Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, and directed by Julie Taymor
Director Julie Taymor's sanitized and wholly absorbing film version of Shakespeare's most gruesome play is a great choice for those who enjoy movies like 300. Titus recounts the tale of the Roman general Titus Andronicus who has just returned home in triumph from a ten-year war with the Goths. Horrific carnage and brutality ensue, but Taymor tastefully downplays the bloody realism whenever possible. The stellar performances of the commanding cast make Titus a riveting picture from start to finish. Alan Cumming is exceptional as Saturninus and Harry Lennox is perfectly cast as Aaron the Moor. Titus is true to the original plot with only minor deviations, and could be helpful to students who cannot sit through the stark (but brilliant) BBC production. However, it certainly is not advisable for students to rent Titus or any film adaptation in lieu of reading the play itself.
Starring: Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi, and directed by Kenneth Branagh
At 242 minutes, Branagh's version of the play requires quite a commitment, but it is well worth the time if you love Shakespeare or are in need of a production true to the original text. Branagh decided the best way to capture Hamlet on film was to include the entire play. With all the versions of Hamlet out there that are edited and rearranged, we should be thankful for Branagh's masterpiece.
Romeo and Juliet (1968):
starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, and directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Before this version of the play, the roles of Romeo and Juliet were usually played by older, established actors. These Shakespearean actors could, of course, present the characters wonderfully on screen, but could not recreate the frenzied passion experienced only by young lovers. Zeffirelli decided to use teenagers in the title roles, and their performances are some of the best you will see. The Queen Mab speech and the final moments in the tomb are truly spectacular, and although Zeffirelli chose to edit some of Shakespeare's dialogue, he captures the essence of Shakespeare's drama perfectly.
Much Ado About Nothing (1993):
starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, and directed by Kenneth Branagh
Another wonderful film version of a Shakespeare play by Kenneth Branagh. Emma Thompson also shines as Beatrice, and, despite rather good performances by Denzel Washington and Michael Keaton, Thompson steals the show. I found the performances by the actors who play Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) a bit flat, but it does not detract from Branagh's amazing direction.
The Taming of the Shrew (1967):
starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
This version of The Taming of the Shrew captures the whimsical nature of the play and is a good resource for anyone interested in commedia dell'arte. It is also a good introduction to the play for anyone beginning his or her studies of Shakespeare.