There’s nothing quite like the old classics. For years, modern storytellers have been learning from the likes of Shakespeare and Dickensincluding filmmakers.
From legendary 60s epics like My Fair Ladyto modern action films that you wouldn’t expect to be inspired by classics at all, such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Risesdirectors have found multiple ways to bring stories of yesteryear to a much more modern setting on the silver screen.
A Good Girl, A Small Favor, and A Big Rumor — ‘Easy A’ (2010)
This teen romantic comedy starring Emma Stone is about a high school student who relies on her school’s rumors to improve her social and economic situation.
Easy A creatively re-imagines Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, about a woman who conceives a daughter outside of marriage and struggles to create a new life. The movie certainly takes its liberties as an adaptation, which only helps it be funnier and more charming.
DiCaprio Reciting Shakespearean Dialogue? Yes, please! — ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1996)
Baz Luhrmann‘s contemporary take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet sees two feuding families in Verona Beach, where Romeo and Juliet fall in love and secretly wed. Although the film is visually modern, the Bard’s dialogue remains untouched.
Starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star crossed lovers, Romeo + Juliet brings Luhrmann’s signature wild creativity and ornamented visuals to Shakespeare’s famous classic, which is a blast of fun to see.
A Modern Stalker Movie Based on a Sci-Fi Classic — ‘The Invisible Man’ (2020)
Leigh Wannell’s third movie, The Invisible Man, is the story of Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who begins to suspect that her abusive ex’s suicide was a hoax after a series of coincidences in her life start to turn lethal.
One of Blumhouse’s best slasher movies, The Invisible Man capitalizes on the terror of the unseen and uses it to instill genuine shock and suspense in the audience in every scene. It may only cherry-pick some elements of HG Wells‘ classic novel, but it uses them beautifully.
A World of Imperfections — ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)
Featuring one of film’s most memorable love triangles with Renee Zellweger’s Bridget, Colin Firth’s Mark, and Hugh Grant’s daniel, Bridget Jones’s Diary is the tale of a chaotic woman keen on improving herself while she looks for love.
The comedy is based on a novel that is likewise a modernization of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This came from Helen Fieldingthe author of the source material and one of the writers of the film’s charming screenplay, becoming infatuated with the classic story and wittily stating that “Jane Austen wouldn’t mind, and anyway she’s dead.”
Shakespeare in High School — ’10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999)
This 90s classic follows Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who falls in love with Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). However, she’s not allowed to date until her ill-tempered older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) starts dating herself. So, Cameron singles out the only guy who could be a match for Kat: A mysterious bad boy named Patrick (Heath Ledger).
Not many movies manage to be as funny and sweet as 10 Things I Hate About Youwhich is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew.
The Lost Motion Picture of Them All — ‘My Fair Lady’ (1964)
Winner of 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, George Cukor’s My Fair Lady is a musical about a snobbish professor (Rex Harrison) who agrees to a wager that he can make a flower girl (Audrey Hepburn) presentable in high society.
Cukor’s movie was adapted from the long-running Broadway musical of the same name, which was itself based on a 1913 play called Pygmalion, which was likewise based on a classic Greek tale about a sculptor who falls in love with a statue he made himself. However, nothing is lost among this ocean of adaptations since the My Fair Lady movie is as grand, elegant, charming, and delightful as you could expect a musical to be.
As if! — ‘Clueless’ (1995)
In Clueless, rich and socially successful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) navigates the ups and downs of adolescent life with wit, charm, and intelligence.
Very funny and endlessly quotable, the film is loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, with a few modern twists. It’s sweet, earnest, and captures the essence of Austen’s story in a way that’s faithful enough to consider it a good adaptation but unique enough for it to feel fresh and special.
A Couple of Classics Six Decades Apart — ‘West Side Story’ (1961 and 2021)
Both versions of the beloved musical West Side Story (1961 by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 2021 by Steven Spielberg) are both so good and close to fans’ hearts that they deserve to be grouped together. Both are about two youngsters from New York City gangs who fall in love despite tensions between their respective friends.
Both movies are based on a Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical, which is also based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The 60s version is more theatrical and glamorous, while the 2021 one is more cinematic and gritty; both are beautiful and poignant versions of the Bard’s famous story.
The End of One of Superhero Cinema’s Best Trilogies — ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogyan updated version of Batman’s story set in a more realistic world than Tim Burton’s adaptations, is one of the most beloved franchises in modern cinema. It concluded with The Dark Knight Riseswhere a series of troubling events bring Batman (Christian Bale) out of retirement.
The movie wasn’t based on Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities so much as it was inspired by it, but the similarities are there. It’s a peculiar way to end this type of franchise, but undoubtedly one that works since it’s a very fun and thrilling film despite its flaws.
The Horror! The Horror! — ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)
Often lauded as one of the greatest anti-war films ever made, Apocalypse Now follows a Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on his secret mission to locate and eliminate a mysterious colonel played by Marlon Brandowho has gone rogue.
Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece is based on Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, a compelling critique of African European colonial rule. Coppola uses that as a foundation to construct a devastating view of war madness and Western Imperialism’s hypocrisy. The result is one of the most absorbing films in history.