Green light at the end of the dock: Watch these ‘Great Gatsby’ movies now
Although the book wasn’t recognized as such until after the author’s death in 1940, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is an American classic. Fitzgerald understood the time in which he was writing better than many of his contemporaries. The fleeting romance, excesses of the twenties, and the despair that lay beneath.
Fitzgerald’s Gatsby was a man who wasn’t fit for the changing times in which he lived. He was self-made in a time when people valued inherited generational wealth more highly. Jay Gatsby is a man seduced by the exclusive affluent society in the shadow of New York City on Long Island’s gold coast. Believing he could freely join their ranks and earn the love of Daisy Buchanan turns out to be his undoing.
The book sits firmly in the canon of great American novels. It’s a core part of high school English courses in the United States. Movie adaptations have sought to capture the essence of the imaginative & beautiful novel – however, few have truly succeeded. Here are some that made the mark.
Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013)
Baz Lurhmann’s 2013 version of The Great Gatsby is an adaptation with the volume turned to eleven. More Moulin Rouge than the rigid & reserved adaptations that masterpieces usually receive. Bright colors, kaleidoscopic CGI cityscapes, and a bizarre soundtrack firmly assert Lurhmann’s Gatsby as the campy spectacle that some fans would prefer to forget.
The 2013 movie features a star-studded cast. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, and Jason Clarke round out a powerful supporting cast. However, the star of the film is the lavish & over-the-top costumes, settings, and visuals.
This Great Gatsby movie takes some wild liberties with the source material. Luhrmann changes key scenes to fit more into his music video-like structure and shreds plot points to fit into the film’s strange framing device. Luhrmann chooses to focus on Gatsby’s dazzling parties and lavish lifestyle. Perhaps this movie isn’t for every fan of the original, but it’s an interesting artifact in its own right.
Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby (1974)
If you’re looking for a more straightforward adaptation of the classic novel, then look no further than Jack Clayton’s 1974 version. Sam Waterson, who you may remember as Jack McCoy from Law & Order, plays our narrator Nick Carraway, and 70s heartthrob Robert Redford is our Gatsby. Bruce Dern is a real standout and adds a lot of depth to the character of Tom Buchanan.
This version of Gatsby is grounded more in reality. There’s a softly lit dreamlike quality to the film that serves to obscure the gritty reality it encases. In a confrontation late in the film between Gatsby & Tom, each character is made up beautifully in tailored suits while their faces glisten with sweat. Their carefully constructed worlds begin to come apart as their romantic rivalry reaches a boiling point.
This is a far more literal adaptation of The Great Gatsby. The subject matter is presented very plainly and in a nearly clinical way. The film’s rich photography presents American wealth as brilliant austere mansions in white marble and endless sprawling green lawns. The strength of this film is these incredible locations and some fantastic performances.
Of these well-known Great Gatsby movies, which one is your favorite? Do you prefer Baz Luhrmann’s star-studded, over-the top approach that uses spectacle to explore the themes of the excessive roaring twenties? On the flipside, do you like the more subtle 70s version that adds some depth & character to the source material? Let us know in the comments below!