The 5 Best Adaptations Of Jane Austen’s Novels

Netflix is gearing up to release another adaptation of a novel by arguably England’s foremost novelist. “Reasoning,” starring Dakota Johnson, will be the second adaptation of the story of the same name. The film adaptation is scheduled to premiere in 2022. In anticipation of this event, together with the largest book service in Russia and the CIS LitRes, we have made a selection of the best adaptations of the novels of the legendary Englishwoman. 

“Pride and Prejudice”, (directed by Joe Wright, UK, France, USA, 2005)

Probably the most famous novel of the writer has lain on the shelf for over 15 years. Publishers rejected the manuscript of the 21-year-old Englishwoman one after the other and only decided to publish it after the success of her later novel, Sense and Sensibility. And for good reason. Readers quickly appreciated the story of the five Bennet sisters, whose parents are anxious for each of them to marry well. The novel has been adapted at least five times.  Director Joe Wright created one of the most classic versions. He has retained the author’s intonations of the source material: hilarity, sarcasticness, sincerity. And he gave the story of successful marriages a double ending, which puzzled the critics a great deal. England, late eighteenth century, the sedate life of the respectable Bennet family is turned upside down when a young and wealthy gentleman – Mr Bingley – shows up next door.

“Sense and Sensibility”, (directed by Ang Lee, USA, UK, 1995)

Jane Austen was one of the first to write such novels, which reflected the real life and real manners of the eighteenth-century Britons, when an unmarried woman without a fortune was doomed to the status of a second-class creature. This is precisely what the sisters Elinor and Marianne risk becoming, embodying, respectively, cold reason and passionate feelings. But – the writer is always gracious to her heroines – a happy resolution to all their difficulties awaits them. In the case of Ang Lee’s adaptation, this is not a spoiler at all. There are enough unexpected turns of plot, intriguing pauses, allusions in the dialogues and brilliant acting. The film was a true festival triumph in 1996: the adaptation won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, a Golden Bear at the Berlinale, a Golden Globe and other awards. 

“Emma,” (directed by Autumn de Wilde, UK, 2020)

Jane Austen’s novels are ideal material for a film. Each has witty dialogue, detailed scenes of everyday life, no trivial plot intrigue, and vivid characters. In Emma, it’s all present with a significant edge in favour of humour. Not surprisingly, the ninth adaptation of this novel is a sparkling comedy. That’s because 21-year-old countrywoman Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, rich and, most importantly, clever. She genuinely believes that she understands people, she entertains herself by arranging her friends’ private lives. Meanwhile, she has decided for herself that she will never marry. But fate seems to have something to contradict her.

“Reason”, (Adrian Shergold, UK, USA, 2007)

It’s poor, unmarried girls – Jane Austen’s constant protagonists – who suppress their feelings and appeal to their common sense. This time, a central tenet of their lives is given as the title. Young Ann Elliott, whose father has become impoverished and had to rent his own manor to Admiral Croft’s family, is trying to escape from an old acquaintance to whom she was previously engaged. But he doesn’t seem to be indifferent to her again. The girl is confused. And the diligent adaptation of the novel will show every facet of reason’s arguments right down to their complete surrender in favour of the senses. 

“Northanger Abbey”, (directed by John Jones, UK, USA, Ireland, 2006)

The novel, considered the first one written by Jane Austen, was published after her death. The story reflects many of the writer’s own literary predilections. In particular, the gothic novels which the protagonist of the story reads. Young Catherine Morland, who has been invited by wealthy neighbours to visit their estate, finds herself at the centre of matrimonial intrigues and soon becomes convinced of how important money is for personal happiness. In 2006, the only film adaptation of Jane Austen’s early novel was released on television.