Classics recast into high school settings

I recently learned about another modern movie that takes a Shakespeare play and reworks it to set it in a modern high school.

I've quite liked a couple of the "classic works of literature done as movies set in high school" films I've seen, so now I'm curious as to whether there are any other such movies that I haven't heard about.

Here are the ones I know of:

Movie Original What I thought
Clueless Emma Loved it.
Ten Things I Hate About You Taming of the Shrew Liked it quite a bit.
O Othello Thought it was okay.
Cruel Intentions Les Liaisons Dangereuses Didn't like it. Perhaps that was inevitable, given that I love the Malkovich/Close/Pfeiffer Dangerous Liaisons.
She's the Man Twelfth Night Haven't seen it yet, but looking forward to it.

Anyone know of others?

I'm not counting modern-setting Shakespeare that retains the original language (like Romeo+Juliet), nor reworkings and adaptations and morphings (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or the Branagh musical version of Love's Labour's Lost) that don't fully transplant the setting and story. In particular, I'm leaving out My Own Private Idaho (which I loved, but that was many years ago; I ought to watch it again) on the perhaps nitpicky grounds that it's not actually set in high school.

9 Responses to “Classics recast into high school settings”

  1. Jenn Reese

    I haven’t seen O, but otherwise, I agree entirely! Cruel Intentions was almost unwatchable for me, but I, too, have such a deep abiding love for Dangerous Liaisons that I’m very biased. I am watching PBS’s new EMMA now, and comparing it to Clueless.

    Let me know what you think of She’s the Man if you see it!

  2. Vardibidian

    It doesn’t count for your list, but you might be interested in Shakespeare’s R&J, a play by Joe Calarco, in which four boys in a boarding school meet surreptitiously to read the play. Most of the dialogue is evidently directly out of the play, but there is other stuff, too. There was a local production here recently, but I didn’t get to it. I’d be surprised if somebody in the Bay Area isn’t producing it soon.

    Another that may not count for your list is Brick, a film noir set in a Southern California high school that adapts bits out of several Dashiell Hammett stories (notably The Girl with the Silver Eyes) as well as some other classics of the genre. It’s a remarkable film. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the star; he was in 10 Things as well.


  3. jere7my

    No West Side Story?

  4. Jed

    Jenn: I’m not a big fan of Emma in general, but Clueless worked really well for me. Are you enjoying the new Emma? Do you like the book?

    I have She’s the Man on DVD from Netflix; hope to watch it sometime soon. Will let you know!

    V: Huh—Shakespeare’s R&J sounds interesting. Thanks for the info!

    Also thanks for the info about Brick. True that it’s not quite the same thing as my list, but perhaps close enough to count, and definitely sounds interesting; will add it to my list.

    J7y: Interesting! My first reaction was to say “But that’s different!”, but on further reflection, I agree that it’s close enough to count. It’s not really the same genre of film as the others, imo, but definitely shares the same spirit. Thanks!

  5. Jed

    I recently rewatched My Own Private Idaho, and I think it really is, at least in some ways, the same kind of movie as these others. It’s true that it’s not set in high school, and in fact at least one of the protagonists is about to turn 21 at the start of the movie. But I now think it’s close enough to count. And it does retain some of the original language, but only in bits and pieces.

  6. Jed

    Update: Just found out about the 2011 movie Beastly, which looks like a pretty straightforward retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a modern high school setting, with Neil Patrick Harris as the Beast’s blind tutor.

  7. KTO

    10 Things I Hate About You with Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, an American High School interpretation of the Taming of the Shrew.

  8. Jed

    I’ve now created a Google Sheets spreadsheet listing all the titles that I think fit or are adjacent to the category. Further additions welcome.


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