A Random Selection of “Romeo & Juliet” Adaptations, and How They End

Shakespeare’s been dead for 400 years, but his tale of the star-crossed lovers that are doomed for hardship if not literal death continues to captivate the public imagination. The text is difficult — what with a a very particular language that people nowadays can find inaccessible, and with stage instructions that may seem inorganic on-camera — but the story is timeless. We know this for a fact, set as it has been in different periods in history, with different characterizations of what odds are stacked against heartbroken Romeo and innocent Juliet. And while some renditions end happier, and others have cooler interpretations of the balcony scene, one thing at least is for sure: every film adaptation you see of the play will not be the last. Romeo and Juliet will continue to love and lose for the cinema-goers’ pleasure for millenia to come.

I’m not going to end this introduction by quoting Romeo and Juliet. That’s way too predictable. Instead, I want to ask, when are we going to say Romeo and Juliet in Space? Romeo and Juliet as rival alien races in the Andromeda galaxy. Make it happen, people.

P.S. The Washington Post offers a nifty little ranking of some of the adaptations! A bunch of the stuff mentioned here are up there, and other’s aren’t. There really are just way too many cinematic adaptations to safely say.

1. West Side Story
Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Tony & Maria
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: set in contemporary New York, and starring the conflict between two gangs whose rivalry is racially charged — the American Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Also it is a musical, that is able to give focus on the lives and dreams of the other characters. Nothing operatic, but plenty of toe-tapping and romantic duets sung up at the moon
And the use of language is: modern, but still lyrical. The verses aren’t Shakesperean, but sung
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Tony, yes. Maria, no.

2. Romeo & Juliet (1968)
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Romeo & Juliet
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: But nothing. It’s Romeo & Juliet through and through, right down to our protagonists being in their earnest and innocent pre-teens. Director Franco Zeffirelli lovingly recreated the play with beautiful setpieces and wonderfully natural actors, that made this film a commercial and critical success
And the use of language is: directly lifted from Shakespeare
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? This is a faithful adaptation to the hilt. So yes.

3. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Directed by Bazz Luhrmann

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Romeo & Juliet
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: set in modern-day Verona Beach which looks like the wind-down season of carnivale, with good old’ guns instead of blades, and featuring an amazing, eclectic soundtrack. Despite detractors towards Director Bazz Luhrmann’s technicolor cinematography, the actual script and even direction is directly lifted from Shakespeare’s text, to the point where this film is arguably one of the most faithful onscreen adaptations of the play
And the use of language is: directly lifted from Shakespeare, regardless of what you expect men with died red hair and hawiian shirts to say
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? As with the former entry, yes

4. Romeo & Juliet (2013)
Directed by Carlo Carlei
Romeo: Douglas Booth, Juliet: Hailee Steinfeld

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Romeo & Juliet
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: but nothing. And it’s set in actual Verona, to boot
And the use of language is: mostly lifted from Shakespeare, but with some noticeable (and some would argue disruptive) add-ons by Downton Abbey scribe Jullian Fellows
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Yep

5. Solomon & Gaenor
Directed by Paul Morisson

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Solomon & Gaenor
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: our Romeo is a cotton-peddling jew and our Juliet comes from a conservative, anti-semitic family, it’s set in an impoverished mining town in Wales in 1911, there’s a lot of ~rolling in the hay~, and there’s a surprise pregnancy
And the use of language is: period-appropriate English, with a lot of Welsh and Yiddish thrown in
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Solomon passes after braving a snowstorm to see her. She lives, with the baby to remember him by

6. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak
Directed by Mansoor Khan

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Raj & Rashmi
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: set in India, featuring an extensive backstory of elopement and suicide that explains the family conflicts, and bearing all the features of your standard Bollywood film (soaring musical sequences, and exaggerated action scenes). The couple actually actively attempts to elope here, but look how far that gets them…
And the use of language is: filmy Hindi, with your standard Bollywood songs thrown in for good measure
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Yes. Rashmi gets shot in front of Raj’s eyes, and he kills himself

7. Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela
Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Ram & Leela
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: set in a modern but highly stylized India, foregoing some characters or any analogues to them such as the friar and the nursemaid, and in which we see the full extent of our leads’ unpoliced hormones. Also, the entirety of the entire post-elopement act becomes an interesting case of Romeo VERSUS Juliet as Romeo ascends to be his family’s head and Juliet finds herself back firmly under the thumb of her evil mother
And the use of language is: like the above — filmy, highly-dramatic Hindi, but with the Bollywood songs less pop or ballad-oriented this time
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Yes. They engage in a last make out session, and then shoot each other at the same time. RIGHT as Leela’s sister is coming up to tell them that the war between their families has been called off and their marriage has been blessed by both parties. PHEW.

8. Ishaqzaade
Directed by Habib Faisal

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Parma and Zoya
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: also set in modern India, but this time during election season, and against the backdrop of tense and often discriminatory inter-religious and inter-caste interactions. He’s a Hindu supporting one candidate who’s pretty good with guns, she’s a muslim supporting another candidate who’s just as good at firearms if not better
And the use of language is: filmy Hindi, with your standard Bollywood songs thrown in for good measure
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Yes. Post-elopement, it becomes Romeo and Juliet versus the world, as their families actually band together to hunt them down for being slights on their reputations. They kill each other, to die on their own terms.

9. Romeo Must Die
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Han and Trish
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: with rival gangs of different ethnicities and martial arts, and wherein our Romeo wants to kill Juliet’s dad. If we’re going down to brass tacks, this is really barely Romeo and Juliet for the most part, so it’s just safe to say we can only sort-of say this is Romeo and Juliet
And the use of language is: modern english, with copious use of slang
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Nope. Our bad guy, in the form of Rashmi’s dad, kills himself, and Han and Trish get to walk off into the sunset

10. Gnomeo & Juliet
Directed by Kelly Asbury

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Gnomeo and Juliet
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: with gnomes (Mr. Montague and Ms. Capulet own the gardens they live in), lots of jokes, and no blood, death, or sex
And the use of language is: family-friendly and perfectly understandable, with little references thrown in here and there
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Look at the trailer. Of course not.

11. The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Kovu and Kiara
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: it actively deals with the fallout of the film that precedes it, and where our lovers are technically cousins, I guess, but it’s okay because they are talking lions. This is completely serious, by the way — in the way The Lion King was an adaptation for Hamlet, the plot of Romeo and Juliet is adapted for this family-friendly, direct-to-video sequel
And the use of language is: regular modern English, save those fun little song sequences that adapt bits of different African languages
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Nope. They already killed Mufasa in the first one, I don’t think they wanted to traumatize us anymore. Kovu becomes one of the family by the end

the-lion-king-ii-simbas-pride.37769

12. Sirius no Densetsu
Directed by Masami Hata

In which Romeo and Juliet are named: Syrius & Malta
So it’s Romeo and Juliet, but: in a fantasy world, wherein the conflict is between The God of the Ocean and The Goddess of Fire, who were tricked into hating each other by the God of Wind. This story is about the forbidden love between their respective heirs, who are separated not just by their families’ mutual hate, but by their actual elemental powers making them dangerous for each other. There’s also plenty of high-flying action-fantasy sequences
And the use of language is: Japanese, but the dub is a very youth-friendly english
Spoiler alert, but not really! Do they die in the end? Look at Japanese animation taking it where Western animation wouldn’t — yes, they both die

The_Sea_Prince_and_the_Fire_Child_VideoCover.jpeg

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