My Ultimate Jane Austen Adaptations

I recently came across a video ranking television and movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s work and I have to say I did not agree with some of the rankings. At all. Now, am I a Jane Austen aficionado? Do I have the knowledge to express my opinion on this subject?

Why yes, yes I do, and I’ll tell you why.

I would never proclaim to be an expert, but I have read every book, some of them multiple times, and I have seen almost every adaptation available. I have watched movies and series from long ago and I still to this day am almost embarrassed to admit how many times I have viewed my favorites…over and over again.

Especially when I am sick. My family knows when a Jane Austen movie or series is on, I am either, sick, anxious, or feeling down. It’s my natural antibiotic and Xanax.

I can’t help it. I love her work. I admire her work. It is Jane Austen who inspired me to be a writer. I remember the moment quite clearly. English honors class. Tenth grade. I was assigned to read Pride & Prejudice. I am not going to lie. I didn’t want to read it. I was over the old-fashioned English verbiage after a Shakespeare unit, but I had a teacher who encouraged me to read it. She thought I would enjoy it more than anyone.

I was lost in the English countryside and assembly rooms of the regency era after the first few chapters. I devoured it and I knew that one day I wanted to write my own versions of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. From there on I was hooked on anything Austen.

Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions. You may or may not agree with them, but I felt after watching a video which put a certain movie near the top…well, I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. To those who have not experienced the joy and heart busting happiness of a good Jane Austen movie or series then I envy you for beginning this journey.

So let us begin…

I am going to start off with Sanditon.

Sanditon was Jane Austen’s last novel she began writing before she died. I believe there were only eleven chapters written and so there really wasn’t a proper sense on where she was going with it before she passed away. The first episode of the PBS show is faithful to what was written at the beginning of the novel and Rose Williams plays a delightful Charlotte Heyward, but in truth there truly wasn’t much to go on. Andrew Davies, once again, penned the scripts, and I am not sure if he was faithful to Jane Austen’s vision and who she was as a writer, which is surprising considering his brilliance on other adaptations.

I was initially against this show being made because as a writer I was somewhat offended that someone else would come in and attempt to finish another writer’s work. I broke down when I was sick and I had nothing else to watch…truth.

Do I think this is a true representation of a Jane Austen novel? No. There were a few scenes in the first season which would definitely not be Austen approved. And a sidenote: Where were all the chaperones? These young women gallivanting around by themselves in that day and age?

Anyway…the question remains is do I like this show?

I do, but I say that hesitantly. The first season also features Theo James and, even though, his character Sydney Parker is only briefly mentioned in the unfinished novel, he embodies a Jane Austen male character. However, at the end of season one, and the beginning of the first episode of season two…without going into spoilers, let’s just say, this is just another example of how far away from a Jane Austen novel this show is.

I will concede though it is a fairly enjoyable regency era show that has hints of Jane Austen. I will never be convinced though that this was faithful to her vision and her writer’s voice, but it is worth a watch.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey was actually Jane Austen’s first novel. She sold it to a publisher, but it was never published until after her death. This coming of age novel is a delight. Catherine Moreland is young and obsessed with gothic novels. She travels to Bath to enjoy the delights with family friends and is soon caught up in her own love story. Unfortunately, her love of gothic novels and vivid imagination almost ruins her chance at true love.

Can I just add Henry Tilney is a closely tied second with Mr. Knightley as one of my favorite literary Austen male love interests.

I’m not going to even say who my favorite is because it’s a given, isn’t it?

The movie is written by Andrew Davies who is considered one of the best when it comes to Austen adaptations. Felicity Jones stars as Catherine and I love her portrayal. This is a fun movie and my only complaint is that it is somewhat too fast paced and short, but it is worth the watch.

A little tip- You can watch it for free on YouTube.

You’re welcome.

