5 Onscreen Stories We Wouldn't Have Without 'King Lear'

5 Onscreen Stories We Wouldn't Have Without 'King Lear'
Promotional consideration provided by Cineplex

As a tragedy that portrays a ruthless leader's descent into madness, there's no denying that William Shakespeare's beloved King Lear will always be a timely work. Perhaps that's why audiences have been connecting with it for centuries.

The play has been directly adapted for the screen dozens of times, running from a long-lost five-minute German film from 1905 to BBC Two's dystopian television series starring Anthony Hopkins, which aired earlier this year. Yet despite its more direct adaptations, the influence of King Lear runs deeper throughout the world of cinema. For decades, its timeless themes have influenced a number of onscreen tragedies.

On September 27, Cineplex will air a live broadcast of the National Theatre's version of King Lear, with none other than Sir Ian McKellen taking on its titular role. In anticipation, we've opted to help you brush up on the legacy of Lear throughout the history of cinema.

House of Strangers (1949)



Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, this film noir adaptation of Jerome Weidman's novel I'll Never Go There Any More explores the themes of jealousy and hatred that emerge within families. Gino Monetti is an Italian-American banker who is put on trial for his questionable banking practices, at which point most of his children abandon him. It's a perfect example of the pain caused by familial greed.

Ran (1985)



Legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa took on King Lear for his 1985 film Ran. Though it only achieved modest success upon its initial release, the period film set in Medieval Japan is now widely considered one of his masterpieces. The film follows the legacy of an elderly warlord who is handing his empire over to his three sons.

A Thousand Acres (1997)



An adaptation inception of sorts, Jocelyn Moorhouse's A Thousand Acres was culled from Jane Smiley's book of the same name, itself an update of Shakespeare's King Lear. The film stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange and Jennifer Jason Leigh as three sisters who engage in a fierce and ultimately tragic battle over their father's estate. Lange's performance was nominated for a Golden Globe.

The Lears (2017)



A lesser-known take on the play, this 2017 feature stars Bruce Dern as Davenport Lear — an internationally renowned architect who invites his family on a weekend retreat. On that trip, he reveals plans to marry his personal assistant — at which point the family freaks out about how their inheritance will be split.

Succession (2018)



With Succession, British comedy writer Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, Veep, Four Lions) has written a comedic series so dark that HBO has to bill it as a drama. The series stars Brian Cox as Logan Roy, a Rupert Murdoch-esque patriarch of a multi-million dollar family. When he suffers a stroke, the rightful ownership of the company — and its incredibly lucrative assets — comes into question. It's a dark, devilishly clever look at the pitfalls of greed and entitlement.