Best Movies Based on Plays - Part 11

Posted on 7 May 00:00

'Too much work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,'  is a saying that cannot be disputed. It basically means that one needs some time to unwind and relax. While it's good to be diligent at whatever we do, we must create time to relax the mind and engage in some fun activities. We cannot keep working our bodies and minds without giving them a rest. The time off we take and participate in mind-relaxing activities is good for our health and grant us the opportunity to interact with others. While cooking, reading novels, storytelling, playing ball games, and other activities are prominent, watching films remains to be a common activity for many families. The attachments formed with the movie characters, and their lifestyles are some of the reasons why watching films will remain an ideal option for a family activity. 

1.  Sleuth (2007) 

Plot: 'Sleuth' the film features a writer at his country estate, who matches wits with an actor who has stolen his wife's heart  which involves mind games and tricks. Andrew Wyke, a famous aging author who lives alone in a high-tech mansion, matches wit with Milo Tindle, an aspiring actor who possesses charm and wit, Wyke’s wife, has left him for the younger Tindle. When Wyke invites Tindle to his mansion, Tindle tries to convince the former to let his wife go by signing the divorce paper. However, Wyke seems far more interested in playing mind games and seeking revenge on his unfaithful spouse.

Director: Kenneth Branagh.

Main Cast: Michael Caine (as Andrew Wyke) and Jude Law (as Milo Tindle).

Awards and Nominations: Kenneth Branagh won the Queer Lion - Special Mention Award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for the Queer Lion Award in the same event. Harold Pinter received the Best Screenplay Evening Standard British Film Award, while Patrick Doyle received the IFMCA Award nomination for Best Original Score for a Horror/Thriller Film.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The play and the film differ in terms of the cast. While Michael Caine reprised his role in the movie, Lawrence Olivier, who played the role of Milo Tindle, was replaced with Jude Law in the movie.

2.  Blithe Spirit (1945)

Based on the play:  'Blithe Spirit' was written by Noël Coward in 1941.

Plot: At the center of the movie, is Charles, a novelist, as he seeks help from medium, Madame Arcati, for his work. However, things take an amusing turn as the ghost of his first wife appears and starts haunting him and Ruth, his second wife. 

Director: David Lean

Main Cast: Rex Harrison (as Charles Condomine), Constance Cummings (as Ruth Condomine), Kay Hammond (as Elvira Condomine), and Margaret Rutherford (as Madame Arcati).

Awards and Nominations: At the time of release, Coward considered the film a major failure. However, over time, the film has won several awards, making it an ultimate success and a movie that has been re-released severally. At the 1947 Academy Awards, Tom Howard won the Best Visual Effects Oscar. The movie was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation but lost to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: despite Coward’s appeal to Lean not to change the play and just photograph it while developing the movie, Lean made several changes, such as adding exterior scenes, whereas the play had been set entirely in a single room, showing scenes like the car journey to Folkestone which had only been referred to in the play. The film's last scene also features a scene not in the play, but implied.

3.  The Sunset Limited (2011)

Based on the play:  'The Sunset Limited', written by Cormac McCarthy.

Plot: This film’s storyline depicts two men, a black man with a positive outlook on life and a white man with a negative view of life. White has attempted suicide, and when he converses with Black, he feels that his life is minuscule in the throes of time and that his life should just end in death. According to White, no matter how great someone or something is, it ends up fading away. Black believes otherwise and says that there is God, who helped him change from the murder he committed and that we have to pass through hardships before getting to paradise.

Director: Tommy Lee Jones.

Main Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (as Black, the man with a positive outlook on life) and Tommy Lee Jones (as White, the guy who has a negative view of life).

Awards and Nominations: This film’s reviews were generally positive, with Metacritic giving it a 67/100 rating. Evyen Klean won the Guild of Music Supervisors’ Award for Best Music Supervision for Television Long Form and Movie. The Gold Derby TV Awards nominated Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones for the TV Movie/Mini Lead Actor, but the two lost the awards.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: None.