Lady Susan/ Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship or Lady Susan was written by Jane Austen in the early part of her life, but was never published until 1871. This novella, which featured a widow who was on the prowl for husband number two and a husband for her daughter, is quite interesting. How scandalous in that day and age! Lady Susan is beautiful and charming, but not exactly likeable.

The 2016 movie featuring Kate Beckinsale is okay. It’s not my favorite movie. I appreciated the direction, but it just didn’t do it for me as an Austen fan, which surprised me because I do think Lady Susan is a fascinating main character. Do I think it’s somewhat fun and witty? Sure, but there was something missing from this movie and I can’t put my finger on it.

Again, not my favorite, but I still think it is a vastly intriguing work from Jane Austen and one in which doesn’t get enough credit.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park. How do I talk about Mansfield Park objectively?

Let’s discuss the book first. This was Jane Austen’s third published novel and it was one of her most controversial works. It was a more mature novel and it sparked both negative and positive reviews for various reasons. I think personally it was because of Fanny Price, the main character, who was somewhat lackluster. Fanny is not my favorite Austen heroine, but I do believe she is a victim of circumstance. There are also the side characters who are not entirely likable and considered quite selfish, materialistic, and vaguely annoying. In truth, I believe they are sometimes far more realistic than critics give them credit for, and perhaps this might be the most down to earth Austen novel.

Fanny is sent off to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle and I think she always feels that she never quite belongs and that she should be grateful for her extended family’s generosity. It is somewhat of a Cinderella story in many ways. There is the wicked aunt, Mrs. Norris, who is horrible to Fanny. Her cousins who are all different and have some fascinating storylines (Maria!). Fanny’s love for Edmund which grows as she matures. Her uncle who makes his fortune in Antigua and the mention of slavery contributing to that fortune was way ahead of its time.

The most interesting characters are the Crawford siblings, Henry and Mary, who are new neighbors to Mansfield Park and oh, what havoc they create for the Bertrams.

The 1999 movie is average at best. I realize some love it and that includes critics, but Francis O’Conner was portrayed as a ‘spirited young woman’. That’s not Fanny Price at all. Although Fanny may not be my favorite Austen heroine, I do have a soft spot for the shy, somewhat awkward character and I blame the writing for this movie more than the actors.

We then move on to the 2008 miniseries which gets a lot of hate. I am going to be controversial and say I prefer this version of Mansfield Park slightly over the movie and for the life of me I cannot explain why. Billie Piper is almost too pretty to be the plain Fanny Price, but I thought her portrayal was more accurate. I also adored Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford. Blake Rushton’s Edmund is…okay, but the scene at the end when he realizes he loves Fanny…I mean, seriously? It was ridiculous.

I am trying to picture the writer and the director.

“Okay. You’re reading a book. You suddenly look up and think, Fanny. I love Fanny.”

And that’s it.


Mansfield Park is a complex novel. It has never been properly made into a decent or acceptable adaptation and quite frankly, I would love to write that screenplay.

I can’t muck it up any more than it already has.


Emma is one of my favs. It is such a good book! Emma Woodhouse is charming and rich. She is somewhat snobby and a complete departure from Austen’s normal heroines. She fancies herself to be a matchmaker which leads to hilarious and almost disastrous consequences after a few successful attempts. There have been multiple versions and I am going to discuss most of them so buckle in.

I am doing this review because of what someone stated about the 1996 movie featuring Gwyneth Paltrow. They actually rated it number three on the best of Jane Austen adaptations and I don’t agree with that, but we’ll get into it in a bit.

Let’s start off with the worst, shall we?

The 1996 version of Emma features Kate Beckinsale as the main character and Mark Strong as George Knightley.

Where do I even start?

To begin with, there were some truly terrible casting decisions made for this movie. Emma Woodhouse is rich, yes, snobby, yes, but also charming which no one told Kate Beckinsale because her portrayal was terrible. I am sorry if you are a fan of this version, but never have I been more annoyed than watching this movie. Perhaps it was the screenwriter, but goodness, she was not likeable at all. Mark Strong, who I love, was also badly portrayed. He came across as almost cruel which is not Mr. Knightley. I can’t even list how many things are wrong with this version because I would be here all day.

