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Celebrate Shakespeare With the Best Adaptations on Streaming

As good luck would have it for word nerds everywhere, April 23 is a day of celebration. William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest wordsmith of all-time, was born and died on this day. This year, the world pays tribute to The Bard on the 400th anniversary of his death. In Shakespeare’s short-lived life (he died at only 52 years old), he managed to completely change the English language. The Bard’s plays have influenced storytelling across all mediums: theatre, literature, film, poetry, philosophy, etc. You name it, Shakespeare has left his mark on it. His way with words was extraordinary. As we look back on the Bard of Avon himself, we also look back at some of our favorite Shakespeare adaptations available on streaming right now. Grab your favorite snacks and settle down, the game is afoot! (A phrase first penned by Shakespeare, not Sherlock.)

10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You Shakespeare

This teen movie favorite is also one of the most clever Shakespeare adaptations. Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and the rest of the cast take The Bard’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew and update it for the modern age. 10 Things I Hate About You has humor, heart, and a surprisingly smart commentary on high school stereotypes and cliches. (Streaming on HBO.)


Empire GIF Cookie

Sibling-rivalry, murder, star-crossed lovers… Empire is the themes of Shakespeare’s tragedies rolled into one TV drama. And we love it. (Streaming on Hulu.)


David Tennant Hamlet GIF

Over the years, the BBC have adapted Billy’s works over 40 times since the channel began in 1922. When the Royal Shakespeare Company announced David Tennant would be part of a modernized version of Hamlet, the run sold out almost instantly. Luckily, the BBC filmed Tennant’s take on the Prince of Denmark for all to enjoy. In particular, we love that his version of Hamlet brings out the silliness and humor of the play so well. (Streaming on PBS.)

House of Cards

House of Cards Netflix GIF

Frank and Claire Underwood’s story closesly follows that of Richard III. Shakespeare’s play charts the Machiavellian rise and subsquent fall of Richard III’s short reign in England. Likewise, House of Cards delivers a similar storyline set against the backdrop of Washington D.C. politics. Drama, intrigue, and murder abound. (Streaming on Netflix.)


Macbeth Fassbender GIF

Justin Kurzel’s  2015 adaptation of The Scottish Play is a visually stunning recreation of the tragic tale. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard feel right at home delivering The Bard’s famous lines. (Streaming on Amazon.) If you’re looking for a more modern version of the play, Patrick Stewart’s 2010 Tony-nominated stage run as Macbeth may be more up your alley. The filmed for TV performance transports the bloody, vengeful action to a nameless 20th-century netherworld. (Streaming on PBS.)


Ran Kurosawa GIF

Considered to be one of Akira Kurosawa‘s many masterpieces, Ran was the last big epic filmed by the famed director. The story borrows from King Lear, and follows an aging warlord who wishes to abidcate the throne to his three sons. Two of his children turn corrupt against. The movie seamlessly blends Japanese lore with one of The Bard’s most well-known tragedies. (Streaming on Amazon through Tribeca ShortList.)

Slings and Arrows

Slings and Arrows GIF

Not exactly a Shakespeare adaptation per se, but Slings and Arrows definitely has the mark of The Bard on every episode. The Canadian TV show is set at the fictional New Burbage Festival, based on the real-world Stratford Festival. Each season of the series follows a different Shakespeare play. Literature nerds, this show as made especially for you. (Streaming on Amazon.)

Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood Kurosawa GIF

Did we mention that Kurosawa loved The Bard of Avon? The master of Japanese cinema directed three different adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. Throne of Blood takes the plot of Macbeth and relocates it to feudal Japan. The Scottish Play has never looked better when paired with vindicative samurais. (Streaming on Hulu.)

West Side Story

West Side Story Sharks Dance

Depicted against the gang-related violence of 1960s New York, West Side Story brought the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet to a new generation. The class struggles between the Sharks and Jets are a perfect modernization of the brutal hatred between the Montagues and Capulets of Shakespeare’s original play. (Streaming on Amazon through Tribeca ShortList.)

What’s your favorite Shakespeare adaptation? Drop us your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Disney, FOX, RSC,  Netflix,  The Weinstein Company, Toho, Acorn Media, United Artists

Michelle Buchman is the social media manager at Nerdist Industries. She’s also a huge cinephile. Feel free to follow and chat movies with her on Twitter, @michelledeidre.

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