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Movies You Didn't Know Were Based on Classic Lit

Apr. 25, 2017
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Have you ever wondered why that classic movie you were watching from the 90’s / 00’s sounded familiar to something else? Well, that is exactly the case. These classic films you know and love are actually derived from classic literature. If you don’t see it yet, you will – some of these films are just way too similar to their source material.

1. She’s the Man → Twelfth Night
She’s the Man is one of the cinematic masterpieces of the 00’s. Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum in the same movie? Count me in!

However, while watching the movie you might not have known that it was closely based on the classic Shakespeare play Twelfth Night. Don’t worry if you didn't, I certainly didn't recognize it!

In Twelfth Night, the main character Viola, who has the same name as the character in She’s the Man, is shipwrecked. Viola pretends to be a man named Cesario, while her brother Sebastian is lost during the shipwreck as well. Viola then becomes of service to Orsino, the Duke and she falls in love with him, although he does not know she’s really a girl. Sound familiar? She’s the Man adapts the same names as well as the plot.

Viola in the film She’s the Man uses her charms and wit to pretend to be her twin brother and gets into some trouble along the way. She ends up falling in love with a guy and accidentally seducing a girl, which just so happens in Twelfth Night.

2. Warm Bodies → Romeo and Juliet

You remember the film Warm Bodies? Nicholas Hoult as R and Teresa Palmer as Julie in the zombie love story film. Julie and R are made for each other – just as Romeo and Juliet were from the Shakespeare play of the same title. R wants to eat Julie because he’s a zombie and they could never be together for that reason. There is a scene where R is speaking to Julie outside of her house, which resembles the famous Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. I mean, totally Romeo and Juliet in my eyes, but the zombie version of it.

3. 10 Things I Hate About You → Taming of the Shrew

Just like She’s the Man, the main character in 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat, takes her name from Katherina, the main character in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. This one doesn’t fall far from the Shakespeare tree either. Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You is an independent, feminist, who is not afraid to call out sexism. Kat is strong-willed and willing to stick up for herself no matter the consequences.

The original play is darker in terms of relationships. 10 Things keeps it on a comedic level. The original version depicts Katherina in a relationship that she does not want. Her husband then uses psychological torments in order to make her obedient. Katherina is independent and strong willed just like Kat in 10 Things. The difference is that in 10 Things, Kat’s love interest tries to win her over, not coerce her into a relationship. This modern update makes for a wonderful comedic spin-off.

4. Easy A → The Scarlet Letter
Easy A is clearly The Scarlet Letter in a nutshell, I mean they take pivotal moments from the classic literature and use it in the film. The Scarlet Letter is about a character named Hester who commits adultery. Which is what Olive is being accused of in this particular film. Hester was then forced to wear an A on her chest for the rest of her godforsaken life, because the whole town knew she committed adultery. This comedy adaptation makes light of a possible serious notion from the 1850’s. Olive, the main character of Easy A, chose to wear her A loud and proud!

5. Lion King → Hamlet
The infamous Lion King was loosely based on Hamlet by Shakespeare. Shakespeare and his classic literature have been influencing films for ages and this one, despite the lions, is pretty similar to the source. Scar, Mufasa, and Simba are all closely adapted from Hamlet leads Claudius, Papa Hamlet, and Hamlet himself.

Hamlet had an uncle named Claudius who killed his brother (also named Hamlet) in order to take over the kingship. Sound familiar? If you’ve seen The Lion King it should.

Simba is not as depressed as Hamlet was throughout the play, but that might be the only subtle difference. In both the Hamlet play and The Lion King, Simba and Hamlet run away. Toward the ending of both, the respective heirs best their scheming uncles.

If The Lion King is not Hamlet, I don’t know what is!

6. Clueless → Emma
Jane Austin and Clueless meet their maker? Or rather, meet their Emma. That is the classic literature adaptation in this film. 

Emma lives a wealthy life with her father after her mother dies. Cher from Clueless also lives the high life with her widower father in Beverly Hills. Emma has a friend named Harriet, which she makes a project of, quite similar to Tai and Cher in Clueless. Both of these fixer-upper friends were considered lower class. Both leads also share a love interest/brother figure in Knightley (Emma) and Josh (Clueless).

A good adaptation takes its source material and elevates it, makes it relevant. Clueless is the perfect example of taking an excellent book from a bygone era and making it a defining movie of a generation.