Movies Based On Stage Plays© Disney, Vishal Bhardwaj

9 Popular Movies That Are Actually Based On Stage Plays

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

While we know most of our favourite movies are often adaptations of famous novels, did you know that many filmmakers get inspired by stage plays for their movies?

Plays by Shakespeare are the most common choices for modern day adaptations as the material is rich and varied, but there have been some other playwrights whose work has been translated for the big screen.

This World Theater Day, we decided to round up some of our favourite movie adaptations of stage plays. How many of these did you know were based on plays?

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

Aamir Khan’s big Bollywood debut brought about a complete overhaul of the romantic musical genre. The movie is one of the many adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It starred Khan and Juhi Chawla as star crossed lovers belonging to two families that were each other’s bitter enemies.

Maqbool (2004)

Director Vishal Bhardwaj is most known for his trilogy of Shakespeare adaptations, each a critically-acclaimed hit. One of the most popular ones is Maqbool which was an adaptation of Macbeth. In the movie, the late icon Irrfan Khan plays the role of the titular Maqbool who works as a henchman of a feared underworld don. He falls in love with his boss’ mistress who instigates him to kill the don and take the power for himself.

She’s The Man (2006)

One of the best rom-coms of the early aughts, this is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Just like in the play, Viola impersonates her twin brother Sebastian in the movie. However, this time she does it to play on the school’s soccer team to beat her old school’s team after they dissolved the girl’s team and claimed she was not good enough to play with the boys.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Easily one of the most iconic, and quoted, rom-coms of all times, this one is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In the movie, new student Cameron finds out that the only way he can date his crush Bianca is if her anti-social older sister Kat goes on a date too. So he hires the school’s resident bad boy Patrick to pretend to be interested in Kat and take her out. But can there be a teenage love story without a healthy dose of angst? Watch the movie, if only for Heath Ledger’s iconic rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

This Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaboration is as darkly funny, twisted, and gory as the musical by Stephen Sondheim, which in turn was inspired by the 1970 stage play of the same name by Christopher Bond. The story revolves around a man who wants revenge on the judge who sentenced him for a crime he didn’t commit. His revenge plan includes opening a barber shop where he murdered people and baked them into pies. Like any good revenge plot, you know?

Closer (2004)

Based on the eponymous 1997 play by Patrick Marber, the story centers around two couples engaged in a toxic dynamic that involved meet-cutes, cheating, and other unhealthy relationship patterns. It starred Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, and Natalie Portman, with Owen and Portman each earning an Oscar nod for their performance in the movie.

August: Osage County (2013)

If you love movies about complicated dynamics of a dysfunctional family, then this movie is the one for you. It’s based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, and Dermot Mulroney. The story revolves around the members of a family who come together after the patriarch mysteriously disappears.

Chicago (2002)

One of the most iconic stage musicals of all time, Chicago saw a movie adaptation with Rob Marshall’s 2002 movie of the same name. The musical is set during the height of the Jazz Age in the 1920s and 30s and is centered around themes of what it took to be a celebrity, the scandals and the corruption involved. It starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

Into the Woods (2014)

An adaptation of the 1985 Broadway musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim, the dark adventure fantasy film featured a star-studded ensemble cast, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, and James Corden. The story follows a baker and his wife who want to have a child but are unable to do so because of a curse placed by an evil witch. To lift said curse, they must go on a quest and obtain four items that the witch desperately seeks.