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10 Things I Love About Shakespeare

Last month, the Folger Shakespeare Library put out a great list of streaming Shakespeare. At HVSF, we wanted to highlight ten US entries that are available now. Whether you’re looking for big-screen adaptations, filmed stage productions, or bold reinventions, we’ve got you covered!

MACBETH

1948, Directed by Orson Welles

Available on YouTube

Orson Welles feels like the right place to start with Shakespeare on Film in the US. His MACBETH was made in 21 days on a shoestring budget, but that doesn’t come through in the lush, stylish take on this tragedy.


MACBETH

2008, Folger Theatre and Two River Theater Company: Co-directed by Teller and Aaron Posner

Available on folger.edu

From old to new: this recent production from the Folger Theater is being streamed for free in response to the current crisis. Co-directed by Teller–yes, the magician of Penn & Teller–there’s great stage magic to enhance a visceral production of this great play.


ROMEO + JULIET

1996, Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Available on Starz

Baz Luhrmann defined his signature colorful, fast-cutting style with this 1996 sexy young blockbuster. Yes, he’s Australian, but given that the production and the cast were American, we’ll continue the dubious American tradition of thinking we own everything and put this on the list.


WEST SIDE STORY

1961, Directed by Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins

Available on Starz/DirecTV

Arguably the greatest musical of all time is based on ROMEO & JULIET. We’re hoping to still get a chance to see the bold new Broadway revival and the Speilberg remake, but for now, we can enjoy the iconic original.


KING LEAR

1974, Shakespeare in the Park: Directed by Edwin Sherin

Available on allarts.org

From the curtain speech by Joe Papp to the great performances from James Earl Jones, Raul Julia, and a knockout cast, this filmed Public Theater production is good theater and also thrilling theater history.


MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO

1991, Directed by Gus Van Sant

Available to rent on AppleTV/Google Play/Amazon

Just because the Branagh MUCH ADO isn’t American doesn’t mean we can’t have Keanu Reeves! Leave it to Gus Van Sant to mash up HENRY IV‘s Prince Hal with Portland’s street hustlers. Keanu and River Phoenix both give great performances in a classic of New Queer Cinema.


OTHELLO

1995, Directed by Oliver Parker

Available to rent on AppleTV/Google Play/Amazon

Shortly before his defining role as Orpheus in another Keanu flick, Lawrence Fishburne gives a fantastic performance as the title character, with Irish Shakespeare buff Kenneth Branagh sneaking onto our list as Iago.


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

2012, Directed by Joss Whedon

Available on Roku Channel/Tubi/Vudu/YouTube Red

Buffy creator Joss Whedon had a tradition of getting his friends together to his house to read Shakespeare plays aloud, so when the Writers’ Strike happened, he thought it was a great opportunity to film an indie adaptation in his house! This fun, witty take is stylish and fast-paced enough to keep Avengers fans entertained.


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

2019, Shakespeare in the Park: Directed by Kenny Leon

Available on PBS

If you’d rather watch a stage MUCH ADO, try this fun production that takes place in an alternate present! Danielle Brooks leads a fantastic all-black cast in a contemporary version that is bubbly and heavy in even turns.


10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU

1999, Directed by Gil Junger

Available on Disney +

The turn of the century produced a swath of teen flicks inspired by Shakespeare– O, She’s the Man, Get Over It –but none as successful and entertaining as this now-classic. The oft-problematic THE TAMING OF THE SHREW finds its sweet spot with this high school rom-com.




Image Sources
1. Macbeth, 1948

2. Macbeth, 2008
3. Romeo + Juliet, 1996
4. West Side Story, 1961
5. King Lear, 1974: Video Still
6. My Own Private Idaho, 1991
7. Othello, 1995
8. Much Ado About Nothing, 2012
9. Much Ado About Nothing, 2019
10. 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999