4.  Romeo and Juliet (1954)

Based on the play:  Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare.

Plot: This film features long-time adversarial families; the Capulets and the Montagues; who engage in a street brawl which results in a decree declaring that the next conflict will be punishable by death. But during an opulent masked ball, young Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet Capulet. The families call a truce following Juliet and Romeo’s declaration of mutual love. However, Juliet’s friend kills Romeo’s friend, endangering all.

Director: Renato Castellani.

Main Cast: Laurence Harvey (as Romeo) and Susan Shentall (as Juliet).

Awards and Nominations: uring the Venice Film Festival, the film won a Golden Lion. The National Board of Reviews also named the 1954 Juliet and Romeo the best foreign film. Castellani was also named as the Best Director by the National Board of Reviews. Renato Castellani won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival for his 1954 film. 

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: Among the many changes Renato Castellani made on the play to create the film, are interpolated scenes intended to establish the class system and Catholicism of Renaissance Verona.

5.  Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

Based on the play:  'Bashir Lazhar' written by Évelyne de la Chenelière.

Plot: This film features the story of an Algerian refugee in Montreal who steps in to teach at an elementary school after the former full-time teacher commits suicide.

Director: Phillippe Falardeau.

Main Cast: Mohamed Saïd Fellag (as Bachir Lazhar), Sophie Nélisse (as Alice L'Écuyer), and Émilien Néron (as Simon).

Awards and Nominations: the 2012 Academy Awards nominated Philippe Falardeau for the Best Foreign Language Film, but he lost the award. Genie Awards nominated him for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director roles, and he won the awards. Philippe also won two Best Canadian Film Awards by Toronto Film Critics Association, a Whistler Film Festival Audience Award, and two Jutra Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Genie Awards and Jutra Awards nominated Mohammed Phellag for Best Actor. He won Genie’s Award but lost Jutra’s.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: Falardeau had difficulty adapting a one-character play into a film, Monsieur Lazhar. Consequently, he had to change the cast list. The play had a single character, while the resulting movie had more than twenty characters.

6.  Crimes of the Heart (1986)

Based on the play:  'Crimes of the Heart' written by Beth Henley.

Plot: This film is a narrative that follows the three Magrath sisters who must face the consequences of of their life choices when they reunite in their family home in Mississippi to regroup and settle their past.

Director: Bruce Beresford.

Main Cast: Diane Keaton (as Lenny Magrath), Jessica Lange (as Meg Magrath), and Sissy Spacek (as Rebecca Magrath/Babe Botrelle).

Awards and Nominations: This film was a modest commercial and critical success. It grossed $22.9 million with a $20 million budget. Many critics who reviewed the film gave it positive remarks. Sissy Spacek won three awards. She won two Best Actress Awards, one by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the other by Kansas City Film Critics Circle. The third award was a Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Golden Globe Award. The 59th Academy Awards gave the film three nominations; Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (Tess Harper), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Beth Henley).                    

7.  A Thousand Acres (1997)

Based on the play:  'King Lear', written by William Shakespeare.

Plot: 'A Thousand Acres' depicts the division of the father's estate among his three offspring, causing bitter rivalry and ultimately leading to tragedy.

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Main Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer (as Rose Cook Lewis), Jessica Lange (as Ginny Cook Smith), Jason Robards (as Larry Cook), and Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Caroline Cook).

Awards and Nominations: This film received many negative reviews. Commercially, it did not do well, grossing $7.9m with a $28 million budget. At the Golden Globe Awards, Jessica Lange was nominated for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama. However, Lange did not win the award and lost it to Judi Dench for her performance in Mrs. Brown.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The main difference between the play and the movie is the characterizations. The characters Larry Cook, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline in the film represent King Lear and his three daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, in the play.


Relaxing family activities are healthy for one's body and family relationships. One common and enjoyable activity many prefer for a relaxed family weekend is watching films. This article discussed seven movies in part eleven of the best films based on plays.

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