Best Movies Based on Plays – Part 3

Posted on 12 Mar 00:00

The best part of movies based on plays is that they come in all generas and categories. You can find crime-thriller, comedy, romantic, fantasy, music, drama, and suspense films among the ones based on plays.  These movies are known for having a great story lines, flawless direction, excellent dialogues, and matchless cinematography. These movies have the best stories because they are based on plays highly welcomed by the public. Here’s a list of some of the greatest movies derived from plays. 

1.  Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Plot:  This is a 1989 comedy-drama directed by Bruce Beresford. The movie was written by Alfred Uhry, and he derived the story from his own 1987 play having the same name. The lead roles of the movie are Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) and Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman). Daisy is an elderly Jewish widow who lives alone in her home in Atlanta and can't, at no cost, let go of her freedom. However, following her severe car accident, her son hires a driver for her chauffeur her around. The driver, an African American, is Hoke Colburn. Hoke and Daisy’s relations starts off rocky, but the two soon develop a relationship of mutual friendship and respect. The movie shows how people can overcome their racial prejudices by taking the time to get to know each other beyond the superficial barriers.

Director: Bruce Beresford.

Main Cast: Morgan Freeman (as Hoke Colburn), Jessica Tandy (as Daisy Werthan), Dan Aykroyd (as Boogie Werthan), and Patti LuPone (as Florine Werthan).

Awards and Nominations: 'Driving Miss Daisy' was both a critical and commercial success. At the 62nd Academy Awards, received nine nominations and won four: Best Picture, Best Actress (for Tandy), Best Makeup, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The British Academy Films nominated it for Best Film, Best Direction, Best Foreign Actress, and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Tandy). Golden Globes also nominated Driving Miss Daisy film for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Morgan Freeman), and Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Jessica Tandy). All the nominees won all the Golden Globe Awards.      

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The only difference between the play and the resulting film is the cast. The movie starred a slightly higher number of characters than the play.

2.  A Bronx Tale (1993)

Plot:  This is a 1993 crime drama directed by Robert De Niro. It was produced by Jane Rosenthal, and the story was adapted from the 1989 play named A Bronx Tale written by Chazz Palminteri. Calogero (Lillo Brancato).  The main character of the movie is moving into his teen years. He lives in the Bronx and the streets are turbulent as it is the 1960s. Soon Calogero is mentored by a mobster, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri). Sonny introduces Calogero to the gangland life and trains him in a way that is in opposition to his straight-arrow father (Robert De Niro) who’s a bus driver. However, when Calogero falls in love with his classmate Jane (Taral Hicks), a beautiful black young woman, the peace of the whole neighborhood is at stake.

Director: Robert De Niro.

Main Cast: Robert De Niro (as Lorenzo), Chazz Palminteri (as Sonny), Lillo Brancato, Jr. (as Calogero at age 17), and Francis Capra (as Calogero at age 9).

Awards and Nominations: Chazz Palminteri won the Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor. Francis Capra was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Youth Actor Co-Starring in a Motion Picture Drama.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: De Niro and Palminteri worked heavily together on the screenplay, with Palminteri aiming to retain many of the aspects of the original script, as it was based largely on his own childhood. Therefore, the resulting movie did not have major changes.

3.  Wait until Dark (1967)

Plot:  This is a 1967 thriller-horror film that was directed by Terence Young and produced by Mel Ferrer. The movie’s screenplay was written by Robert Carrington and Jane-Howard Carrington and was based on the 1966 play, 'Wait Until Dark' was written by Frederick Knott. The lead cast members of this movie include Audrey Hepburn (Susy, a young blind woman), Alan Arkin (Roat, a violent criminal searching for drugs,), and Richard Crenna (another criminal). In the beginning of the film, Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) gets on a flight to get back home and buys a doll oblivious of what it has inside. The doll is stuffed with heroin and Roat and his team are looking for it. They follow Sam to his home and wait for him to leave before making their move. When Sam leaves for his office they break into his apartment and discover that Sam’s blind wife Susy is there. It is now up to Susy to save herself and her home from the thugs.

Director: Terrence Young.

Main Cast: Audrey Hepburn (as Susy Hendrix), Alan Arkin (as Roat, Harry Roat Jr, Harry Roat Sr), and Richard Crenna as Mike Talman.

Awards and Nominations: The Academy Awards nominated Audrey Hepburn for the Best Actress while the Golden Globe-nominated her for the Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. She did not win any of these awards. The Golden Globes also nominated Efrem Zimbalist Jr. for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, but he lost the award. Laurel Awards nominated Audrey for Golden Laurel for Female Dramatic Performance, in which she emerged third. The film is ranked #55 on AFI's 2001 100 Years...100 Thrills list, and its climax is ranked tenth on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: There isn't any major change in the play, except for the cast. The play had six actors, while the resulting movie had seven actors, including Alan Arkin, who depicts three different characters in the film.

4.  A Few Good Men (1992)

This is a 1992 legal drama that was directed by Rob Reiner. This film was adapted for the big screen by Aaron Sorkin from a play named 'A Few Good Men' written by Aaron. Some contributions to the movie were also made by William Goldman. Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a lawyer for the US military, is tasked to defend two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of their fellow marine, an incident that took place at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Command Base in Cuba. Although Kaffee is known for making plea bargains and under the table deals, this case is different. A fellow lawyer suggests that the murder was committed by the marines on orders for their commanding officer, Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) and he, the commanding officer, must be made accountable. Kaffee risks calling Col. Jessup to the witness stand in an attempt to learn the original motive behind the murder. The case might end in uncovering a bigger conspiracy than a single murder.

