10 Movies You May Not Know Were Inspired by Classic Literature

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 Ph: Jan Thijs © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
Image: Summit Entertainment

For decades teachers have strained and struggled to get teenagers interested in classic literature. From well-intentioned book reports to fuzzy VHS copies of classic enactments of Shakespeare, it seems the world of classic literature is a repellent to any student under the legal drinking age.

At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. See, those sneaky teachers have been in cahoots with the film industry for the longest time, and unsuspecting students have been exposed to numerous classic novels without their knowledge! Sounds like a conspiracy? Perhaps, but here are ten films you might not know are based on classic literature:

She’s the Man | The Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

2006 was a simpler time, when Flo Rida was telling us to get low and Tamagotchis were going through yet another comeback. It was also the year that She’s the Man came out and locked in its very own spot in the realm of teen movies. Amanda Bynes plays Viola, a soccer-loving tomboy who pretends to be her brother in order to play her favourite sport. In the meantime, she finds herself falling for her roommate, Duke (Channing Tatum), who’s under the impressions she’s…the man. In between the shenanigans, well-placed music montages and complicated love triangles are a multitude of references to the book it is based on, Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night.

Clueless | Emma by Jane Austen

This 1995 classic is arguably as popular as the author of the novel it spawned from. Alicia Silverstone plays Cher, a relentless matchmaker who can’t seem to see that sometimes love just cannot be planned. With certain characters taking similar names (Elton instead of Mr. Elton) and the matchmaking efforts of Cher – Emma, this film takes a modern spin on the infamous Jane Austen story, showing teen audiences that classic novels still have their relevance today.

Easy A | The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Although this is a less faithful modern adaptation of its novel counterpart than the previous two on this list, Easy A does do well in adapting the themes of alienation and judgement in society present in Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. It also helps that the movie makes plain mention of its classic counterpart; Emma Stone’s Olive studies the novel in class and uses it as a template to deal with her classmates. This is one of the more recent movies on the list, having come out in 2010, and makes for a great comedy to watch on a rainy day.

The Parent Trap | Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner

Remember that movie that had you convinced Lindsay Lohan had a twin sister? The 1998 movie The Parent Trap is actually based on a classic novel written in 1949! Lottie and Lisa was originally intended to be a movie made during World War II, but was forbidden from moving forward by the Nazis. Instead, it became a novel about two girls who went to summer camp and discovered they were sisters. The movie is quite a faithful modern adaptation of the book it was inspired from and, despite being set in America instead of Europe, does well in twisting the narrative for a modern audience.

10 Things I Hate About You | The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Yet another Shakespeare adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You is the 1999 film that had many people falling in love with rising star of the time Heath Ledger. Taking a lot of story elements from the work it was inspired from, this teen movie is a classic in its own right. References to Shakespeare and quotes taken straight from the text help the audience make the connection, as well as understand once more the place classic literature has in modern cinema. Also, who didn’t tear up at Kat (Julia Stiles) reading her ode to Patrick (Ledger)? If you haven’t seen this movie, I’d suggest you get on it.

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