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Three Movies You Didn't Know Were Based on Jane Austen Novels

Updated on April 23, 2013
Jane Austen's six novels have inspired many film adaptations.
Jane Austen's six novels have inspired many film adaptations. | Source

Movies Inspired by the Spirit of Jane Austen's Work

It's rare that a year goes by without at least one adaptation of a Jane Austen novel--and often there are several. Her books, always featuring romance and often gently skewering the social rules of her time, have proved timelessly appealing as sources for film and even television mini-series.

Often, that a movie is tied to her work is obvious--it's right there in the title. And while most Austen-inspired films faithfully (or mostly faithfully) follow the source novel's plot and treatment of its characters, others taken a bit more liberty. Those films follow the spirit of an Austin novel, paying tribute to one of literature's greatest storytellers.

Read the Book, Watch Another Version


The 1990s hit Clueless made a star of Alicia Silverstone and spurred more than a few catchphrases. But did you know that the movie was actually a fairly faithful adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Emma?

In Emma, the eponymous character is a good-hearted but rich, spoiled, and shallow girl who thinks that because she's made one good romantic match, she's an expert on love. So, she befriends Harriet, whose social status is ambiguous, and convinces her that the local vicar, Mr. Elton, is in love with her, even though Harriet already loves Robert, who is much more suitable to her position in life.

Her guide--sometimes tender and often stern--is the older and wiser Mr. Knightley, who watches her humble herself and also allows her to experience real affection and love. Sound familiar? That's the plot of Clueless.

The Trailer from "Clueless," Based on Jane Austen's "Emma"

Read the Books, Watch a Different Version

Bridget Jones's Diary

Bridget Jones's Diary, based on a wildly popular novel by Helen Fielding, gave filmgoers a loveable heroine--the slightly overweight, always under-confident Bridget Jones, who can't stay away from her cad of a boss even as she finds herself drawn to a lawyer who is at first insufferable, then slowly becomes endearing.

But did you know that Fielding based her modern-day novel on Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice? In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett clashes with the haughty Mr. Darcy, a wealthy and highly eligible bachelor--his snobby behavior toward her and her family infuriates the proud Lizzie. She further allows her mind to be turned against him by the stories of the dashing Mr. Wickham, though his stories take quite a bit of liberty with the facts. When she finds out the truth about Mr. Wickman and Mr. Darcy, she realizes that he is, indeed, the man for her.

Of course, the film adaptation takes quite a few liberties with the original story--Bridget is lonely and inept, while Lizzie is quite a strong character--it's still a sparkling adaptation with witty nods to Austen sprinkled throughout.

Trailer for "Bridget Jones's Diary," An Adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice"

From Prada to Nada

In From Prada to Nada, Mary and Nora, two sisters, are forced by a selfish sister-in-law to move from their home after their father's death and stay with an aunt in Los Angeles. The younger sister is spoiled and romantic; the older sister is sensible and practical. When Nora gets mixed up with a flirtatious teacher's assistant at college, and Mary finds herself drawn to her engaged boss--who is also her sister-in-law's brother.

Sound familiar? It's a modern-day, Latina twist on Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen's first published work. In Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods are left poor by English inheritance rules--and their scheming sister-in-law isn't eager to let their brother help them financially. As they struggle with maintaining a household, the impetuous Marianne falls for Willoughby, listening to her heart over common sense; and the pragmatic Elinor falls for the already-engaged Edward, but listens to common sense over her heart. By the end of the novel, both learn lessons about love and temper their characters accordingly.

Trailer for "From Prada to Nada," An Adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility"

Jane Austen's Lasting Influence on Film

Jane Austen's completed novels are few: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. Despite this, her stories are timeless and have captured imaginations and hearts over generations--including not only those of readers, but of film-makers.

What's your favorite Jane Austen adaptation?


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