When it comes to Jane Austen, if you, like me, don’t read her novels, likely you’ve seen an adaptation (or two) of Austen’s literary romances. I know I certainly have a list of favorite Jane Austen adaptations and this is how I rank Jane Austen adaptations, some of which may be a bit controversial.
FILM REVIEW | ‘A Good Woman’ is an Interesting Period Drama Romance
Given the new release of Autumn Wilde’s Emma, I thought it could be fun to look at some of the past adaptations of Jane Austen, and in that, to discuss which of these are among my personal favorites (better known as “ranking” the Austen adaptations). From the era of 80s “stage” productions to mini-series and films, to the more recent versions, I’ve seen a host of Jane Austen films. With exception to maybe five, I feel as if the “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” adage applies to the relationship I have with Austen.
I’m sorting these only by those that are actually period dramas so I’ve omitted any contemporary interpretations of her works (though I’m always game to talk about them, too).
As of yet, I have not seen the 2020 Emma adaptation but it’s not for lack of curiosity. No, it’s because it’s only in a theater about an hour away, so for now I’m just hopeful the turnaround will be quick. In the meantime, there’s plenty of Austen to enjoy, some of which are among my most favorites. With that said, this is going to be a long list, so let’s get to it.
How I Rank A Few of the Jane Austen Romance Adaptations
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15: Northanger Abbey (1987)
To be fair I’ve blocked this one out… a lot. I just remember it being so bad because of painful storytelling and its stage-like presence. But then, again, like anything that’s subjective. Find on Amazon Video
14: Sense & Sensibility (1981)
Don’t really remember this one, but like anything from this era of BBC productions, it’s got a “stage” play production quality. This is, of course, the classic Austen story of two sisters and their quest to find love. Find on Amazon Video
13: Mansfield Park (1983)
In my opinion, this era of adaptations are the “worst of the bunch” but judging by the ratings on Amazon, I’d wonder if this feeling is more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” vibe. Find on Amazon Video
12: Pride & Prejudice (1980)
To be honest, these 80s versions are all pretty much on part with the same feelings I have of any Austen adaptation. These we bought years ago when Media Play was still in existence, and VHS tapes were still on store shelves. Find on Amazon Prime
11: Persuasion (1995)
My aunt liked this version, but I never warmed to the Amanda Root and Ciarian Hinds adaptation. Pretty sure I’ve also seen the 1971 adaptation of Persuasion. Find on Amazon Video
11: Pride & Prejudice (1940)
I’ve seen this one twice now, and while it doesn’t live up to some of my favorite adaptations, it IS a lovely little classic drama that puts the story in more of a “picture frame” concept with its ribboned, and dramatic costume design. Find on Amazon Video
10: Sense & Sensibility (1994)
With exception to a certain declaration and actor, this was a version I really liked as a teen. I used to borrow the VHS tape from my cousin and always loved getting lost in this world. But anymore it just doesn’t “stack up” for me nowadays – and again, it’s personal preference. Find on Amazon Video
9: Mansfield Park (2007)
Like some of the other films from this Masterpiece Theatre season of Austen, I don’t remember this one a great deal. But I do remember liking its “fresh” take on classic material, and feel like this was the first of the period dramas to really take a “new approach” to character styling; meaning the styling of the heroine doesn’t feel period “authentic.” Find on Amazon Video
8: Mansfield Park (1999)
I’ve seen this one countless times and while it 100% IS persuaded by modern ideals, I do like it. Of course, this could be because I have a soft spot for the relationship between Frances O’Connor’s Fanny Price and Jonny Lee Miller’s Edmund. Find on Amazon Video
For some reason, I also find Fanny and Henry’s relationship *interesting*; I don’t root for them, but it’s different in this version…
7: Persuasion (2007)
To be honest, I don’t think we have the “definitive” version of Persuasion just yet. While I adore all of the more recently Masterpiece and/or BBC adaptations that were made some ten+ years ago (including this), I don’t think we’ve seen the best for this story yet. But I had to include this one because I adore the story of love lost and found (again) that it was unthinkable not to include. Find on Amazon Video
TIE! 6: Emma (1996) and Emma (1997)
I mean, both of these are lovely. I like Northam’s “Badly done, Emma!” speech in the Miramax adaptation, but appreciate how authentic to the period the A&E (1997) version is. Find the 1996 version on Amazon Video | Find the 1997 version on Amazon Video
5: Pride and Prejudice (1996)
I grew up watching this A&E mini-series, and by this, I mean, I watched it ALL THE TIME, and still do have a special place for it. It’s a lovely adaptation as well, and I’d guess nothing comes close to the book (my mother has read the novel and was very impressed by this adaptation) in terms of adaptation as this Andrew Davies script does. Find on Amazon Video
4: Northanger Abbey (2007)
There’s no question this is the best version of Austen’s Gothic little mystery. At least too date. It’s been eons (it feels like it anyway) since last I watched this one, so hopefully I remedy this soon. It may be an unusual choice to put in this spot, but it’s so darn sweet. It’s delightful and the cast of JJ Field and Felicity Jones makes it all the more charming. Find on Amazon Video
3: Emma (2009)
The struggle is real with this particular Austen tome, I’m not going to lie. Picking a favorite version of this is tough because I feel as though there are three “definitive” versions. I like all three of them, but usually for different reasons. But I think, overall, I like the 2009 best. However if you ask me tomorrow, I may say something else. Find on Amazon Video
2: Sense and Sensibility (2008)
This version…! It’s beautiful, thought-provoking and the cast? They’re brilliant. The story of the bond of sisterhood is one that’s lovely to experience, too. Find on Amazon Video
1: Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Yes, this is a controversial choice. But I adore this version. My love for it has grown and grown over the years since I first saw it in theaters, and I walked out really liking it too. It’s stunning, and feels authentic in terms of where the characters come from. Find on Amazon VideoHow I Rank A Few of the Jane Austen Romance Adaptations. How would YOU rank them? #JaneAusten #EmmaMovie #List #PrideandPrejudice #Romance Click To Tweet
FUN QUESTION TO END: Who would be on your dream cast list for any Austen adaptation if more (like 2020’s Emma) would be made? Captain Wentworth? Fanny Price? Tell me which actor you want to see play an iconic Austen hero or heroine (or you know, any of the supporting characters we so adore).
What about you? Tell me all about your favorite Austen adaptations and why they are on your favorites list. Comment all of your thoughts – in agreement or disagree – down below. I’d love to chat with you.
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