Undefended: Five Greatest Shakespearean Non-Shakespeare Films

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Undefended: Five Greatest Shakespearean Non-Shakespeare Films

At the beginning of the week, editor Joshua Gibbs sent out this prompt to FilmFisher writers: This week, five films which embody the Shakespearean ethos and spirit, but weren’t inspired by or adapted from originally Shakespearean material.

After clarification was requested, he posted this:

I often hear this or that comedy or drama described as “Shakespearean”… as something which possesses a plot and characters which mutually involved and dynamic in the way of Shakespeare. The Shakespearean world is a messy one, where comedy and drama are intermingled, where high and low and constantly on the verge of replacing one another.. Or that is my take on him, at least. “Cast Away” does not seem particularly Shakespearean to me, as it lacks a plot/multi-character dynamism. On the other hand, “All About Eve” seems very Shakespearean given the sheer volume of moving character-pieces which are interlocking.

 Though this take on what is key to the Shakespearean style or ethos might not seem persuasive. When you think of Shakespeare, other qualities of his storytelling might seem predominate to the clockwork metaphor I assume above in describing “interlocking” characters and plots. There may be films which are works of historical fiction which seem to reimagine the past as Shakespeare does. You might prefer WS histories to comedies.

I was kind of hoping everyone would suggest what they found most essential to Shakespeare in making lists of what films seem to be most influenced by him.


Elizabeth Stinnette

1. The Truman Show

2. His Girl Friday


3. Citizen Kane

4. A Man for All Seasons

5. The Artist


Timothy Lawrence

1. Breaking Bad

2. Rashômon

3. Seven Samurai


4. The Rules of the Game

5. Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back


James Banks

1. Kagemusha

2. Lawrence of Arabia

3. Bringing Up Baby


4. Heat

5. The Thin Red Line


Sean Johnson

1. American Hustle

2. Arsenic and Old Lace

3. All About Eve

4. All the King’s Men


5. Moulin Rouge!


Remy Wilkins

1. Deadwood (2004-06)


2. Match Point (2005)

3. True Grit (2010)

4. Creation (2009)

5. Gosford Park (2001)


Justin Spencer

1. House of Cards

2. Sleepless in Seattle

3. The House of Flying Daggers

4. Patton


5. Some Like It Hot


Christian Leithart

1. The Departed

2. Snatch

3. The Big Lebowski


4. The Prestige

5. Intolerable Cruelty


Joshua Stevenson

1. The Last Days of Disco

Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale

2. The Squid and the Whale

3. Synechdoche, New York

4. There Will Be Blood

5. Grizzly Man


Brian Murnion

1.Les infants terrible (1952)


2.The Ice Storm (1997)

3.Spartacus (1960)

4.Divorce Italian Style (1962)

5.Jules and Jim (1962)


Joshua Gibbs

1. House of Sand and Fog


2. Home Fries

3. Little Children

4. Burn After Reading

5. The Fallen Idol

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