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The latest Jane Austen inspired movie, Austenland from the novel of the same name by Shannon Hale, is set to debut August 14 in Los Angeles and New York with wider distribution to follow. Hollywood seems to have discovered Austen in the last two decades, but which adaptations and inspirations are the must-sees?

For an author who died almost 200 years ago, Jane Austen has an amazing number of fans. Maybe it’s costume drama like Downtown Abbey, Bridget Jones pining for her real-life Mr. Darcy, or the love of all things British from Harry Potter to Doctor Who fueling the surge, but people are discovering Jane Austen like never before.

Everyone seems to have heard of the love story of Pride and Predjudice‘s Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, but Jane Austen’s other novels and even her real-life story have inspired adaptations. Here are the best of the best.

10. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1995)

darcy
There are other adaptations from a 1930′s black and movie movie, to a fairly recent Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen flick, but none is on par with the 1995 BBC miniseries. Everyone seems to know about Colin Firth, that infamous pond, and oh so clingy shirt. Even though Mr. Darcy didn’t take a spontaneous dip in the Pemberly pond in the Austen novel, the rest of the adaptation is spot on. Colin Firth’s brooding Mr. Darcy launched his career from relative unknown to household name. One of the best things about this adaptation is that since it is a miniseries rather than a two hour movie, lots of attention was able to be paid to character development and side stories. Every intricacy is explored from Lizzie and Darcy’s love-hate relationship, to Lizzie’s confrontation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Best Scene: Any time Lizzie is arguing

9. ‘Sense Sensibility’ (1995)

Sense-and-Sensibility-
Sense and Sensibility works amazingly well given its number set of firsts. It was the first Western film directed by Ang Lee. It was Emma Thompson’s first attempt at writing a screen play. It was one of Kate Winslet’s first films. The result was that it swept the BAFTA’s and snagged seven OSCAR nominations, including a win for Thompson. The cast includes many who are now major stars, but then were little known U.K.-based actors such as: Hugh Laurie, Alan Rickman, and Imelda Staunton. The two key love stories are between Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant’s Eleanor and Edward, and Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman’s Marianne and Brandon. Both couples have amazing chemistry. If you’ve only ever seen Alan Rickman as the cold-hearted Snape, here he plays the ever faithful yet unrequited love.

Best scene: Colonel Brandon begging Eleanor to “give him an occupation”

8. ‘Clueless’ (1995)

clueless
Just in case you think Jane Austen is only costume drama and can’t be updated, think again. Clueless was inspired by the Austen novel Emma. Emma is an incorrigible matchmaker in the novel, and her counterpart, Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone in the movie, is just as bad. Matchmaking has been around for centuries, and clearly the meddlesome matchmakers’ techniques and insights haven’t improved any over time. True love tends to find you when you least expect it, and often it’s right under your nose. The movie’s standouts are Paul Rudd as Cher’s best friend and eventual love, and the late Brittany Murphy’s Tai.

Best Scene: Josh and Cher finally admitting their feelings for each other

7. ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (2009)

Bride and Prejudice-
Who doesn’t love a movie musical? What could be better than a Pride and Prejudice themed musical only Bollywood style. It’s a whole Indian culture meets Western culture mash-up with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the darling of Bollywood, as the Lizzie Bennett character and Martin Henderson as Darcy. Naveen Andrews, of LOST, plays Bingly, but a much more assertive one than is in the novel. If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film this is a good way to test out the genre.

Best Scene: Dance sequence featuring Naveen Andrews. He does all his own dancing though he has never had formal training.

6. ‘The Lizzie Bennett Diaries’ (2013)

lizzie bennett
Jane Austen was brought swiftly into the modern day in this witty adaptation that turns Pride and Prejudice‘s Elizabeth Bennet into a video blogger. Clever use of transmedia elements, like spin-off web series and social media accounts, allowed the audience to enter the world of Austen in a unique way. But the particular the strength of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries lies in the focus on the supporting characters, and especially on Lizzie’s relationship with sisters Jane and Lydia, and best friend, Charlotte. The Lizzie and Darcy romance is still key (and don’t worry, you’ll get your swoon-worthy moments), but in this story romance is not the only important thing – and we love that.

Best scene: Lizzie tells Lydia she loves her after they reconnect

5. ‘Lost in Austen’ (2009)

lost in austen
What would you do if you suddenly discovered that all you had to do to go back in time was open a door in your bathroom? That’s exactly what happens to Amanda when she finds Lizzie Bennett in her bathtub enjoying flowing hot water and a bubble bath. She swaps places with Lizzie Bennett, who wants to live in present-day London, and meanwhile, she tries to fit in at Pemberley. As you can imagine, things don’t go well from Wickham being not at all what she expected to Caroline Bingly confiding she’s a lesbian and making a pass at Amanda. Fights, near fatal wounds, and four episodes later all is finally resolved in a not quite predicable ending.

