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The iconic movies you didn't know were adaptations of classic literature

We all know the feeling: you're stuck staring down an extra long and intimidating reading list for your English class, wondering how you can possibly pull off an A-worthy essay on a book you can barely get through. After all, there's no way you can relate to a story that was written hundreds of years ago, right?

If you think that's the case, think again. *Tons* of the most iconic teen movies of all time were skillfully and smartly adapted from—you guessed it—those literary classics that your teacher has assigned. These films update well-known stories, giving them a modern twist and making them entertaining and engaging for brand new audiences. So while you might not know what it's like to live in Austen-era England or a Shakespearean play, themes like figuring out where you belong, juggling friendships and relationships and making a difference in your community (among *so* many others) will def resonate with you. Next time you're in major need of a break from working on your latest English assignment, check out these flicks that take cues from the classics. 

Clueless (1995)

What it's based on: Emma by Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse is charming, popular and loves helping others—but sometimes, she just might take it a little too far. Clueless transports this storyline to a Beverly Hills high school in the '90s, where glamorous queen bee Cher Horowitz turns to matchmaking and makeovers as ways of giving back to her community. Viewers get a front-row seat to Cher's character development, so you can't help but root for her (and obsess over her totally fabulous wardrobe, ofc). And just like Cher, you might learn some super important lessons about finding true friendship, living a meaningful life and having confidence in yourself. If you love coming-of-age stories and chic outfits, this is the movie for you!

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

What it's based on: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Did Shakespeare invent the enemies-to-lovers trope with The Taming of the Shrew? Not sure, but his 16th-century play *did* end up inspiring one of the best teen rom-coms (and another '90s classic), 10 Things I Hate About You. It's love at first sight for new guy Cameron—but he isn't allowed to ask his crush Bianca out until her older sister, Kat, starts dating too. Will Kat end up letting her guard down and falling for "bad boy" Patrick? Apart from the swoon-worthy romance, you'll love this film for its empowering heroine. (Spoiler alert: You might need some tissues for the iconic poem scene.) Kat's journey to wearing her heart on her sleeve is one you won't want to miss.

Let It Shine (2012)

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What it's based on: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Picture this: Your BFF needs help winning over her crush, so she asks you to start texting them, pretending it's her (because you're kind of a better texter than she is, tbh). Everything's going great—until you start liking her crush, too. Sound messy? The play Cyrano de Bergerac and one of its retellings, the hit Disney Channel Original Movie Let It Shine, take this plot of disguise and deception to a whole new level. Let It Shine follows quiet Cyrus DeBarge, a talented musician who hides his rapping from his family and friends. When his more extroverted best friend uses Cyrus's original lyrics to get closer to a girl he likes—and become more famous—Cyrus is forced to decide if it's time to step into the spotlight and be true to himself. Everyone loves a good DCOM, and you'll def be singing along to this one from start to finish!

She's The Man (2006)

What it's based on: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Get ready to go undercover once again with this sporty comedy! Soccer-loving Viola Hastings is crushed when her school's team gets cut. An unexpected change of plans results in Viola pretending to be her twin brother, Sebastian, and attending his elite boarding school in his place. Viola gets to show off her soccer skills, Sebastian is off living his dreams in what could possibly go wrong? It's love triangles, debutante balls and hilarious moments galore in this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare's most popular and significant comedies.  

Easy A (2010)

What it's based on: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

What happens when a little white lie spirals into an entire web of chaos? Find out in this laugh-out-loud funny flick about rumors and reputation. Our quirky, witty main character Olive Penderghast finds herself stuck in the middle of a school scandal after telling her bestie a tall tale about how she spent her weekend—not knowing that their high school's biggest gossip overheard the whole thing. After reading The Scarlet Letter in her English class, Olive is inspired to turn the stereotypes and speculation that keep following her upside down. While this film def holds its own as one of the most famous teen movies of the 2010s, it also takes inspo from some iconic '80s high school stories, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club. We love a decade-defying watch!     

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

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What it's based on: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

Academic high-achiever Carrie, daring activist Beth and popular cheerleader Heather have nothing in common. Except for one thing: They're all dating John Tucker. After finding out about his two-timing tricks, the girls decide to get revenge, enlisting the shy new girl at school, Kate, to help them break John's heart. Can this unlikely crew overcome their differences to make their scheme a success? You'll srsly want to be a part of this squad! Plus, you might even recognize a few familiar faces along the way, like Pitch Perfect's Brittany Snow, One Tree Hill's Sophia Bush and Penn Badgley before the start of his Gossip Girl era.

Rosaline (2022)

What it's based on: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Booksmart's Kaitlyn Dever totally shines in this brand-new twist on the romantic tragedy we *all* know—but maybe not from this perspective. In this movie, viewers finally hear from Romeo's heartbroken ex, Rosaline herself. Rosaline and Romeo have been dating in secret—but when she misses out on one of their meetups at the fancy masquerade ball, Romeo ends up falling for Rosaline's cousin, Juliet. Rosaline instantly starts plotting how to win him back, while keeping her plans a secret from Juliet, who's heart-eyes over Romeo. Which star-crossed love story is truly meant to be? The answer just might surprise you—so it's time to tune in!

In need of more movie recs? Check out these articles:
🍿 4 coming-of-age movies every teen needs to watch 
🍿 The best Disney movies to get you in the fall mood
🍿 Everything you need to know about 2023 movie releases
🍿 5 must-see Y2K flicks for your next sleepover

What's your fave page-to-screen adaptation?
Tell us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

All GIFs via GIPHY | Slider image @kaitlyndever via Instagram


by Samara Smukler | 11/17/2022