Hollywood can’t come up with an original idea anymore. In the 100+ years that we’ve enjoyed the cinema, we’ve seen the works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Shaw, and others taken from their original settings and moved into modern times. It can be said that these adaptations give those not interested in classic literature a chance to appreciate the themes and moral lessons explored in older tales. And if nothing else the story lines are still as relevant today as they were centuries ago.
You may not have read these original stories, but we’re at least betting you’ve seen their modern counterparts below.
1. 10 Things I Hate About You / The Taming of the Shrew
Like Shakespeare’s classic comedy, 10 Things heroine Katarina Stratford (subtle nod to the Bard there) takes no shit, specifically from men, and is somewhat cantankerous in personality. That is until she meets her feisty match in bad boy Patrick Verona. In fact, the name of the school where this retelling is set is Padua High School, the Italian city where The Taming of the Shrew takes place.
2. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence / The Adventures of Pinocchio
In this version, the puppet character is changed to a robot and put 100 years into the future in a world ravaged by global warming. But like Pinnocchio, David wants to become a “real boy,” and finds himself on a journey for the fabled Blue Fairy, who he believes can make him human so he can finally be accepted by the woman he knows as his “mother.”
3. Bridget Jones’s Diary / Pride and Prejudice
Bridget thinks her recently reacquainted childhood friend Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, who just happened to play Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries) is rude and arrogant, and he thinks she is crass and childish. But she already has her sights set on her boss, Daniel Cleaver, whose character mirror’s Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham. Turns out Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Darcy have a complicated history of their own…sound familiar?
4. Clueless / Emma
Jane Austin’s classic tale of a would-be matchmaker in Victorian England is transported to ’90s Beverly Hills. “Emma” is renamed Cher, but she’s still a captivating socialite stumbling through love and friendship.
5. Cruel Intentions / Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Based on the 1782 French novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Cruel Intentions takes subtle but still relevant cues from the original. The book explores the decadence of the French social hierarchy prior to the French revolution. In the updated movie version, the French court is moved to an Upper East Side setting, where oversexed prep school students (and vicious step-siblings) make a salacious bet that they can get the school’s incoming goody-goody to lose her treasured virginity before the start of the school year.
6. Get Over It / A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This one is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s popular comedy, mostly in that the main characters are wrapped up in a love triangle, and there’s a happy ending where everyone ends up with the one they want. Also, they all put on a high school musical version of Midsummer within the movie. But Shakespeare is known for his plays within the play, so it’s fitting.
The main character Berke (Demetrius) is trying to win back the affection of his ex Allison (Hermia), who has recently taken up with the popular Bentley (Lysander), and doesn’t see that Kelly (Helena) has been right in front of him all along.
7. The Lion King / Hamlet
Yep, if you’ve never put 2 and 2 together, Disney took a Shakespeare tragedy, put it in Africa, added a couple songs, and POOF – instant hit. Though Scar and Mufasa aren’t technically brothers (blowing your mind again, right?), similar to Hamlet, the son of a the murdered king avenges the death of his father by his uncle.
8. O / Othello
Again, this update to the Bard’s work is moved to an American high school. In O, the star basketball player (Odin, instead of Othello) is the only black athlete on the school’s team, making the coach’s son believe this gives Odin special treatment. Though the tale is taken into current times, the themes of jealously and power still reign.
9. O Brother Where Art Thou / The Odyssey
The Greek epic poem The Odyssey is, in it’s simplest form, the story of a man just trying to get home to his family. The meat of the tale are all the obstacles that keep him from getting there. In O Brother, “Ulysses Everett McGill” (the Roman interpretation of poem’s hero “Odysseus”) escapes from a chain gang and is trying to get home to his estranged wife “Penny” (Penelope in the epic).
10. Penelope / Beauty and the Beast
In this gender role reversal, the “beast” is actually a young woman who is cursed with a pig nose “deformity,” and the spell can only be broken when she finds true love with someone who accepts her for who she is.
11. She’s All That / Pygmalion
It’s likely you know George Bernard Shaw’s play as it was adapted from the stage for the film My Fair Lady. But in the ’90s version, Eliza Doolittle is instead a teenage social outcast who gets transformed into a Prom queen nominee through a bet made by the school’s two most popular guys. Ugh, that shit would not pass today.
12. She’s The Man / Twelfth Night
I’ll just let this movie poster do the talking for me:
Got it? Of course not. But suffice it to say that if Shakespeare was alive today he would make some serious cash against the uses of his works.
13. Sydney White/ Snow White
This modern retelling of the fairy tale finds our heroine as a college freshman who is pledging the same sorority as her late mother. But she finds out pretty quickly that those girls are assholes, runs away in the middle of the night, and ends up in the company of a group of 7 nerds.
14. The Truth About Cats & Dogs/ Cyrano de Bergerac
Veterinarian & radio show host Abby doesn’t think she is good enough for the handsome man of her dreams. In a case of mistaken identity, the man thinks Abby’s beautiful model friend Noelle is actually Abby, and starts to fall in love with her instead of the real Abby. In the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, the only thing that Cyrano has against him is an oversized nose, which keeps him from expressing his true intentions for his love Roxanne. In the updated version it’s low self esteem that keeps the main character for going after what she wants.
15. Warm Bodies / Romeo and Juliet
Since everyone knows the plot line to R and J, I’ll spare you the details. This love affair is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where R (he can’t remember his real name) is a zombie in the early stages of decay who falls in love with a human named Julie.