Best Movies Based on Plays - Part 9

Posted on 23 Apr 00:00

Activities such as watching films will never cease because they bring so much joy to audiences. Many of the most thrilling films are those based on plays. They cover a wide array of themes, including poverty, money, murder, education, human rights, court scenes, sexuality, among many other issues that affect society. Below are seven classic films based on plays.

1.  The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Based on the play:  'The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People' written by Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Plot: This film's storyline depicts two individuals whose compelling circumstances force them to pretend someone else. Jack Worthing calls himself Earnest. When his friend Algernon Moncrieff realizes Earnest's real name, he too calls himself Earnest to woo his friend's pretty young ward, Cecily. Jack fabricates his alter ego to escape his country estate where he was taking care of his charge, Cecily. Cecily believes that Ernest is Jack's wayward brother and is keen on his raffish lifestyle. Algernon, seeing an opportunity, assumes Ernest's identity and sneaks off to woo Cecily, thus creating series of comical events.

Director: Anthony Asquith.

Main Cast: Michael Redgrave (as John (Jack) Worthing), Michael Denison (as Algernon Moncrieff), and Edith Evans (as Lady Bracknell).

Awards and Nominations: The film received a BAFTA nomination for Dorothy Tutin as Most Promising Newcomer and a Golden Lion nomination for Anthony Asquith at the Venice Film Festival

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: 'The Importance of Being Earnest' is largely faithful to Wilde's play, although it divides some of the acts into shorter scenes in different locations. Edith Evans's outraged delivery of the line ‘A handbag?’ has become legendary. The title of the plays was shortened to 'The Importance of Being Earnest' in creating the movie.

2.  Una (2016)

Based on the play:  'Blackbird' by David Harrower.

Plot: This drama features a young woman's confrontation with a man from her past, which now threatens to derail his new life and her stability. Una remembers how her neighbor a much older man, Ray, with whom she had a sexual relationship, abandoned her, leaving her feeling devastated. With this past darkness torturing her, she decides to visit Ray.  Una wants answers to why Ray left her after their sexual encounter. Still, she does not know what to expect from the unannounced visit. What follows is an emotional and unflinching excavation of inappropriate love, with shattering consequences.

Director: Benedict Andrews.

Main Cast: Rooney Mara (as Una Spencer at 28years), Ruby Stokes (as Young Una Spencer at the age of 13years), Ben Mendelsohn (as Ray Brooks/ Peter "Pete" Trevelyan), and Riz Ahmed (as Scott).

Awards and Nominations: at the 2016 Indiewire Critics' Poll, Una film was nominated for the ICP Award for Best Undistributed Film, and it emerged sixth. Benedict Andrews was nominated for Best Film during the 2016 London Film Festival and the 2017 Sydney Film Festival.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie:  The play is called 'Blackbird', while the movie is called 'Una'. David Harrower wrote both the play and the film’s script, remaining faithful to the play while writing the script.

3.  No Time for Sergeants (1958)

Based on the play:  'The United States Steel Hour' written by Ira Levin in 1958 from Mac Hyman’s 'No Time for Sergeants' novel.

Plot: This film’s storyline is about Will Stockdale, a country bumpkin from Georgia, who has just been drafted into the Air Force, where he befriends Ben Whitledge, a fellow recruit. Ben is a slight, unassuming man who dreams of being transferred into the infantry, where all his brothers served and where generations of his family before him have served. Will is simple-minded, and because of this, he ends up driving all those around him crazy, but none more so than his barrack's sergeant, Orville King. Will, along with Ben, get Sergeant King into one predicament after another, threatening King's career.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy.

Main Cast: Andy Griffith (as Pvt. Will Stockdale), Myron McCormick (as M/Sgt. Orville C. King), and Nick Adams (as Pvt. Benjamin B. Whitledge).

Awards and Nominations: the film was a major hit and a tremendous success, grossing $7.5million in the US and Canada only. The records could not reveal any awards and nominations that the film acclaimed.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The play is called 'The United States Steel Hour', and the resulting film retains the title 'No Time for Sergeants', like the original novel from which the play was adapted. The plot and the themes are the same for the play and the movie.

