“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
With its touching romantic moments, intriguing storyline, and infamously complicated love triangles, it is no surprise that Jane Austen’s renowned classic novel Pride and Prejudice has been the inspiration for an impressive 17 film and television adaptations since 1938.
While there seems to be an adaptation for each generation of romantics, this article will refer to the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice directed by Joe Wright.
A star-studded cast – including Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden, and Judi Dench – breathes life into Austen’s characters.
If Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s inexorable passion kept you on the edge of your seat and indefinitely spoiled your romantic life by setting impossibly high standards, you are not alone.
Pride and Prejudice is a cult classic that centers around the timeless theme ‘love conquers all.’
However, there are several period films whose romance and intrigue will similarly transport you to a different time where fairytale endings are veiled with elaborate obstacles.
Like Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a period film based on one of the iconic works by Jane Austin. This story similarly follows a spirited young woman during the Regency-era in England.
This is classic comedy revolves around meeting one’s equal and finding a fairytale ending. Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a wild queen bee with no rivals in her sleepy small town. She is beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy.
Emma must journey through unsatisfactory pairings and romantic blunders to uncover the love that has been there all along in this dazzling satire of social class and the agony of growing up with a silver spoon in one’s mouth.
This recent rendition of Emma was well received by critics. It was awarded several accolades, including two Academy Award nominations, a British Academy Film Awards nomination, and a Golden Globe Award.
If you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, you would be swept up by the magic of Emma.
Like Pride and Prejudice, Atonement is a period film that is centered around two unlikely lovers who are kept apart by class.
This film stars Keira Knightley as the beautiful and rebellious eldest Tallis daughter, Cecelia, who falls in love with Robbie, the son of their household servant.
Cecelia’s younger sister, Briony (Saoirse Ronan), misinterprets what is going on when she sees Cecilia and Robbie at the water fountain in front of their family estate, sparking a tragic series of misunderstandings and childish disputes that will have dire consequences for all of them.
This film’s powerful acting performances, directing, soundtrack, cinematography, and visuals all received high praise from critics.
Furthermore, Atonement received several nominations for prestigious awards; boasting wins at the Oscars, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards.
Although Atonement is set during a different time, like Pride and Prejudice, audiences are swept back in time by a tragic and moving story of star-crossed lovers.
Anna Karenina is similarly a historical romantic drama film adapted from an acclaimed classic novel. This 2012 adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel also stars Keira Knightley as the female lead.
In Imperial Russia in 1874, the aristocratic Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) travels from Saint Petersburg to Moscow to salvage her brother Prince Oblonsky’s (Matthew Macfayden) marriage, which his love affair with his housemaid had jeopardized.
Anna Karenina similarly grapples with her loveless marriage to Count Alexei Karenin (Jude Law).
During her journey to Moscow, Anna and Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a military officer, lock eyes and instantly share a connection.
However, soon after they meet, she hears that Vronsky would propose to Kitty (Alicia Vikander), her sister-in-law’s (Kelly MacDonald) younger sister.
After Anna is invited to extend her stay, she tries to suppress her forbidden attraction to Count Vronsky as they dance at a ball in Moscow. However, she fails as their obvious attraction draws the attention of the conservative Russian court.
Their passion overwhelms their better judgement, and they begin a love affair that ultimately leads to disastrous tragedy.
Joe Wright’s brilliant direction earned this film several prestigious nominations, including Best Costume Design, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Anna Karenina is a must-see for fans of historical romantic drama.
Sense and Sensibility
Like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 adaptation of Jane Austin’s classic novel. It follows characters who grapple with the seemingly endless bends on their journey to a fairytale ending.
When Mr. Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) dies, his estate is left to his first wife’s son, leaving his second wife and his three children, Elinor (Dame Emma Thompson), Marianne (Kate Winslet), and Margaret (Emilie François), in a precarious position that has a devastating impact on Elinor’s and Marianne’s marriageability.
Marianne is a romantic who wears her heart on her sleeve, and she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior exposes her to rumor and innuendo when she falls in love with the handsome but unbefitting John Willoughby (Greg Wise).
Meanwhile, Elinor, who is constantly conscious of social convention, struggles to hide her own disappointments in love, even from those closest to her.
Through their tumultuous romantic trials, the sisters learn that sense must mingle with sensibility if they are to discover true happiness in a world where rank and money control the laws of love.
Being recognized as one of the best Austen adaptations, this period drama received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. It earned several awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Jane Eyre is based on Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, which is regarded as a Gothic, bildungsroman, and romantic classic.
Like Pride and Prejudice, this film transports audiences through history where two unlikely love interests meet and must overcome several obstacles before attaining their happy ending.
Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) leaves her traumatic childhood behind to become a governess. While settling into her new position, she sees a rider thrown by his horse and comes to his aid.
