Even easier than The Film of the Book. The dialogue is already written, so you do not need a scriptwiter. If you are lucky enough, the actors who played it on stage will accept to play it on screen, so you do not need a casting and the actors will know their text better than any film director could imagine.
Yet, there are some drawbacks: in theatre plays, the dialogue is essential, too essential for a movie which will often seem too verbose. Theatre play adaptations also tend to be very static, because, in a play, the action happens in a very limited number of places (for obvious reasons). Consequently, these films are more likely to be a Bottle Episode or make use of Minimalism, Minimalist Cast and The Oner than other movies because of the technical limitations of stage plays.
Running time is the most frequent difference between a play and its movie. While not a hard limit, it is rare to see a film over 3 hours. Many plays exceed this (unabridged Hamlet can run for over 4 hours) and their film adaptations are usually cut to fit into this length. Even if the play clocks in at 3 hours or so cuts may be made to make room for establishing shots if the elimination of transitions doesn't create enough time.
Unlike books and other media adaptations, Plays often get made into films multiple times. This is perhaps due to their nature as blueprints for storytelling rather than realized works on their own.
In order to get around the common drawbacks of adaptations of theatre plays (verbosity, lack of action...), there is another approach. These adaptations will use the plot of a theatre play, but will change the setting and completely rewrite the dialogue. The works of William Shakespeare are a frequent target of this kind of adaptation. Alternatively, an adaptation may retain the plot and general setting, but expand the action, with events described in dialogue in the play due to the limitations of what can be seen on stage directly depicted in the film.
Popular stage musicals are also frequently adapted into films. Almost all movie musicals made after the studio era are examples of this.
Sister Trope of The Film of the Book (adaptations of a book into a film), The Film of the Series and The Movie (adaptations of a TV series into a film). Inversion of Screen-to-Stage Adaptation. Might overlap with The Bard on Board (loose adaptations of William Shakespeare's works to any kind of media).
In the lists below "Production" means a the play was performed without significant change to its dialog (usually just abridgement), an "Adaptation" means the play's basic plot is present, but the dialog has been replaced.
Film Productions of William Shakespeare's plays:As befits his position as one of the most important authors of the English language and arguably the world, Shakespeare's plays were among the first to find their way to film, with some being adapted for silent film. There's a lot of Kenneth Branagh productions listed here as he seems intent on committing all of Shakespeare's plays to film. Unless otherwise noted, productions are named after their directors in the list below:
- 1948: Laurence Olivier
- 1964: Grigori Kozintsev
- 1969: Tony Richardson
- 1990: Franco Zeffirelli's production stars Mel Gibson and had a realistic medieval setting.
- 1996: Kenneth Branagh's take is notable for being unabridged, something that's rare even on the stage itself, leading to a four-hour-long rendition. It is also notable for its Edwardian Setting Update, particularly the costumes for which it received an Oscar nomination. It received an amusing Take That! in Blackadder Back and Forth:
Blackadder: [kicking Shakespeare in the shin] And that is for Ken Branagh's endless uncut four-hour version of Hamlet!
Shakespeare: Who's Ken Branagh?
Blackadder: I'll tell him you said that. And I think he'll be very hurt.
- 2000: Michael Almereyda's 2000 retelling uses the conceit of a "Denmark Inc." and sets the play in the current day.
- Henry V
- Macbeth 2010: Patrick Stewart starred as Macbeth in a Setting Update that makes him the dictator of a vaguely Eastern European country, with the three witches replaced by three creeptastic nurses.
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935): Hollywood spectacle with an All-Star Cast, notably including James Cagney as Bottom, Olivia de Havilland in her first major role as Hermia, and Mickey Rooney as Puck.
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Richard III
- Romeo and Juliet may be the most filmed script of all time.
- The Taming of the Shrew:
- 1929: The first talkie film adaptation of a Shakespeare play, directed by Sam Taylor and starring real-life couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Notable for heavily reslanting the play to suggest that Katherine is not really "tamed" at all. Also notorious for the much-mocked writing credit "Based on William Shakespeare's comedy... with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor".
