Ranking Romeos (And Juliets)

July 31, 2013 4:55 pm

Romeo and Juliet is undoubtedly considered a classic in contemporary society. The story itself has been adapted countless times; from animation to ballet, musicals to the silver screen, it is evident that as a global community this universal tale has earned its place as a favorite. Within the next week, British cinemas will see another adaptation of this classic tale come to their screens and no doubt thousands of Shakespeare fans will be keen to see how this new adaptation lives up to both the original, and those adaptations that preceded it.

Together, Romeo and Juliet appear to be beautiful. They are young, passionate and in love, but also destructive and selfish. The idolization of this couple as the archetypal young lovers is arguably misplaced but as an audience, we enjoy the drama even when we know the ending. So why do we hold this one story in such a high regard? And which big-screen Romeo and Juliet do we love the most?

5) James McAvoy and Emily Bluntromeo and juliet

At an average 5.9/10 on imdb, the animated adaptation re-worked into Gnomeo and Juliet is a Shakespeare tale for the children among us. The obligatory happy-ending for a children’s film departs from Shakespeare’s classic as it is universally known – that of the star-crossed lovers who take their lives to be together and bring peace between both their families in the process – and re-imagine it to be an accident, their survival a happy celebration of both gnomes’ lives.

4) Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow

Whilst not a strict adaptation of the play, the same themes of doomed lovers and a romance that is unable to survive earns this film a respectable 7.2/10 on the imdb scale. This production loses credibility in its historically inaccurate portrayal of the romance between William Shakespeare himself and a well-off woman determined to immerse herself in the theatrical world by masquerading as a young boy in order to get a part at all.

3) Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood

West Side Story is almost considered as much of a classic as the original play itself. From its first shows on Broadway in 1951 to its subsequent 1961 film adaptation that provides the source of many people’s first exposure to the musical, West Side Story’s tale of two rival gangs in 1950s New York appears as timeless as its source material. Again, this adaptation bucks the trend by only portraying the death of one of its leads, leaving Maria to face life alone without her lover and her brother amongst the tenuous peace Tony’s death brings between the Jets and the Sharks.

2) Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey

This 1968 adaptation remains an oldie, but a goodie. Franco Zefirelli’s production made the controversial decision to cast more age-appropriate actors in the roles of the young lovers whilst shooting on location in Italy with Renaissance-era costumes to best depict the story as the play intends. For modern audiences, Whiting provides the 1960s answer to Zac Efron and the film itself boasts of beautiful cinematography and film score that remains heralded by critics almost 50 years later.

romeo1) Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

Confession: I actually hate Claire Danes in this movie. Or, rather, I’m not Claire Danes’ biggest fan full stop. But Baz Luhrmann’s modernised adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic provided many of us with our first exposure to the tale of Romeo and Juliet and introduced the world to the talents of Leo before his Titanic global success. Nevertheless, the two together in this film highlight the intensity of the passion between the star-crossed lovers whilst providing a platform that introduced Shakespeare and his most-recognisable play to a new generation of fans.

Honourable Mention: Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld

This newest adaptation harks back to the style established by Zefirelli and its trailer promises the same beautifully shot scenes and passionate romance of the adaptations that precede it.

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