7 Best Adaptations of Jane Austen Novels ...


I have watched a good few Jane Austen adaptations through the years. I’ve had a multitude of movies, TV movies and mini-series to choose from and they’re a pretty mixed bunch. We've got Jane Austen adaptations that follow the novels closely and deliver us characters how the famed author portrayed them, but we’ve also got what critics generally call a “travesty”. I wonder which ones I have selected you will agree with or whether you prefer other versions. Do tell me at the end!

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Pride and Prejudice

On ITunes at itunes.apple.com

I know there are people who disagree, but I feel the BBC series is a far better production of Pride and Prejudice than the 2005 movie. I agree that the movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen is one of the better Jane Austen adaptations overall, but the BBC series trumps them all. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are just so believable as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I also think that other than Keira and Matthew, some of the characters in the movie didn’t really come out as I saw them in the novel. Donald Sutherland didn’t do it for me as Mr. Bennet, nor did Dame judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourg, nor Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham. Plus, I don’t think anything will ever top the BBC scene of Mr Darcy in the lake.


Sense and Sensibility

On iTunes at itunes.apple.com

If you put a luminary such as Ang Lee in charge of an adaptation of Jane Austen you know you’re going to get something good. Although considered one of her weaker novels, the movie version of Sense and Sensibility is rather good. An all-star British cast includes Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as the Dashwood sisters, Tom Wilkinson as Mr. Dashwood and Alan Rickman as Colonel Christopher Brandon. Emma Thompson picked up the 1996 Oscar for Best (Adapted) Screenplay which I think underlines that this is one of the most enjoyable and watchable Jane Austen adaptations, even if it doesn’t stay entirely faithful to the original.



On Amazon at amazon.com

As is so often the case with adaptations of Jane Austen novels, there is more than one to choose from – testament to how beloved the stories are today. For Emma I had the choice of two. Did I pick Gwyneth Paltrow as the eponymous heroine or Kate Beckinsale? My feet are firmly planted in the Beckinsale camp. I thought that Gwyneth overplayed the quivering lip when she didn’t get her way and came across as too bratty for my liking. I think Kate plays Emma how most readers imagine her to be.


Bride and Prejudice

On iTunes at itunes.apple.com

For people who argue that some classic literature isn’t relatable today, I point them in the direction of this movie. It is one of those Jane Austen adaptations that proves her cultural relevance, whatever the century or setting. Adapted by Gurinder Chadha (of Bend it Like Beckham fame) the movie changes the story from one of class and differing social standings to a cross culture romance. It’s an interesting take and well done.



On iTunes at itunes.apple.com

Again we have two movie versions to choose from (and a TV mini series) of Jane Austen’s story of unconditional love. Neither got the Hollywood treatment, both being made with a British cast with names probably not recognisable beyond these shores (except if you have a very keen eye, you will spot that Ciarán Hines is the actor who played Aberforth Dumbledore). If you want to hunker down on the couch with a bag of chips on a rainy day, this story of enduring love will endear itself to you.


Mansfield Park

On Amazon Prime at amazon.com

Likable or not, Jane Austen’s females are all very strong personalities. The least likeable is surely Fanny Price who is preachy and moralistic. The problem is that I don’t think any of the adaptations have done this story justice. Maybe there’s a Hollywood producer out there looking for a new project for an upcoming starlet? I didn’t really like the way Patricia Rozema adapted the original in the 1999 version – Fanny (played by Hannah Taylor Gordon) was not feisty and spirited. But I didn’t much like Billie Piper’s insipid characterization either. By virtue of it being closer to the original story, I have chosen the Billie Piper, 2007 version.


Northanger Abbey

On Amazon at amazon.com

This is one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations which is no surprise to me because it was written by Andrew Davies who also did the BBC Pride and Prejudice series. (Andre Davies is incredible – check out his writing credits here imdb.com) Felicity Jones does a good job of carrying off Catherine Morland’s naivety as we enjoy a tale of social intrigue involving status, class and money. The spooky abbey was probably a little more “gothic” than Jane Austen would have imagined, but it adds to the atmosphere.

I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Jane Austen adaptations yet. There may only be a few novels to choose from but the stories are timeless and costume drama heaven (for me anyway). So, did you agree with my choices?

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Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

The BBC Pride and Prejudice adaptation with Colin Firth was indeed the definitive production, much better than the 2005 film.

I think this list was pretty spot on, especially the critique of the pride and prejudice movie. I agree that the bbc series is still the best

I thought this was an excellent list all except for Emma. I personally dont lkke that adaptation at all. I much prefer the latest adaptation with Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller

I pretty much think that each adaptation has its own definitive element which makes it good within its own right. Whether it was pride and prejudice the BBC version or the 2005 adaptation they all have some good even great element to them.

It's not really an adaption but Lost in Austin is a good tv series.

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