The film premiered on November 1, 1996 in the United States and Canada in 1,276 theaters and grossed $11.1 million its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It went on to gross $46.3 million in the United States and Canada with a worldwide total of USD$147,554,998.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Fresh", with 72% of 53 critics giving positive reviews. James Berardinelli gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "Ultimately, no matter how many innovative and unconventional flourishes it applies, the success of any adaptation of a Shakespeare play is determined by two factors: the competence of the director and the ability of the main cast members. Luhrmann, Danes, and DiCaprio place this Romeo and Juliet in capable hands."
Leonardo DiCaprio won Favorite Actor and Claire Danes won Favorite Actress in a Romance at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. At the 1997 MTV Movie Awards, Danes won Best Female Performance. DiCaprio was nominated for Best Male Performance, and DiCaprio and Danes were both nominated for Best Kiss and Best On-Screen Duo. At the 51st BAFTA Film Awards, director Baz Luhrmann won Best Direction. Luhrmann and Mary Haile won the Best Adapted Screenplay. Nellee Hooper won the Best Film Music. And Catherine Martin won the Best Production Design. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound.
The film won several awards. At the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, DiCaprio won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Luhrmann won the Alfred Bauer Prize. Luhrmann was also nominated for the Golden Bear Award for Best Picture. At the 69th Academy Awards, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch were nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.
Conversely, Roger Ebert gave the film a mixed review of only 2 stars out of 4, saying, "I've seen “King Lear” as a samurai drama and “Macbeth” as a Mafia story, and two different “Romeo and Juliets” about ethnic difficulties in Manhattan (“West Side Story” and “China Girl”), but I have never seen anything remotely approaching the mess that the new punk version of “Romeo & Juliet” makes of Shakespeare's tragedy.