Man dressed as William Shakespeare holding flip cell phone looking confused

5 of the Best Modern Adaptations of Academic Literature

It can be hard for students to relate to assigned reading for English. Check out these adaptations of five classics to help you connect to your assignments!

As a student, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to relate to academic literature. Even if the story itself interests you, sometimes it’s hard to get past the old English and outdated customs enough to enjoy it. Alas, there is hope! The following modern film and book adaptations can work wonders to help you to better understand and appreciate school-assigned literature. Give them a try while you’re reading the original, after you’ve passed the pop quiz, or just for fun!

1. The Song of Achilles

The Iliad, Homer’s famous epic, can be tough to get through for students who aren’t accustomed to reading long bouts of poetry. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller retells the familiar story of the Trojan War through the point of view of Patroclus, a somewhat overlooked character in the original source text. Miller’s novel isn’t a replacement for reading The Iliad (many plotlines are skewed or ignored due to Patroclus’s involvement in them), but it does a brilliant job of humanizing Achilles, the great Greek warrior. The Song of Achilles allows readers to be a fly on the wall for Patroclus and Achilles's entire lives, from their shared childhood to the years fighting alongside each other at Troy.

Related: Poetry Study Guide for AP English Language & Literature

2. Wilder Girls

Though Wilder Girls by Rory Power isn’t a direct retelling of William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies, it takes strong influence from it. Both stories feature dystopian themes in which a group of schoolchildren are stranded on an island with little to no adult supervision. Just like Lord of the Flies, Wilder Girls tests the nature of humanity under the worst of circumstances. Reading either of these novels will challenge your perception of reality and make you unsure of what (and who) to trust. I recommend reading these novels together and trying to pick out all the similarities as you go along.

3. Romeo + Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is a timeless story, but its distant time period can give it a distasteful taint for younger students. The 1996 film Romeo + Juliet solves that dilemma by turning the classic play into an action-packed comedic tragedy. You’ll recognize characters like Tybalt and Mercutio as they grapple with loyalty to rival families Montague and Capulet, challenging the other side to fights with pistols instead of swords. Even with the modernization, Romeo + Juliet stays pretty close to the original plot and is a fun way to solidify the major ideas in your memory. As an added bonus, the film features ’90s heartthrobs Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the titular characters.

Related: Colleges With Excellent Theater Programs

4. Robin Hood: Men in Tights

There have been plenty of interpretations of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood over the years, but Robin Hood: Men in Tights takes the cake for me. The film features impromptu musical numbers, unwavering (albeit at times crude) comedy, and an all-star cast. Its inability to take itself seriously makes it the perfect counterpart for Howard Pyle’s beloved classic. If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride and the timeless tale of Robin Hood, you’ll love Robin Hood: Men in Tights, guaranteed.

5. To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

Have you ever wished you could tamper with the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Well, now you can! Ryan North’s To Be or Not to Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure allows readers to specifically curate their Hamlet experience through their choice of points of view, including Hamlet, Ophelia, and Hamlet Sr. (that’s right, a legit ghost). With 768 pages of possible plot detours, the storyline is entirely up to you. Plus, the novel is packed full of gorgeous illustrations from a wide variety of artists. I don’t recommend reading To Be or Not to Be in replacement of the original play (you’ll definitely get mixed up on your quiz), but it’s a fun, entertaining read after you’ve gotten the school assignment out of the way.

Related: 3 Tips to Improve Your Reading Retention for School

There you have it: my top five modern reimaginings of popular academic literature! Any of these adaptations have the potential to elevate your mindset on school-assigned reading. Who knows—maybe they’ll even motivate you to re-read the classics (okay…maybe not). Nevertheless, if you like these options, be sure to check out Goodreads's Retelling Genre for more. Happy reading (and watching)!

For more fun ways to make your school life more enjoyable, check out our Majors and Academics section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Hailey Myers

Hailey Myers is a homeschooled high school student from California. She's been drawn to literature and creative activities from a young age and is ecstatic to share what she knows with fellow students. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

Dani York

Dani York

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped in my journey by comparing multiple colleges for my final decision. While looking at different colleges, I was able to compare the tuition expenses and that landed me with the college that I’m currently enrolled in, Western Kentucky University. Thank you!

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Utica and Albany, NY

Vermont State University

Randolph Center, VT

Alfred University

Alfred, NY