Original vs. Remake: Romeo and Juliet (1968)

The following article is presented for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the subject. 


Howdy folks. Time for another installment of Original vs. Remake. This month’s movie is Romeo and Juliet. I’m doing the 1968 version. Tiffany A. White will do the highly preferable 1996 version.


I’m going to skip a lot of my usual summarizing. I figure if you don’t know the basic plot of Romeo and Juliet, this blog post will probably be lost on you any way. Let’s just go straight to the trailer.


About the Film

Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet was far from the first. The earliest movie adaptation (of which I found record) was made in 1908. The first full-length television adaptation aired in 1947. Click here to see how many film versions of Romeo and Juliet have been made. The number is staggering.

Zeffirelli’s version was the most financially successful film version of a Shakespeare play during the era. Some of that success is attributed to age-appropriate actors playing Romeo and Juliet for the first time in history. Roger Ebert was quoted as saying this was the most exciting film of a Shakespeare play ever made.

The film score was done by Nino Rota. The love theme from the movie was extremely popular. Various versions were recorded and released, including a few with lyrics. Click here to listen to a version the love theme on You Tube.

The Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet has been referenced multiple times in pop culture.

  • Radiohead’s Thom Yorke named it as the inspiration for their song “Exit Music (For a Film)”.
  • Remember the TV show The Wonder Years? The show aired  the late 80s through the early 90s but was set in the turbulence of the late 1960s? There’s an episode in season 3 where Kevin and Paul go see the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Celine Dion references this film in the video for “Nothing Broken but My Heart.”
  • The film has also been referenced in the Japanese manga art of Rumiko Takahashi.

What I Think

Before I talk about what I think, let me note one thing. I get why Shakespeare’s plays are still beloved and studied today. The themes portrayed in the plays are universal. The emotions portrayed are ones we can all relate to. That said, I never really fell in love with Shakespeare. Ten years ago, I’d have been too big of a coward to admit this. Now, I just don’t care what anybody thinks. I figure it’s not unlike loving Led Zeppelin instead of the Beatles (which I do).

Let’s talk about the Zeffirelli film.

I watched this film both in high school and college. The actors are absolutely gorgeous. I loved the naked shot of “Romeo’s” butt. The cinematography, the score, all wonderful. If you’ve never seen it, I suggest giving it a try.

Personally, I’m grateful I never have to watch it again. Like I said, I get it. I see what’s great, both about the film and the source material.

However, I strongly prefer the 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet—the one Tiffany is reviewing. Of all the studying of Shakespeare I did in college, the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet was the closest I ever came to really loving anything Shakespeare. Get on over there and see what Tiffany has to say.

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