Top Movies: 14 Days of Romance Day 4, Shakespeare Movies

William Shakespeare (Billy to friends, or so we’ve heard) knows a thing or two about love, and there isn’t a theater company in the world that hasn’t paid close attention to what he has to say. The cinema also has proven to be kind to The Bard, if not always as successful. (Michael Hoffman’s rock music-infused Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1999 still grates at us … Lord, what fools these filmmakers be!)

So, who better to celebrate Day 4 of our Valentine’s Day film countdown, 14 Days of Romance, with?

The Disc Dish team came up with our top three Most Romantic Shakespeare Movies (and don’t get worked up if you think we cheated on one of them….). Tell us if you think we missed any.

Here’s our top three:

Much Ado About Nothing movie scene3. Much Ado About Nothing

“I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest,” coos Emma Thompson’s (Nanny McPhee Returns) Beatrice to Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet) Benedick in Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of The Bard’s romantic comedy. Relocating the action from Sicily’s port of Messina to a country estate on the sun-kissed hills of Tuscany gives a bucolic, dream-like feel to the proceedings and Shakespeare’s clever, heartfelt prose. Who better to serve it up than the one-time married British thesps whose comfortable way with words makes the play’s episodes of deception, role-playing, disguising and the threat of infidelity all the more embracing of the possibilities of love? And co-stars Kate Beckinsale (Everybody’s Fine) and Robert Sean Leonard (TV’s House) aint’ too bad either as the young lovers Hero and Claudio.

Available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Shakespeare In Love movie scene2. Shakespeare in Love

Ok, ok, technically this isn’t a Shakespeare movie, but it has Shakespeare in the title and he is one of the main characters. Besides, this light comedy is filled with romance. The winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress in Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 2) and Best Supporting Actress in Dame Judi Dench (Nine), Shakespeare in Love is a smart, sexy, funny and, well, you know, romantic film. Like the real Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this movie’s Viola (Paltrow) and Will (Joseph Fiennes, The Red Baron) are in love when they’re not supposed to be. And like the real Shakespeare’s Viola (from The Twelfth Night), Paltrow’s Viola has to be pretend to be a man to get what she wants. Mistaken identities, sword fights, stolen kisses… what could be more romantic than that?

Available on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Romeo and Juliet movie scene1. Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli honed his hand at directing with his first film, the 1967 version of the Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and kicked into high gear with 1968’s Romeo and Juliet, which is generally regarded as the finest version of Shakespeare’s tragic romance of star-cross’d lovers ever made for the screen. A straight-ahead adaptation set in 15th century Italy, Romeo and Juliet features a fine cast led by a teenage Leonard Whiting (Frankenstein: The True Story) and Olivia Hussey (Madre Teresa), whose chemistry is undeniable. Sumptuously shot on locations all over Italy (the film picked up an Oscar for its cinematography), outstandingly acted and richly detailed, the movie set the standard for Shakespeare on screen for many years, until a wave of fresh takes and re-interpretations began to take route. But as far as romance goes, this tale of woe is tops.

Available on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment

Click to see all the 14 Days of Romance.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.