Best Movies Based on Plays – Part 2

Posted on 5 Mar 00:00


Plays have given us many classic movies. Movies based on plays tend to have interesting storylines and plots. Before motion pictures, the best way of entertainment for the general public was stage plays and they have produced for the world some of the best actors, storylines, and plots. Film producers are taking inspiration from and making movies based on plays. We have made a list of some of the best movies that are actually based on plays. While the storylines may be modified for entertainment value but they still remain some of the greatest movies made.

1.  Death of a Salesman (1985)

Based on the play:  'Death of a Salesman' written by Author Miller.

Plot: This film’s plot revolves around a man who shares an estranged relationship with his sons. The man is upset with his sons since they are not exceptionally successful. Later, the boys lie to him about starting a business to make him happy.

Director: Volker Schlöndorff.

Main Cast: Dustin Hoffman (as William "Willy" Loman, a self-deluded traveling salesman), Kate Reid (as Linda Loman, Willy’s wife), and John Malkovich (as Biff Loman, Willy’s older son).

Awards and Nominations: 'Death of a Salesman' garnered many accolades in the form of awards and nominations, especially from the Golden Globe Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards in 1986. Dustin Hoffman won two awards, the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, and the Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries or a Movie. John Malkovich won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie in1986. Other nominations that the film received include the Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Miniseries or Television Film, Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (John Malkovich), and Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (Kate Reid) and the Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special (Ruth Morley), and Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie (Charles Durning), among other awards.

2.  The Odd Couple (1968)

Based on the play:  'The Old Couple' written by Neil Simon.

Plot: This film’s plot features two men whose personalities clash, one neurotic and the other fun-loving, who decide to live together although they have such hardly nothing in common.

Director: Gene Saks.

Main Cast: Jack Lemmon (as Felix Ungar) and Walter Matthau (as Oscar Madison).

Awards and Nominations: The Odd Couple received two Academy Award nominations for Writing-Adapted Screenplay (Neil Simon) and Film Editing (Frank Bracht). Frank Bracht also received the American Cinema Editors "Eddie" award for Best Edited Feature Film. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were each nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, while Gene Saks was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film. The Golden Globe Awards also nominated the film for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy while the American Film Institute recognized it in 2000 AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#17) list as well as the 2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes list.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: In creating the film, the script from the play has been virtually retained, although the settings are expanded. Instead of taking place entirely in Oscar's apartment, Simon also adds some scenes at various outdoor New York City locations, such as the scene at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York.

3.  Inherit the Wind (1960)

Based on the play:  'Inherit the Wind' written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.

Plot: the film is a parable that fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial as a means to discuss the phenomenon of McCarthyism. It was written in response to the chilling effect of the McCarthy-era investigations on intellectual discourse. 

Director: Stanley Kramer.

Main Cast: Spencer Tracy (as lawyer Henry Drummond) and Fredric March (as Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry’s friend, and rival).

Awards and Nominations: 'Inherit the Wind' generally received positive reviews from the critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it a four-star rating, while Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 92% approval rating. It won three awards, two awards at the Berlin International Film Festival (Best Actor and Best Feature Film Suitable for Young People) and the National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films. It received several nominations, including Academy Awards nominations (Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography- Black and White, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), BAFTA Award nominations (Best Film from Any Source, Best Actor, and Best Actress), Golden Globes Awards (Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and Best Motion Picture- Drama) and the Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Award for Stanley Kramer.                    

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: This film includes events from the actual Scopes trial. Darrow was cited for contempt of court when he denounced his perception of prejudice by the court and his subsequent act of contrition the next day to have the charge dropped. This movie also features an expanded relationship between Henry and March, especially when the two opponents have a respectful, private conversation in rocking chairs, in which they explain their positions in the trial. The film also includes a sequence occurring on the night after the court recessed. Cates and Drummond are harassed by a mob even as the lawyer is inspired to argue his case the next day.

4.  Fences (2016)

Based on the play:  'Fences' written by August Wilson.

