While there are always new opportunities and experiences to capitalize on as a movie director, sometimes classic stories are just as good if not better than new stories. Whether you know it or not, you’ve most likely seen movies based on the classics. Here are four movies you may not have known are retellings of classic literature.
The coming-of-age movie Clueless follows Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and her high school, popular girl antics. Cher maintains throughout the movie that she doesn’t waste her time on high school boys and isn’t looking for romance. She does, however, like to play matchmaker, setting up two of her teachers, partially because she thinks their happiness will cause her to get a better grade, and her new outcast friend Tai (Brittany Murphy) with Elton (Jeremy Sisto), Cher’s friend who happens to be crushing on her.
While claiming to be more mature than her classmates, Cher continues interfering with the lives of those surrounding her. When Tai is more interested in Josh, (Paul Rudd) Cher’s former stepbrother than in Elton, Cher realizes she herself is in love with him.
This nineties comedy is based on Emma, a novel by Jane Austen in 1815. In Emma, it is the spoiled and headstrong twenty-year-old Emma Woodhouse who finds that she may have a knack for matchmaking after her former governess marries a man Emma introduced to her. Emma begins to interfere in others’ lives, and despite being told by her father and her friend not to meddle, she continues to do so.
Even though Clueless is a nineties comedy, the plot parallels are clear; both girls get themselves into situations as a result of their stubbornness and want to interfere in others’ lives.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
This 2001 romcom, nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, follows 32-year-old Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) and the ups and downs of her career, romances, and vices.
After lamenting over going into her thirty-second year of being single, Bridget finds herself in a love triangle with the blunt Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and the charming Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Although Bridget is not as pressured to marry in the twenty-first century as women were in the 19th century, she still receives countless comments from her family, especially her mother, urging her to find love so she doesn’t end up a “spinster.”
Bridget must then navigate going from zero lovers to two, all while everything else in her life seems to be changing as well. Bridget Jones’s Diary is the adapted story of the book of the same name written by Helen Fielding, based on the 1813 Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.
In Pride and Prejudice, the witty bookworm Elizabeth Bennet is pressured to find a husband by society and her family, her mother especially. Elizabeth then meets the seemingly arrogant Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, who refuses to dance with her at a ball.
Though it’s not as much of a love triangle as the Bridget-Daniel-Mark one, Elizabeth still experiences feelings at various points throughout the book towards George Wickham, Mr. Darcy’s former childhood friend, and Mr. Darcy.
Both Bridget and Elizabeth must navigate being young single women who are being sought after for the first time in their lives.
10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You, a 1999 romantic comedy, follows the relationships of Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) and Kat (Julia Stiles) and Patrick (Heath Ledger.) New student Cameron learns that his crush Bianca’s dad said she can only date when her older and shrewish older sister Kat dates. Cameron then devises a plan, recruiting bad boy Patrick to “date” Kat so that Cameron can ask Bianca out.
The movie, then, is a modernization of The Taming of the Shrew, a comedic play by William Shakespeare.
The play tells the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina, the “shrew.” Petruchio is attributed as “taming” Katherina so that she becomes an obedient and desirable bride. Katherina also has a younger sister, Bianca, who is deemed much more desirable by the men of the play.
Even though The Taming of the Shrew has a much deeper misogynistic meaning, 10 Things I Hate About You carries similar themes.
She’s the Man
The 2006 romantic comedy She’s the Man tells the bizarre story of teenage soccer player Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes), who decides to take her brother Sebastian’s (James Kirk) place on the Illyria Prep soccer team when he leaves for London after the girl’s soccer team at her school gets cut.
Viola disguises herself as her brother and proceeds to play on the boy’s soccer team. From then on, she has to balance all her lies, all the more complicated when she develops a crush on one of her teammates.
She’s the Man is loosely based on Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, in which twins Viola and Sebastian are separated after a shipwreck. With help from a captain who saved her from the wreck, she disguises herself as a man so that she may enter the service of Duke Orsino. Both stories include complicated relationships and crushes as they strive not to be caught impersonating a man.
These are just four of many movies based on classic stories. Which one will you watch first?