This is the moment she meets Mr. Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender), the house’s cold-blooded and brusque head. As Jane and her boss warm up to each other, romance finds its way to Thornfield Hall.
Happiness seems to have finally found Jane. However, when she learns that dark secrets are lurking below Mr. Rochester’s mysterious façade, their connection is put to the test.
The curious connection between Edward and Jane is comparable to the relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Both Darcy and Rochester are handsome and complicated men who grapple with their intense feelings for spirited young women.
Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
This romantic period drama is a modern adaptation of the 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy. Like Pride and Prejudice, Far from the Madding Crowd follows a fiery female protagonist as she wrestles with romantic trials and tribulations.
Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is an independent, beautiful, and headstrong woman who attracts three suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer captivated by her seductive willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Bathsheba’s choices and interests are explored in this classic narrative of love and relationships, as well as the human ability to overcome adversity through tenacity and perseverance.
Far from the Madding Crowd invites harsh comparison to Thomas Hardy’s iconic novel and its earlier adaptation. Still, it stands on its own, owing to good directing and a superb cast. This film is a must-see for fans of Pride and Prejudice.
Becoming Jane is a 2007 British Irish biographical romantic drama film that follows the early years of Jane Austen’s life and her long-term love for Thomas Langlois Lefroy.
Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is a spirited twenty-year-old emerging writer who sees a world beyond class and commerce, beyond pride and prejudice, and dreams of doing what was then nearly unthinkable: marrying for love.
Her parents, understandably, are on the lookout for a wealthy, well-connected spouse to secure their daughter’s future social position.
They’re considering Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), the nephew of Lady Gresham (Dame Maggie Smith), a formidable, not to mention wealthy, local aristocracy.
When Jane meets Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a roguish and non-aristocratic character, sparks fly along with the sharp repartee. His intelligence and arrogance enrage and intrigue her.
Now, the couple, whose flirting defies the age’s sense and sensibility, finds themselves in a horrible predicament. If they marry, they will jeopardize all they hold dear: family, friends, and wealth.
Critics have drawn several noteworthy parallels between Austen and Elizabeth Bennet, with some suggesting that Pride and Prejudice was loosely based on Jane Austen’s personal life.
Furthermore, the physicality of the kiss between Jane and Tom is as passionate as the kiss between Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Northanger Abbey is a British television film based on Jane Austen’s 1817 novel. Like Pride and Prejudice, this romantic period film transports audiences to the 1800s, where it follows the life of a spritely young woman.
Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) is looking for an experience like the ones she’s read about in novels when she’s offered the opportunity to stay with the Allen family in Bath.
She meets Isabella Thorpe (Carey Mulligan) and her brother John (William Beck), a dear friend of her brother James (Hugh O’Connor), shortly after being introduced to society.
She also meets Henry Tilney (JJ Feild), a charming young man from a respectable family, and Eleanor (Catherine Walker), his sister.
She has romantic ideas when she is invited to visit the Tilney estate, Northanger Abbey, but quickly learns that status, class, and money are all equally significant when it comes to matters of the heart.
The Age of Innocence
Martin Scorsese directed The Age of Innocence, a 1993 American historical romantic drama film. The script is based on Edith Wharton’s classic The Age of Innocence, published in 1920. This film boasts a star-studded cast that breathes life into these characters.
Scion of society Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is betrothed to May Welland (Winona Ryder), but when he meets May’s eccentric cousin, the Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), his carefully coordinated existence is upended.
Newland first defends the Countess, whose divorce from her violent husband renders her a social pariah in late-nineteenth-century New York’s conservative high society.
As time passes, he begins to fall in love with the Countess. However, their connection is stifled by commitment and societal conventions.
The Age of Innocence garnered positive reviews and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Art Direction at the Academy Awards.
Little Women (2019)
Greta Gerwig’s excellent writing and direction breathes life into this modern adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 classic novel.
This coming-of-age romantic period drama received several prestigious accolades, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design.
With their father (Bob Odenkirk) abroad fighting in the Civil War, the March family’s women—the beloved matriarch, Marmee (Laura Dern), and her four daughters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)—are left to fend for themselves in nineteenth-century Massachusetts.
The March sisters are divided on all fronts besides one; they each search for their own happy ending.
Jo March, a failing novelist amid poverty in male-dominated New York City, strives to create a name for herself; thoughtful Meg is now married, and artistically minded Amy is in Paris with their wealthy Aunt March.
However, tragic news reunites the sisters under one roof, and as they battle life’s crests and troughs, the girls learn that happy endings are not without heartbreak.
Mansfield Park (1999)
Mansfield Park is a romantic comedy adapted from Jane Austen’s 1814 classic novel. Like Pride and Prejudice, this period film explores love in the time of Regency-era England and touches on several aspects of Austen’s personal life.
Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor) is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park as a child. Homesick Fanny is comforted by her cousin Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller), and the two develop a close bond.
However, as she grows into a clever and beautiful young woman with a wild imagination and a good heart, she attracts other suitors.
When Henry (Alessandro Nivola) and Mary Crawford (Embeth Davidtz), relatives of the local clergyman, arrive at Mansfield Park, this sets off a whirlwind of romantic chaos.
Fanny learns that she must find a careful balance between following her heart as well as her head if she is to find true happiness.
Like Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price is a headstrong female protagonist who does not bow to the expectations placed on women during their time. Fans of Pride and Prejudice will enjoy this modern adaptation of Austen’s third novel.
Austenland is a modern rom-com film that stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes. She is a single thirty-something woman who harbors an all-consuming obsession with Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, or more specifically, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 adaptation to which none of her romantic endeavors compare.
Jane’s dreams of falling in love with the perfect Regency-era gentleman become more real than she could have imagined when she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women.
However, Jane soon discovers that her fantasyland is not as fantastic as she dreamed, as, like Elizabeth Bennet, she is kept from her happy ending by her ‘copper status’ caliber.
Her phony fairytale begins to stir up genuine feelings and, with that, a disarray of romantic dilemmas.
Although Austenland is not a historical film, fans of Pride and Prejudice will revel in how the film cleverly uses the parallels to Austen’s classic novel.
Both Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Hayes are headstrong women who refuse to allow the confines of their social status to spoil their chance at true love.
Kirsten Dunst brilliantly depicts Queen Marie Antoinette in this playful historical drama based on the French monarchy leading up to the French Revolution.
Historical romance fans will delight in the indulgent and romantic scenes filmed in the Palace of Versailles, which earned this film an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
“All eyes will be on you,” Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithful), the Austrian Empress, tells Marie Antoinette, her youngest daughter.
The film, intended for an adolescent audience, follows Marie Antoinette as she grows up from an adolescent bride to a young lady and eventually Queen of France in the colorful and luxurious French court.
Critics received this film well, with several reviews praising Coppola’s depiction of the doomed queen, lavish visuals, and daring music that sets it apart from other period dramas.
The Young Victoria
The Young Victoria depicts Queen Victoria’s childhood and reign and her marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Critics celebrated this British period drama for its historical accuracy, which can be attributed to Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, screenwriter Julian Fellowes, and historical consultant Alastair Bruce.
Victoria (Emily Blunt), who has been dominated by her possessive mother (Miranda Richardson) and her bullying spouse, Conroy (Mark Strong), refuses to give them the right to act as her regent during the remaining days of her uncle William IV’s (Jim Broadbent) reign.
Albert (Rupert Friend), her German cousin, is urged to woo her primarily for political reasons, but after her accession at the age of eighteen, he discovers that he is falling for her.
However, he is appalled by her dependence on Prime Minister Melbourne (Paul Bettany).
Her devotion to Melbourne, who is regarded as self-seeking, almost leads to a constitutional crisis, and Albert is the one who helps her regain her confidence. Victoria proposes and they marry.
Albert proves himself not only a devoted husband, prepared to take an assassin’s bullet for her but also an agent of much-needed reform.
If you enjoyed the dramatic twists and romantic turmoil in Pride and Prejudice, this film is a must-see!
This historical drama film continues the storyline from the well-known series, with many beloved cast members returning to Downton.
Neame and Fellowes’s adaptation managed to avoid the disappointment awarded to most sequels, with rave reviews from fans of the show and critics alike.
The Crawleys and their valiant crew must prepare for the most significant event of their lives, a royal visit from the king and queen of England. However, when the royal staff arrives at Downton, trouble soon follows that poses a threat to its very existence.
While Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice are set a century apart, both films successfully compel audiences with controversy, romance, and intrigue.
Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown
Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown is a British period film that follows Queen Victoria’s later years. A star-studded cast brings this film to life, with the lead, Judi Dench, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
After the death of her beloved spouse, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) withdraws from public life, so the court hires John Brown (Billy Connolly), a former servant of the prince, to assist her in her mourning.
Brown’s unconventional methods and disregard for tradition entice the queen to come out of her shell, and the bold Scot becomes her solitary confidant.
However, their increased intimacy causes a commotion, as sensational allegations about the nature of their connection circulate.
This drama was well-received by critics. Some reviews praised the talented acting, the chemistry between its leads, and its clever, thoughtful script that delivers an enjoyable, if not entirely factual, account of a rarely studied historical relationship.
Although Queen Victoria and John Brown’s relationship is vastly different from that of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, this film similarly explores a kind of romance that is based on challenge and intrigue.