Avoid at all costs.

I am going to get hate for this one as well I am sure, but I did not like this newer version at all. Anna Taylor-Joy suffered from the same affliction as Kate Beckinsale apparently. Both could not balance between being snobby and charming at the same time. This was a more modernized version. Slick sets, beautiful costumes, but where was Frank Churchill’s and Jane Fairfax’s story? It was horribly rushed and considering it is a major plot line in the book, I felt cheated. Actually I felt like I had whiplash watching this.

I read reviews which compared it to the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow movie and how Anna Taylor-Joy was a far better Emma and I shook my head in disbelief. Perhaps, to a younger, modern audience they might prefer it, but…no. Not even close.

Maybe it is because I am such a lover of the book that I felt like this was a poor version. It just did not work for me. There are better versions of this story. Watch those instead.

The 1996 version of Emma is delightful. I enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Emma Woodhouse, even though I found her a tad whiny, ..was it just me? This is a solid movie. It is a good adaptation although, Ewan McGregor as Frank Churchill was a misfire for me. Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightley was a decent casting and I enjoyed his take on the character.

However, it is still not the best version.

The 2009 BBC miniseries of Emma is THE definitive version of the novel. End of story. Fight me on this.

The writing. The casting, Perfection.

Romola Garai was the perfect Emma Woodhouse. Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley was born to play Mr. Knightley. Michael Gabon as Mr. Woodhouse. Tamsin Grieg as Ms. Bates! Every character came alive for me. It was like they were plucked out of the book which I have read multiple times and magically appeared on my screen.

I think it is the best version because it is a miniseries. It was able to go into the story much deeper than any of the two hour movies that have been made. We finally were able to get a sense of Isabella and she had a small, but important role as Emma’s sister. Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton is just as I pictured and Christina Cole as Mrs. Elton is wonderful. I also want to mention Jodhi May and her portrayal as Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston. I adored the relationship between her and Emma. There was such natural chemistry between them.

As you can tell, I could go on and on about it. I just felt such riotous indignation (dramatic, yes, I know) when I saw someone rank the Gwyneth Paltrow movie higher and barely even mention this version. Like I stated, the film is a solid movie, but I do not feel it is the best.


Persuasion is arguably Jane Austen’s best novel. I say arguably because there are some people out there, like me, who just can’t rank it higher than Pride & Prejudice because of our love for that book, but it is a stunningly emotional and beautiful story.

Sadly, it wasn’t published until after her death. I say sadly because I wished she could have seen the reaction to this book. The love for it has only grow throughout the years and it deserves every praise.

It is a story of love. Love lost and once again found. Anne Elliot accepts but then turns down a proposal of marriage from the then Colonel Wentworth pretty much because her family pressured her to do so because he had no fortune. Eight years later Captain Wentworth comes back and he is wealthier and much more eligible. Anne, on the other hand, is now a spinster and her family’s fortune has been reduced greatly because of her father’s extravagant spending habits. There are numerous twist and turns, some fairly humorous, and Anne’s POV is amazing especially given the time it was written.

It is a mature and wonderful story and I highly encourage anyone to read it because it just is magical at the end.

I am only going to briefly discuss the new Netflix version of Persuasion. When I heard they were making it I was cautiously optimistic. I thought Dakota Johnson wasn’t a terrible casting for Anne Elliot, but then I saw the trailer.

I didn’t even know what to say. The breaking of the fourth wall? The chugging of wine?

Here is the thing to all those suits in Hollywood. You don’t need to modernize Jane Austen too much. Her stories are timeless. I felt like the suits over at Netflix tried to use the Bridgerton model aesthetic for this and it didn’t work as brilliantly as they had hoped.

I attempted to watch it though because at the end of the day it is Jane Austen, but oh my goodness. No. Just no.

I can’t even think of anything else to say or write.

