Romeo + Juliet

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Romeo + Juliet
William shakespeares romeo and juliet movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBaz Luhrmann
Produced byBaz Luhrmann
Gabriella Martinelli
Screenplay byCraig Pearce
Baz Luhrmann
Based onRomeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare
Music byNellee Hooper
Marius de Vries
Craig Armstrong
CinematographyDonald M. McAlpine
Edited byJill Bilcock
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
Running time
120 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$14.5 million
Box office$147.5 million[2]

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (often shortened to Romeo + Juliet) is a 1996 American romantic crime film directed, co-produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, co-produced by Gabriella Martinelli, and co-written by Craig Pearce. It is an adaptation and modernization of William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles of Romeo and Juliet, who instantly fall in love when Romeo crashes a party and meets her, despite being members of feuding families. Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, and Diane Venora star in supporting roles.

While it retains the original Shakespearean dialogue, the film represents the Montagues and the Capulets as warring mafia empires (with legitimate business fronts) during contemporary America, and swords are replaced with guns (with brand names such as "Dagger" and "Sword"). Some characters' names are also changed. Lord and Lady Montague and Lord and Lady Capulet are given first names (in the original, their first names are never mentioned); Friar Laurence becomes Father Laurence, and Prince Escalus is renamed Captain Prince, the police chief of Verona Beach. The adaptation eliminates the character of Friar John, and some characters change families: in the original, Gregory and Sampson are Capulets, but in the film, they are Montagues (Abram, as Abra, and Petruchio, conversely, are shifted from the Montague to the Capulet family). In addition, a few plot details are shifted, most notably toward the ending.

The film was released on November 1, 1996, by 20th Century Fox to commercial success, and was met with generally positive reviews. The film grossed over $147.5 million over a $14.5 million budget. At the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, DiCaprio won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Luhrmann won the Alfred Bauer Prize.[3] Luhrmann was also nominated for the Golden Bear Award for Best Picture.[4] At the 69th Academy Awards, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch were nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.[4] In 2005, the film was included on the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.[5]


In Verona Beach, the Capulets and the Montagues are arch-rivals.[6] The animosity of the older generation—Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet and Ted and Caroline Montague—is felt by their younger relatives. A gunfight between the Montague boys led by Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, and the Capulet boys led by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, creates chaos in the city. The Chief of Police, Captain Prince, reprimands the families, warning them that if such behavior continues, their lives "shall pay the forfeit of the peace".

Benvolio meets Romeo on a beach. While playing a game of pool they learn of a party being held by the Capulets that evening which they decide to gate-crash. Romeo agrees to come after discovering that Rosaline, with whom he is in love, is attending. Later, the Montague boys meet their friend, Mercutio, who has tickets to the party. Romeo takes ecstasy Mercutio gave him and they proceed to the Capulet mansion. The effects of the drug and the party overwhelm Romeo, who goes to the restroom. While admiring an aquarium, he sees Juliet on the other side, and the two instantly fall in love. Tybalt spots Romeo and vows to kill him for invading his family's home, but Fulgencio stops him.

Romeo and Juliet sneak into an elevator and kiss. The nurse spots them when the doors open and drags Juliet away, telling her that Romeo is a Montague. At the same time, Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet. Mercutio removes Romeo from the party, but he sneaks back to the mansion, hiding under Juliet's balcony. Juliet emerges into the courtyard and proclaims her love for Romeo before he sneaks up behind her. Juliet warns him that he is risking his life, but Romeo tells her he doesn't care whether he is caught. Knowing her nurse is looking for her, Juliet tells him that, if he sends word by the following day, they will be betrothed. The next day, Romeo visits Father Laurence, telling him he wants to marry Juliet. He agrees to marry the pair in hopes that their marriage will end the violence between the families. Romeo passes the word on to Juliet's nurse and the lovers are married.

Tybalt encounters Mercutio at the beach just as Romeo arrives. Romeo attempts to make peace, but Tybalt assaults him. Mercutio intervenes and batters Tybalt, and is about to finish him off with a log when Romeo stops him. Tybalt then slashes Mercutio with a shard of glass in his stomach. Mercutio curses both the Montagues and the Capulets before dying in Romeo's arms. Enraged, Romeo chases after a fleeing Tybalt and guns him down.

