Romeo and Juliet Movie 1968: Why I Always Show this Film to Teens

Romeo and Juliet 1968 movie teaching ideas for high school classrooms.

When it comes to Shakespeare, there are a lot of different takes on his work.

Some people love it, some people hate it.

But let me tell you… I LOVE the Romeo and Juliet Movie 1968!

But there’s no denying the reputation that Shakespeare has amongst students.

I ALWAYS show the movie when studying the play, and many students are surprised at how much they enjoy the 1968 version.

His work has been adapted countless times over the years, in every medium imaginable.

One of those adaptations is Franco Zeffirelli’s film Romeo and Juliet from 1986. 

So, what sets Zeffirelli’s film adaptation apart from all the rest?

The 1968 Adaptation of Romeo and Juliet has Timeless Actors

Students are often a little hesitant to watch this movie at first. Many students assume that the acting will be cheesy and the characters dated. 

But the casting done in the Romeo and Juliet movie 1986 is perfection! 

Somehow, both Romeo and Juliet look as if they could exist in our present day world.

I loved Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet. Whiting brought a sense of excitement and youthful energy to Romeo, while Hussey conveyed Juliet’s innocence and purity perfectly. 

P.S. – Students often comment that Whiting reminds them of Zac Efron!

1968 Movie Closely Follows the Original Romeo and Juliet Play

Though it may be tempting to write off Romeo and Juliet as just another teen romance flick, this film is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. 

I find this useful when I want students to study scenes from the movie and compare and contrast them to the original play. 

I usually start by teaching students a mini lesson on how to study film adaptations. Then we do a film study that uses a Romeo and Juliet Venn Diagram graphic organizer to focus.

I give students a list of scenes in the 1968 movie and the original play. They get to make their selection and then compare these while watching.

Romeo and Juliet 1968 movie compared to the original Shakespeare play
Romeo and Juliet 1968 version film study comparison activity for students

The 1968 Version of Romeo and Juliet has Stunning Cinemetopgraphy

First off, the visual aesthetic of this Romeo and Juliet movie 1968 is stunning.

It was filmed entirely in Italy, and you can really tell. The shots of the Tuscan countryside are gorgeous. It really gives you a sense of what life was like during Shakespeare’s time. 

One of the best things about this movie is its visuals.

The sumptuous costumes, beautiful sets, and gorgeous cinematography come together to create a truly magical world for the viewer to get lost in. Every frame of this movie looks like a work of art.

My Students actually like the 1968 Musical Score

The last thing that I want to mention is the soundtrack. It’s absolutely lovely. Composed by Nino Rota, it perfectly complements the film without being too “old-timey” or intrusive. 

In 1968 Billboard music described the score as “Brillant and Moving”. 

In one of the most important scenes in the play, when Romeo and Juliet first meet, “What is a Youth” is sung 

You can check it out here on Youtube.


The lyrics also make for some great analysis!

What is a youth? Impetuous fire.

What is a maid? Ice and desire.

The world wags on.


A rose will bloom

It then will fade

So does a youth.

So do-o-o-oes the fairest maid.


Comes a time when one sweet smile

Has its season for a while…Then love’s in love with me.

Some may think only to marry, Others will tease and tarry,


Mine is the very best parry. Cupid he rules us all.



Caper the cape, but sing me the song,

Death will come soon to hush us along.

Sweeter than honey and bitter as gall.

Love is the pastime that never will pall.

Sweeter than honey…and bitter as gall

Cupid he rules us all


A rose will bloom

It then will fade

So does a youth.


So do-o-o-oes the fairest maid.

Don't Skip this Opportunity to Really Engage Your Students!

If you’re looking for an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that stays true to the original story while also adding its own unique spin on things, then you need look no further than Franco Zeffirelli’s 1986 film version starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. 

With stunning visuals and exceptional acting across the board, the Romeo and Juliet movie 1968 will be a learning experience your students won’t soon forget.

Interested in learning more about using movie adaptations in the classroom? Read these 5 Tips to Not Mess up your Film Study.

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Picture of Carley 📚 Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

Carley 📚 Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

B.A., B.Ed., Graduate Certificate in Teacher Librarianship //