Best Scene: Amanda asking Darcy to reenact the Colin Firth pond scene

4. ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007)

becoming jane
So how exactly did Jane Austen get to be Jane Austen? Relatively little is known about Austen save for the material found in her private journals, and frankly they weren’t all that revealing. In Becoming Jane, Anne Hathaway plays Jane whose life plays out as a cross between actual, historical events, and the events of her novels. There are homages and parallels to all of Austen’s novels most notably Pride and Prejudice. James McAvoy plays Tom Lefroy, a real-life beau of Austen’s who many speculate was the model for Mr. Darcy. The story isn’t so much historical as it is a romance with lots of twists and turns.

Best Scene: Twist ending which we won’t spoil

3. ‘Mansfield Park’ (1999)

mansfield
Mansfield Park is a tough novel to adapt. Many people don’t like the heroine, Fanny Price, because they find her a bit too preachy and stiff. However, director/writer Patricia Rozema came up with an interesting solution. She used the story of Mansfield Park as a guideline, and then inserted pieces from Austen’s early writings and her actual life. Instead of a preachy and moralistic Fanny that no one likes, the result is a charming, young women trying to discover where she fits in a world of unrequited love and unfeeling relatives. Jonny Lee Miller of current Elementary fame plays Fanny’s unrequited love, Edmund.

Best Scene: Edmund and Fanny after Fanny discovers something she is not supposed to late one night

2. ‘Persuasion’ (1995)

persuasion
Along with Mansfield Park, Persuasion doesn’t get nearly enough love from adaptations. Anne Elliot was persuaded not to marry the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth, because, at the time, he was a man of inferior prospects. Now, ten years later, the tables are turned. Anne is considered to be an “old-maid” and her family’s fortune is endangered. When chance throws Anne and Frederick together, can their romance be rekindled, or will they each be persuaded again not to follow their hearts? Ciarán Hinds plays the dashing Captain Frederick Wentworth.

Best Scene: Anne reading a very key letter

1. ‘Emma’ (1996)

Dalibor Milosevic
Matchmakers have been around since the beginning of time. Nothing seems to be able to stop them from their meddling. They don’t even seem to learn their lessons when one disaster strikes after the next. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the charming Emma who keeps trying to get Harriett, played by Toni Colette, a match. Predictably, it doesn’t work. Jeremy Northam plays George Kinghtly, the neighbor who Emma has always considered an older brother, but who now might be something more.

Best Scene: Emma having a meltdown in the garden

Which Jane Austen project interests you the most?

  • Hayley

    I haven’t seen the Mansfield Park with Johnny Lee Miller, so I’ll have to check that out now.

    I also enjoyed the BBC 2009 version of Emma with Romola Garai.

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      I do like that one! It was such a tough call because I didn’t want to give one particular straight up adaption more than one shout out. Jeremy Northam is so brilliant as Knightly is what I think made me decide (that and I knew Johnny Lee Miller was going to be mentioned in Mansfield Park) I also had a really tough time deciding between the Emma Thompson version of S & S and the more recent one. I think Alan Rickman playing successfully so against type is what swayed me there.

  • Jo Garzón

    I love Austen and I love both Bride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. But I have a question, though: Isn’t The Bridget Jones’ Diary an adaptation of Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’? If so, that’s my favorite

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      It has some loose elements, but it’s more Bridget pining away for Marc Darcy and being slightly obsessed by the BBC series. For example Bridget has next to no self confidence, doesn’t really think about others, and is always making unhealthy relationship choices, things that don’t exactly parallel to Lizzie Bennet in any way.

      • http://aprilwalsh.blogspot.com/ April Walsh

        Strangely enough, the book version of BJ2 is definitely a loose Persuasion after Bridget and Darcy break up, but the movie version (which was meh) completely scrapped that plot. It’s a shame as I was really looking forward to that movie.