Okay maybe I can.

I almost felt offended by this version and even more so when I saw someone put this as the third best Jane Austen adaptation of all time.

The 2007 movie is a decent version. I enjoyed Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth may be my slight favorite of this character. I think Anne’s anxiety and suffering perfectly is in line with Wentworth’s anger and hurt. I felt their longing and their love. The supporting cast is excellent, but the last scene.

Oh, boy.
Hey, if I was Anne I would be running to the ends of the earth to find him after reading the letter too, but the kiss? I mean…talk about the longest leadup to a kiss ever. It was at least ten seconds excruciatingly too long and cringey in my opinion.

A solid adaptation though and I highly recommend.

The 1995 movie is just lovely. I have seen some who barely even mention this movie and I can’t fathom why they would leave it off any list or dismiss it. Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds just embody Anne and Captain Wentworth. The story is the most faithfully adapted and the acting is amazing. The costumes, the sets, I really enjoy this version. I suppose it’s number one for me of Persuasion because it is so much like the book and once again, the characters seemed to leap from the page for me.

Sense & Sensibility

Jane Austen’s first novel which was published was Sense & Sensibility. It was published anonymously and only a select few knew Jane had written the book. It simply stated it was ‘By a Lady.’

The classic tale, which is known by many, is centered around the sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The story begins as their father lays dying on his deathbed. His son from his first marriage vows to take care of his step-mother and three half sisters who will be left with a meager annual income due to how the estate will was drawn up. Mr. Dashwood dies and, surprise, surprise, John Dashwood (with much prodding from his greedy wife) makes no effort to assist them. Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are off to live in a cottage in Devon which is located on the estate of a long-lost relative, Sir John Middleton.

They settle in, but Elinor still harbors a love for Edward Ferrars who is her wretched sister-in-law’s brother. Edward came to visit before they left Norland Park and her heart was taken by the shy, kind man. Marianne, however, is soon locked in her own love story and slight love triangle with Colonel Brandon and the dashing John Willoughby. The course of love does not run smooth and, after many twists and turns, the Dashwood sisters finally find happiness.

There are only two adaptations of Sense & Sensibility which are worth discussing. Once again, I am going to be controversial and discuss them together because I think they are equally as good, but let me state my case on why I think this before you go all keyboard warrior on me.

The 1995 movie written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee is the best version. Hands down, but for anyone to dismiss the 2008 BBC miniseries is mind boggling to me. This is also an extremely well-done version and it was also more in keeping with the book than the 1995 movie.

To begin with, hats off to Emma Thompson. To turn Sense & Sensibility into a film was not an easy task. The novel is heavily filled with descriptive language and not much dialogue. It was not only extremely well-written, it was also a beautifully shot movie and the acting was impeccable. It was a joy, in both the movie and the miniseries, to finally see Margaret, the third younger Dashwood sister. She really isn’t a big part of the book and both the film and miniseries gave her character a wonderful nuance.

Emma Thompson as Elinor is great, but Hattie Morahan in the miniseries was also good, and if I am being honest, she was also younger which is in keeping with Elinor’s age in the book than Thompson. Charity Wakefield as Marianne was solid, but Kate Winslet’s Marianne wins easily. She WAS Marianne. I think everyone casted in both the movie and the miniseries did a fantastic job.

The difference between the miniseries and the movie is simple. The budget. One was a television miniseries and one was a major Hollywood motion picture and it shows in the cinematography. I have no issues with the film. I love it, but I do appreciate the miniseries because it did allow the story to be more faithful to the book.

In the film, Sir John Middleton is portrayed as a widower. In the miniseries, his character is shown as he is in the book. Married to the very insipid Lady Middleton with four children. We also got to witness the scene when Willoughby comes to Cleveland Park after Marianne is recovering from being deathly ill and has a conversation/ confrontation with Elinor. In the book, this conversation is almost an entire chapter, and I would have loved for it to be in the film version. To see Emma Thompson square off against Greg Wise…ahhhh, what could have been.

