William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
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Sun’s out, guns out: Baz Luhrmann captures the temper-fraying, passion-sparking heat of Shakespeare’s summertime tragedy. We’re in Verona (or is that Venice?) Beach, where the boardwalk throbs and shirts are either loud or absent. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are love’s young dreamers, and – in a jostle of brilliant supporting performances – Pete Postlethwaite is a friar with a huge back tattoo.
Romeo & Juliet (2012)
Want to see the star-crossed lovers in the “Wooden O” on London’s South Bank? Shakespeare’s Globe has filmed several versions including Brazilian company Grupo Galpão’s rumbustious visit for the 2012 Globe to Globe festival. It is told with irresistible circus skills and has an onstage role for the Bard.
Romeo and Juliet (1966)
All three available on DVD
Kenneth MacMillan’s Royal Ballet production, set to Prokofiev’s intoxicating music, has been elegantly filmed with Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo (in 2007) and Federico Bonelli and Lauren Cuthbertson (2012). But you can still see the legends who first danced it in 1965: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev’s performances were captured the year after.
Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)
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Halfway through the prologue, this animation rips up the script to deliver the tale of two households with warring garden gnomes. Battle lines are drawn between semi-detacheds in Stratford; the weapons are trowels and high-pressure hoses. The nurse is an ornamental frog and Gnomeo and Juliet are daredevils who race lawnmowers.
Romeo and Juliet (2018)
Love blooms while hate rages in Erica Whyman’s 2018 Stratford production, featuring Tom Piper’s rotating cage-like cube on stage. The feast is a headbangers’ ball, the fights furious and the performances physical – you sense Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick’s frustration in their forbidden romance.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
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When Franco Zeffirelli did Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic in 1960, it had young stars (Judi Dench and John Stride), a vivid Italian setting and vibrant emotion. The same goes for his 1968 hit movie, which paired teenagers Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting – a younger couple than in previous screen versions.
Romeo and Juliet (1954)
“Is she a … Capulet?” Watch Laurence Harvey’s rosy-cheeked, auburn-curled Romeo’s heart break at the masked ball in Renato Castellani’s courtly Technicolor movie from 1954. It’s the sort of Shakespeare where everyone has pastel-coloured tights and the chorus is John Gielgud in a ruff. But try and keep a dry eye when Susan Shentall’s Juliet wakes up.
West Side Story (1961)
If Shakespeare was a genius at rhyming couplets, so is Stephen Sondheim: just listen to the staggering lyrics of America, the showstopper in West Side Story, winner of 10 Oscars. Jerome Robbins choreographs balletic battles between the Jets and the Sharks, slang-slinging gangs whose senseless feud unfolds on the streets of New York while the ill-fated lovers share trysts on a fire escape.
Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words (2019)
Available on DVD
Michael Nunn and William Trevitt of BalletBoyz took Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet out on the town in a glorious open-air version filmed in Hungary. Bright and brisk, it hurtles towards its finale and is lavishly presented with sumptuous costumes. Francesca Hayward soars in her film debut opposite William Bracewell.
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet (2019)
“Fair Verona” is a white-tiled institution in Bourne’s gut punch of a tragedy, filmed at Sadler’s Wells. Paris Fitzpatrick’s preppy Romeo is newly admitted and stripped to his undies before meeting cute with Juliet (Cordelia Braithwaite). It’s chilling, often cheeky and truly charming.