All The Modern Romeo & Juliet Retellings, Ranked

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Odds are, you first read Romeo and Juliet in high school. But even if your ninth-grade self was reading Shakespeare’s words the first time, you already knew the entire story. That’s because everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet. The tale of two star-crossed teenagers who fall in love despite their families’ rivalry has spawned an infinite number of cultural tropes and references. Romeo and Juliet is as inescapable as the weather, gum on subway seats, and young love itself.
Over the years, riffs off Romeo and Juliet have brought the story to an even wider audience. From musicals to movie parodies, the iconic story has taken on many forms. ABC’s new show Still Star Crossed, set to premiere on May 29, picks off right after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. Will it be able to carry on the legacy?
Not all Romeo and Juliet tales are created equal, though. These are the best modern iterations of the famous play, in order of greatness. We'll situate Still Star Crossed once we see it.
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1 of 11
The Retelling: Romeo and Juliet (2013)

The Romeo: Douglas Booth plays Romeo at his prettiest.

The Juliet: Hailee Steinfeld, 16 at the time, plays an age-appropriate Juliet.

The Twist: This Romeo and Juliet was controversial for only culling minimal language from the original Shakespeare, and replacing most of the dialogue with modern English. It resulted in a visually-stunning but watered-down experience. Just because the material’s a classic doesn’t mean every retelling is going to be successful — even if Downtown Abbey creator Julian Fellowes wrote the adaptation.
2 of 11
The Retelling: Love Is All There Is (1996)

The Romeo: Until the Malacicis came along, the Capomezzos ruled the Bronx food scene with their catering business. The Capomezzos' lives gets complicated when their son, Rosario (Nathaniel Marston), falls for the daughter of the Malacici family after they're cast as Romeo and Juliet in a community play.

The Juliet: Recently emigrated from Florence, the Malacici family opens up a classy establishment in the Bronx. Their daughter, Regina (Angelina Jolie), falls for the son of the rival catering family.

The Twist: Verona rivalries pale in comparison to the dramatic and exaggerated tension between two Italian-American catering families. Unfortunately, the movie derives all its humor from tired jokes about Italian stereotypes and the sex-crazed nature of youth.
3 of 11
The Retelling: Tromeo and Juliet (1996)

The Romeo: Tromeo (Will Keenan) is a filmmaker living in a run-down Manhattan apartment with his alcoholic father.

The Juliet: Juliet (Jane Jensen) lives in a mansion with her dysfunctional family. Though Juliet is engaged to meat tycoon, and is sleeping with her maid, she falls for Tromeo when he comes to her family's masquerade ball.

The Twist: Because the original isn’t dramatic enough, this schlocky indie film gives Romeo and Juliet a twist: Tromeo and Juliet are brother and sister. Add S&M, decapitation, punk rock, and ‘90s nostalgia to Shakespeare, and you’ll get this cinematic relic, whose execution doesn't quite live up to its philosophy.
4 of 11
The Retelling: Romeo Must Die (2000)

The Romeo: Upon hearing of his brother's murder in California, Han (Jet Li) escapes from a Hong Kong prison to seek retribution. Han's family is part of an Asian gang fighting for control over the Oakland waterfront.

The Juliet: Trish (Aaliyah) is the daughter of a Black mobster. Both the Black and Chinese gangs desperately want to finance a waterfront football stadium. Despite their families' conflict, Han and Trish are drawn to each other.

The Twist: Romeo Must Die is like a pyrotechnic, 21st century, totally underwhelming West Side Story. Romeo Must Die preserves the original play's theme of family rivalry, and forgets to maintain the romance. Han and Trish never even kiss.
5 of 11
The Retelling: Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

The Romeo: Gnomeo (James McAvoy) lives with other blue gnomes in Mrs. Montague's garden.

The Juliet: Juliet (Emily Blunt) is a red gnome on Capulet grounds.

The Twist: This cheeky animated film transposes the classic Romeo and Juliet story onto garden wars between neighbors in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Will Shakespeare’s hometown. In this clever, flamboyant film, two young gnomes are brave enough to cross property line. To make matters better, the entire film is set to the music of Elton John. And yes: That's Michael Caine's voice in the trailer. Are you sold yet?
6 of 11
The Retelling: Private Romeo (2011)

The Romeo: Sam Singleton (Seth Numrich) is one of eight cadets selected to read Romeo and Juliet in class. He plays Romeo.

The Juliet: Hah! In this all-boys military academy, there are no Juliets. However, Glenn Mangan (Matt Doyle) plays Juliet in the play, and starts a sexual relationship with Sam.

The Twist: Set in an isolated military school, Private Romeo follows two cadets falling in love. The movie uses the classic play as a lens for examining the military’s destructive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
7 of 11
The Retelling: Warm Bodies (2013)

The Romeo: Our protagonist (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who goes by “R,” since that’s all he can recall of his old name. His speech is reduced to grunts.

The Juliet: Julie (Theresa Palmer) is a human whose boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), is killed during a zombie raid. R rescues Julie from the attack, and keeps her safe. R hides the fact that he's the one who killed her boyfriend.

The Twist: Shakespeare wrote during the bubonic plague, not the zombie apocalypse. In this romantic comedy, Romeo and Juliet are separated by states of being beyond familial rivalry. But hey — it works.
8 of 11
The Retelling: Romeo and Juliet (1996)

The Romeo: Leonard Whiting plays an earnest Romeo, clad in puffy Veronese shirts.

The Juliet: Olivia Hussey plays a love-sick Juliet with a crisp British accept, pining from her balcony.

The Twist: There is no twist, and it's great. If you're going to watch a classic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, look no further than this one.
9 of 11
The Retelling: “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits (1980)

The Romeo: A lovestruck Romeo, standing outside his ex-girlfriend’s window on a city street.

The Juliet: Though Romeo's still reenacting the balcony scene, this Juliet already has moved on to a new boyfriend.

The Twist: Dire Straits’ aching love song puts a cynical, modern twist on the Romeo story. Suddenly, Romeo’s so old news to Juliet. As opposed to tragedy by way of double suicide, “Romeo and Juliet” captures a far more common sadness: One person moving on at a faster rate than the other. Here’s what might’ve happened to “Romeo and Juliet,” had they only grown up.
10 of 11
The Retelling: Romeo + Juliet (1996)

The Romeo: With his crisp American accent, Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) made Shakespeare sexy again.

The Juliet: A 17-year-old Claire Danes made us believe in Juliet like we had never before.

The Twist: Here's the manic, mad-cap, visually stunning movie that blew your mind in English class. Preserving the original Shakespearean language, director Baz Luhrmann relocated Romeo and Juliet to a highly stylized Verona Beach, California.
11 of 11
The Retelling: West Side Story (1961)

The Romeo: Tony (Richard Beymer) is a sensitive Polish-American street rat whose friends are all in the Jets gang, composed of other first- and second-generation New Yorkers.

The Juliet: Maria (Natalie Wood) is a Puerto Rican immigrant, whose brother is the leader of the Sharks gang, made up of other Puerto Ricans.

The Twist: West Side Story transposes Romeo and Juliet’s familial tension onto the tense landscape of 1950s New York, where the preexisting population is reluctant to accept incoming Puerto Ricans. Amidst gang rivalries, two teenagers fall in love, and almost get away with it. The story’s a classic — but what makes West Side Story is the soaring music, drawn-out dance scenes, and rich cast of characters. In fact, West Side Story's "Tonight" may be even better than the original balcony scene.

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