Shakespeare on Film

December 3 – January 5

From December 3 to January 5, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Shakespeare on Film, a series of ten film adaptations of the Bard, the 400th anniversary of whose death has been commemorated throughout the world in 2016.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) has been by far the most fertile literary source for movies. The IMDb database currently lists 1,189 films based on his work. With such an embarrassment of riches, one needs to set parameters for the sake of winnowing down the choices.

Our first guideline was that the most essential element of Shakespeare's plays is the language; ergo, the films in this series should be rooted in Shakespearean language. The screenplay might (and, with the exception of Branagh's HAMLET, invariably does) prune and rearrange the original text, and transpose it to another time or place, but what's left is still essentially the Bard's words. Some remarkable films have creatively reimagined Shakespeare without retaining the language — FORBIDDEN PLANET, THRONE OF BLOOD, WEST SIDE STORY, THE LION KING, to name just a few — but we have placed them outside the boundaries of this series. To narrow the choices further, as well as to increase variety, we have included only one version of each selected play, and only one film by each director.

Of course, Shakespeare's contributions to cinema can be measured by more than numbers. The richness of his imagery, the durability of his stories, and the universality of his characters have provided an incomparable stimulus for the skills and imaginations of countless actors and filmmakers.

Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming


Chimes at Midnight


1965, Orson Welles, Spain, 115 min. With Orson Welles, Keith Baxter.


  • Sat, Dec 3rd 3:00pm
  • Thu, Dec 8th 6:00pm

Much Ado About Nothing

2012, Joss Whedon, USA, 109 min. With Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker.


  • Sun, Dec 4th 3:00pm
  • Tue, Dec 6th 6:00pm

The Merchant of Venice

2004, Michael Radford, USA, 131 min. With Al Pacino, Ralph Fiennes.


  • Sat, Dec 10th 3:00pm
  • Thu, Dec 15th 6:00pm

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet

1996, Baz Luhrmann, USA, 120 min. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes.


  • Sun, Dec 11th 3:00pm
  • Wed, Dec 14th 6:00pm

King Lear

1971, Peter Brook, UK/Denmark, 137 min. With Paul Scofield, Irene Worth.


  • Sat, Dec 17th 3:00pm
  • Thu, Dec 22nd 6:00pm

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1968, Peter Hall, UK, 124 min. With Helen Mirren, Judi Dench.


  • Sun, Dec 18th 3:00pm
  • Tue, Dec 20th 6:00pm

Richard III

1955, Laurence Olivier, UK, 158 min. With Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson.


  • Fri, Dec 23rd 2:00pm
  • Tue, Dec 27th 6:30pm

The Tragedy of Macbeth

1971, Roman Polanski, UK/USA, 140 min. With Jon Finch, Francesca Annis.


  • Mon, Dec 26th 2:30pm
  • Thu, Dec 29th 6:30pm


1996, Kenneth Branagh, UK/USA, 242 min. With Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie.


  • Fri, Dec 30th 2:00pm
  • Tue, Jan 3rd 6:00pm

The Taming of the Shrew

1967, Franco Zeffirelli, USA/Italy, 122 min. With Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton.


  • Mon, Jan 2nd 2:30pm
  • Thu, Jan 5th 6:00pm