- Titus Andronicus
- 1999: Julie Taymor
Adaptations of William Shakespeare's theatre plays:
- 10 Things I Hate About You: A 1999 Setting Update adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew.
- The Lion King: It is loosely based on Hamlet and the sequels, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1½, are loosely based on Romeo and Juliet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (a play by Tom Stoppard which is a Perspective Flip of Hamlet), respectively.
- My Own Private Idaho: This film is very loosely based on Henry IV, and has some dialog retained from the play despite having a fairly different plot.
- "O": An adaptation of Othello set in a high-school basketball team.
- Othello: 1951 Orson Welles adaptation that won a Palme d'Or.
- Prospero's Books: An avant-garde adaptation of The Tempest by Peter Greenaway, notable for lavish spectacle via groundbreaking early use of digital editing and CGI, John Gielgud as Prospero lip-synching all the other characters' dialogue as well as his own, and vast amounts of non-fanservice nudity.
- She's the Man: A Setting Update of Twelfth Night.
- Throne of Blood: Akira Kurosawa's film is an adaptation of Macbeth with a Setting Update to a Jidaigeki setting.
- West Side Story: A 1961 film adaptation of a 1957 Broadway musical, which is itself a Setting Update adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
Adaptations and productions of other theatre plays:
- Arsenic and Old Lace: A 1944 faithful adaptation of a 1939 play by Joseph Kesselring.
- August: Osage County: It is a 2013 film adaptation of a 2007 play by Tracy Letts with an all-star cast headlined by Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.
- Carnage: A 2011 faithful adaptation of the 2006 play God of Carnage.
- Casablanca: The 1942 movie is an interesting case. It's an adaptation of Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's Everybody Comes to Rick's, which was unproduced, but had to be censored to please The Hays Code.
- Closer: The 2004 film adaptation of a 1997 play starring Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Jude Law.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: The 1990 film starring Gérard Depardieu, Vincent Perez and Anne Brochet is the best known and most lavish adaptation of the seminal Edmond Rostand play of the same name.
- The Dinner Game: A 1998 faithful adaptation of the 1993 play of the same name. Jacques Villeret takes up again his stage role.
- Educating Rita: A 1983 adaptation of a 1980 play, scripted by the play's writer Willy Russell. The film has heavy Adaptation Expansion, as the original play was a two-hander set in one room, while the film has a much larger cast and variety of settings, directly depicting many events that are reported second-hand in the play.
- Family Resemblances: A 1996 faithful adaptation of the 1994 play of the same name. The cast of the film is the same as the one of the play.
- Fences: A 2016 film based on the 1985 play, featuring much of the same cast as the 2010 Broadway revival, including Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
- A Few Good Men: A 1992 film adapted from a play by its screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, a play that was first produced on Broadway by David Brown in 1989.
- The Front Page (1931) and His Girl Friday: Adaptations of the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The second one performs a Gender Flip on the protagonist and their fiance.
- Innocent: The miniseries of the 2008 play "Bayrak" ("Flag") by Berkun Oya, who also penned the screen adaptation.
- Key Largo: A Film Noir billed as an adaptation of a 1939 Broadway blank verse play of the same name, by Maxwell Anderson. But it's an In Name Only adaptation.
- Kim's Convenience is a rare TV series example of this: It's a 2016 TV series based on a 2011 play of the same name.
- Miss Julie: A 2014 faithful adaptation of August Strindberg's Miss Julie.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding: The film is an adaptation of a one-woman play written by and starring Nia Vardalos.
- The Odd Couple (1968): Adapted from the 1965 play by its author Neil Simon, with Walter Matthau reprising his role as Oscar Madison. A sequel was released in 1998. Also adapted into a highly regarded sitcom in 1970, which itself was remade several times, most recently in 2015.
