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Best Film Adaptations of Jane Austen Novels

Updated on June 30, 2013
A watercolor of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra.
A watercolor of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra. | Source

Jane Austen's Novels Made into Movies

Watching a beloved novel that's been translated to screen can be a great experience when the actors are perfectly cast, the script doesn't stray too far from the original story, and the director has respect for the source material. When those factors aren't present, however, the movie can be a dud--a waste of money and time.

Jane Austen's novels have been filmed many times, from movies that closely follow the original novel to ones that interpret the novel for modern-day audiences. If you're looking for faithful, respectful adaptations of Jane Austen's work, consider watching the movies in this hub.

Mr. Darcy's Proposal--Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Though Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" has been filmed many times, from a Bollywood setting in "Bride and Prejudice" to a modern interpretation in "Bridget Jones's Diary" to a traditional treatment in the recent Keira Knightly version, the best of the "Pride and Prejudice" offerings remains the 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

While six hours of "Pride and Prejudice" may sound daunting, the series format gives the director time to bring Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to life and develop their characters in a way that's nicely true to the novel itself. The series is well-cast, with a nice blend of romance and humor and gentle comeuppance, and remains the best adaptation perhaps of any Jane Austen work almost twenty years later.

Sense and Sensibility Trailer

Sense and Sensibility

1995 was a good year for Jane Austen adaptations, and Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility" is almost a perfect reflection of the book. Emma Thompson's Elinor Dashwood is the sensible pillar of the family, deeply sympathetic as she struggles with her love for Edward Ferrars despite the fact that he is engaged to another, and Kate Winslet is the passionate, willful Marianne, in love with the caddish Willoughby and insensitive to the truer, loyal love of their neighbor Colonel Brandon.

The film is beautifully shot and is an excellent, feel-good choice for a lazy Saturday night when you're in the mood for Austen on film.

Emma Trailer


"Emma," released in 1996, is another finely cast adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. In "Emma," the eponymous heroine makes a romantic match for her governess and decides she will do the same for a local girl named Harriet; though Harriet is of "indeterminate" parentage, Emma decides to ignore that and try to fix Harriet up outside of her social class. After a series of humorous misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and romantic blunders, Emma eventually matures and falls in love herself.

The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the self-absorbed but well-meaning Emma, so intent on her own matchmaking skills that she fails to see what's best both for others and for herself. Jeremy Northam plays Mr. Knightley, who attempts to guide Emma away from her schemes. Both are excellent fits for the roles, and this version of "Emma" outshines the other adaptations.

Other Film Adaptations of Jane Austen Novels

While Jane Austen's other three novels have been made into movies multiple times, those versions either stray from the original story or fail to be definitive representations of the novel. The three best, listed above, are a great place to start if you're in the mood for a Jane Austen movie marathon.


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