“Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” Gets Us Thinking About Shakespeare On Film

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of cult comedy classic Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Top 10 Films takes a look at some of the best moments of Shakespeare on the silver screen including traditional and non-traditional adaptations…


For most of us, our first encounter with William Shakespeare is in the classroom, trying to read between the lines to find hidden meanings in his words. But the world of film can offer up a wealth of Shakespearian adaptations, not all of them conventional lavish costume affairs.

Whether it be a complete homage or a subtle adaptation, more movies owe their plot and characters to the Bard than we realise.

Based on Tom Stoppard’s play and starring acting legends Tim Roth and Gary Oldman alongside Richard Dreyfuss, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the perspective of two lesser-known characters. The 25th Anniversary Edition of this hugely inventive and thoroughly entertaining version of the Shakespeare classic is now available on DVD.

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead – and the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, we take a look at five great – and unique – Shakespeare film adaptations.

Macbeth (2015)

macbeth-fassbender-2015Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy Macbeth, the most recent big screen take on a classic, features blockbuster battle scenes and stunning performances. Starring the renowned Michael Fassbender in the title role and Marion Cotillard as his wife, Macbeth sets upon taking the throne for himself when he receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will one day be King of Scotland.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10_things_i_hate_about_you_8Leaving behind Shakespearian language, 10 Things I Hate About You is the brilliant reincarnation of The Taming of the Shrew, and brought Shakespeare to the halls of American high schools. In this romantic comedy Julia Styles stars as a boy-hating teenager who is tricked into a relationship with a rebel played by the late Heath Ledger to enable her sister to go to the prom. A very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt also stars. See also O, which transposes tragedy Othello to the American school system…

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

chimes_at-midnight1Directed by and starring the inimitable Orson Welles, Chimes at Midnight centres on Shakespeare’s recurring character Sir John Falstaff and the father son relationship he has with Prince Hal, who must choose between loyalty to Falstaff or to his father, King Henry IV. Editing pieces out of five known plays—Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, many believe this film to be Welles’ true classic. Welles, of course, was fond of Shakespeare, also taking on Othello in another of his troubled productions.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

romeo-juliet-movie-romanceObviously. Baz Lurhmann’s take on the feuding Capulets and Montagues moves the classic story to the modern day gang wars of Verona Beach, California. Starring the Oscar-worthy Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes as the star-crossed lovers, Romeo + Juliet is a wonderfully romantic and inventive adaptation with stunning cinematography and an excellent soundtrack. Paul Rudd also stars alongside Pete Postlethwaite and John Luguiziamo. And of course, let’s not forget West Side Story, a classic musical that takes the tale of the tragic pair as its starting point, and, as well as setting it in a racially-charged gang heavy New York, throws in lavish musical numbers…

Henry V (1944)

Henry V, Lawrence Olivier, FilmStill the yardstick by which all Shakespeare adaptations are judged, you can’t talk about the Bard on film without mentioning Laurence Olivier. His Hamlet was atmospheric and brooding, his Richard III was inadvertently an inspiration for Johnny Rotten’s persona (Sir Ian McKellen’s later take is also noteworthy), but it’s his Henry V, which raised the spirits of wartime Britain with the rabble-rousing king’s speech…

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    Callum Reply

    My mum loves the Rosencrantz film, I must let her know that this new anniversary edition is out. Might even buy it for her! Mother’s Day is coming soon of course!

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