Will “Persuasion,” starring Dakota Johnson as Jane Austen heroine Anne Elliot rank among the best adaptations based on the works of the beloved English author? Based on the reviews, which vary but are decidedly not positive, the answer is “probably not.” Fortunately, we are awash in fantastic Austen-inspired movies and TV series, including modern retellings like “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” that actually worked.
Below, we rank some of the best Jane Austen adaptations across film and television.
14. “Bride & Prejudice” (2004)
This fun Bollywood film — which features “Lost” star Naveen Andrews leading a lively dance — moves the setting to India, where four unwed sisters juggle multiple suitors. Leads Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson are eminently endearing.
13. “Mansfield Park” (1999)
Frances O’Connor and Jonny Lee Miller make an enviable couple in this adaptation from director Patricia Rozema, which incorporates aspects of Austen’s own life and puts a much stronger emphasis on the the anti-slavery message of the novel.
12. “Pride & Prejudice” (1940)
While you cannot fault the casting of Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy, this not-so-faithful MGM version ditches the period-appropriate Empire dresses for hooped gowns straight out of “Gone With the Wind” and ends with the dour Lady Catherine De Bourgh confessing she’s always had a soft spot for Elizabeth (Greer Garson). As if!
11. “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)
It was pure genius to cast the ultimate Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, as the equally imperious Mark Darcy, who seems to be the worst match possible for free-spirited Bridget Jones (an Oscar-nominated Renée Zellweger) in this hilarious film based on the novel by Helen Fielding, which itself is inspired by Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
10. “Love & Friendship” (2016)
Kate Beckinsale, who began her career as a corset queen in Merchant/Ivory films and made a fantastic Emma in 1996, is a deliciously self-involved schemer in this witty adaptation from director Whit Stillman. It’s based on the lesser-known Austen novel “Lady Susan.”
9. “Northanger Abbey” (2007)
Felicity Jones stars as young Catherine Morland, who imagines her love life will be as exciting and thrillingly dramatic as the Gothic romance novels she loves. This novel was also the basis for the acclaimed 1993 Ashley Judd film “Ruby in Paradise.”
8. “Fire Island” (2022)
Joel Kim Booster scripted this very funny and moving update on “Pride and Prejudice,” setting it at legendary gay vacation destination Fire Island and turning the Bennet sisters into a tightknit group of friends. He also cast himself as Noah, the romance-averse “Lizzie” to Conrad Ricamora’s Mr. Darcy-inspired aloof attorney Will. Bowen Yang plays Howie, whose promising flirtation with the Mr. Bingley-esque Charlie (James Scully) is derailed by Charlie’s snobby rich friends.
7. “Sanditon” (2019 – )
Based on Austen’s unfinished novel, this PBS series has an excellent pedigree: writer/producer Andrew Davies also wrote the 1995 “Pride & Prejudice” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” The well-reviewed series stars Rose Williams (“Reign”) as impulsive Charlotte Heywood, who moves to the seaside village of Sanditon. Devoted fans rallied for the series to receive a second season. A third season was also greenlit in 2021, but has not yet arrived.
6. “Persuasion” (1995)
Years after Anne Elliot (Amanda Root) rejected a marriage proposal from the dashing but not well-connected Frederick Wentworth (Ciarán Hinds) on the advice of her disapproving godmother, they are thrown together again. Wentworth, now an eminently eligible bachelor, does not realize that Anne never stopped loving him. Much is left unsaid in this wonderful BBC film until the very satisfying ending when the two long-separated souls finally admit they are meant to be together. The 2007 version with Sally Hawkins is also quite good.
5. “Emma.” (2020)
While we love previous Emmas, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale and Romola Garai, all the elements really come together in this sharp yet elegant adaptation starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the brash, misguided matchmaker.
4. “Clueless” (1995)
In our favorite modern version of “Emma,” Alicia Silverstone’s high school matchmaker Cher meddles in everyone’s love lives, sometimes successfully, sometimes disastrously, before realizing her own true love was there the whole time. Amy Heckerling’s romcom is endlessly quotable, funny, and fashionable.
3. “Pride & Prejudice” (2005)
Joe Wright’s version offers more longing looks and romantic tension and less outright enmity than previous versions, and who can forget that swoon-worthy scene where Mr. Darcy (Matthew McFadyen) strides across a misty meadow at dawn to declare his love to Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley)? We also adore Donald Sutherland as the grumpy but doting Mr. Bennet.
2. “Sense & Sensibility” (1995)
Emma Thompson deservedly won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for her delightful and heartbreaking script which sees sisters Elinor Dashwood (Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet) meeting with crushing disappointment in their search for love, followed by a triumphant happy ending for everyone. Everyone is perfectly cast, from stammering but sweet Hugh Grant, to handsome cad Greg Wise and the late Alan Rickman as the fiercely loyal Colonel Branden.
1. “Pride & Prejudice” (1995)
This 6-part BBC miniseries, with Jennifer Ehle as the perfect Lizzie Bennet and Colin Firth as the definitive Mr. Darcy, remains the gold standard for all Austen adaptations.