How many movies based on Shakespeare plays are there?

14 April '14 8 Comments on How many movies based on Shakespeare plays are there?

movies based on ShakespeareThis week I haven’t had a great deal of time to produce in-depth research so here instead is something a bit lighter than my normal fare. I took a look at the number of movies based on Shakespeare plays. In summary…

  • There are 525 films which give Shakespeare some sort of writing credit
  • Of those, 294 are full adaptations of Shakespeare plays
  • Hamlet is the most often adapted Shakespeare play
  • Over half of all Shakespeare feature film adaptations are based on Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth or Othello.

Of the movies based on Shakespeare, which plays are most frequently adapted?

In total, there are 525 feature films which give William Shakespeare some form of writing credit. Looking in more detail at these films I found 294 films which are full feature film adaptations of Shakespeare plays. The number of movies based on Shakespeare plays 1898-2013

What counts as an adaptation?

Wikipedia currently lists 410 Shakespeare adaptations, crediting the fact the Guinness Book of World Records, whereas IMDb lists 1,095 projects which credit William Shakespeare in some way.  These IMDb projects including not movie items (short films, TV shows, games, etc). for the research above I personally went through the projects, assessing what was a feature film and a valid adaptation.

Even the simplest statistical exercise, such as this, ends up presenting tough choices. In this case I had to decide what counted as an adaptation. I included direct adaptations (such as Romeo + Juliet) and more liberal adaptations (such as 10 Things I Hate About You and West Side Story which were based on Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet). I excluded films which didn’t directly credit the original screenplay story to Shakespeare (such as The Lion King, which is loosely based on Hamlet) and films which included elements of Shakespeare’s writing such as sonnets and lyrics.



  1. Do you have the list of movies you deemed “valid adaptations?”
    I’m curious; of those movies, how many used original scripts (Romeo + Juliet) versus modern adaptations (West Side Story)?

    1. It was a few years ago so this could have changed, but then I found the following for Juslas Caesar – Julius Caesar  (1914), Brutus and Cassius  (1918), Julius Caesar  (1950), Julius Caesar  (1953), An Honourable Murder  (1960), Julius Caesar  (1970), Gedebe  (2003) and Julius Caesar  (2011)

      And these for The Merchant of Venice – The Merchant of Venice  (1914), The Merchant of Venice  (1916), The Merchant of Venice  (1922), Der Kaufmann von Venedig  (1923), Zalim Saudagar  (1941), Le marchand de Venise  (1953), The Maori Merchant of Venice  (2002), Shakespeare’s Merchant  (2003), The Merchant of Venice  (2004), The Merchant of Venice  (2009) and Merchant of Little Venice  (2010).

  2. I would love your list of Much Ado movies. Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival production that was later broadcast as a TV movie, Sam Waterston/Kathleen Widdoes, was my introduction to Shakespeare outside a book. The centuries fell away. It won my heart. I now shares space with the Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon films.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stephen Follows