It is universally recognized that the adaptations of Jane Austen they never go out of style. Who can resist their exciting mix of fighting sisters, candlelit ballrooms, frantic letter-writing and long-awaited marriage proposals? Not to mention the magnificent period costumes. With the theatrical release of Emma by Autumn de Wilde, we retrace the films and the most fascinating series drawn from the beloved works of the novelist.

1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice

© Darryn Lyons / ANL / Shutterstock

The six-part BBC miniseries is best remembered for the lake scene, with a sodden Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) coming out of the water – a scene that projected the English actor into the empyrean of the stars and rejuvenated the great classic of Austen. While taking some liberties with respect to the source material, it remains its best version thanks to Jennifer Ehle who plays a lively and witty Elizabeth Bennet. Their love blossoms during country walks and family dinners, and gossip and stinging comments soon give way to marital bliss.

2. Reason and sentiment (1995)

Reason and sentiment

© Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Ang Lee’s poignant version of Austen’s debut novel is a rhapsody of rain-soaked lawns and reveries by the hearth. In addition to writing the screenplay that earned her the Oscar, Emma Thompson plays Elinor Daswood, a single woman impoverished by the death of her father. Together with his sister Marianne (a passionate Kate Winslet), he must select potential suitors – Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise – and securing his future. Ad hoc poetry reading, embarrassing courtesy visits and more than a tearful reunion.

3. Persuasion (1995)


© Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Darker and more unsettling than Jane Austen’s early novels, is the story of Anne Elliot, a spinster who reconsiders her marriage when her once rejected lover returns from the wars against Napoleon. Having been convinced to break the engagement seven years ago, she wonders if she hasn’t sacrificed her happiness forever. Amanda Root is a melancholy and insignificant-looking protagonist, the perfect counterpart to the charming and energetic Captain Wentworth played by Ciarán Hinds.

4. Emma (1996)


© Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

Austen will have also described Emma Woodhouse like “a heroine that nobody will like very much but me”, but the Gwyneth Paltrow sweet and enchanting who plays her is difficult to detest. It is not clear whether more foolish or more diabolical, Emma tries to marry her friends – first the housekeeper Miss Taylor (Greta Scacchi) and then young Harriet (Tony Colette). The consequences are dire, but there is a lot of fun in this wacky comedy full of colorful characters.

5. Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park

© Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

A reflection on class consciousness and colonial exploitation, Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of Austen’s third novel is very current. Frances O’Connor plays Fanny Price, a young girl who goes to live with her rich aunt and falls in love with one of her children, Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller). However, Fanny is treated like a servant and scolded when she realizes that the family has been enriched by the slave trade. Also look out for Harold Pinter, who’s amazing in the role of plantation owner Sir Thomas Bertram.

6. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Pride and Prejudice

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Sunny and with a beautiful instrumental soundtrack, Joe Wright’s carefree portrayal of the Bennet sisters is a delight from start to finish. Keira Knightley plays a witty Elizabeth, while Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan, the second making her big screen debut, shine in the roles of Jane and Kitty. We organize dances and proceed between misunderstandings and broken hearts until Mr Darcy (a Byronic Matthew Macfadyen) repairs the damage. Another character who steals the show? Judi Dench as the icy and snooty Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

7. Northanger Abbey (2007)

Northanger Abbey

© ITV / Shutterstock

A Felicity Jones with a very fresh face she plays Catherine Morland in this wild transposition of the Austenian parody of the gothic genre. Lively to the point of being frivolous, Catherine devours scary novels and dreams of ending up like one of her heroines. When sent to Bath with her friends, she meets the good-natured Henry Tilney (JJ Feild) and the intriguing Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan) who seeks to boycott their bond. The tale culminates with a visit to a mysterious castle where Catherine soon lets her imagination run wild.

8. Love and Deceit (2016)

Love and deceptions

© Courtesy Everett Collection

This reduction in the form of a drama of the epistolary novel Lady Susan combines frivolity and nonsense with a pungent spirit. Kate Beckinsale is the novel’s title heroine, a delightfully caustic widow, anxious to find a husband for herself and her daughter (Morfydd Clark), while Chloë Sevigny plays her friend and confidante Alicia Johnson. The two wander around the city in feathered hats, gossiping about libertines and dowry hunters. The finish is pink as expected, but with some surprises along the way.

9. Emma (2020)


© PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

With its sumptuous interior and extraordinary costumes, the new adaptation of Emma by Autumn de Wilde is Austen for the Instagram generation. Anya Taylor-Joy, the fabulous Chess queen, she is perfect as the enterprising matchmaker, and leads an eclectic ensemble that includes Mia Goth, Bill Nighy and Johnny Flynn. Sparkling dialogues, love triangles that multiply and fantasies that collide with reality as Emma grapples with the hassle of growing up. The result is an original melodrama that more than lives up to its predecessors.

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