The English Regency Bonus: Best Jane Austen Adaptations

There have been many adaptations of Jane Austen's novels for film and television, and it can be difficult for new viewers to decide where to begin. I've personally seen at least one if not two or three adaptations of each Austen novel, so I've listed my particular recommendations below. I hope that other Austen fans will agree with my selections!

Don't forget to check out The English Regency for more Regency-era fun, including an excerpt from Jane Austen's Emma, instructions for a game inspired by one played in Emma, and a recipe for a Regency-era cookie. By combining the module's activities with a viewing of one or more of these adaptations, you'll have the makings of a fun Regency-inspired party!

 
Sense and Sensibility - 1995, adapted by Emma Thompson, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet

Although Emma Thompson (who wrote the screenplay for this adaptation) is technically too old for the part of Elinor, overall the casting choices in this theatrical film adaptation give it the edge over other versions. Kate Winslet as Marianne, Greg Wise as Willoughby, and Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon do particularly well in portraying a complicated (and in my opinion, ultimately unsatisfying) love triangle.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice - 1995, adapted by Andrew Davies, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth

This six-hour miniseries adaptation is the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for legions of fans. The 2005 theatrical movie starring Keira Knightley has its champions, but that version comes nowhere close to capturing the essence of the book or sticking faithfully to its plot. The miniseries does both beautifully, thanks to a thoughtful script and excellent acting.
 
 

 

 

Mansfield Park - 2007, adapted by Maggie Wadey, starring Billie Piper and Blake Ritson

Mansfield Park is not one of Austen's best-known or typically one of her best-loved novels, but this television movie adaptation does a wonderful job in bringing the story to life. It sticks faithfully to the novel's story, unlike the 1999 theatrical film adaptation.

 

 

 

 

Emma - 1996, adapted by Douglas McGrath, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam

I've seen three adaptations of Emma--the 1996 television film adapted by Andrew Davies and starring Kate Beckinsale, the 2009 miniseries adapted by Sandy Welch and starring Romola Garai, and this one. The 1996 movie is by far my favorite, as in my opinion it best captures the breezy elegance of the book's setting and style. I usually object to Americans playing British roles, but I thought that Gwyneth Paltrow did an excellent job with both her accent and her portrayal of Emma.
 

 

 

Northanger Abbey - 2007, adapted by Andrew Davies, starring Felicity Jones and J. J. Feild

Northanger Abbey has been adapted only twice for film and television, but luckily the 2007 television film adapted by Andrew Davies is very well done. The book itself is quite different from Austen's other novels, with the plot focusing on the runaway imagination of a heroine who loves Gothic novels, and the television adaptation does a good job showcasing the humor and satire of its source material.
 
 

 

 

Persuasion - 1995, adapted by Nick Dear, starring Amanda Root and Ciarin Hinds

I admit that Persuasion is my least favorite of Austen's novels, but of the two adaptations I've seen (this and the 2007 television movie), this one is decidedly the best. Critical reviewers seem to agree with me, so if you love Persuasion or are curious about it, give this version a go!