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Film / Romeo and Juliet (1968)

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Romeo and Juliet is a 1968 film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. It stars Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet, and was the first major production to cast actual teenagers in the roles.

The supporting cast included Michael York as Tybalt, and Laurence Olivier giving the opening and closing narration.

The film gained a measure of infamy at the time for featuring teen-aged Romeo and Juliet partially naked during a scene (the urban legend that Hussey was refused entry into the film because she wasn't old enough is almost certainly false).


It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for cinematography and costume design.

This film contains examples of:

  • All Part of the Show: Everyone thinks at first that Mercutio, the local Sad Clown, is joking around after being injured by Tybalt; it is only when they check on him they realize that his injuries are fatal.
  • Blah Blah Blah: A scene starts with Mercutio saying "Blah blah blah" instead of engaging with the conversation Benvolio's trying to have with him. [1]
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Capulets wear red and the Montagues blue (or sometimes green), and the Prince's family wear somber, dark browns.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: The Prince wears deep purple, setting him apart from the blue Montagues and red Capulets.
  • Costume Porn: The Renaissance costumes are absolutely breathtaking and absolutely period-accurate, with hundreds of yards of elaborately pleated cotton velvet on the women and raunchy, colorful tights and codpieces on the men. It deservedly won an Oscar for Best Costume Design.
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  • Crying Wolf: Mercutio is a melodramatic jokester, so when he gets into a mock fight with Tybalt and screamed that he is dying, while making witticisms about his injury, all of his friends laugh at him. He is, in fact, dying.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: After she sends the Nurse out so she can talk to Juliet about an arranged marriage, Lady Capulet realizes that she doesn't really know how to talk to her and calls the Nurse back.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: A tolling bell ushers in the dead lovers' bodies in the final scene.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Friar Lawrence has a desk covered in quite a few interesting-looking (and impractical) retorts and bottles, shown prominently during the scene where he is giving Juliet the sleeping potion. The shots of Juliet from Lawrence's P.O.V. make a point of showing her surrounded on all sides by the Italian Renaissance-era style glassware. Interestingly one of the items is a very anachronistic modern Erlenmeyer flask filled with blue liquid.
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  • Improvised Weapon: Mercutio and Tybalt briefly fight with farm tools.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Both Romeo and Juliet cry this way.
  • Insert Cameo: During the Sword Fight, when Mercutio throws a sword at Tybalt's feet, Mercutio's shadow is actually Franco Zeffirelli's shadow standing in for him because John McEnery was sick that day (according to Michael York's autobiography).
  • Maid and Maiden: Juliet is the maiden and her nurse is the old maid who is her caretaker and confidante.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: Mercutio's death is played as this.
  • Nouveau Riche: This is how the Capulets (Juliet's family) are depicted, reflected in their stylistic choices. The Capulets and their retainers are dressed in loud, bright colors, while the Montagues (the older and more respected family of Romeo) favor more conservative clothing hues.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Olivia Hussey as Juliet has waist-length hair.
  • Sad Clown: Mercutio.
  • Silence Is Golden: The ending has very little in the way of dialogue compared to the original text's ending.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Paris' death is omitted.
    • This adaptation leaves out Lady Montague's Death by Despair and lets her mourn Romeo's death with her husband in the final scene.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: The film makes a point of underscoring this on behalf of Olivia Hussey's Juliet. When she and Romeo first meet, we get a mind blowing close-up shot of Hussey's bright grey eyes.
  • Widow's Weeds:
    • Juliet's mother wears a black veil during Juliet's staged funeral.
    • In the final scene, all the Capulets and Montagues alike wear black during the real joint funeral of the two lovers.


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