What’s the best Shakespeare movie adaptation?

Romeo+Juliet is technically a Hollywood movie, so I’m breaching my personal contract of only writing about non-Hollywood, international movies…however the director Baz Luhrmann is Australian, so let’s say it doesn’t count…and I’m doing it for the love of the art! Indeed, I felt a personal obligation to mention this movie as it represented my first personal exposure to Shakespeare (and more importantly to the music of legendary Prince!).

Growing up in France,  we were surprinsingly not encouraged to read Shakespeare – to this day I clearly remember my dentist’s comment when she saw me coming to an appointment with Hamlet in my hands: ‘”Don’t you think we have enough good French literature already?”… So, while Shakespeare was well-known as an author, I hadn’t really been exposed to his literature until I watched the completely funky Baz Luhrmann adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Not only was I entertained and moved by the movie and its topics, but it also made me more familiar with Shakespeare’s themes. 

On top of that, Romeo+Juliet is an incredible experience for a viewer, as the colors and the style are completely OTT in the best way possible! I loved the costumes, the colors, the party, everything felt dreamy and surreal as I had never seen a film like that. So much so that I was full of defense mechanisms and kept wondering why all these things were done, instead of simply enjoying them. I do remember though how much I adored the curveball of the TV host, introducing and conclusing the story both at the beginning and the end of the play…erm movie. Funny enough, I only realized that the characters were speaking in ancient English years after first watching the movie.

Embarrassingly, I also remember being slightly surprised that the mayor of Verona was a Black man and asking my bigger sister for explanations…talk about the importance of minority representation in films! To be fair, I was also very surprised that such a modern priest could exist… I am glad that these days are over for me – and slightly confused to realize how much I’ve changed! Bottomline is: Romeo+Juliet was groundbreaking, and the crazy alliance of pop culture and Shakespeare make for the most awesome fireworks! Watch or rewatch it without moderation!

Reasons to watch:

  • Sex, drugs and parties on the menu!

  • A fantastic tribute to the 1990s West Coast

  • Virtuosity in breaking all the rules

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