Romeo And Juliet really is the ultimate romantic tragedy. So much else is just based on this simple storyline and the principle of forbidden love ending in tragedy is the earth of not just about every period drama I've ever seen but also is entwined into just about every modern day soap!
Here are some of the best, adapted from a list by Ben Taylor (original article):
Romeo and Juliet is 1954’s beautiful classic by Renato Castellani
Starring Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall, Castellani’s adaptation of the classic tale won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival in 1954, where the visuals that the film contained were particularly by the Italian audiences. People called the ‘piece of cinema’ as true poetry on screen. A true classic.
Franco Zeffirelli’s fated teen lovers of 1968’s Romeo and Juliet
People say that this was the first time that the world saw Romeo and Juliet as teenagers, rather than young adults. Played by Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey and narrated by Laurence Olivier, this was the most financially successful Shakespeare film at the time. It sparked controversy at the time due to a nude scene featuring Hussey (one which I remember seeing when watching the film during English class at school).
West Side Story takes inspiration from R+J in 1961 via directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ is the film adaptation of the Broadway musical o f the same name, which is inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Set in New York, the musical sees two rival gangs pulled together when a member from each group falls in love. This film was a huge cultural success, winning 10 Oscars, including best picture, and then picking up another 15 wins and 6 nominations. If you’ve not seen it, you are missing out a true piece of cinema history.
Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing takes on R+J in 1987
Everyone’s favourite tale of teenage love and dance moves sees Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey attempt to overcome the boundaries that separate their love and, of course, their intimate lessons. With a soundtrack full of hits and THAT song (Time of My Life sung by Bill Murrey and Jennifer Warnes), this film touches upon elements of Romeo and Juliet by putting these two lovers separated by her overbearing fathers ideals for his daughter. Let the lies and secret loving begin.
Baz Luhrmann updates a classic for 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet brought the classic tale of feuding families right into the 20th century, exchanging swords for guns, Verona for USA and Mexico and the classical soundtrack for something with a bit more bite. This also saw Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio go from teenage stars to full on Hollywood big hitters and propelled them into the hearts of millions all over the world, creating a classic for various generations who will still claim that this is the best adaptation to date. Though it missed out at the Oscars, it picked up big awards from the BAFTAS and managed to engage a generation that were slowly becoming TV zombies.
Leonardo and Kate sink with James Cameron at the wheel in 1997’s Titanic
‘I want you to draw me like one of your French girls’ are those words of Rose Calvert (Kate Winslet) that made a billion girls giggle and a million guys go red in the face. The film follows the story of Rose Calvert and Jack Dawson, who are aboard the tragic Titanic, and their struggle to be together that stems from the matter of class division. We amazing one liners, steamy cars and the Irish seeming to be the only guys drowning, James Cameron’s use of the faithful Romeo and Juliet tale won him 11 Oscars, as well as another 82 wins… I mean.
A fictitious look at the story behind the story with John Madden 1998 Shakespeare in Love
This romantic comedy drama is a take on what was happening at the time that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet (originally called Romeo and Ethel) and was a huge hit, picking up 7 Oscars. Starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow meeting under unusual circumstances and kept apart by morality and law. With a tear-jerking final scene that sees the lovers reunited, this tale behind one of Shakespeare’s much loved classic became a classic itself.
Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge 2001 is another success
Knowing when he is on to a good thing, Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge follows the same principles as Romeo and Juliet, just on a much grander and camper scale. With Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor starring as the ill-fated couple, this film was a musical extravaganza that was as emotional as it was vivid for the eyes and ears. The soundtrack mashed hits from throughout the years together that were sung by the star-crossed lovers, a poet and a courtesan. It picked up 2 Oscars and a whopping 72 other awards. Incredible.
The Notebook by Nick Cassavetes breaks our hearts in 2004
If you are a tough one and never cry at films, I am sure you have found it difficult not to shed a tear at this love epic that sees poor and passionate Ryan Gosling fall in love with rich and worry-free Rachel McAdams. Narrated by an elderly man played by James Garner, who is regaling the tale to a fellow nursing home resident played by Gene Rowlands, this film was a huge hit at the cinema and still is today with its portrayal of everlasting love. The tale follows the struggle that these young lovers are put through as they attempt to stay in contact at no matter what cost. Tissues at the ready.
Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight reinvents feuding families in 2008
Based on the best selling book by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight follows the tale of Bella, after she relocates to live with her father in a small town of Forks. Here she meets mysterious Edward, who just happens to be a vampire and… well, there you have it, a modern twist on the classic star crossed lovers. This film went on to become one of the most successful movie franchises of the 21st century to date and, since ending, has left many female fans lost and in need of a new tragilove trilogy… apparently the current The Hobbit franchise doesn’t tick the right boxes.