Poetry in Motion Pictures: 15 Movies Based on Better Poems
From Homer to Disney, and Dr. Suess to Charles Bukowski, many famous poems and poets have made the leap from book to box office - with varying levels of success. For better or worse, poetry seems to make film directors drool, and why not? You could think of poetry like the popcorn of the literary world – bite-sized, compact little narratives or emotional jolts with plenty of room around the edges to lather on the artistic “interpretation.” The Disney classic Mulan, for instance, is even more classic than you think: it dates to 3rd Century China. Bukowski's poetry is vastly more entertaining than his biography, while Beowulf is actually better, believe it or not, without Angelina Jolie.
Luckily though, many poetry-based movies actually do a degree of justice to their bardolic antecedents, rising above simple cinema-fodder to bring verse to life. Click through for 15 films based on great poems, and try to read them before you see them!
Bright Star: The Complete Poems and Selected Letters (Vintage Classics)
Bright Star - 2009. Based on the love poem "Bright Star" by John Keats, written for his smitten kitten Fanny Brawne.
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Notes of a Dirty Old Man
Barfly - 1987. Bukowski was a womanizing, alcoholic, deadbeat - and an amazing poet. Mickey Roarke plays Henry Chinaski, a character based loosely on Bukowski's life.
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Under Milk Wood
Under Milk Wood - 1972. Starring Richard Burton, Peter O'Tool, and Elizabeth Taylor, this British production was based on Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood (strictly speaking a radio play, but which reads like poetry on the page).
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How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Classic Seuss)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - 1966 (TV), 2000. First cartoon-style, then Jim Carrey-style (whatever that is), Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka. Dr. Seuss') children's poem is a classic on the page or on the screen.
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Howl - 2010. James Franco plays Ginsberg in this biographical look at the poet and play-by-play of the 1957 obscenity trial against the title poem.
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The acts and deeds of the most famous and valiant champion Sir William Wallace, Knight of Ellerslie. Written by Blind Harry in the year 1361. Together with Arnaldi Blair Relationes.
the Minstrel Henry
Braveheart - 1995. Mel Gibson's blue-faced portrayal of 13th-century Scottish warrior William Wallace is based on bard Blind Harry's epic poem "The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace" - written in the decade prior to 1488.
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O Brother, Where Art Thou? - 2000. Homer's "Odyssey" has been adapted for the screen many times, but most recently (and hilariously) by the Coen brothers. The soundtrack is also incredible.
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The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Troy - 2004. Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and biceps. Just what Homer envisioned.
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Gunga Din and Other Favorite Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)
Gunga Din - 1939. This classic film is based loosely on Rudyard Kipling's poem about a native Indian hero facing British colonialism. Or you can watch Cary Grant pretend to shoot things.
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The Ballad of Mulan: English/Hmong
Mulan - 1998. Disney's Mulan is based on the ancient Chinese poem, "The Ballad of Mulan," a legend from the Northern Wei Dynasty about Hua Mulan, a girl who fights in the Chinese army in her father's place for 12 years.
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The White Cliffs
Alice Duer Miller
The White Cliffs of Dover - 1944. The film by MGM is based on Alice Duer Miller's original poem "The White Cliffs."
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Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Bilingual Edition)
Beowulf - 2007. Robert Zemeckis' CGI retelling of the Old English Epic is replete with Angelina Jolie and a dragon. Them's apples to boast about.
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Jabberwocky - 1977. Think you can't make a film out of a nonsense poem? Think again! Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame turned Lewis Carroll's hairbrained verse into a cult movie.
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Edgar Allen Poe
The Raven - 1915, 1935, 1963, 2012. Edgar Allan Poe's classic seems fated to FOREVERMORE be in theaters, given how many film adaptations have been released.
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William Shakespeare The Complete Works (Collector's Library)
Take your pick! When you're good, you're good. And Shakespeare was, well, pretty good. The Bard of Avon is the ultimate playwright, and hopefully we'll never see the end of him on the big screen.
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Source: Inspired by Flavorwire