Bring Verona to your home with these ‘Romeo and Juliet’ movies
The concept of star-crossed lovers obviously existed before William Shakespeare set quill to parchment, but we can all agree The Bard’s Romeo and Juliet is responsible for making it mainstream. Odds are that before Shakespeare introduced audiences to the Verona tragedy, forbidden romances were not exactly something teenagers would be proud of. Romeo and Juliet movies must have made it even worse.
All that said, the flexibility of Romeo and Juliet’s central idea allows for many different types of films to be made using it as inspiration. We appreciate clever reimaginings here at Film Daily, so we figured we’d share our favorite Romeo and Juliet movies with you. Are you ready? Okay: two kids from rival sides of the track fall in love . . . go!
Tromeo and Juliet
Not a good movie, but not a bad movie either. Troma films transcend such simple definitions. Still, we wanted to start off the list with Tromeo and Juliet for two reasons: its punny title and, more importantly, the fact that it was co-written by James Gunn. Yes, that James Gunn. As for the film itself, it’s what you’d expect from a Troma production. Lots of schlocky sex and violence, indie-style.
Romeo Must Die
Fresh off his introduction to Hollywood in Lethal Weapon 4, Jet Li went on to play Romeo opposite R&B singer Aaliyah’s Juliet. Now, must Romeo die? That seems to be his fate in all Romeo and Juliet movies, whether they’re period pieces or action-packed martial arts flicks. The feuding families in this version are African-American and Chinese-American gangs, of course.
How about some “Romeo and Romeo” action? Alan Brown’s film transposes Shakespeare’s text to an all-male high school military academy, where we see two cadets fall for each other. Private Romeo was made in 2011, before “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, so you can see where the director was coming from. Forbidden love indeed.
West Side Story
Romeo and Juliet . . . the musical! But also, let’s make Juliet a lovely Puerto Rican (played by Natalie Wood because it was 1961) and Romeo an innocent all-American boy. And the feuding families will be finger-snapping gangs! And did we mention it’s a musical? The film adaptation of the Broadway production was a smash hit back in the 60s, and it’s due for a remake this year, from Steven Spielberg, no less.
Gnomeo and Juliet
Once again, half the battle is already won here thanks to a punny title. Then you throw in an all-star cast voicing this animated feature: Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Dolly Parton, Michael Caine, Jason Statham (?!?), Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart . . . the list goes on and on. Add a bunch of Elton John songs and the relief that comes with knowing this version has a happy ending. The result? A Shakespearean winner!
Romeo + Juliet
Be honest: out of all the Romeo and Juliet movies, this is the one you think of first. This is Leo before he was Leo, but we already knew he was a star. And Claire Danes steps up to him every moment they’re on screen. Director Baz Luhrmann’s hyperkinetic style can be divisive, but pretty much everyone agrees that DiCaprio & Danes are the perfect encapsulation of Shakespeare’s doomed couple.
Shakespeare in Love
This is the awards-winning prequel, a “Romeo and Juliet Begin” of sorts. John Madden’s take on Shakespearean times works on two levels: as an origin story for the play Romeo and Juliet, and as a Romeo and Juliet story of its own – with Joseph Fiennes’s lovestruck Will Shakespeare in the role of Romeo and Gwyneth Paltrow’s unobtainable Viola as Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
As we said, we love interesting reimaginings. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a straight-up formal film adaptation. Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Shakespeare’s classic story is the standard other Romeo and Juliet movies are measured against. It’s more than fifty years old, but the visuals and the performances remain as compelling as ever. A definite must-watch for any Shakespeare fan.
Do you have any favorite Romeo and Juliet movies we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!