Monday, November 15, 2010

The Best Jane Austen Movies

The little Netflix robot who lives in my computer makes all kinds of lovely film suggestions for me. Her name is Peggotty. (Can you see where this is going?) Peggotty ranks and sorts movies for me, and she knows all I really want in my life is Understated Romantic Dramas Based on British Literature. And I am not ashamed.

Over the last several years, I've become an Austen addict, an Armitage Army follower, a Firth fanatic, a Dickens dork ... tell me you know where I'm coming from. I love them all, and I watch them all (over and over). This led me to compile a list of The Top 10 Best Jane Austen Movies, and hopefully will be followed by several more lists ranking and sorting historical dramas and adaptations. (And maybe even a review or two).

Strict Jane Austen Purists beware: lately I've grown to accept and embrace adaptations that offer some leniency and creative license. It spices things up. And I think Ms. Austen would approve of some spice. So without further ado ...

The Top 10 Best Jane Austen Movies

10. Mansfield Park (2007)

Billie Piper was an interesting choice for Fanny, and I still have to get reacquainted with the cadence of this movie every time I watch it. But the cinematography (part of Masterpiece's 2007 Jane Austen jackpot) is crisp and dynamic.

9. Emma (1996)

Toni Collette and Jeremy Northam save this movie. I'm not normally a huge Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but she manages to give Emma a certain brightness and pluck we've come to expect from our heroine.

8. Northanger Abbey (2007)

Andrew Davies does it again. This man is the screenwriter for Jane Austen adaptations, and he has given us a quirky, youthful adaption of Jane Austen's first published novel.

7. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Do you hate me? Please don't hate me. While Keira Knightley wouldn't be my top choice for Elizabeth, and many aspects of the movie were manipulated for cinematic awe rather than historical fact, I had to include this film in the list. Why? Because at the end, I still want to go there. Be there. Watch it unfold. Isn't that what it's all about?

6. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Ang Lee + Emma Thompson = genius. And if you haven't seen Emma Thompson's acceptance speech at the 1995 Golden Globes, you're in for a treat. I want to be her best friend.

5. Persuasion (

Let's forgive the romp through the streets of Bath. I'm a sucker for delayed gratification - repression - untold feelings and wounded hearts. Oh, the drama! And the cinematography! This adaptation of Persuasion is one of the most beautiful movies in my collection, right down to the textiles.

4. Emma (2009)

I love, repeat LOVE Romola Garai. She is spunky and bright and witty and everything I imagine Emma to be. And while I was skeptical of Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley, I think he held his own very nicely. I particularly enjoyed the colorful and brutally honest arguments between Emma and Knightley. This is not a side of Austen adaptations we often see. Hooray for artistic interpretation.

3. Persuasion (

I'm afraid people judge this movie too harshly. It was filmed in 1995, and has a very different quality than movies we're used to watching. But Ciaran Hinds is brilliant, and the self-imposed denial and restraint is palpable. I love Persuasion for this reason, in film and on the page.

2. Sense and Sensibility (2008)

I could watch this latest adaptation of Sense and Sensibility over and over again. Everything from the casting to the costumes to the location is just lovely. Andrew Davies and Co. took risky artistic liberties that I think even Ms. Austen would approve of.

1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

The holy grail of Jane Austen film adaptations, 1995's Pride and Prejudice made Colin Firth the world's most dashing Darcy. True to the novel, this historically accurate rendition of Jane Austen's most famous story was a smashing success. A dip in the lake, anyone?

And there you have it, The Top 10 Best Jane Austen Movies. Do you agree? Disagree? Are we fighting over my Number 7 choice? I want to hear what you think!


  1. I don't know about #1 choice, but I do think that the week?month?-long Austen-esque perogie/m&m+popcorn shenanigans should be resurrected and recreated at some point.

  2. 2005 pride and prejudice to number 1 (I love Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden so much!) and sense and sensibility 1995 to number 2. Oh gosh, that Allen Rickman :)

    The 1995 P&P was good but the Lizzy bugs me. She's always smiling no matter what is going on. Plus she looks to old to play the part to me. Colin Firth is great though :)

  3. LOVED your list. Saw some favourites, and some unknown gems. Agree with your number 1 and 3 in particular.

    Not strictly Jane Austen, Bride and Prejudice 2004. A Bollywood meets Hollywood modernization. Really fun!

  4. "I could watch this latest adaptation of Sense and Sensibility over and over again. Everything from the casting to the costumes to the location is just lovely. Andrew Davies and Co. took risky artistic liberties that I think even Ms. Austen would approve of."

    I dare say Miss Austen would not approve of ending a sentence with a preposition. I am certain we are in agreement on this matter. Nonetheless, this is a superlative list. Thank-you.

  5. The list is great but Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility should be #1 HANDS DOWN.

  6. Your #1, I have read often is the truest adaptation of the novel. Though I adamantly disagree that it is the best. Try as I have, I cannot accept that entire cast/characters, or the story. I suppose I prefer the 1995 story better, even if it is "cinematic manipulation for awe".