Many great films have been inspired by works of literature. Typically novels lend themselves to adaptations, however, poetry has also inspired some wonderful films. Beowulf (2007) is probably the best known poetry adaptation, however its author remains unknown. So, let’s take a look at these poets and their works that have inspired some well-known films.
The Cat in the Hat was released as a children’s book in 1957 by author and illustrator Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss). The film adaptation was created in 2003 and stars Mike Myers in the titular role. Another well known Seuss adaptation is the wonderful How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). It stars Jim Carrey as The Grinch, and was adapted from the 1957 book. Both films feature the rhyming versus that were written in the original texts. The successes of these adaptations have led to further Suess adaptations including Horton Hears a Who (2008) and The Lorax (2012).
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
― Dr. Seuss,
Under Milk Wood (1972) was originally based on the 1954 radio play written for the BBC by Dylan Thomas. The poem is about the innermost thoughts of various residents of a fictional fishing village in Wales. The film stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and is available to watch on YouTube.
“We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood.”
― Dylan Thomas,
Homer’s epic poems are at the centre of ancient Greek literature. Both poems have inspired many further works, either straight adaptations or they have provided the basis for further story ideas. The Odyssey (about Greek hero Odysseus journeying home after the fall of Troy) inspired films such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) and Ulysses (1954). Troy (2004) was inspired by The Iliad.
“Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.”
Edgar Alan Poe
First published in 1845, Poe’s The Raven is arguably one of the most famous poems of all time. The film version was adapted in 1963, and was the fifth in the list of Poe feature adaptations produced by Roger Corman. The list also included The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965).
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
― Edgar Allan Poe,
Bright Star (2009) was named after a sonnet of the same name by John Keats. The film focuses on the romantic relationship between Keats (played by Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Many of his prominent works are featured throughout the film.
“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
― John Keats,
Burton himself wrote the poem The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1982 and eventually adapted it into the film of the same name by 1993. Disney chose to release it under their Touchstone Pictures banner out of fear that their young audiences would be too scared by the film.
“My dearest friend, if you don’t mind, I’d like to join you by your side. Where we could gaze into the stars, and sit together, now and forever. For it is plain as anyone can see, we’re simply meant to be.”
― Tim Burton, T
Jabberwocky (1977) is based on the nonsense poem of the same name by Lewis Carroll. The poem featured in his sequel to Alice in Wonderland, and told of the killing of a creature named The Jabberwocky.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!”
― Lewis Carroll,