The 13 Best Movies Based on Poems
Since humans could communicate, they would tell stories, sing songs, and recite poetry. The best poetic adaptations take the source material and do it justice. This could mean a faithful retelling with accurate details or, more likely, an interpretation of the original that still preserves the essence of the piece. Here we've compiled some of the best films inspired by poetry.
Dr. Seuss's unique take on illustrated children's literature using meter and rhyme scheme resulted in timeless catchy poetry that is still a favorite for kids years after its original publishing. Shakespeare is, of course, another favorite whose works are adapted into film all the time.
What movies adapted from poems are your favorite? Vote up your favorite and make sure to also check out our list of films about poets.
Based on: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Jack Skellington, the King of "Halloween Town", stumbles upon "Christmas Town" and schemes to take over the holiday. Tim Burton came up with the source poem while working as a Disney animator in 1982. Originally a sleeper hit, the film is now a favorite during the holiday season.
- Actors: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix
- Released: 1993
- Directed by: Henry Selick
Based on: Ballad of Mulan
Disney, who famously use children's fairytales as a basis for their magical storytelling, turned to the Ballad of Mulan for 1998's Mulan. Hua Mulan is a folk hero from 4th to 6th century China, which would begin around 300 AD. This very old tale is fairly similar to Disney's version, with Mulan taking her frail father's place during conscription.
- Actors: Ming-Na, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein
- Released: 1998
- Directed by: Barry Cook, Tony Bancroft
Based on: Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Dr. Seuss books probably aren't the first thing that come to mind as poetry, but they're written in rhyming verse and most definitely count. In the beloved children's book, The Grinch steals presents and decorations from the people of Whoville in an attempt to thwart Christmas. The illustrated poem actually serves as a critique of the commercialization of the holiday. The also beloved Ron Howard cinematic adaptation features a very committed Jim Carrey and has become a Christmas classic.
- Actors: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Ron Howard
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Based on: Blind Harry's The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace
The original poem by Blind Harry is a long biographical piece that covers the life and accomplishments of Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace. The poem isn't necessarily historically accurate and neither is the film.
- Actors: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson
- Released: 1995
- Directed by: Mel Gibson
- Photo: Cyrano
Based on: Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac
Technically, Cyrano is based on a 2018 play. And that play is based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac, which is written in rhyming couplets of twelve syllables per line. In the film, Cyrano is desperately in love with Roxanne, who is also being courted by a soldier named Christian and the wealthy Duke De Guiche. Convincd he could never have her, Cyrano uses his talents as a prolific wordsmith to help Christian win over Roxanne.
- Actors: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison, Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin
- Released: 2021
- Directed by: Joe Wright
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Based on: Homer's Odyssey
This one is a pretty loose adaptation. The Coen Brothers's O Brother Where Art Thou? follows three escaped convicts searching for hidden treasure while a sheriff relentlessly pursues them. The main character in the movie's name is Ulysses, which itself is the Roman name for Odysseus.
- Actors: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Joel Coen