Plot: The storyline revolves around an African man who longs to be a basketball player but misses his golden opportunity due to racism. As time unfolds, he takes his resentment out on his loved ones, even ruining his son's future.

Director: Denzel Washington.

Main Cast:  Denzel Washington (as Troy Maxson), Viola Davis (as Rose Lee Maxson), and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono.

Awards and Nominations: 'Fences' received positive reviews from critics, most praising Washington's performance and direction and the movie's captivating tone. Consequently. It won many awards and nominations. It received four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Washington), Best Supporting Actress (Davis), and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Davis winning for her performance. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis. Other awards include the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Actress (Viola Davis), which Davis one. Black Reel Awards also nominated the film for numerous awards, including Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Original Score, Outstanding Actor (Denzel Washington), and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Viola Davis). Washington and Davis won the awards. In total, 'Fences' received ninety-six nominations and won twenty-nine.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie:  None.

5.  My Fair Lady (1964)

Based on the play:  'Pygmalion' written by Bernard Shaw in 1913. In 1956, Lerner and Loewe adapted a stage musical called 'My Fair Lady' from 'Pygmalion' which forms the basis of the movie, 'My Fair Lady'.

Plot: 'My Fair Lady' is a portrayal of a poor Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who happens to overhear an arrogant phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, as he casually wagers that he could teach her to speak ‘proper' English, thereby making her presentable in the high society of Edwardian London.

Director: George Cukor.

Main Cast: Audrey Hepburn (as Eliza Doolittle, the poor Cockney flower-seller) and Rex Harrison (as Henry Higgins, the arrogant phonetics professor).

Awards and Nominations: 'My Fair Lady' was a tremendous critical success; and received numerous awards and nominations. The Academy Awards nominated the film for twelve awards. It won eight of them, including Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Picture (Jack L. Warner), Best Director (George Cukor), Best Sound (George R. Groves), and Best Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment (André Previn). George Cukor also won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Indeed, My Fair Lady film is one of the movies with the highest number of awards besides a tremendous commercial success. It earned $972 million gross with a $17 million budget.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The major changes in the play while creating the movie basically happens in the structuring. We see a replacement of the intermission. In the stage play, the intermission comes after the embassy ball, where Eliza dances with Karpathy. In the film, the intermission comes 'before' the ball, as Eliza, Higgins, and Pickering are seen departing for the embassy.

6.  A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

Based on the play:  'A Raisin in the Sun' written by Lorraine Hansberry.

Plot: This movie's storyline is about a poor black family that has an insurance payment which means financial salvation or a personal ruin. The main character, Walter Lee Younger, is a young man struggling with his station in life. He shares a tiny apartment with his wife, son, sister, and mother, causing him to feel like ng him seem like an imprisoned man. Things seem to take a turn when the African family gets an unexpected financial windfall which will either save them financially or personally ruin them.

Director: Daniel Petrie.

Main Cast: Sidney Poitier (as Walter Lee Younger), Ruby Dee (as Ruth Younger), and Claudia McNeil (as Lena Younger).

Awards and Nominations: The National Board of Reviews awarded Ruby Dee for the Best Supporting Actress role. Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards, and director Petrie received a special ‘Gary Cooper Award’ at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. Claudia McNeil received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

7.  Dracula (1931)

Based on the play:  'Dracula' written by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

Plot: This  film’s storyline depicts a vampire who migrates from Transylvania to England and preys upon the blood of living victims, including a young man's fiancée.

Director: Tod Browning.

Main Cast: Bela Lugosi (as Count Dracula, the emigrant vampire)

Awards and Nominations: 'Dracula' was a critical and commercial success, encouraging multitudes of sequels and spin-offs. In 2000, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The movie won the Saturn Award for Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection, the OFTA Film Hall of Fame      Motion Picture Award, and the Rondo Statuette for Best Restoration. Satellite Awards nominated Dracula for Best Classic DVD, but lost.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: In the play, Dracula's transition from bat to a person is done off-camera. The film, employs extended periods of silence and character close-ups for dramatic effect.


Movies based on plays are among the best films. This article considered seven movies in part two of best films based on plays one would love to watch.

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