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Romeo and Juliet is my favorite Shakespeare play. I know that's not a very out-of-the-box answer, but it is true. I love the drama and the more political themes that can be found in the play. I have read the play and seen the adaptations so many times that I have most of the play memorized. Therefore, I'm a little hard to please when it comes to adaptations, but I've got a few to recommend to you, and I hope to help you find the one that is right for you.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli
Romeo: Leonard Whiting
Juliet: Olivia Hussey
Run Time: 138 minutes
I remember watching this in black and white, but it look like it has sense been redone in color.
Watch the original trailer here
This is the first adaptation of R&J that I watched. I remember renting it from the library and watching it with my mom. I was a freshman in high school and had just read the play in school for the first time. This one is a little dated, but it's a great and faithful adaptation of the play.
Both Romeo and Juliet are beautiful; the tight pants and puffy shirts are ridiculous (as they should be), and the teen angst is intense. This adaptation was very popular when it was released because it was one of the first film adaptation to use actors close to the real ages of the characters.
I have really fond memories of watching this movie, and I would really love to watch it again, but this might not be the best version to start with if you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare or this play. I could see how those who are not already Shakespeare fans could find this version a little boring and outdated, but if you are a fan of R&J and Shakespeare, I highly recommend it.
The balcony scence
Juliet and her Romeo
Romeo and Juliet (1996)
Directed by: Baz Luhrman
Romeo: Leonardo DiCaprio <3 <3
Juliet: Clare Danes
Paris: Paul Rudd
Run Time: 120 minutes
Watch the trailer here
Clare Danes and Leo have great chemistry, and Paul Rudd comes out of left-field to be the perfect, dorky and undesirable Paris. I love all of the religious imagery and intense colors that are in this movie; it is such a visual experience. It's so modern but faithful to the original play, and the characters are extremely developed and the acting is phenomenal. It can be a little jarring to hear Elizabethan English with guns and cars, but it's such a cool idea, and Lurmen pulls it off greatly! The drama of the play is captured really well, as well as the emotion and infamous lines. I recommend watching the trailer to see if it's your taste before watching the movie. (But really it has Leo in it, so trust me, it's your style)
If you are a Shakespeare newbie, or aren't usually a fan, you may enjoy this one because it's not as "boring" as the more traditional adaptations. I promise it is so different from anything you have ever seen before! But it does seem to divide people between love and hate.
The first Kiss
This aquarium scene is one of my favorite scenes of all time
If these pictures don't convince to watch this version, I don't know what will.
Rome and Juliet (2013)
Directed by: Carlo Caelei (has also directed Dowton Abbey)
Romeo: Douglas Booth
Juliet: Hailee Stienfield
Tybalt: Ed Westwick
Run time: 118 minutes
Watch the trailer here
This is the latest adaptation of R&J I have watched, and I must say I am not all that impressed. I will say that this Juliet is the closest in age to the real Juliet I have ever seen cast in a movie (Juliet in the play is thirteen, the actress is fourteen) so that was really cool to see. The scenery is also quite beautiful, but other than that, the film seems a little lackluster. The movie keeps the plot of the original play, but not the dialogue, which is a big check in the negative column for me because I am very attached to the original play, and as I was watching, I was cringing every time a line was changed or left out. I also felt that the political themes were a little washed out and lost in this version, while the romance took the front seat.
The bed scene was my favorite scene of the movie, but the changes were just too much and too unnecessary for me. So, if you do watch this version, be warned of these changes. I still enjoyed this movie, but not nearly as much as the first two on this list!
The death scene
First Time Watchers: Romeo and Juliet (1996) or (1968)
Those Who Enjoy Looking at Beautiful Men: Romeo and Juliet (1996)
R&J and Shakespeare Lovers: Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Casual Shakespeare Consumers: Rome and Juliet (2013)
I would love to hear which of these you have seen, which is your favorite, or if you have any other versions for me to add to my list. I would love to see this play preformed live someday, so I could add it to my list of adaptations I have seen!
"For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo."