Filmhash List: Five Great Films You Didn’t Know Were Based on Classics

A list from the esoteric brains behind Filmhash. If you have a list topic, e-mail us!

Although releasing this Friday, a camping trip prevents me from seeing Easy A this weekend. Easy A looks like a great new teen comedy, and I look forward to it. The trailer alludes to it being loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps this is something I will understand more once I see the film, but here are five great films that are loosely based on classic works of literature:

O Brother, Where Art Thou
Based on: The Odyssey by Homer
I regard this reimagining of Homer’s epic as the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece. It cleverly merges Greek myth with Southern Gothic, and what results is a wonderful film that explores the American South during the Depression as well as the timeless tropes of Greek storytelling. Like the Odyssey, it features vignettes of a clever man on his way home and the obstacles that keep him from completing the journey. A truly great film.

10 Things I Hate About You
Based on: The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare
Coming between Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Tim Blake Nelson’s, O, an adaptation of Othello, 10 Things I Hate About You took a centuries old play, a timeless classic for a reason, and translated it for a modern teen audience. Why am I choosing to include this Shakespeare adaptation? Not only does it do a great job of examining how a modern high school functions, but the performances of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are something to watch.

Devil’s Advocate
Based on: Paradise Lost by John Milton
How is a 17th Century poem about Lucifer’s fall from Heaven converted into a film about 20th Century lawyers in New York City? Okay, maybe it isn’t that much of a stretch. Here we see Al Pacino’s character, John Milton, slowly twist the life of Keanu Reeve’s Kevin Lomax into a dark mess. Near the end of the movie, it is revealed that he is in fact Satan himself, and has been tempting Kevin the whole time. I will say that, this movie freaked me out a lot more than the poem did.

Forbidden Planet
Based on: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Perhaps most famous today for featuring Robby the Robot, one of the first robots with a personality in a film, and later a film and TV star in his own right, Forbidden Planet is actually a retelling of The Tempest (this winter will see another version by Julie Taymor) with the setting in deep space rather than on a mystical island. In the original play, Prospero’s magic stands in for technology. He uses it to try and command nature in order to protect his daughter. His film counterpart, Dr. Morbius, uses fantastical technology in much the same way, creating Robby and other marvels to control his environment.

The Last Man On Earth (1964)/The Omega Man (1971)/I Am Legend (2007)
Based on: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Not only is the book the cornerstone of modern vampire and zombie fiction, but it actually has three movies based directly on it, and inspired George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead! What is really interesting is that all three movies have differed dramatically from the book in different ways. They mostly downplay the vampiric elements in the novel, making the plague victim aspect more focused. Only in The Omega Man do the mutated humans retain any intelligence from their novel counterparts. The original title comes from the protagonists’ status among the vampires. At the end of the novel, he understands that he is to this new vampire society what Dracula was to human society.

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