        In case anyone was wondering (which you weren’t), my top 10 with 1 being the bestest would be:

        10. Bridget Jones Diary (very loose, though! You’re right. But fun)
        9. Bride & Prejudice (but the Darcy bored me to tears)
        8. S&S 1995
        7. S&S 2007
        6. Clueless
        5. Lizzie Bennet Diaries
        4. Mansfield Park (the Johnny Lee Miller one. Roczema really did improve Fanny)
        3. Persuasion 1995
        2. Emma 2009
        1. Pride and Prejudice 1995

        Nothing will ever beat that one for me. This list is mostly based on how rewatchable each was for me. None of the other adaptations really rank at all, IMO. Not one multiple watch. But I will give props to Northanger Abbey 2007 for making what I found to be a boring and silly story engage me with a good cast and production,

  • teobla

    It might be annoying of me to say it, but that adaption of Persuasion is from 1995; 2007 was the year of the adaptaion with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      I swore I had it as 1995, not sure how that got changed. fixing it now. I’ve seen that version too, I liked Rupert Penry-Jones a lot but not the rest of the cast so much.

  • Tanvi Berwah

    I loved this list, and so glad Becoming Jane is a part of it – except Bride and Prejudice? Really? It was a terrible and cringe-worthy movie. “If you’ve never seen a Bollywood film this is a good way to test out the genre.” And no, please if you’ve never seen a Bollywood movie, please don’t make this a benchmark!

    • antonia31

      I love Bride and Prejudice! Obviously, it’s not really a prime example of an excellent Bollywood film, but it doesn’t seem to be trying to be one.

      It’s a little corny, yeah, but come on. “No Life Without Wife” is one of the best scenes ever!

      • Riana-Tiana Menezes

        And the snake dance. Don’t forget the snake dance.

      • sii1989

        That is my favorite scene in the movie!

  • Caroline J.

    LBD isn’t exactly a movie… but i appreciate the excuse to mention it. my best moment would be when Jane impersonates Darcy.

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      Yeah, true, but I felt it was important to include new media especially something as high-end produced as LBD.

  • lorepottter

    I love the “Punjabi Wedding Song” in Bride and Prejudice i have the movie is awesome, but what about “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley, my favorite part when both are dancing ” A letter to Henry Purcell”

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      The music and dancing in that are a plus.

  • http://blackrapture.tumblr.com/ thegoodshipdestiel

    You know you’re an Janeite when you’ve seen all of these and a dozen more that didn’t make the list.

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      I know right. I don’t need therapy because I could probably find my way blindfolded from the bath in Bath to the Jane Austen house do I? :)

  • Alex

    am I the only one who thought Lost in Austen was AWFUL and Self-insert-y bad fanfic? (THEY BROKE UP LIZZIE AND DARCY so that the protagonist could get darcy AGHHHHHHHH)

    but thumbs up on All the others!

    • Amanda Cora

      I cringed when I saw it on the list.

      • ane_drew

        Same here. I don’t mind it too much when there are deviations (adaptations) from the original material. But breaking up Lizzie and Darcy? Yikes! No.

        • Crazy-Eight23

          Technically in Lost in Austen Darcy and Lizzie hadn’t met yet, so is i really a break up? lol

          • ane_drew

            Fair point. LOL Although in my mind, they’ve been together since 1813. :D

  • antonia31

    I like everything on this list, but the ranking seems really wonky to me, haha. I would’ve ranked them very differently. (Also, my personal fav, the 2007 Persuasion, didn’t make it! It’s short and sweet, and everyone should check it out!)

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      Oh I didn’t do them in a specific order, just listed the ten. If I was in order my top three would be S & S, P & P, and M.P.

  • Samantha

    Love this list, but a bit disappointed to see Bridget Jone’s Diary missing (it even had the great Colin Firth to play Mr Darcy which is a great inside joke for pride and prejudice fans) – I would have replaced that modern adaptation with Clueless’ place, overall I think it Bridge Jone’s Diary is a much better film and has more parallels with jane austen’s novel than Clueless. Just my two cents :)

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      Definitely a good film. I just didn’t see it as a complete Austen homage, but I can see your point. Reindeer sweater and wobbly bits! Have you seen the bit on BJD II where she interviews Colin Firth as Bridget? It’s ascream.

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      I might tackle a best of British film list later this summer and this is a good choice.

  • Riana-Tiana Menezes

    What about “Pride and Prejudice” starring Keira Knightly. I really love that film. Everyone one in it did a really good job and Darcy was just so perfect. Oh and it’s soundtrack is divine too.

    Oh and I simply loved that you added Bride and Prejudice. That movie was just so fun to watch.

    • http://www.hypable.com/author/lauracristiano/ LauraBC

      I liked the actors, but didn’t like the script and stylization on that one. Also the pig that walks through the Bennet home…WTF. However I did love the extra scene towards the end because you tend not to get a proper snog with Austen!

