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10 Things I Hate About You Turned 25, And It’s Still One Of The Best Modern Shakespeare Adaptations Ever

 Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Before the record-breaking romantic comedy Anyone But You was unknowingly making audiences fall in love with Shakespeare, there were tons of other modern retellings of the famous playwright’s stories. In fact, the 90s and early aughts were full of teen Shakespeare adaptations like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet and Amanda Bynes’s She’s the Man. However, 10 Things I Hate About You is, in my opinion, the best modern Shakespeare adaptation and one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Even at 25 years old, nothing seems to top the chemistry between Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona.

A modernization of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You begins when Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) transfers to Padua High School and becomes smitten with Bianca Stratford (Larisa Olenynik). Unable to date until her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does, Cameron and his new friend Michael (David Krumholtz) devise a scheme to get rich kid Joey (Andrew Keegan) to pay bad boy Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date Kat. Patrick reluctantly agrees and, over the course of the scheme, ends up falling for Kat for real but her own feelings are much more complicated once she learns the truth.

I’ve seen the movie more times than I care to admit, which is why I am confident in saying that it’s the best modern Shakespeare adaptation ever. Several movies have come close, but none have been able to recreate the magic these up-and-coming actors created when cameras started rolling. With 10 Things I Hate About You turning 25 on March 31st, it’s the perfect time to look back on why this movie works so well.

Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You
Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You

The Movie Makes Patrick Similar To His Shakespeare Counterpart, But Way Less Problematic

In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherina and Petruchio — aka Kat and Patrick in the movie — do not have a romantic relationship built on understanding and eventually trust. Instead, Petruchio gaslights and basically abuses Katherina for most of the play and has little remorse for his actions along the way.

This is simply not the case with 10 Things I Hate About You. Patrick may not be into Kat at first, since it's one of the best enemies-to-lovers movies out there, but he treats her with respect despite her snarky disposition. He respects her boundaries and even sets some himself like at the party where Kat gets intoxicated and he watches out for her instead of making a movie. Taking it a step further, Patrick didn’t even want to participate in the bet to begin with. And once he started having real feelings for Kat, he did try to get out of it. Sure, he should have told her straight out, but he does make up for his error with his remorseful attitude and his gift to her at the end of the movie.

Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Kat Gets A Modern Makeover In Terms Of Her Agency

In the play, Katherina’s shrewdness is never seen as anything but a fatal flaw. In addition, she lacks autonomy and is forced to live in a toxic man’s world with little say. In essence, Petruchio manages to tame the shrew.

That is definitely not the case in 10 Things I Hate About You. In fact, I’d argue that Kat is the one who tames Patrick — making him less of a standoffish badboy by encouraging him to tap into his softer side when they’re together. Not only that, but Kat’s shrewdness ends up being one of the key traits that makes Patrick fall for her because it means she stands up for how the movie chooses to frame it.

Unlike the source material where Katherina’s attitudes towards the world are seen as troublesome and threatening to men’s authorities, Kat’s are rooted in feminist ideals. While still aiming at upending the patriarchy, because audiences understand Kat’s grievances she’s a much more palatable character. In addition, this “shrewdness” becomes one of the key traits that Patrick is attracted to because he likes that she stands for something.

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You
Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You

The Movie Understands What To Keep And What To Change To Make The Adaptation successful

If you haven’t caught on yet, the reason 10 Things I Hate About You is so successful as a Shakespeare adaptation is that it’s not afraid to tweak the source material while still staying true to its overall elements.

Unlike Anyone But You which strayed from the plot line of having Bea and Ben think they’re in love with one another by having them fake date which lessened some of the fun and comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You’s changes were strategic. As mentioned above, the writers took the problematic elements of the play — namely the taming of the shrew plot — and modernized it so audiences would root for Patrick and Kat’s relationship.

In addition, the movie chose to lean into the play’s subplot of the men competing for Bianca’s affection, turning that into the major backbone for the movie which is a way more entertaining plot line than watching a man gaslight a woman into submission to marry him.

Kat (Julia Stiles) and Patrick (Heath Ledger) in 10 Things I Hate About You
Kat (Julia Stiles) and Patrick (Heath Ledger) in 10 Things I Hate About You

It Fully Leaned Into The Teen Genre

When it comes to Shakespeare's adaptations, not all of his plays work well in the teen and young adult space. Even though Romeo and Juliet are teenagers in the source material, Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation didn’t exactly scream teen movie. She’s the Man fared a bit better, but would have worked even more as a college story. In contrast, 10 Things I Hate About You feels authentically teenage, especially in the decade it’s set in.

While it might be hard to believe that someone would pay someone else to go out with a person nowadays, this was a common trope in the '80s and '90s that actually feels like it would happen in a high school. Not only that but the added detail of Kat and Bianca's sibling rivalry and their overprotective and strict single father makes the plot line more realistic while upping the stakes.

It also helps that the team behind the movie wasn’t afraid to commit to a high school setting. After all, nothing says teen movies like a grandiose high school backdrop. This allowed the story to feature iconic scenes like the soccer stadium serenade and the prom dance at the end which both feel like quintessential teen moments.

If you haven’t watched 10 Things I Hate About You in a long time, now is the perfect time to revisit Kat and Patrick’s unlikely love story. The cult classic is available on Hulu or Disney+ with an active subscription.