Captain Prince banishes Romeo from the city. Romeo goes into hiding with Father Laurence, who treats his injuries and says that, after some time passes, he will help Romeo and Juliet return to the city and reconcile with their family and friends. The nurse arrives and tells Romeo that Juliet is waiting for him. When Romeo climbs over Juliet's balcony, she kisses him and they consummate their marriage. Meanwhile, Fulgencio decides Juliet will marry Dave Paris, the governor's son.

The next morning, Romeo narrowly escapes the Capulet mansion as Gloria tells Juliet that the family has promised she will marry Paris. She refuses, and Fulgencio threatens to disown her. Her mother and nurse insist it would be in her best interest to marry Paris. To get out of this, Juliet runs away and seeks out Father Laurence, imploring him to help her and threatening to commit suicide. Father Laurence proposes she fake her own death and be put in the Capulet vault to awaken 24 hours later. Romeo will be told of the plot, sneak into the vault, and once reunited the two can escape to Mantua. He gives her a potion which mimics death. After saying goodnight to her mother, Juliet drinks the potion and slips into a coma. She is found in the morning, declared dead, and placed in the vault. Balthasar, one of Romeo's cousins, learns that Juliet is dead and tells Romeo, who is not home when the messenger arrives with a letter from Father Laurence.

Romeo returns to Verona and buys a vial of poison. As he goes to the church, Captain Prince finds out he is back, and tries to capture him, without success. Father Laurence learns that Romeo never got his letter and has no idea Juliet is alive. Romeo enters the church where Juliet lies and bids her goodbye. She awakens just as Romeo takes the poison; the two thus see each other and share a final kiss before he dies. A distraught Juliet picks up Romeo's gun and shoots herself in the head, dying instantly. The two lovers are soon discovered in each other's arms. Prince condemns both families, whose feuding led to such tragedy, while coroners quickly transport the two bodies to the morgue.


Natalie Portman had been cast as Juliet but, during rehearsals, it was felt that the footage looked as though DiCaprio was "molesting" her.[8] Baz Luhrmann has also stated that Portman was too young at the time, and made DiCaprio look older than intended. He was 21 at the time of filming and Portman was only 14.[9]

After Sarah Michelle Gellar turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts, DiCaprio proclaimed that Danes should be cast, as he felt she was genuine in her line delivery and did not try to impress him by acting flirtatious.[10]


After the success of Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann took some time over deciding what his next project would be:

Our philosophy has always been that we think up what we need in our life, choose something creative that will make that life fulfilling, and then follow that road. With Romeo and Juliet what I wanted to do was to look at the way in which Shakespeare might make a movie of one of his plays if he was a director. How would he make it? We don't know a lot about Shakespeare, but we do know he would make a 'movie' movie. He was a player. We know about the Elizabethan stage and that he was playing for 3000 drunken punters, from the street sweeper to the Queen of England - and his competition was bear-baiting and prostitution. So he was a relentless entertainer and a user of incredible devices and theatrical tricks to ultimately create something of meaning and convey a story. That was what we wanted to do.[11]

Luhrmann obtained some funds from Fox to do a workshop and shoot some teaser footage in Sydney. Leonardo DiCaprio agreed to pay his own expenses to fly to Sydney and be part of it. Once Fox saw footage of the fight scene, they agreed to support it.[11]

All of the development was done in Australia, with pre-production in Australia and Canada and post-production in Australia. While some parts of the film were shot in Miami, most of the film was shot in Mexico City and Boca del Rio, Veracruz. For instance, the Capulet mansion was set at Chapultepec Castle while the ballroom was built on Stage One of Churubusco Studios; and the church is Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Del Valle neighborhood.[12]


Box office[edit]

