explorers led by Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen; this adaptation’s Ferdinand figure) finds an abandoned planet occupied only by Dr. Mobius (Walter Pidgeon; this adaptation’s Prospero) and his daughter Altaria (Anne Francis; this adaptation’s Miranda).

     

  • Two Cities Films
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    #11. Hamlet

    Year: 1948

    IMDb rating: 7.8

    Hamlet (1948) is the first sound film version of this play, directed, produced, and starred in by Laurence Olivier. Olivier’s screenplay followed the overall arc and setting of the original text, but cut a significant amount of dialogue as well as two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (luckily, they get their own play, see #20). Olivier won the Academy Award for his acting, making him the only actor to ever do so in a Shakespearean role. Hamlet was also the first non-American film to win Best Picture.

     

  • Castle Rock Entertainment
    42/ Castle Rock Entertainment

    #10. Hamlet

    Year: 1996

    IMDb rating: 7.8

    Directly preceding Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet on this list is Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. Similarly to the Olivier film, Branagh both directed and starred in his Hamlet, but unlike Olivier, he did not cut any of the text--the film runs for just over four hours. Branagh did, however, bring the setting into the 19th century in order to give the film greater current political context.

  • WNET Thirteen
    43/ WNET Thirteen

    #9. Henry VI, Part I

    Year: 2016

    IMDb rating: 8

    “The Hollow Crown” is a highly acclaimed, BBC-produced series compiling film adaptations of Shakespeare’s histories; this episode, retelling Henry VI, Part I, is the first of several adaptations in that series to make this list.  Henry VI, Part I, directed by former Royal Court Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Cooke, presents parts of the first two Henry VI plays, with Tom Sturridge starring as the king himself.

     

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    44/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #8. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

    Year: 1980

    IMDb rating: 8

    The BBC sponsored a Hamlet TV movie in 1980 as part of yet another Shakespeare film series, starring Derek Jacobi as Hamlet, Claire Bloom as Gertrude, and Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius. In a common move for Hamlet adaptations, Jacobi was 42 in this role--far older than Hamlet in the original text (who is little older than a teenager), only seven years younger than Claire Bloom (Jacobi’s on-screen mother), and two years older than Stewart (Jacob’s on-screen uncle.)  Audiences didn’t care about this discrepancy, though; the first screening of this movie was the highest rated production of the whole BBC Shakespeare series in America, with 5.5 million viewers.

  • BBC Wales
    45/ BBC Wales

    #7. Hamlet

    Year: 2009

    IMDb rating: 8.2

    The 2009 adaptation of Hamlet is the most recent on this list, and also the highest rated.  This film was adapted from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2008 Hamlet production and is less gaudy than other Hamlet adaptations, with simple, modern-dress clothing and a single-camera setup. Perhaps most notable in this film, however, are its stars: David Tennant, most known as Doctor Who’s Tenth Doctor, plays Hamlet, and Sir Patrick Stewart once again plays Claudius.

  • NBC Universal Television
    46/ NBC Universal Television

    #6. Richard II ("The Hollow Crown")

    Year: 2012

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    The 2012 Richard II stars Ben Whishaw as King Richard, a weak-willed monarch with speeches better formulated than his convictions who loses sense of his identity after he is deposed. This film was the first in the BBC’s “The Hollow Crown” set of history adaptations, and it set the stage for the series’ high level of critical acclaim.

  • BBC Drama Group
    47/ BBC Drama Group

    #5. The Taming of The Shrew

    Year: 2005

    IMDb rating: 8.3

    This Taming of the Shrew is another part of the “ShakespeaRe-Told” series (see #33, #16), bringing a contentious Shakespeare comedy into a modern day setting. In this adaptation, Katherine Minola (Shirley Henderson) is an ambitious politician who marries nobleman Petruchio (Rufus Sewell) in order to improve her public image.

  • Primetime Television Limited
    48/ Primetime Television Limited

    #4. Othello

    Year: 1990

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Of the many adaptations of Othello on this list, Trevor Nunn’s 1990 film version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production is the highest rated. This film was shot in a black box theater with minimal sets and props, and stars hotshots Willard White as Othello, Sir Ian McKellen as Iago, Imogen Stubbs as Desdemona, and Zoë Wanamaker as Emilia.

  • WNET Thirteen
    49/ WNET Thirteen

    #3. Henry VI, Part II ("The Hollow Crown")

    Year: 2016

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Henry VI, Part II followed Henry VI, Part I (#9 on this list) in the “The Hollow Crown” series. This adaptation picked up where Part I left off to finish Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays, keeping primarily the same main cast with the notable introduction of Richard III (Benedict Cumberbatch.)

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
    50/ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

    #2. Henry V ("The Hollow Crown")

    Year: 2012

    IMDb rating: 8.5

    Number two on our list is another “Hollow Crown” adaptation, this one using the source material of the traditionally patriotic Henry V.  Here, King Henry is played by Tom Hiddleston (popularly known as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), whose performance finishes the first tetralogy of history plays (Richard II, the two parts of Henry IV, and Henry V) with rousing success.

  • WNET Thirteen
    51/ WNET Thirteen

    #1. Richard III ("The Hollow Crown")

    Year: 2016

    IMDb rating: 8.7

    Richard III, the final part in “The Hollow Crown,” picks up where Henry VI, Part II (#3 on this list) left off to complete the story of Richard III (Benedict Cumberbatch)’s rise to power. This film is chilling in its depiction of a tyrant’s unstoppable ambition, and its position as number one on this list suggests that the current world is as enamoured with villainy as ever.

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