Faces of a Romance Adaptation: The One All About Emma.


As we speak today, I don’t seem to tire of any adaptation related to Jane Austen. Are there other literary tomes that deserve recognition? Sure. But I’m also happy if we keep seeing all the Austen attention, too. There’s a reason her stories continue to be timeless. One that has many adaptations is Emma, which is why today we look at the varied Emma adaptations in this little “faces of a romance adaptation” series.

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Like any of the prior posts in this random “series,” we walk through these adaptations in a kind of “ranking” post of which versions – out of four “proper” ones, and two modern variations – I like least and best.

*There is a 70s BBC version as well, but unlike most of the other old versions in this BBC line, I have not seen this one. But given my hate-hate relationship with these adaptations, I doubt very much I’d like it.

Emma Adaptations: Six Versions of the Austen Romance

1: Clueless (1995)

This is a loose version of Emma set in the high school scene about a girl named Cher who has everyone just where she wants them, including her father who is wrapped around her finger. It’s different than the Austen tome, of course, but during my recent re-watch (the things we have to do for blog post “research,” so tough *kidding*), it impressed me with how good it is at pulling all of the key elements together. Needless to say, despite the changes, there’s a reason this one feels authentic to the story. PG -13 for sexual content and innuendo | ★★★★

romance movies for Valentine's Day

2: Emma (1996)

This one has to be, 100% all about the nostalgia for me. I cannot give that title to anyone else. I just cannot. This is likely the first version I saw, and is one I used to borrow – likely on VHS! (Yes I’m old) – from my cousin. Another thing I know? For many years, Jeremy Northam was THE only Knightley. Whether or not he still is, well, I have future plans for Mr. Knightley here, so that will comes later, however he is certainly quotable in the role – he may do the best “badly done, Emma” ever. emma adaptations

While this version is the nostalgic one, the costumes seem “modern” and I just cannot with Emma’s hairstyle during the proposal scene. I just… can’t. ★★★★

3: Emma (1997)

This is one that actually has grown on me – a lot, over the many years I’ve re-watched it. It’s filed to be (or this is my take) more period authentic with its darker lighting and in a world of modernization’s I can respect this. Kate Beckinsale plays the “meanest” Emma Woodhouse, but like anything she does, she does this well, and also makes a believable transformation. Mark Strong plays Knightley, like Kate, with more of that “stiff upper lip” persona, but this isn’t always bad. ★★★1/2 (closer to four; downplaying it because it’s been a while since I watched this one)

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4: Emma (2009)

Ah, the Emma mini-series. I think I’ve only seen this twice prior to planning this publication. I remedied that in short order (and am re-watching it again now), and discovered what I did miss by this oversight. THIS version is without question THE most adorable one. Does it lack polish here and there? Sure, but the whimsy is part of its charm.

Ramola Garai plays Emma with the right kind of mix of innocence and confidence (afforded by her birth), which I appreciate because she WOULD be naïve given she’s never been anywhere, and instead lives solely under the thumb of her protective father. Jonny Lee Miller also plays a great hero, and I adore the declaration scene and the sweet scene of panic when Emma realizes she has to refuse him. All around, there’s just no getting around how adorable this version is. ★★★★★ emma adaptations

5: Emma Approved (2013)

emma adaptations

I mean, yes, adding this may be “silly,” but seriously, this web series is such a cute watch. It also does a good job telling the story in its format, which is short videos, and I like the updated changes (for a contemporary world) they make so the series feels relevant. Needless to say, this is one I’d re-watch. ★★★1/2

6: Emma. (2020)

emma. (2020)

When the promotional series for this first appeared, I was so impressed and curious. When someone re-tells a favorite story in a new and creative way, I do admire this. It’s just in this pursuit, I cannot help but feel something is missing. I like the “enough said” title play, and the one truly stunning romantic sequence, but everything else falls a little short for me. That said, this version does make me giggle, and that is reason enough to admire this creative period drama. Though one can suspect this one will grow on me in time. PG for brief nudity | ★★1/2

Tell me, what are YOUR thoughts on these six variations of Emma adaptations? I’d love to know which ones you like best or least of all, and your reasons for them. Make all the arguments for (or against!) your favorites down below. The comments are now yours.


Faces of a Romance Adaptation: The One All About Emma. Sharing all the thoughts on six variations of Jane Austen's Emma. Text © Rissi JC
Faces of a Romance Adaptation: The One All About Emma. Sharing all the thoughts on six variations of Jane Austen's Emma. #EmmaMovie #Romance #JaneAusten #PeriodDrama Click To Tweet

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About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. The 1997 version of Emma is the only one I haven’t seen but I’m planning on remedying that as soon as possible. I absolutely adore the one featuring Romola Garai. It is by far my favorite version for many reasons, not the least of which is Garai’s interpretation of Emma.

    1. I re-watched the BBC twice in… three weeks, maybe? Prior to that I hadn’t seen it for quite some time so I was reminded just how ADORABLE this version is. I love that Garai inturrprets Emma as confident in some things and so totally naive in others. It “feels” really authentic to this character. :)

  2. Of course the 1996 version is still my favorite. I have the same nostalgia feeling for it as you do. I also have the other two versions and love them both. I recently re-watched them along with the newest version (that you didn’t love) and found things that I adored about them all. The 2020 version I think will grow on you more, as it has for me. I wish there weren’t a few things in it (the nudity and the bloody nose), but otherwise it completely makes me laugh and the kiss at the end is probably one of the best romantic scenes in film I’ve ever seen, especially as it portrays Emma’s innocence and has a touch of humor. I also love how it shows Emma relationship with her father with a bit more emotion. Not necessarily accurate, but I loved it all the same. I also love the color and how the director talked about how historical films seem to only have soft colors, but realistically back then the rich did have colorful clothes, especially as it showed their wealth and all the books I read have the same – so I like that she wanted to portray that and be historically accurate instead of making it seem “old.”

    1. I think for nostalgic reasons I will always like the 1996 version. But, overall, I think the BBC version is my favorite – the storytelling is BRILLIANT. Something I base on enjoyment over knowledge of it as an adaptation. ;)

      I suspect I too may enjoy the 2020 version more in future. That said, it just doesn’t have that “warmth” I love about this story. I don’t “feel” the romance like I do in other versions, and just cannot get past some of the scenes – like the confession scene. ;) I 100% LOVED the scene after the ball though. So good.

  3. I wish they would do a proper Mansfield Park adaptation already! It’s such a gem…But anyway, interesting comments about the new Emma adaptation. It caught me off-guard that another one was done and suddenly it was everywhere, lol. I haven’t seen it yet but it does strike me as in the spirit of the novel. I’m forever behind watching things but I hope to get around to it soon-ish!

    Hope all is well with you, Rissi :)

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