As a wholehearted fan of Jane Austen, I believe that everyone should embrace the writing of one of the world’s most prolific creative thinkers!
Here are my top five favourite Austen films/TV mini-series:
1. Emma 2009 (TV mini-series)
One of my favourite actresses, Romola Garai (The Hour, Daniel Deronda), played Emma opposite Johnny Lee-Miller (Trainspotting, Eli Stone) as Mr Knightley and the brilliant Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, The King’s Speech) as Emma’s fretful father, Mr Woodhouse. I adore the soundtrack and exquisite cinematography. I’ve watched it again and again but could still watch it one hundred times more. Thank you, BBC!
2. Pride & Prejudice 2005 (Film)
Starring Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement) and Matthew Macfayden (The Three Musketeers, Death at a Funeral), this film has a refreshingly modern take on the original novel which I sometimes find rather too polished. It has an all-star cast featuring Dame Judi Dench (Casino Royale, My Week with Marilyn), Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job, Ordinary People), Rosamund Pike (An Education, Made in Dagenham), Talulah Riley (St. Trinian’s, The Boat That Rocked) and Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go).
3. Mansfield Park 1999 (Film)
I love this film simply because it is so different compared to the other Austen films. Despite the director’s risk of basing it on Mansfield Park as well as Jane Austen’s letters, I think it paid off. The references to Austen’s letters make for a more interesting viewing for someone who has seen so many films based on the original few books. Mansfield Park is definitely the darkest of Austen’s novels and this adaptation puts more emphasis on slavery, wavering from the original storyline, slightly. Frances O’Connor (The Importance of Being Earnest) and Johnny Lee-Miller (10 years younger than in Emma 2009) performed brilliantly. Justine Waddell (Wives and Daughters, Great Expectations) played Julia Betram and is also one to spot- another favourite.
4. Sense & Sensibility 2008 (TV mini-series)
The best out of the BBC and ITV’s 2007-8 collection of Austen. I loved almost everything about it and felt that it was somehow fresher than the 1995 version with Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Finding Neverland). Plus, this series features Dominic Cooper (The History Boys, Mamma Mia, An Education) as Wiloughby… (And, interestingly enough, Dan Stevens/Matthew Crawley with longer hair, from Downton Abbey, playing Edward Ferrars.)
5. Lost in Austen (TV mini-series)
Yes, I know! It’s not an ‘Austen Adaptation’ and I therefore previously mislead you into thinking that this was a list of films based on Jane Austen’s novels. However, I’ve put it on here because… it’s quite funny! For an Austen fan, anyway… Lost in Austen is a parody of a Janeite Londoner who walks in to find Elizabeth Bennet in her bathroom. It certainly stretches Austen’s characters to the limits… I thought it was brilliant that Christina Cole (Emma, Jane Eyre) played Mrs Elton in Emma (2009) as well! Indeed, Austen’s caricatures do reappear across her novels.
I realise from reading through this again that most of my favourite adaptations are modern. This is not to say that I do not like any of the ‘older’ ones! I love the Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series from 1995! Others worth mentioning include Persuasion (2007 mini-series) and Northanger Abbey (2007 mini-series).
Remember, this is just my opinion! If you disagree, feel free to comment below with your own favourites!