Director: Rob Reiner.

Main Cast: Tom Cruise (as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, USN, JAG Corps), Jack Nicholson (as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, USMC), and Demi Moore (as Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway, USN, JAG Corps).

Awards and Nominations: This film was nominated for four Academy Awards; Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Film Editing (Robert Leighton), and Best Sound Mixing (Kevin O'Connell, Rick Kline, and Robert Eber). The Golden Globes also nominated A Few Good Men film for five awards; Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director (Rob Reiner), Best Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), and Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). The film did not win any of the awards by the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. The American Film Institute recognized A Few Good Men in the following lists; the 2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains in which Colonel Nathan R. Jessup was the Nominated Villain, the 2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes by Col. Nathan Jessup: “You can't handle the truth!” (#29), and the 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10: #5 Courtroom Drama Film.

5.  Frost/Nixon (2008)

This is a historical drama based on the play 'Frost/Nixon' written by Peter Morgan, in 2006. The screenplay of the movie was also adapted by Morgan. The film, directed by Ron Howard, is about the story behind the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. This movie was co-produced by America, the United Kingdom, and France. It is 1977, and it’s been three years since the Watergate Scandal that cost Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) his Presidency of the US. The ex-president selects British TV star David Frost (Michael Sheen) to have an exclusive one-on-one interview. The ex-president is under the illusion that he’d very easily exploit Frost but what happens is the exact opposite. The interview happens to be totally candid and reveals a lot of things about Nixon in the court of public opinion.

Director: Ron Howard.

Main Cast: Michael Sheen (as British television broadcaster David Frost) and Frank Langella (as the former United States President Richard Nixon). Sheen was the play's original West End actor, while Frank was the play's original Broad-way actor. The film reunites the two.

Awards and Nominations: Frost/Nixon was a critical success. It garnered many accolades in the form of awards and nominations from many organizations, including the Academy Awards, which nominated the films for five awards; Best Picture, Best Actor (Langella), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director (Howard), and Best Editing. From the British Academy Films, Frost/Nixon received the following six award nominations; Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Langella), Best Screenplay-Adapted, Best Editing, and Best Makeup and Hair. The Golden Globes Awards also nominated the movie for five awards; Best Motion Picture, Best Actor (Langella), Best Director (Howard), Best Original Score (Zimmer), and Best Screenplay (Morgan). The film won none of these awards whose nominations it received. Frost/Nixon won all the five awards that the La Vegas Society nominated it for, including Best Actor (Langella), Best Director, Best Editing, Best Film, and Best Screenplay.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The play and the resulting movie are generally the same. Both have many discrepancies that make the film an inaccurate presentation of history. Such inaccuracies include misrepresentation of characters’ personalities and distortion of facts. For example, Nixon thought he did a good job after the interview. However, the film depicts him to be seeing the interview as a job he poorly did. All the same, the play and the film are generally similar, and there occurs no major change in the play while the movie was being produced.

6.  The Madness of King George (1994)

This is a 1994 British biographical historical comedy-dramathat was directed by Nicholas Hytner. The screenplay was adapted by Alan Bennett from his a play named 'The Madness of George III' that he wrote in 1991. The movie takes place in 1788 when King George III (Nigel Hawthorne) of England is not only aging but is also showing signs of madness, a problem poorly understood in the 1780s. The bipolar monarch constantly alternates between violent outbursts and bouts of confusion. His physician is totally helpless as there was no cure for such an illness at that time. While the king struggles with his health, Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (Julian Wadham) try to prevent rebels led by the Prince of Wales from taking political advantage of the situation.

Director: Nicholas Hytner.

Main Cast: Nigel Hawthorne (as King George III), Helen Mirren (as Queen Charlotte), Ian Holm (as Francis Willis), and Rupert Everett as George, Prince of Wales.

Awards and Nominations: The Academy Awards nominated the film for four awards, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Art Direction, which Ken Adam and Carolyn Scott won. BAFTA Awards also nominated The Madness of King George movie for fourteen awards. It won the Best British Film (David Parfitt), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Nigel Hawthorne), and Best Makeup and Hair (Lisa Westcott). There are numerous other awards and nominations by the film.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The major adaptation changes in the play to produce the movie is the change of the name from 'The Madness of George III' to 'The Madness of King George' for American audiences, to clarify George III's royalty. 

7.  Hamlet (1990)

This is a 1990 drama based on the Shakespearean tragedy play of the same name. The movie was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. This film stars Mel Gibson (Prince Hamlet), Glenn Close (Queen Gertrude) Alan Bates (King Claudius), Paul Scofield (the ghost of King Hamlet), Ian Holm ( Polonius) Helena Bonham Carter (Ophelia), Stephen Dillane ( Horatio), Nathaniel Parker ( Laertes). The young prince of Denmark, Hamlet, is highly indecisive when it comes to solving the mystery of the death of his late father and avenging him. The movie is shot in UK and Stonehaven, in Scotland.

Director: Kenneth Branagh.

Main Cast: Kenneth Branagh (as Prince Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark), Derek Jacobi (as King Claudius, the late king’s brother), and Julie Christie (as Gertrude, Queen of Denmark and wife to both the late King Hamlet and King Claudius).

Awards and Nominations: Hamlet film received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). The movie also received two British Society of Cinematographers Awards, one for Best Cinematography and the other for GBCT Operators Award, among other awards and nominations from other bodies.                       

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: This film follows the plot of the original play and is the first adaptation to have the complete original text. Therefore, there is no significant change in the play for the movie adaptation.


Movies have been and will continue to be among the excellent entertainment sources. This article looked at seven watch-worthy films based on plays.

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