Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968)

Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968) Romeo and Juliet Films Through the Years

There have been many other film adaptations of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet over the years besides the 1968 version. An early example is the 1936 film of the same name. This black and white picture starred Leslie Howard and Norma Shearman as the titular characters and was praised at the time as a triumph of cinema for its visually stunning and well-acted adaptation of Shakespeare's beloved story. One notable element of the film that stood out as a good choice was director George Cukor's decision to use Tchaikovsky's orchestral ballet score in the soundtrack. The film shares praise of its music in common with the 1968 film, as critics similarly lauded the song "What is a Youth?", which Peter sings during the Capulet feast, and the main melodic motif of which is featured frequently in the film. The main criticism of the 1936 adaptation surrounded the age of the actors: at the time, it would've been considered inappropriate to cast actual teenagers in the roles of Romeo and Juliet, and so adults were cast. However, it was noted that Howard and Shearman may have been too old, as the former was 43 at the time of production, and the latter 34. This contrasts with the 1968 version, in which Romeo and Juliet were portrayed by actual teenagers for the first time.

Romeo and Juliet got a more modern update in 1996 when Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes took on the title roles in a present-day adaptation that takes place in the fictional Verona Beach. The characters retain Shakespeare's original dialogue, but exist in the modern context of a feud between two mafia gangs where swords are replaced with guns. The film enjoyed critical success and was certified "Fresh" on review aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 72%. Both DiCaprio and Danes were lauded for their performances. To this day, it is the highest grossing live-action adaptation of the play, having made $147.5 million worldwide.

Some less conventional adaptations of the story have also come to the big screen. One example is Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), a more light-hearted, kid-friendly CGI adaptation directed by Kelly Asbury and starring James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as the title characters. Another would be Warm Bodies (2013), directed by Jonathan Levine, which features a story of zombies vs. uninfected survivors in which Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie version of Romeo, alongside Teresa Palmer as Julie, his human Juliet. R's love for Julie improves his undead condition and eventually gives him more human qualities. And, of course, there's the cultural smash West Side Story (1961), directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, a film which reimagines Romeo and Juliet as a musical set in 1960s New York City with a feud between two street gangs, one comprised of white members, the other of Puerto Rican members. The film's Romeo, called Tony, was portrayed by Richard Beymer, while Maria, the film's Juliet, was portrayed by Natalie Wood. West Side Story remains an iconic and beloved film and stage musical to this day.