The film premiered on November 1, 1996, in the United States and Canada, in 1,276 theaters, and grossed $11.1 million its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It went on to gross $46.3 million in the United States and Canada,[13] with a worldwide total of USD$147,554,998.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Fresh", with 70% of 61 critics giving positive reviews with an average rating of 6.5/10 with the consensus that says, "Baz Luhrmann's visual aesthetic is as divisive as it is fresh and inventive".[14] James Berardinelli gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "Ultimately, no matter how many innovative and unconventional flourishes it applies, the success of any adaptation of a Shakespeare play is determined by two factors: the competence of the director and the ability of the main cast members. Luhrmann, Danes, and DiCaprio place this Romeo and Juliet in capable hands."[15]

Leonardo DiCaprio won Favorite Actor and Claire Danes won Favorite Actress in a Romance at the 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.[4] At the 1997 MTV Movie Awards, Danes won Best Female Performance. DiCaprio was nominated for Best Male Performance, and DiCaprio and Danes were both nominated for Best Kiss and Best On-Screen Duo.[4] At the 51st BAFTA Film Awards, director Baz Luhrmann won Best Direction, Luhrmann and Mary Haile won the Best Adapted Screenplay, Nellee Hooper won the Best Film Music, and Catherine Martin won the Best Production Design. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound.[4]

The film won several awards.[4] At the 47th Berlin International Film Festival in 1997, DiCaprio won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and Luhrmann won the Alfred Bauer Prize.[3] Luhrmann was also nominated for the Golden Bear Award for Best Picture.[4] At the 69th Academy Awards, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch were nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.[4]

Conversely, Roger Ebert gave the film a mixed review of only 2 stars out of 4, saying, "I've seen “King Lear” as a samurai drama and “Macbeth” as a Mafia story, and two different “Romeo and Juliets” about ethnic difficulties in Manhattan (“West Side Story” and “China Girl”), but I have never seen anything remotely approaching the mess that the new punk version of “Romeo & Juliet” makes of Shakespeare's tragedy."[16]

The film was nominated to appear on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Passions list in 2002.[17]

Home media[edit]

The film was originally released on VHS and DVD in 1997. A 10th anniversary special edition DVD containing extra features and commentary was released on February 6, 2007, while a Blu-ray edition was released on October 19, 2010.


  1. "#1 Crush" – Garbage
  2. "Local God" – Everclear
  3. "Angel" – Gavin Friday
  4. "Pretty Piece of Flesh" – One Inch Punch
  5. "Kissing You (Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet)" – Des'ree
  6. "Whatever (I Had a Dream)" – Butthole Surfers
  7. "Lovefool" – The Cardigans
  8. "Young Hearts Run Free" – Kym Mazelle
  9. "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" – Quindon Tarver
  10. "To You I Bestow" – Mundy
  11. "Talk Show Host" – Radiohead
  12. "Little Star" – Stina Nordenstam
  13. "You and Me Song" – The Wannadies


  1. ^ "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO + JULIET (12)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. December 2, 1996. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Romeo + Juliet (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  3. ^ a b "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Romeo + Juliet (1996): Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  5. ^ Packard, Kim. "CONSIDERING 'THE BFI LIST OF 50 FILMS YOU SHOULD WATCH BY THE AGE OF 14'". MUBI. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  6. ^ Whitington, Paul (November 21, 2007). "From stage to screen". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  7. ^ Lahr, John (September 9, 2013). "Where do Claire Danes' Volcanic Performances Come From?". New Yorker Magazine. New Yorker Magazine. p. 2. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  8. ^ Ryan, James (February 25, 1996). "UP AND COMING: Natalie Portman; Natalie Portman (Not Her Real Name)". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (September 6, 1996). "Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet: On set with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes". Entertainment Weekly.
  10. ^ Lahr, John. "Where do Claire Danes' Volcanic Performances Come From?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Interview with Baz Luhrmann", Signet, 19 December 1996 accessed 19 November 2012
  12. ^ "Romeo + Juliet - Official Website, Production Notes".
  13. ^ "Romeo + Juliet (1996) - Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
  14. ^ "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  15. ^ Berardinelli, James (1996). "Review: Romeo and Juliet (1996)". Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Romeo + Juliet Movie Review & Film Summary (1996) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.

External links[edit]