TThere are so many Jane Austen adaptations for film and television that it’s hard to keep up. But which ones are good?
Autumn de Wilde’s theatrical adaptation of Austen’s beloved novel will be released in 2020 Emma was published.
In it, Anya Taylor-Joy plays the high-spirited protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, who is a relentless matchmaker in the romantic life of friends and family.
Also joining the cast is Johnny Flynn as the dashing George Knightley, whom Emma eventually realizes she loves, while Bill Nighy plays her father, Mr. Woodhouse.
Austen’s novel, originally published in 1815, has been adapted for television and film six times since 1948: three films (including one for television) and three mini-series.
Though unforgettable, the four-part BBC TV series Emma in 2009, which starred Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, drew criticism from The Independent for casting problems – especially that Lee Miller could not convince as a “surprising love object”.
The 1996 film, starring Gwyneth Paltrow opposite Jeremy Northam, was well received thanks to her radiant and sublime performance.
But it’s the 1996 ITV adaptation by Andrew Davies, starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong, that critics still regard as superior.
Austen wrote six full-length novels before her death: sense and sensitivity (1811), pride and prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1816) – during Northanger Abbey and conviction were published posthumously in 1818.
She started another novel sand tone, but died before it was finished. But it still managed to be adapted into an ITV series last year.
There is also a short epistolary novel Mrs. Susanne – the inspiration for the acclaimed 2006 film love and friendship, also with Beckinsale– as well as an abandoned novel The Watsonswhich has so far only been made into a play by Laura Wade, who is better known for her stage hit genteel.
conviction was recently adapted by Netflix as a film starring Dakota Johnson. Unfortunately, it received dismal reviews from critics that of the independent Amanda Whiting described it as “an all-time disaster”.
With so much Austen costume drama on the big and small screen, we count some of the best.
Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, 2016
The title says it all. Possibly the worst of all adaptations, this proves that Austen and zombies really don’t mix. It is based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – a parody of Austen’s novel. It stars Lily James as Elizabeth and Sam Riley as Darcy. When zombies attack a ball the Bennet sisters are attending, they fend them off. At the end of the film, when Darcy and Elizabeth share a wedding with Bingley (Douglas Booth) and Jane (Bella Heathcote), zombies threaten to ruin everything. That kind of thing.
Bride and Prejudice, 2004
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, this Bollywood-esque romp of Pride and Prejudice. It received mixed reviews from critics, but it’s still very entertaining as it swaps bonnets for saris. It centers on Lalita Bakshi (the equivalent of Elizabeth Bennet), a young woman living in India, played by Aishwarya Rai. Her Darcy is a suave American businessman, played by Martin Henderson, but the all-singing, all-dancing version of Jane Austen’s novel lacks real depth.
Sanditon, 2019 (ITV Series)
Historical drama adaptor Andrew Davies takes on Austen’s unfinished novel, which was written four months before her death. It starred Curfew’s Rose Williams as Charlotte Heywood and Downton Abbey’s Theo James as Sidney Parker. But it was criticized for having too much nudity and called it “terrifying”. The Independent.
Death Comes to Pemberly, 2013 (BBC TV Series)
Based on the fan fiction novel by PD James, this takes the story six years after Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage in Pride and Prejudice. The three-part BBC TV series, based around a crime thriller, garnered as much acclaim as James’ book, with The Independent praising the casting of Matthew Rhys as Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth. There were also outstanding performances from Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham and Matthew Goode as George Wickham.
Pride and Prejudice, 1940
The well-received MGM film ends with a long kiss between Laurence Olivier (Mr Darcy) and Greer Garson (Elizabeth Bennet). This is one of the funniest film adaptations of Austen’s most famous novel, with extravagant costumes that look like they were borrowed from Gone with the Wind. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, the screenplay is by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin.
Mansfield Park, 1999
This romantic comedy stars Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price and Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram. It is not faithful to the text; Director Patricia Rozema claimed it was not a Jane Austen film but a “Patricia Rozema film”. “My job as an artist is to bring a fresh perspective.” Rozema added Jane Austen traits to the character of Fanny, created a “lesbian chill” between Mary Crawford and Fanny, and made slavery a central plot point. The film’s boldness earned it positive reviews.