I also adored that the miniseries showed, what was only briefly referenced in the book, the duel between Colonel Brandon and Willoughby. We know that it had more to do with Brandon’s ward who Willoughby seduced and impregnated, but it was also slightly because of Marianne as well, and Willoughby’s terrible treatment of her after she arrives in London.

We also got to see in the miniseries Lucy Steel’s sister, Anne, and she was just like in the book! We were introduced to the imposing Mrs. Ferrars as well which was incredible in this fan’s mind.

At the end of the day though, the film version is the best, but after you watch that, stream the miniseries.

For anyone who does not put this version high on the best of Austen list, well, I can’t even finish the sentence…

Pride & Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice is my favorite book of all time. I reread it at least once a year and the words on the pages still bring me joy. I don’t know what it is exactly which makes me love it so. I can’t explain it. The book stirs something in me and I just adore the story, the characters, everything.

The story is timeless. Elizabeth Bennet is witty and charming. Mr. Darcy is perfectly brooding and completely misunderstood until the end. Each and every side character adds richness to the story. It just is a masterpiece.

The story centers on the Bennet family. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five daughters and it is Mrs. Bennet’s goal to get them all married. The estate of Longbourn, where they live, will be entailed away when Mr. Bennet dies, so Mrs. Bennet is in a constant state of worry. (Her poor nerves!) The new arrival of a handsome wealthy young man brings excitement to the house and before they even meet their new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, she is already planning to marry one of her daughters to him.

The eldest Miss Bennet, beautiful and kind Jane, catches his eye, and they begin to form an attachment. However, his sisters, and his extremely wealthy friend Mr. Darcy, is skeptical of Jane’s suitability due to her lack of fortune and social and familial connections. He insults Elizabeth at their first meeting, but soon finds himself drawn to her.

Elizabeth does not feel the same way at all, especially after the militia comes to town to train and she soon becomes enamored with the dashing Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham have a history with one another, but Elizabeth does not discover Mr. Wickham’s duplicity until much later. As the cousin of the Bennet’s arrive, the clergyman and annoyingly boasting Mr. Collins, who will one day inherit Longbourn, Elizabeth’s life becomes more complicated as he sets his sights on her.

She flatly turns him down, which enrages her mother, and a few days later he proposes to her best friend, Charlotte! Amidst the chaos, Mr. Bingley’s sisters and Mr. Darcy scheme to get him to leave for London and away from Jane. Jane is heartbroken. As Jane attempts to mend her wounded heart, Elizabeth visits the new Mrs. Collins and is soon shocked to find Mr. Darcy there at his aunt’s house, the formidable Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

She is even more floored when Mr. Darcy professes his love for her and asks her to marry him. Unfortunately, for Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth had just discovered he was behind Mr. Bingley leaving and she is furious with him and blames him for Jane’s unhappiness. She also confronts him about his past treatment of Mr. Wickham and turns him down which wounds him greatly. He immediately leaves and writes her a long letter explaining how it was Mr. Wickham who has deceived her and he reveals that Wickham also tried to seduce his fifteen year old sister to get his hands on her enormous dowry. He does admit to being involved with the plot to separate Bingley and Jane, but insists he was trying to be a friend to Bingley because he did not feel the reserved Jane cared for him as much as he did her.

Elizabeth goes home and she is still reeling from what she has learned. Meanwhile, the militia leave town and her youngest sister, Lydia is invited to go with the Colonel of the regiment for the summer. Elizabeth joins her aunt and uncle to travel to the north and they wind up a few miles from Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy. They tour the estate and he happens to come home, much to Elizabeth’s mortification, but he is extremely kind and polite.

Elizabeth meets his sister and she is confused about her growing feelings for Mr. Darcy. He prepares to ask her to marry him again but disaster strikes when she receives a letter from Jane. Lydia has run away to get married with Mr. Wickham! Elizabeth races home and they discover Wickham had no intention to marry her. After days of looking, Mr. Bennet arrives home, but soon they receive a letter that Lydia has been found by Elizabeth’s uncle and that she and Wickham will be married.

