Best Movies Based on Plays – Part 7

Posted on 9 Apr 00:00


Cinematography and direction play a key role in making a movie a great one, but the most important thing is its story line. The plot of any movie is the single most important thing that makes a movie a good watch. The movies based on plays are some of the greatest movies made. 

1.  Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

Based on the play:  'Six Degrees of Separation' written by John Guare.

This is a comedy-drama that was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Fred Schepisi. The story line of this movie was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play with the same title written by John Guare. Flan (Donald Sutherland) and Ouisa (Stockard Channing) are privileged art dealers who are hosting a dinner party at their residence when a young man, Paul (Will Smith), soaked in blood, shows up at their doorstep. The stranger claims to be friends with their children who are in Ivy League schools and manages to get into the house. But soon the couple discover the real identity of Paul and he is kicked out of the house. Soon they begin sharing the stories of Paul with their friends and his presence becomes harder than ever to shake. Is Paul actually the person he is claiming to be or the one Flan and Ouisa think he is?

Director: Fred Schepisi.

Main Cast: Stockard Channing (as Louisa "Ouisa" Kittredge), Will Smith (as Paul), and Donald Sutherland (as Flanders "Flan" Kittredge).

Awards and Nominations: Stockard Channing received the 1994 Academy Award for Best Actress nomination. She also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nomination the same year.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: John Guare retained the real-life story of David Hampton, a con man and robber who convinced several people in the 1980s that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier as the inspiration for both the play and the film. There are no significant differences

2.  Prelude to a Kiss (1992)

Based on the play:  'Prelude to a Kiss' by Craig Lucas.

This is a romantic fantasy that was directed by Norman René. This movie is based on a 1988 play of the same title written by Craig Lucas. For Peter (Alec Baldwin) and Rita (Meg Ryan) it is a matter of love at first sight. Both of them fall for each other and decide to get married as soon as possible. Everything is going as planned on the wedding day when a terminally ill, feeble old man (Sydney Walker) shows up at the reception ceremony. He asks Rita for a kiss which seems pretty normal, but the kiss causes the two to switch bodies. Looking for a way to switch the bodies back to their initial condition, Peter has to decide to love Rita trapped in the body of an old man or live with a stranger possessing the body of his newlywed wife.

Director: Norman René.

Main Cast: Alec Baldwin (as Peter Hoskins), Meg Ryan (as Rita Boyle), and Sydney Walker (as Julius Blier).

Awards and Nominations: the American Film Institute nominated 'Prelude to a Kiss' to be recognized in 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: Alec Baldwin and Debra Monk were part of the cast in the play's cast, and they take part in the resulting film. Although Alec reprises his role in the film, Monk is given a different role.

3.  A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

Based on the play:  'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' written by William Shakespeare 1595 and 1596.

This is a romance and fantasy film adapted from William Shakespeare's play having the same title. It was directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle. This classic big-screen adaption of Shakespeare’s fantastical play shows the royal wedding plans of Theseus, the duke of Athens (Ian Hunter), and Hippolyta that happen to overlap with the antics of Forest Fairies. The fairies are led by Oberon and Titania and a disorganized group of actors. In the meantime, young lovers Lysander (Dick Powell) and Hermia (Olivia de Havilland) cheat each other in unforeseen ways, and magic ads an element of surprise to the whole thing.

Director: Max Reinhardt.

Main Cast: Ian Hunter (as Theseus, Duke of Athens), Verree Teasdale (as Hippolyta, and Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus), and Hobart Cavanaugh (as Philostrate, Master of Revels to Theseus).

Awards and Nominations: This film failed at the box office and received mixed reviews, with the cinematography, the use of Mendelssohn's music, and the dance sequences being highly praised. It won two Academy Awards; Best Cinematography for Hal Mohr and Best Film Editing for Ralph Dawson. The Academy gave the movie two award nominations; Best Picture Award to Henry Blanke, producer, and Best Assistant Director to Sherry Shourds. Mohr did not receive a nomination for the Oscar he won. Rather, the win was due to the grass-roots write-in campaigns, which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came to refute the following year as a ground for an award.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: while the cast of the stage play was mostly replaced by Warner Brothers contract players in the film production, de Havilland and Mickey Rooney were chosen to reprise their original roles.

4.  The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Based on the play:  'The Taming of the Shrew' by William Shakespeare.

This is an American-Italian romantic comedy adapted from the play of the same name written by William Shakespeare in the 1620s. The movie was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. In this film, adapted from Shakespeare’s classic play, two young men Grumio (Cyril Cusack) and Hortensio (Victor Spinetti) are romantically attracted to the same charming young girl. Unfortunately for the lovers, her wealthy dad (Michael Hordern) will not think of marrying her off before he finds a suitable match for her elder sister Katherina (Elizabeth Taylor). Luckily for Grumio and Hortensio, an ex-Rockstar Petruchio (Richard Burton) is on the hunt for an affluent woman to marry. The pair of lovers pay him to try and marry Katherina who is known for her extremely volatile temperament.

Director: Franco Zeffirelli.

Main Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (as Katharina) and Richard Burton (as Petruchio).