4.  Equus (1977)

Based on the play:  'Equus' written by Peter Shaffer.

Plot: This film’s plot is about a psychiatrist treating a teenager who has blinded horses in a stable, as he attempts to find the root cause of his horrendous act.

Director: Sidney Lumet.

Main Cast: Richard Burton (as Dr. Martin Dysart), Peter Firth (as Alan Strang), and Colin Blakely (as Frank Strang).

Awards and Nominations: This film’s reviews were generally negative. However, it still managed to win several awards and nominations. At the 1978 Academy Awards, the film received three nominations, Best Screenplay (Peter Shaffer), Best Supporting Actor (Peter Firth), and Best Actor (Richard Burton). BAFTA Awards also nominated the movie for four awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Colin Blakely, Best Music for Richard Rodney Bennett, and Best Supporting Actress Award that Jenny Agutter won. At the 1978 Golden Globe Awards, the movie received two awards, Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for Richard Burton and Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for Peter Firth.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: In stage productions, the horses that Lumet had in his play are portrayed by human actors, often heavily built, athletic men, who are wearing tribal-style masks.

5.  Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Based on the play:  'Les liaisons dangereuses' written by Christopher Hampton in 1985 from Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s Les liaisons dangereuses 1782 novel.

Plot: This film features a scheming widow and her manipulative ex-lover as they make a bet regarding the corruption of a recently married woman.

Director: Stephen Frears.

Main Cast: Glenn Close (as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil), John Malkovich (as Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont), and Michelle Pfeiffer (as Madame Marie de Tourvel).

Awards and Nominations: 'Dangerous Liaisons'  was a critical success characterized by 93% and 74% approval ratings by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The film received seven nominations from Academy Awards and won three, Best Adapted Screenplay for Christopher Hampton, Best Costume Design for James Acheson, and Best Art Direction for Stuart Craig & Gérard James. Out of the ten BAFTA Awards that the movie received, it won two, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Michelle Pfeiffer and Best Screenplay for Christopher Hampton.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: The play was in French while the film was made in English.

6.  Sleuth (1972)

Based on the play:  'Sleuth' written by Anthony Shaffer.

Plot: This film’s plot features Andre Wyke, a wealthy author of detective novels, faces off against his wife's lover, Milo Tindle, a middle-class hair salon owner. In order to divorce his wife Marguerite without losing a fortune in alimony, Andrew works with her ex-lover, Milo, to plan a robbery involving a large insurance payout to compensate Milo . But their personal differences stand in the way of the plan.

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Main Cast: Laurence Olivier (as Andrew Wyke) and Michael Caine (as Milo Tindle).

Awards and Nominations: 'Sleuth' was a modest critical success that received a 93% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It received three Academy Award nominations, Best Actor for Michael Caine & Laurence Olivier, Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Best Original Score for John Addison.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: None.

7.  The Ruling Class (1972)

Based on the play:  'The Ruling Class' written by Peter Barnes.

Plot: This film is about a paranoid schizophrenic British nobleman inherits a fortune and who believes that he is Jesus Christ, spreading love and peace. He undergoes psychological therapy, which results in a complete 180 change in his personality and he becomes a a malevolent murderer, known as Jack!

Director: Peter Medak.

Main Cast: Peter O'Toole (Jack Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney), Coral Browne (Lady Claire), and William Mervyn (Sir Charles).

Awards and Nominations: at the 1972 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Peter O’Toole won the NBR Best Actor Award. He later received the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. At the 1973 Golden Globe Awards, the Golden Globes nominated the film for Best English Language Foreign Film. The movie was also nominated for Palme d’Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.

Major Difference Between the Play and the Movie: While adapting the film from the play, Peter Barnes made major changes in the play, including the cast list. The play had thirteen characters, while the resulting movie had twenty-three characters.


Watching movies a high ranking activity that most people enjoy.  These seven films are classics that viewers can enjoy over and over again.

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