Gwyneth Paltrow makes a “shining Emma,” according to The New York Times, while Rolling Stone said, “Gwyneth Paltrow works such magic in Emma that you can almost hear the click of a career going into overdrive.” The first-time Director Douglas McGrath adapted the 1816 Austen novel after writing Bullets Over Broadway with Woody Allen. While others found Paltrow’s nasal voice annoying and her Emma lacking in irony, she carried the English accent almost perfectly.
Conviction, 1995 (BBC film)
There’s nothing like a happy ending, and Austen was a pro at it. Director Roger Michell’s Bafta-winning film is based on Austen’s 1817 novel of the same name. It stars Amanda Root as Anne Elliott and Ciaran Hinds as her love interest, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years after Anne was pressured into turning down his marriage proposal, the two get back together – something she deeply regrets. He feels hurt by the rejection, but eventually the path of true love runs smoothly for her.
Emma, 1996 (ITV film)
This ITV film is widely considered better than Miramax’s starry film, which was released the same year. It was dramatized by Davies, who had just done Pride and Prejudice for the BBC. It starred Kate Beckinsale as the wonderfully believable Emma Woodhouse, Mark Strong as George Knightley and Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith.
Pride and Prejudice, 2005
Joe Wright’s first feature film, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as her romantic interest Mr. Darcy, was a commercial success. Knightley received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the role. It had a star cast including Donald Sutherland (Mr Bennet), Rosamund Pike (Jane Bennet), Carey Mulligan (Kitty Bennet), Judi Dench (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) and Rupert Friend (George Wickham). Screenwriter Deborah Moggach changed the film’s historical setting to the late 18th century to contrast the 1995 BBC adaptation, which is still a favourite.
Northanger Abbey, 2007 (ITV film)
Felicity Jones perfectly portrayed Northanger Abbey’s heroine, Catherine Morland. Austen’s protagonist has a feverish imagination and a passion for gothic novels, but things begin to unravel when that fantasy leads her astray. The adaptation also stars JJ Field as Catherine’s love interest Henry Tilney and Carey Mulligan as her friend Isabella Thorpe. It was written by Andrew Davies, who adapted Pride and Prejudice for the BBC in 1995 and the TV adaptation of Emma the following year.
Bridget Jones Diary, 2001
It was the 1995 BBC series Pride and Prejudice, rather than the book, that inspired author Helen Fielding to write her popular Bridget Jones novels. It’s fitting, then, that Colin Firth – who played Mr Darcy – should appear as Bridget’s (Renee Zellweger) mistress, Mark Darcy, in the films based on Fielding’s own work.
Love and Friendship, 2016
This acclaimed Amazon original comedy has become a welcome addition to the Jane Austen adaptation canon. It is based on Austen’s posthumous epistolary novel Lady Susan. Starring Kate Beckinsale, who brilliantly plays the scheming Lady Susan, a young widow trying to find a husband for herself and her daughter. The film also stars Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Emma Greenwell.
This coming-of-age 1990s cult film is a modern retelling of Austen’s Emma, but is set in Beverly Hills rather than the fictional village of Highbury. In it, Alicia Silverstone plays romantic matchmaker Cher Horowitz – a wealthy high school student who decides she enjoys helping others find love. It was a surprise hit in 1995 and is considered one of the best teen movies of all time.
Pride and Prejudice, 1995 (BBC TV Series)
No discussion of Jane Austen adaptations is complete without a mention of this revered and critically acclaimed six-part BBC miniseries from master of souped-up period drama Andrew Davies. Jennifer Ehle won a Bafta for her role as Elizabeth Bennet, while Colin Firth rose to fame as Mr Darcy. It is considered the starting point for the booming Jane Austen adaptation industry in TV and film.
Sense and Sensibility, 1995
Emma Thompson spent five years writing her Oscar-winning screenplay about the Dashwood sisters; skillfully updated for a 20th-century audience. Directed by Ang Lee, the film starred Thompson as Elinor Dashwood, while Kate Winslet played Elinor’s wayward younger sister, Marianne. After their father’s death, the sisters are excluded from his inheritance and forced to move into a small cottage in the country. Hugh Grant and Greg Wise played their suitors, Edward Ferrars and John Willoughby, with a great and much missed Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/jane-austen-best-adaptations-film-tv-b2130444.html The 16 best Jane Austen adaptations, from Bride and Prejudice to Persuasion (not the Netflix version)