Awards and Nominations: This film was a commercial and critical success. It grossed $8 million in America and $12 million worldwide with a $4 million budget. The critics received the movie well and gave it good ratings, well above average. The Taming of the Shrew also acclaimed many awards and nominations from various organizations. The Academy Awards nominated the film for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design for Danilo Donati and Irene Sharaff. Oswald Morris won the British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Award. The film won all the three David di Donatello Awards whose nominations it received for Best Art Direction, Best Foreign Actor, and Best Foreign Actress.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: of course, the play’s characters differ from the film’s characters. Besides, the film was made in English but shot in Italy, leading to cutting much of the original dialogue. The cut dialogue includes much of the subplot of Lucentio and Bianca and all of the Christopher Sly framing device.

5.  Barefoot in the Park (1967)

Based on the play:  'Barefoot in the Park' by Neil Simon.

This is a  romantic comedy directed by Gene Sacks. This movie is based on Neil Simon's 1963 play of the same title. This story line of this film revolves around a newlywed couple, the free spirit,  Corie (Jane Fonda), and an upright lawyer, Paul Bratter (Robert Redford), who lives in an apartment on the sixth floor in the Greenwich Village locality. Soon after her marriage, Corie begins the task of finding a suitable partner for her mother Ethel (Mildred Natwick) who is now alone. She sets up Ethel with her neighbor Victor (Charles Boyer). As she is doing this, her own marriage is on stake because of the mismatch between her personality and that of Paul. Finally, inappropriate behavior on a double date acts as the spark and the young couple files for divorce. Can things get better?

Director: Gene Saks.

Main Cast: Robert Redford (as Paul Bratter) and Jane Fonda (as Corie Bratter)

Awards and Nominations: 'Barefoot in the Park' opened to positive reviews at its release, although contemporary reviews have been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 84% approval rating, with the website's critical consensus reading: 'Barefoot in the Park' may strike some modern viewers as dated, but what it lacks in timeliness, it more than makes up with the effervescent chemistry between its stars.” Due to the positive reviews, the film received several awards and nominations. The Academy Awards gave the Best Supporting Actress nomination to Mildred Natwick. The film received four Laurel Awards, including the Best Female Comedy Performance Award, which Jane Fonda won.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: Neil Simon did not make any major changes in the play while producing the film.

6. Throne of Blood (1957)

Based on the play:  'Macbeth' written by William Shakespeare around 1606.

This is a Japanese historical drama that was written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story line of this film is derived from William Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth, but the story is converted to match feudal Japan, instead of Medieval Scotland. As they return to the castle of their lord, samurai warriors Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) encounter a spirit who claims to predict their futures. After the first part of the spirit’s prophecy comes true, Washizu's evil-minded wife compels him to murder his lord and speed up the rest of the future predicted by the spirit. The way director Akira Kurosawa has adapted the story written for Scotland to Japan makes the movie a special one. He has kept the plot the same but has tuned everything up to match the scenario of Japan.

Director: Akira Kurosawa.

Main Cast: Toshiro Mifune (as Macbeth) and Isuzu Yamada (as Lady Macbeth).

Awards and Nominations: 'Throne of Blood' was a critical success. In 1961, the Times review praised Kurosawa and the film as a visual descent into the hell of greed and superstition.’ the American literary critic Harold Bloom judged it as ‘the most successful film version of Macbeth.’ The film received three nominations and won all of them. Isuzu Yamada won the Best Actress Kinema Junpo Awards. Toshirô Mifune and Yoshirō Muraki won the Best Actor and Best Art Direction awards during the 1957 Mainichi Film Awards.     

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: Akira made a few changes in the play to create the film. Such changes included the ending, which required archers to fire arrows around Mifune. This is present in the film but was not there in the original play.

7.  You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Based on the play:  'You Can’t Take It with You' written by Robert Riskin.

This is a romantic comedy that was directed by Frank Capra. This movie’s story line is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 play, You Can't 'Take It  With You', written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart,. Alice (Jean Arthur), in the lead role of the movie, is a sweet-natured young girl who falls for a banker's son Tony Kirby (James Stewart). However, when Alice invites her snooty in-laws-to-be to dinner at her place, she fears things might not go as she has planned. This is because of her eccentric family consisting of her philosophical grandfather, Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), hapless fledgling ballerina sister, Essie (Ann Miller), and fireworks enthusiast father, Paul (Samuel S. Hinds). The characters of Alice’s family might be a repellent for the snooty Kirby family.

Director: Frank Capra.

Main Cast: Jean Arthur (as Alice Sycamore), Lionel Barrymore (as Grandpa Martin Vanderhof), James Stewart (as Tony Kirby), and Edward Arnold (as Anthony P. Kirby).

Awards and Nominations: 'You Can’t Take It With You' won two Academy Awards; Best Picture: Columbia Pictures, and Best Director for Frank Capra. It also received five Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Best Writing/ Screenplay (Robert Riskin), Best Cinematography (Joseph Walker), Best Film Editing (Gene Havlick), and Best Sound Recording: Columbia Studio Sound Department, John P. Livadary, and Sound Director. The film was a tremendous commercial success. It had a budget of $1.6 million and grossed $5.2 million worldwide.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: there is no significant change in the play to create the film.


Movies based on famous plays are some of the best movies with intriguing  plots. A number of successful plays have been adapted to make these movies and they, mostly, make great films.

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