      • janefan

        The pig is not walking through the family part of the home but a n “L” of the house that would have connected to a winter barn. This is an arrangement common to farms in the UK and New England of that era. I know this because I owned an early 19th c. home that had been adapted from that arrangement.

  • Phoenix07

    Persuasion is my second favorite Austen novel, after Pride and Prejudice, and it’s always bothered me that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves as far as adapting it to the big screen. I haven’t seen the adaptation mentioned above, so I can’t tell whether it’s good or bad, but I just feel like Persuasion deserves an adaptation as equally amazing as Pride and Prejudice (recent and old).

    • SylvieFeatherfoot

      See the 1995 film of “Persuasion.” It is perhaps the most beautiful adaptation of Jane Austen, IMO, although I love the same year’s “Pride & Prejudice,” and the 1996 ITV/A&E “Emma,” with Kate Beckinsale. The 2007 “Persuasion” is worth seeing, but definitely inferior to the 1995 film.

  • popoK

    I cannot for the life of me figure out where your cover photo is from. Which makes me ashamed, I thought I was well versed in Austen adaptions :(

  • molly

    Darn, only two of these were available on Netflix. Great list, I’m excited to see all the adaptations I haven’t seen.

  • Shelby Walker

    Glad to see all of these. I never finished Lost In Austen… I honestly cringed through most of the beginning so I couldn’t make myself get further. A little sad that the 2008 Sense & Sensibility wasn’t included. I really love that one. David Morrissey doesn’t come close to being the perfect Brandon (I mean, Alan Rickman takes that right?), but I really enjoyed it.

    So happy to see Becoming Jane on the list! That is seriously one of my favorite movies! McAvoy and Hathaway are so great in it. And Clueless is still on of my all-time favorites from my childhood lol.

    I will say, I’m surprised the 1995 Pride & Prejudice wasn’t number one. It always stays on the top of my list. Colin Firth. <3

    I haven't seen Mansfield Park or Persuasion… I really need to watch those.

  • Julia

    The 2007 adaptation of Persuasion is one of my favourites, too.

  • Han

    Lost in Austen is absolute crap – I didn’t even finish watching the first episode. And where is the Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightely?? Its so good!

  • http://www.watchthenightowlfly.tumblr.com/ Emma

    What about BBC’s adaptations of Emma and Persuasion?!

  • Samantha

    Also thank you for leaving out that Keira Knightly version! I’ve never forgiven Keira for her terrible interpretation of Lizzie.

    • janefan

      Huh…I thought she added some refreshing realism to a character that is supposed to be barely out of childhood and struggling with an innate wisdom beyond her years.

      • SylvieFeatherfoot

        Keira Knightley wasn’t bad at all, but any adaptation that makes Elizabeth whine “he’s so . . . rich” as a point in Mr. Darcy’s DISfavor clearly has no understanding of the character, the times, the novel, or Jane Austen, at all. This version also has Elizabeth and Jane rushing about, gossiping about Mr. Wickham, at the Netherfield ball, with a lack of propriety better left to Lydia. Mrs. Bennet’s reddened, coarsened skin is wrong, pigs in the house is appalling, Lady Catherine’s middle-of-the-night visit plain stupid.

  • penny

    don’t hate me – I loved lost in Austen – I thought it was very funny. The Johnny Lee Miller version of Mansfield Park – lovely movie but it’s my least favorite Jane story. So many awful, mean characters.

  • Laaleen

    I haven’t seen #6 (indie oddball) but there’s no way #7 (simply appalling!!!) and #8 (Hollywood fluff) should’ve made a top 10 list. What about the ITV’s more recent adaptations of Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion?

  • Ju Li

    You totally negelected the 2007 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility which is brilliant and, as much as I personally love the 1995 movie is better in so many ways (esp. Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars *swoon*)!
    Also missing is the mini-series Emma with Romola Garai as Emma and Johnny Lee Miller as John Knightley
    Oh and of course the ITV adaption of Northanger Abbey with JJ Feild and Felicity Jones!

  • Erin Lamb

    Northanger Abbey??????

  • Nathalie

    Pride and prejudice mini series from the BBC (2008) is the best adaptation so far I saw of Jane Austen’s novel. The cast is much more suited to the play. David Morrissey is just perfect as Colonel Brandon.

  • Beyza

    Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane are my favorites. I haven’t watched 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice but I think it must be in the list..

  • Beyza

    Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane are my favorites. I haven’t watched 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice but I think 2005 version must be in the list..

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