3 Teen Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Shakespeare Plays

Posted on 26 November 2021
By Carlton Whitfield
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If the name ‘Shakespeare’ makes you yawn and cringe at memories of high school English classes, you wouldn’t be the only one.

But as any avid Shakespeare fanatic would tell you, the themes of his stories have captivated audiences throughout time in ways that go beyond Elizabethan English and ruffle collars.

In fact, one of the ways Shakespeare’s genius has been repurposed is through popular teen movies. Many of your all-time favourite movies and shows are actually originally penned by the Bard himself.
Here are a few of the best teen flicks that you may be surprised to be based on Shakespearean plays.

She’s The Man

In the early 2000s, movies and TV shows starring Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes was all the rage, and there is probably not a single Bynes movie that has been more quotable than She’s The Man.

This movie is a kooky comedy about a young soccer player, Viola Hastings, who pretends to be her twin brother to play in his school’s soccer team. Viewers enjoyed the hilarity that ensued as they watched Viola navigate her grand scheme that turns into a tangled lovers’ web, perhaps not even realizing that She’s The Man is almost identical in plot to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

She’s The Man even takes the names of the characters in Twelfth Night and repurposes them, such as Viola, Sebastian, Duke, Olivia. Even Malvolio, the name of Olivia’s steward in the play, is given to one of the characters’ tarantula. This movie became a favourite by taking the comedic plot from the original, and rounding up a star-studded cast, and updating the humour from iambic pentameter to hilarious one-liners and physical comedy to appeal to modern audiences (yes, we’re talking about the tampon up the nose scene).

10 Things I Hate About You

Another iconic teen movie (which was then rebooted in TV show format) that was inspired by a Shakespearean classic was 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You. The movie starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles was about two polar opposite sisters, one popular and feminine, and one abrasive and “shrewish,” navigating dating around their father’s strict rules.

The play this movie was inspired by, The Taming of the Shrew may be considered a little too problematic by modern standards to warrant an exacting PG retelling. However, 10 Things was able to toss the chauvinistic and dated ending to the play and update it in a way that revered its heroines, the “shrew’s,” fighting spirit. Kat’s rebellious voice is not domesticated by her family or her boyfriend.

By turning The Taming of the Shrew into a comedy with a more feminist outlook, 10 Things I Hate About You was able to redeem this Shakespearean tale and allow a whole new audience to enjoy this cast of wickedly funny characters.

Valley Girl

One of the most popular Shakespearean stories that are pervasive in popular culture is Romeo and Juliet, a tale of two star-crossed lovers from different worlds who try to be together against all odds, ending in their tragic fate. Among the many adaptations of this tale is the 1983 movie Valley Girl, which stars a young Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman.

Cage plays Randy, a Hollywood punk, who falls for a Valley Girl named Julie despite the disapproval of their friends. This story relies heavily on differentiating their worlds beyond just the Hollywood Hills that separate them. The Valley kids and the Hollywood kids have different styles, different interests, and different codes of ethics.

Similar to the original, these two worlds never mix, until love changes the status quo. Although Romeo and Juliet have been adapted in many different iterations, Valley Girl takes the story and makes it into a fun and hilarious teen rom-com rather than a dark and tragic drama.