Romeo + Juliet

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (often shortened to Romeo + Juliet) is a 1996 American romantic crime tragedy 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 title roles. They instantly fall in love when Romeo crashes a party and meets Juliet, despite their being members of feuding families. Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, and Diane Venora star in supporting roles.

Romeo + Juliet
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]

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]

The film was also re-released in Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy DVD box set in 2002 together with Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Moulin Rouge! (2001).


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

Benvolio and Romeo learn of a Capulet party that evening which they decide to gate-crash. Romeo agrees on hearing that Rosaline, with whom he is in love, is attending. They meet their friend, Mercutio, who has tickets to the party, and Romeo takes ecstasy as 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, both unaware who the other is. Tybalt spots Romeo and vows to kill him for invading his family's home.

After Romeo leaves the party, he and Juliet each learn that they belong to feuding families, but Romeo sneaks back to see her. Juliet tells him that if he sends word by the following day, they will be betrothed. The next day, Romeo asks Father Laurence to marry them, and he agrees, hoping their marriage will end the feud. Romeo passes the word on via Juliet's nurse and the lovers are married.

Tybalt encounters Mercutio and Romeo at the beach. Romeo attempts to make peace, but Tybalt assaults him. Mercutio intervenes and is about to kill Tybalt when Romeo stops him. Tybalt uses the opportunity to inflict a deadly wound on Mercutio, who curses both houses before dying. Enraged, Romeo chases after a fleeing Tybalt and guns him down.

Captain Prince banishes Romeo from the city, and he goes into hiding with Father Laurence. The nurse arrives and tells him that Juliet is waiting for him. Romeo climbs over Juliet's balcony, and they consummate their marriage. Meanwhile, Fulgencio decides Juliet will marry Dave Paris, the governor's son.

The next morning, Gloria tells Juliet that she is to marry Paris. She refuses and Fulgencio threatens to disown her. Juliet runs away and seeks out Father Laurence, imploring him to help her and threatening to commit suicide. Father Laurence gives her a potion that will let her fake her own death and be put in the Capulet vault to awaken 24 hours later. Romeo will be informed of the plot, sneak into the vault, and once reunited the two can escape to Mantua. But Romeo learns of Juliet's apparent death from Balthasar and leaves for Verona before the message from Father Laurence arrives.

Romeo enters the church where Juliet lies and bids her goodbye, and, thinking her dead, drinks a vial of poison. Juliet awakens just in time for them to share a final kiss before Romeo dies. A distraught Juliet picks up Romeo's gun and shoots herself in the head. The two lovers are soon discovered in each other's arms. Captain 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

Differences with the movie and the original play

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[10] (with brand names such as "Dagger" and "Sword"), and a FedEx style delivery service is named "Post Haste"[11] Some characters' names are also changed. Paris, Lord & Lady Montague and Lord & Lady Capulet are given first names (in the original, their first names are never mentioned); Friar Laurence becomes Father Laurence, and Prince Escalus is rewritten as the police chief of Verona Beach, being renamed Captain Prince.[12] 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).[12]


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.[13]

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.[13]

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.[14]


Box office

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,[15] with a worldwide total of USD$147,554,998.[2]

Critical response

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Fresh", with 72% of 64 critics giving positive reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10 with the consensus that says, "Baz Luhrmann's visual aesthetic is as divisive as it is fresh and inventive".[16] 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."[17]

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."[18]

The film was nominated to appear on the American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Passions list in 2002.[19]

Home media

The film was originally released on DVD on March 19, 2002 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[20] 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. "Romeo + Juliet (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  3. "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  4. "Romeo + Juliet (1996): Awards". IMDb. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  5. Packard, Kim. "CONSIDERING 'THE BFI LIST OF 50 FILMS YOU SHOULD WATCH BY THE AGE OF 14'". MUBI. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  6. 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.
  7. Ryan, James (February 25, 1996). "UP AND COMING: Natalie Portman; Natalie Portman (Not Her Real Name)". The New York Times.
  8. Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (September 6, 1996). "Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet: On set with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes". Entertainment Weekly.
  9. Lahr, John. "Where do Claire Danes' Volcanic Performances Come From?". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  10. Jacobs, Matthew (November 1, 2016). "The Everlasting Frenzy Of Baz Luhrmann's 'Romeo + Juliet,' 20 Years Later". HuffPost. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  11. "A Full-Tilt 'Romeo'". Los Angeles Times. November 1, 1996. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  12. "20 things you may not know about Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet". Metro. November 1, 2016. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  13. "Interview with Baz Luhrmann", Signet, 19 December 1996 accessed 19 November 2012
  14. "Romeo + Juliet - Official Website, Production Notes".
  15. "Romeo + Juliet (1996) - Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 14, 2007.
  16. "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 13, 2007.
  17. Berardinelli, James (1996). "Review: Romeo and Juliet (1996)". Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  18. Ebert, Roger. "Romeo + Juliet Movie Review & Film Summary (1996) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  19. "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  20. Rivero, Enrique (March 7, 2002). "Director Luhrmann Is Busy On the DVD Front". Archived from the original on June 4, 2002. Retrieved September 10, 2019.

Further reading

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