Greatest Film Scenes
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(William Shakespeare's) Romeo + Juliet (1996)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

(William Shakespeare's) Romeo + Juliet (1996)

In Australian writer/director Baz Luhrmann's hip, retro-futuristic version of Shakespeare's tragic play about star-crossed lovers - a flamboyant modernizing and updating with gang warfare between the Montague and Capulet Boys in Verona Beach (Chicago as a stand-in), guns, MTV-style editing and filming, with a rock soundtrack, guns replacing swords, and freeze-framed introductions of all the characters:

  • the opening prologue - an anchor woman (Edwina Moore) on a TV broadcast setting the stage for the story of "star-cross'd lovers" - and further voice-over narration: "Two households both alike in dignity in fair Verona, Where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean, From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows doth with their death, Bury their parents strife"
  • the gunfight scene at a gas station between two opposing, warring families and gangs: the Montagues (led by Benvolio (Dash Mihok), Romeo's cousin) and the Capulets (headed by Tybalt (John Leguizamo), Juliet's cousin, known as Prince of Cats)
  • the Captain Prince (Vondie Curtis-Hall), the Chief of Police, who ordered that the gangs quit fighting, or they would face punishment: ("Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground! On pain of torture, from those bloody hands Throw your mistemper'd weapons to the ground!...If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace")
  • the Capulet family's costume party at their mansion - gate-crashed by Romeo Montague (Leonardo di Caprio) who had consumed ecstasy; he first glanced at the lovely Juliet Capulet (17 year-old Claire Danes) on the opposite side of an aquarium tank (with colorful fish) (that separated the restrooms!) and thought he was dreaming; "bright angel" Juliet was wearing white angel wings, while he was dressed in knight's armor; after love at first sight, they flirted, and soon kissed each other in the privacy of an elevator; however, both were dismayed to learn that they were members of opposing families
Love at First Sight at the Costume Ball - and in Elevator
  • the traditional balcony scene was shortened, and mostly occurred next to the outdoor swimming pool in a courtyard, where he eavesdropped on her soliloquy, frightened her when he unexpectedly came up from behind her, and they plunged into the water - they kissed below and above water

Juliet on Her Outdoor Balcony

Juliet's Soliloquy Next to the Pool

Romeo Frightening Her From Behind
  • the next day, the two lovers were betrothed to each other in a secret/private ceremony conducted by Father Laurence (Pete Postlethwaite)
  • unfortunately, in another altercation at the beach between the families, Romeo's friend Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) was lethally stabbed in the abdomen by Tybalt (as he died he cursed both houses), followed by Romeo's vengeful gun-murder of Tybalt later that evening; Romeo was punished by being banished from Verona Beach by the Captain Prince, but before doing so, he and Juliet consummated their relationship
  • the scheme of Father Laurence for the suicidal Juliet to take a potion to fake her death so she could be reunited with Romeo in Mantua; however, Romeo believed that the distraught Juliet had actually killed herself when she was laid to rest after a funeral
  • in the climactic double-suicide scene at film's end, Romeo came upon Juliet's flower-strewn altar lit by 2,000 candles in the Capulet vault and thought she was dead (although her death by poison was only faked); Juliet regained consciousness just as Romeo was poisoning himself and expired - with his last words ("Eyes look your last, arms take your last embrace, and lips, O you the doors to breath, seal with a righteous kiss. A dateless bargain, to engrossing death...Thus, with a kiss - I die")
Romeo's Death by Poisoning
  • Juliet noticed Romeo's small poison vial and remarked: "What's here? Poison? Drunk all, and left no friendly drop to help me after?"; hoping to taste a drop of two of poison from his lips, she kissed him as he expired ("I will kiss thy lips. Happily some poison yet doth hang on them. Thy lips are warm"); she sobbed, her cries echoing in the immense chamberJuliet noticed Romeo's semi-automatic hand-gun, picked it up, and cocked its trigger; she placed the gun barrel to the left side of her head and pulled the trigger - to be together with Romeo and join him forever; the scene ended with a short montage of their loving relationship seen earlier
Juliet's Death by Suicidal Gunfire
  • in the film's conclusion, the Captain Prince condemned both families ("All are punished!"), as coroners transported the two bodies on stretchers by ambulance to the morgue at St. Katherine's Hospital, and the female TV anchor-commentator provided a final summary: "A glooming peace this morning with it brings, the sun, for sorrow will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things. Some shall be pardoned and some punished. For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo"

Opening Prologue: TV Broadcast About Star-Crossed Lovers

The Two Families-Crests

First Glances Through an Aquarium

Swimming Pool Kisses

The Wedding of Romeo and Juliet


Death of Mercutio

Romeo's Vengeful Gun-Murder of Tybalt

Captain Prince: "All are Punished!"


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