When Lydia and Wickham arrive at Longbourn before they go to the north where he is to be stationed, she lets it slip that it was, in fact, Mr. Darcy who discovered them and it was Mr. Darcy who paid for Wickham’s commission in the army. Elizabeth is shocked and she realizes then just how decent of a man he is. She is able to speak to him after he and Mr. Bingley arrive back to the area and he proposes once more and she finally accepts! Jane and Mr. Bingley also get engaged and it is a true happy ending.

Unless your Lady Catherine who is devastated by the news of their engagement because she planned on Darcy marrying her sickly daughter.


Yes, I did just write an essay about the synopsis of Pride & Prejudice because I cannot tell it in one paragraph or even two..

Now, on to the adaptations. There are many who only discuss two, but I am adding another one. This one is definitely for the die hard P & P fans.

For the time, the 1980 miniseries is actually quite good. I did not like David Rintoul who played Mr. Darcy that much, but I rather enjoyed this older version for a few different reasons. It is the only version which shows Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas’ relationship after Elizabeth refuses him. There are a few scenes where they are talking and getting to know one another. It doesn’t seem as shocking as the newer versions when it just seemed like it happened out of thin air and I appreciated that.

I also liked that they showed Mr. Darcy courting her, in his own way, when she is visiting the Collins. It actually occurs over a few weeks and not just a few times like in the newer adaptations. It is more similar to the book in this aspect. It also has a few scenes where Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy went to Longbourn for dinner on several occasions which is in the novel.

Yes, it is outdated, but if you are a die hard fan then I think you will appreciate it.

The 2005 movie featuring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden is a beautiful film version. The cinematography is stunning and I wasn’t sure about Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth but she won me over. Yes, there are things they omitted, but it is an excellent film, and the acting is top notch.

I also loved Claudie Blakely’s performance as Charlotte. The scene where she tells Elizabeth that she is marrying Mr. Collins felt so authentic. Her despair over being twenty-seven and a burden to her parents was masterful.

And the ending…is there a being alive whose heart doesn’t begin to gallop as Mr. Darcy comes striding across the mist filled field towards Elizabeth? I love that scene. Not remotely like the book, but I don’t care in this instance!

The 1995 miniseries of Pride & Prejudice is the definitive version. To me this is a fact and not an opinion.

I can’t tell you how many times I have watched it. I am not even embarrassed to admit that. It is much like the book itself. Timeless.

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy was the most perfect casting of two literary characters of all time! It is six hours of pure joy and pleasure. Every single character was immaculately characterized and it is also very much like the book with a few slight exceptions. I actually thought about breaking down each episode (there are six) but then I realized that might be going a bit too far!

I am sorry to tell you this if you haven’t read the book, but no, the Mr. Darcy lake scene was not in the book, but what a genius addition. Oh, the moment he comes through the trees and Elizabeth is wandering the gardens…the look on both of their faces is priceless.

If you have not watched this version, you must do so at once!

My favorites from this list.

  1. Pride & Prejudice-1995 miniseries…obviously.
  2. Pride & Prejudice-2005 movie.
  3. Emma– 2009 miniseries.
  4. Sense & Sensibility-1995 movie.
  5. Sense & Sensibility– 2008 miniseries.
  6. Northanger Abbey
  7. Persuasion-1995 movie.
  8. Emma– 1996 movie.

The book I would love to write the screenplay for and adapt for a movie or streaming.

Northanger Abbey– Yes, I love the movie, but it was too short, and fast-paced. I think this is the perfect next miniseries and I would enjoy every single second of writing it!

Thank you for reading this list and my rambles. I tend to get carried away when I speak of Jane Austen and her work. Also, thank you to the person who did the video listing what she called the only list you would ever need to watch. You prompted me to write this rebuttal and I absolutely loved doing it.



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