- Oscar (1967): A 1967 faithful adaptation of the 1958 play of the same name. Louis de Funès played his role on stage before playing it in the film.
- Most of Tyler Perry's Madea movies and quite a few of the others are based on his plays.
- The Philadelphia Story: A 1940 faithful adaptation of the popular 1939 play of the same name.
- The Ritz: Terrence McNally's 1975 Farce set at a gay bathhouse became an early attempt by a major studio to do a gay-themed film in 1976, with Richard Lester directing McNally's own screenplay adaptation, featuring most of the Broadway cast, including Tony winner Rita Moreno.
- Rope: Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film is an adaptation of the 1929 play by the same name.
- Shirley Valentine: A heavily explanded 1989 film based on a 1986 play.
- Sleuth: The 1972 film is a faithful adaptation by Anthony Shaffer of his 1970 play; the 2007 remake takes considerable liberties.
- A Streetcar Named Desire: The 1951 movie directed by Elia Kazan and starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando is an adaptation of a 1947 play by Tennessee Williams.
- Torch Song Trilogy: 1988 film where Harvey Fierstein starred in an adaptation of his acclaimed 1982 Broadway production, which was actually a cycle of three plays (with the same characters) meant to be performed together. In adapting them for the screenplay, Fierstein condensed them into a single narrative.
- Venus In Fur: A 2013 faithful adaptation of the 2010 play of the same name.
- What's in a Name?: A 2012 faithful adaptation of the 2010 play of the same name. The cast of the film is nearly the same as the one of the play.
- Robert Altman specialized in these in The '80s, directing film adaptations of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean; Secret Honor; Streamers; Fool for Love (starring its playwright, Sam Shepard); and Beyond Therapy.
Adaptations and productions of stage musicals:
- Annie (1982) and Annie (2014): Two film adaptations of the 1977 stage musical, which is itself an adaptation of a comic strip, Little Orphan Annie.
- The Boy Friend: A 1971 film starring Twiggy, adapted from the 1954 stage musical.
- Cats: Based on the 1981 musical (which itself is based on 1939 book of poems, the 2019 Cats film tries to make a more coherent narrative than the source.
- Fanny: A 1961 non-musical film based on the 1954 stage musical of the same title, which is itself based on Marcel Pagnol's "Marseille Trilogy", which is made of two theater plays that were adapted into films and one film that was adapated into a play.
- Hairspray (2007): The 2007 film is an adaptation of the 2002 stage musical, which is itself an adaptation of a 1988 film.
- Into the Woods: The 2014 Disney adaptation of the Sondheim stage musical.
- Kiss Me, Kate: A double-level example. A 1953 film version of a 1948 musical, which was itself a partial adaptation of a Shakespeare play, as it is set in a theatre production of The Taming of the Shrew in which the two main characters are playing Katherine and Petruchio and have an analogous off-stage relationship.
- Little Shop of Horrors: A 1986 adaptation of a 1982 play, which was itself based on a 1960 film.
- Mamma Mia!: The 2008 film is a close adaptation of the 1999 jukebox musical. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a sequel to the first film, and is thus also based on the musical.
- Les Misérables (2012): A 2012 adaptation of the 1980 musical by the same name, which is itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
- My Fair Lady: A 1964 film version of a 1956 stage musical, which was itself based on the 1913 non-musical play Pygmalion.
- The Phantom of the Opera (2004): This film, not to be confused with the original silent film, is a 2004 adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, which was itself an adaptation of the eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux.
- The Producers: The 2005 film is an adaptation of the 2001 stage musical, which was itself an adaptation of the original film from 1968.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A 1975 film adaptation of the 1973 stage musical The Rocky Horror Show.
- The Sound of Music: The film was adapted from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical by the same name. The plot is fairly similar in both, although the movie cuts out some songs and a subplot involving a Romantic False Lead for Captain von Trapp.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: It is based on the Sondheim musical of the same name, which was based on a theater play, the Christopher Bond version of the legendary story of an English barber.