Everything Old Is New Again: Modern Films Based on Classic Stories

Did you know that it's been 25 years since Clueless first hit the big screen? It's still pretty sweet. Alicia Silverstone's portrayal of Cher Horowitz, a modern version of Jane Austen's matchmaking heroine Emma, charmed audiences in the mid-1990s.   

The success of Clueless sparked a trend. A number of films based on literary classics followed, many starring young actors in present-day settings.

Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles, followed the original text of William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, but placed the story in dazzling contemporary Southern California.

10 Things I Hate About You, starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Also inspired by Shakespeare was She's the Man, an update of Twelfth Night.  

The similarly titled She's All That was loosely based on the Greek myth Pygmalion

Many modern filmmakers have adapted the classics to reflect their own vision. The Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, based on another epic Greek tale, The Odyssey of Homer, specifically highlights early 20th century American folk music, and the O Brother soundtrack won multiple Grammys.

The producers of Bridget Jones's Diary, the film version of Helen Fielding's novel by the same name that draws on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, deliberately cast Colin Firth in the role of the hero, Mark Darcy. Firth portrayed Darcy in the BBC's renowned 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

Two recent TV series draw on classic tales: Sons of Anarchy, the outlaw biker drama based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Sherlock, the wildly popular BBC update of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective hero.

Which classic story would you like to see updated on the screen?

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