10 Jane Austen movie adaptations ranked best to worst

4 mins
jane austen movies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Netflix’s new Persuasion movie really is that bad. But is it the worst Jane Austen movie ever? We rank 10 Jane Austen movie adaptations from best to worst and tell you where to watch (or hate-watch) them.

Jane Austen movies from best to worst

1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

This mini-series is a faithful retelling of Austen’s most famous novel because, really, why would you mess with such source material? The chemistry between Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy and Colin Firth as the OG Mr. Darcy is electric, and Julia Sawalha (Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous) shines as a joyful and oblivious Lydia.

Highlight: The series made everyone swoon when Darcy emerged from a pond.
IMDb rating: 8.8
Where to watch: BritBox, Hulu, PlutoTV, Prime Video

Honorable mention: The 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, was not as faithful to the novel but still a very good adaptation. Throw in a wildly talented cast and stunning cinematography, and you won’t mind too much if the film skips over some of your favorite parts. (Watch it on Prime Video.)

2. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

This adaptation was written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee, so you’re already in good hands. But round it out with a perfect cast, and this movie is one of the best Austen adaptations around.

Highlight: Emma Thompson’s calm Elinor finally being overcome by her emotions.
IMDb rating: 7.7
Where to watch: HBO Max, Prime Video, Roku

3. Clueless (1995)

This film remains the benchmark for how to retain all the joy and humor of an Austen novel while remaking it into something modern. Loosely based on Emma, Clueless became a cultural icon in its own right.

Highlight: When Cher realizes that she’s in love with Josh and the fountains light up behind her.
IMDb rating: 6.9
Where to watch: HBO, Paramount+, Prime Video

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones is right up there with Cher Horowitz as a modern-day Austen heroine. The film is a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice, with Hugh Grant playing the charming Wickham-esque villain Daniel Cleaver, while Colin Firth gets all meta by playing Mark Darcy, a reimagined Mr. Darcy who was best portrayed on screen by Firth years earlier.

Highlight: The delightful awkwardness during Bridget and Mark Darcy’s encounters.
IMDb rating: 6.7
Where to watch: DirecTV, HBO Max, Prime Video, TBS, TNT

5. Emma (2020)

Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) brought us a prim but warm-hearted take on Emma Woodhouse, the eponymous heroine. The film didn’t mess with the language, but the bold colors and some small but startling moments managed to make this adaptation feel fresh and modern.

Highlight: Bill Nighy as the always-unimpressed hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse.
IMDb rating: 6.7
Where to watch: Freevee, Prime Video

Honorable mention: Also worth watching is the 1996 version of Emma featuring Gwyneth Paltrow. She was sort of insufferable as the entitled Emma, but it’s inspired casting for the very same reason. (Watch on HBO Max or Prime Video.)

6. Mansfield Park (1999)

Unlike Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price is dutiful, quiet, and easily put in her place by her rich relations. The film attempts to dial up her wildness a little, but while this adaptation is actually very good, unfortunately, Fanny is one of Austen’s less likable heroines.

Highlight: Her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas, realizing that Fanny is superior to all his own children.
IMDb rating: 7.0
Where to watch: Prime Video, Starz

7. Love & Friendship (2016)

The movie is based on Lady Susan, a novel Austen wrote when she was 14. Kate Beckinsale goes all in as Lady Susan, recently widowed and out to seduce wealthy men and marry off her daughter to maintain her lifestyle.

Highlight: Tom Bennett’s hilarious portrayal of unwelcome suitor Sir James Martin.
IMDb rating: 6.4
Where to watch: Prime Video

8. Fire Island (2002)

A queer retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Fire Island swaps the Bennet sisters for a group of friends on their annual holiday to Fire Island. While it is a romantic comedy, the movie also celebrates the love between the friends, who have found a sense of family together.

Highlight: Noah and Will’s slow burn romance.
IMDb rating: 6.7
Where to watch: Hulu

9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on a parody novel of the same name and imagines what would happen if the Bennet sisters were trained in martial arts and facing off against an army of zombies (while navigating love and matrimony in the early 19th century).

Highlight: Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, renowned zombie killer.
IMDb rating: 5.8
Where to watch: Prime Video

10. Persuasion (2022)

Worst on our list! It’s unclear why you would make a Jane Austen novel into a period movie without bringing her words along for the ride. The anachronisms were not charming, breaking the fourth wall quickly became tedious (so much smirking), and the rom-com vibe was ill-suited to one of Austen’s most serious heroines.

Lowlights: There are so many things that make this film disappointing, from the deliberate and frequent dilution of tension to the awfulness of the dialog. But the most disappointing thing is the complete lack of an attempt to transpose Austen’s characters to the screen. The Anne Elliott of the novel is kind, serious, and full of resigned melancholy, while Dakota Johnson’s Anne is unrecognizable as an Austen heroine; she’s judgy, socially inappropriate, and unoffended by immoral behavior.
IMDb rating: 5.6
Where to watch: Netflix

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