Best Jane Austen Movie and TV Adaptations
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Although she has only written six novels, Jane Austen is one of the most adopted writers in the world. His books continue to inspire relatively faithful interpretations and total left turns. This year alone we have both. The new from Netflix Persuasionstarring Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding, falls into the stalwart category, while the Hulu romantic comedy fire island updates Pride and Prejudice in a contemporary queer refuge. Austen’s ideas—the pressure on women to marry, the 18th-century class dynamics that still haven’t gone away—resonate, and his famous wit hasn’t lost its bite with the time. In honor of Austen’s legacy, Thrillist has rounded up our favorite movies and shows based on her work.
Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones Diary is not only one of the best romantic comedies of all time. He also breathed contemporary, messy life into Austen-inspired characters and their romantic comedy of errors. Like Austen and Elizabeth Bennet before her, author Helen Fielding’s beloved Bridget has herself become a British pop culture icon (so much so that Renée Zellweger is essentially an honorary Brit). A fun-loving, professional-minded woman, she is less concerned with the financial prospects of marriage and more concerned with how society views “singles” and her impending “single” days. It remains hilariously funny, delightfully casting famed Mr. Darcy actor Colin Firth as To mark Darcy. Like any good Austen novel will force you to open your heart, Bridget Jones Diary has the power to make you run through the snow after the one you love, with or without your pants. —Sadie Bell
Has there ever been a better example of taking a classic story and translating it for a modern medium than clueless? I doubt. Amy Heckerling took Austen’s bones Emma— an overconfident young woman who prides herself on dating and is unaware of her own blind spots — and turned it into something completely singular in her own right. It’s even hard to read Emma now without thinking of Cher Horowitz and his jokes. —Esther Zuckerman
Although it is one of Austen’s most recent adaptations, this version of Emma is incredibly faithful to its source material. But rather than being a BBC period piece, this directorial debut from Autumn de Wilde (known for directing music videos for Florence and the Machine and Jenny Lewis) is impeccably stylish and creates a whimsical world of period pieces. era of his own. Its decadent production design and costumes take on a soft hue that complements the tea party spread, and nearly every dialogue, look of longing and act of courtship is choreographed to the beat of the score. There’s a cheeky sense of humor too, and Anya Taylor-Joy plays the iconic matchmaker as conniving as she should be. This may be an adaptation of the Regency set, but it is an adaptation of the 2020 style. —SB
fire island (2022)
fire islandthe main man of, Noah (Joel Kim Booster), calls Pride and Prejudicethe famous “hetero nonsense” opening line. Not all the single man wants a partner, he insists, contradicting Austen’s pithy assertion about matings. By the end of the film, however, the joke is on him. While vacationing with friends in the titular gay mecca of New York, Noah meets an aloof lawyer (Conrad Ricamora) who slowly ignites his fantasy – the Mr. Darcy to his Elizabeth Bennet. On the periphery, there is a Jane Bennet (played by Bowen Yang), a Charles Bingley (James Scully), a Lydia (Matt Rogers), even a Mrs Bennet (Margaret Cho). In general, fire island—written by Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn (aisles)—works better in some ways than others. But as an adaptation of Austen, it’s unconventional and effective joy. —Matthew Jacobs
Love friendship (2016)
Based on Austen’s devious epistolary novel Lady Suzanne (with a title taken from a story she wrote as a child), Whit Stillman is extremely funny Love friendship unravels the entire social structure of a nosy clique and stitches it together effortlessly. Widowed but still young Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is determined to marry off her eligible daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and find a husband for herself, but her daughter can’t stand the stupid Sir James (Tom Bennett), who follows her despite her best efforts. Lady Susan herself has a reputation as an accomplished flirt, and no eligible bachelor believes she will be faithful. When she and her daughter are romantically involved with several men, they unleash a tornado of chaos within their group of friends. High jinks ensue. —Emma Stefansky
mansfield park (1999)
Almost all Austen’s adaptations deviate from their source material in some way, even those that are faithful to the era, but Patricia Rozema’s mansfield park is remarkable for how much it departs and for what it adds. A contemporary-minded reimagining that lays bare the oppressions and hypocrisies its characters live under, the film stars Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price, sent to live with her wealthy extended family and immediately drawn into the storylines. complexities of her cousins’ lives, falling in love with men who can’t make up their minds. The film includes depictions of extramarital sex, obviously something that wouldn’t have been in the book, and openly criticizes the main characters’ involvement in the slave trade: Mansfield Park’s wealth comes from a plantation in Antigua , a fact dismissed in the book. but not in the movie. While not exactly true to the words themselves, it is perhaps a truer adaptation of Austen herself, who peppered her innocuous romance novels with many thinly concealed critiques of social structures in which she and her contemporaries lived. —ES
Sense and sensitivity (1995)
The combination of Emma Thompson’s irrepressible wit and Ang Lee’s directing genius makes the 1995 film version of Sense and sensitivity one of the best literary adaptations ever made. Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as the sensitive Elinor Dashwood alongside a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet – playing her more naive sister, Marianne – as they search for matches that can provide love as well as stability. Plus, it gave us Thompson’s incredible Golden Globe acceptance speech, done, in character, like Austen herself. —EZ
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
The BBC Pride and Prejudice is presumably the ur-Austen adaptation. The six-episode miniseries is incredibly faithful, so much so that many high schoolers probably watched it instead of doing the assigned reading. It’s still excellent, a perfectly cast interpretation of one of the most beloved works of literature of all time. Much of this is due to the brilliant work of Colin Firth, occupying a role all his subsequent work should respect, and Jennifer Ehle. Firth, with his taut hair, is the ideal Darcy, while Ehle’s Lizzy Bennet is brimming with intelligence. —EZ
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Audiences initially worried that director Joe Wright’s take on Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy would compare to the 1995 miniseries, and Austen obsessives were hesitant about plot changes. But this Austen flick has become a favorite with some millennials. Its long, expansive shots capturing the English countryside and light-filled ballrooms are simply breathtaking, transporting you to Austen’s romantic world like no other. While Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy isn’t as beloved as Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley gives one of her best performances as Elizabeth, and the rest of the ensemble charms bring a special youthfulness to this version. It’s as visceral as Pride and Prejudice perhaps.
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