Jane Austen’s iconic stories of independent women during the Regency era have captivated audiences for centuries. It makes sense that with the creation of the films, these stories quickly caught on to the big screen. Films allow Austen’s stories to be told in an entirely new way, bringing many beloved characters to life.
While some adaptations are sensational, others miss the mark. Austen’s stories carry a certain romanticism, and if that quality doesn’t care for the movie, it hardly sounds like an Austen’s tale. Fortunately, IMDb gives the audience a pretty good idea of what adaptations are worth.
ten Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016) – 5.8
Rent on Apple TV
Interesting way, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is in fact a double adaptation. It is based on the book of the same title which is then based on the original by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice. While the idea for this film is certainly creative, it doesn’t fit Austen’s story well.
The movie is exactly what it sounds like: The Bennet sisters live their lives trying to find husbands in a possible zombie outbreak. The women in the movie are all trained in some kind of martial art and are therefore very powerful. This independence is very similar to Austen’s characters, but the romance normally found in her stories is lacking in this bloody adaptation.
9 Love & Friendship (2016) – 6.4
Stream on Amazon Prime
Love friendship is based on Austen’s short story Lady Suzanne published decades after his death. It tells the story of a recent widow, Lady Susan, and her attempts to secure a husband for herself and her daughter. Lady Susan is an attractive and resourceful woman who will not let anyone get in her way.
This movie is full of Austen’s dry humor, but that might be a drawback for some audience members. The humor in the Flowery Tongue can be hard to grasp, so this movie isn’t for everyone. The story stays fairly true to the original, but it’s just not one of Austen’s most popular tales. However, this film is definitely worth a visit for the biggest fans of Austen.
8 Emma (1996) – 6.7
Stream on Max Go
Emma is the story of a young woman who likes to hurt. She often tries to pair her friends even though they rarely train. Emma is often so busy meddling in other people’s lives that she misses her own romantic feelings for Mr. Knightley.
This movie is beautifully made with gorgeous cinematography and brilliant actors. The story perfectly embodies Emma’s naughty nature as well as her innocence. There are times in the movie that make it seem like they’re hanging around too long, but the humor often makes up for that.
seven Emma. (2020) – 6.7
Stream on HBO Max
Emma has been very recently redone with a more contemporary layout. Anya Taylor-Joy succeeded Gwyneth Paltrow (1996) and does a great job in this role. She, too, is able to capture Emma’s intrusive yet innocent nature.
The vivid colors in this film match the rhythm and soul of the film beautifully. As mentioned above, this story has the best of Austen humor and so it makes sense that it is colorful. However, Emma can be a difficult character for audiences to understand, which tends to result in a lower rating than other Austen adaptations.
6 Without Idea (1995) – 6.9
Stream on HBO Max
While Distraught doesn’t have the highest rating, it’s one of Jane Austen’s most popular adaptations. Distraught take Emma and modernizes it into a story more relevant to the 20th century. The film follows Cher Horowitz, a naive high school socialite as she tries to play the role of matchmaker with the people in her life.
This film is rated higher with the public because Distraught is a more tellable story. Cher has to jump through high school hoops in the ’90s rather than the balls of the Regency era. However, the message of doing good to the less fortunate can often seem superficial. Overall, the actors do a great job and the movie is very entertaining.
5 Mansfield Park (1999) – 7.1
Stream on Starz
Mansfield Park is based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. He follows Fanny Price as she is sent to live with her wealthier parents. Fanny is learning to become a real woman in society and must learn to navigate this world as she ages.
The enjoyment of this movie depends on whether or not the audience is a fan of the original novel. The Fanny in the film is much more rebellious than her counterpart in the novel, and so many fans of the book don’t appreciate the change. However, the film is beautifully made with a very talented cast and is still worth a look.
4 Northanger Abbey (2007) – 7.2
Broadcast on Hoopla & Kanopy
Northanger Abbey is also the tale of a Jane Austen novel centered on Catherine Morland. Catherine is a lower-class girl invited by her neighbors to visit Bath, the top of society at the time. She quickly learns that high society is not as romantic as she thought.
This film does an excellent job of depicting life during the Regency era and makes good use of Jane Austen’s language. The film is also very faithful to the original novel. It actually works as a great movie to watch for those new to Austen’s work and wanting to get into it.
3 Persuasion (2007) – 7.5
Stream on BritBox
Persuasion is a classic Austen story about the will they won’t like. Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth had a whirlwind romance which was shot down by Anne’s family. Eight years later, their paths cross again and they discover that all is not lost.
This film has a very strong cast with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones playing the lead roles. It also includes Anthony Head and Tobias Menzies who both give amazing performances. Alas, it’s a TV movie, so the cinematography doesn’t quite measure up to Austen’s other adaptations, but it’s very faithful to the original novel.
2 Sense and Sensibility (1995) – 7.7
Stream on Vudu
Sense and sensitivity is the story of two sisters who struggle in the afterlife of their father. As daughters of his second marriage, women receive only a very small inheritance. The film follows Elinor and Marianne, two of Austen’s best heroines.
This film is a beautiful adaptation of the novel by Jane Austen. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet direct the cast with Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. All of these actors are great in the period play, bringing these characters to life. The setting and costumes are also perfect for the story, making this a must-have watch for Austen fans.
1 Pride and Prejudice (2005) – 7.8
Stream on HBO Max
Pride and Prejudice is the gem of Jane Austen’s work, so it makes sense that an adaptation is high on the list. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in a classic enemies-to-lovers trope. This story is the perfect embodiment of the spirit of Austen’s writing.
While this adaptation doesn’t follow the book 100%, it does retain the overwhelming romance of the source material. Kiera Knightley is known for her period pieces and this film is no exception. The film also features stunning performances by Matthew Macfadyen and Donald Sutherland. The beautiful cinematography only adds to the ambiance. Globally, Pride and Prejudice is the best tale of an Austen classic.
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