Shakespeare in Love Movie Poster Image

Shakespeare in Love



Lavish historical drama has explicit sex scenes.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Shows the power of a good love story to compel an audience.

Positive role models

While a strong female character goes after the love she wants at a time in history when it was very difficult to do so, she is still after a married man. Shakespeare goes against what's popular and follows his own creative path, even though it could lead him to ruin.


Sword and dagger fighting. A man's boot-clad feet are burned as punishment for an unpaid debt; his torturers then threaten to cut off his ears if the sum is not soon repaid.


Numerous sexual encounters, some with nudity.


Bawdy banter and a few expletives.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink in a tavern and a brothel. Alcohol-induced disorder erupts.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has numerous racy moments, including graphic sexual scenes and partial female nudity. Much of the dialogue carries a crass sexual undertone. However, the violence, consisting mostly of sword and dagger battles, is relatively benign for a teenage audience.

What's the story?

This majestic, romantic movie imagines the inspiration and events surrounding the writing of William Shakespeare's storied lovers' tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE begins with a mid-career Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) battling writer's block as he struggles to create a new masterpiece. Enter Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), an aristocrat's daughter enamored with theater and romance. Like the gender disguise of numerous Shakespeare plays, Viola dresses as a male to audition for Shakespeare's play, since women are forbidden to act. Upon hearing her, Shakespeare is convinced that he has found his male lead. Startled by the famed playwright, she dashes from the theater. Shakespeare follows her, sneaks into her mansion, and sees the radiant, unmasked Viola. He falls for her, and like his Romeo, Shakespeare woos his love underneath her balcony. A passionate secret love affair ensues, and he begins to compose Romeo and Juliet. The play and love affair develop concurrently. Though their love is strong, Viola and Shakespeare face extraordinary obstacles to their relationship.

Is it any good?


Shakespeare in Love paints a stunning, nuanced portrait of life and theater in the Elizabethan era. All the actors thoroughly embody their characters, from the brooding eyes and ink-stained fingers of Joseph Fiennes' Shakespeare, to Gwyneth Paltrow's ethereal and independent Viola, and a superlative cast of supporting actors, including Ben Affleck as a prima donna actor and Judi Dench as a formidable Queen Elizabeth.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters' conflicts between family, duty, and love. They could also discuss the movie's treatment of gender and class.

  • How do Viola and Queen Elizabeth both subvert and conform to the limitations of their status as females? What are the privileges and limitations of class and social status?

  • How do these issues compare with circumstances today?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 11, 1998
DVD/Streaming release date:December 7, 1999
Cast:Geoffrey Rush, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes
Director:John Madden
Studio:Buena Vista
Run time:122 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexuality

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Teen, 16 years old Written byYossarian April 9, 2008

Better than expected

This movie was much different than I expected, but in a good way. I liked it, as it had just the right mix of comedy, drama, and romance. The story is supposed to follow William Shakespeare as he writes and prepares for the performance of Romeo and Juliet. When a well born admirer of his work tries out for a part Will is intrigued. He discovers her true identity and they fall in love, then proceed to have sex every night. She ends up being his prime inspiration for the play. There is some other sex in the movie at various times, and the biggest controversy is probably the admittance of women on the stage in Elizabethan London. As long as your kid is mature enough not to laugh at the sight of breasts, it is a decent choice for a family rent, though it is totally worth owning.
Teen, 15 years old Written byelenmadil April 9, 2008
Great movie! We watched in in school on history of literature and it was the first movie everyone in class liked. Really shows how the world looked in Shakespeare's time.
Parent of a 15, 16, 16, and 17 year old Written byShakespaereLover March 11, 2011

Shakespeare in love is a great film

this history of William Shakespear while he writes the Romeo and Juliet story shows a woman being strong and acting mature and favorable by the audience
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models