Much Ado About Nothing Movie Poster Image

Much Ado About Nothing

Very accessible, jubilant Shakespeare with brief bawdiness.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie starts with a poem about not taking things too seriously ("sigh not so ... and sing hey nonny nonny"), so there aren't any heavy messages to glean. Perhaps: keep a wary eye out for vengeful family members, and rumors are powerful things.

Positive role models

The prince gives up his claim for a young lady because his fellow soldier is in love with her. Characters play matchmaker with Beatrice and Benedict out of jest, but not mean-spiritedness. The villain's biggest flaw seems to be that he's cranky in such a lovely Tuscan setting and wants to spoil others' happiness. But nobody's a particularly strong role model.


The fair lady faints after accusations of infidelity, and her betrothed is told she died of grief. Hero's father pulls her hair and slaps her in a rage and Claudio pushes her. Prisoners look ill-treated by incompetent guardsman.


Characters are clearly having sex near an open window, as seen from a courtyard; skin isn't shown, but a few thrusts are apparent. A few minutes into the film the large Italian baths are alive with activity; plenty of bare bottoms (male and female in separate baths) are visible amidst the undressing, playful splashing, and dressing. Characters shout accusations and call Hero "wanton" and that she "knows the heat of a luxurious bed." Some clothed fondling of breasts and slapping of backsides at a masked party.


"Bastard." Then "ass" is shouted multiple times by a foolish guard who thinks it's a compliment.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

It's set in a vineyard, so wine is a part of all the celebrations. Two characters get stumbling drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this very accessible Shakespeare adaptation gets the PG-13 rating because of a bunch of visible backsides in a jubilant bathing scene and a brief sex scene visible from afar (you'll see a few thrusts but characters are clothed). The rest of the content is pretty mild: a couple bad guys get drunk, a death is faked, and a silly guard shouts "I am an ass!" and thinks it's a compliment.

What's the story?

On a lazy summer day in the Tuscan countryside a page rushes up to some picnickers to announce that Prince Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) is coming to Mecina. He brings with him a handful of eligible soldiers in need of rest and revelry at Lenoto's villa. Leonato's daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale) is excited to see Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), but is promised to the prince. And Hero's cousin Beatrice (Emma Thompson) is anything but excited to see Benedict (Kenneth Branagh), and proceeds to engage in a "merry war of words" as soon as he arrives. As plans unfold to allow Hero to marry Claudio and, just for fun, see if Beatrice and Benedict can be persuaded to fall for each other, it's all merriment and mirth until the prince's illegitimate and always-cross brother Don Jon (Keanu Reeves) tries to spoil the fun.

Is it any good?


The best way to handle one of Shakespeare's fluffiest comedies is to keep it as fun and fanciful as intended, and that's exactly what this movie does. The villain is never to be taken seriously here -- so why not cast Keanu Reeves? He's a man of few words anyway. Even better: Michael Keaton as the greasy-haired fool; he's hilarious. Toss in a giddy bathing scene opener, declarations of love dancing in fountains, masked parties full of tipsy revelers, and you forget you were working hard to understand centuries-old prose.

The "Much Ado" portion, however, gets a little tedious. The hysterics over Hero's botched wedding and faked death are overdone and overlong. Rather than rolling eyes while waiting for the happy resolution, why not focus on the Tuscan countryside setting? It's breathtaking.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Shakespeare adaptations. Which plays have you seen? Do you like the comedies or the tragedies best? Is this one easier to follow than most? Why or why not?

  • Families can also talk about love stories. Which are your favorites? Do you like stories of sweet and quiet couples like Hero and Claudio or ones that "doth protest too much" like Beatrice and Benedict?

  • Do you think modern Shakespeare adaptations should use modern language? What's the benefit of hearing the original language?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 7, 1993
DVD/Streaming release date:January 7, 2003
Cast:Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh
Director:Kenneth Branagh
Topics:Book characters
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:momentary sensuality

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Parent of a 12 year old Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014

One of the best Shakespeare movies ever

Yes, it's Shakespeare, but it's chock full of slapstick humor, practical jokes, and gorgeous lovestruck young people. Kenneth Branagh in a rare comic role is priceless as Benedict, with a smouldering Emma Thompson as his Beatrice. I think of this as the "nice" version of Taming of the Shrew; the same battle of the sexes banter, except both parties end up giving a little and neither is totally humiliated or subjugated. Hero and Claudio may be the Dullest Lovers in Shakespeare, but who could resist the reluctantly lovesick Benedict: "I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?" Yes, wondrously strange. And wonderful that this is a story of two former lovers who broke each other's hearts, and must conquer their mutual distrust before the happy ending. A mature Romeo and Juliet, no longer starry eyed, but old enough to know what they're doing and yet still fall rapturously in love.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byjmhall97 January 4, 2013

Best Movie Ever

This is one of the best movies that I have ever seen. The setting is amazing, the acting is perfect, and the story is timeless. Kenneth Branagh does an amazing job directing this movie and also acting in it. The movie is hilarious and heartwarming...I could watch it twice a week and not be bored by it. Also, the soundtrack is fantastic. A definite must watch
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old April 22, 2012

Some content may not be appropriate for kids under 10-11.

One of my favorite movies, it's really funny. I think a kid's response to this movie is really based on their understanding of the language used. We watched it in class, about half the kids thought it was hilarious and the other half sat there trying to figure out what was going on.
What other families should know
Too much sex