Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the TV miniseries ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ (Photo: A&E/BBC)
Jane Austen never gets old.
She’s the author of classics like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility,” and her work has been adapted for the big and small screen dozens of times. The trend continues with a new PBS series (“Sanditon,” premiering Sunday, 9 EST/PST, check local listings) and a new “Emma” film, starring Anya Taylor-Joy).
In honor of the latest resurgence of Austen’s stories in pop culture (she died in 1817), we ranked the five best adaptations of her novels, from everyone’s favorite Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” to a modern take on “Emma” that’s anything but “Clueless.”
5. ‘Persuasion’ (1995)
1995 was a really excellent year for Austen fans. This under-the-radar entry in her film canon stars Ciarán Hinds (“Game of Thrones”) in the story of love lost and found, thanks to the interference of friends and family. The film stands out as one of the most unabashedly romantic adaptations of Austen’s work.
Sidney Parker (Theo James) and Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) in “Sanditon.” (Photo: Simon Ridgway/PBS)
4. ‘Sanditon’ (PBS, 2020)
Based on the author’s last, unfinished novel, Masterpiece’s new miniseries, shows a side of Austen fans might not recognize. “Sanditon” takes place at one of England’s up-and-coming seaside resorts and, as with many of her other stories, it’s about love and power, but also explores capitalism and class divisions like never before, and introduces the author’s first black character. The PBS adaptation, based on a few dozen pages from Austen’s hand, is smart, funny and thematically resonant in our current era.
Alicia Silverstone in a scene from “Clueless.” (Photo: PARAMOUNT PICTURES)
3. ‘Clueless’ (1995)
In taking Austen’s novel “Emma” and setting it in a modern-day high school, director/writer Amy Heckerling proved just how timeless the author’s work is, while also making one of the most beloved teen comedies of all time. Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd make the cleverly written script come to totally awesome life.
More: Winter TV preview: 10 excellent new shows that will keep you warm and happy
2. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (1995)
Ang Lee directs a script by Emma Thompson that zings energy into the story of the Dashwood sisters (played by Thompson and Kate Winslet), who grow up in wealth but lose everything after their father’s death. Thompson won an Oscar for her screenplay and it’s easy to see why, as the film cleverly updates the story and nips and tucks aspects of the book it doesn’t need.
Colin Firth, with Jennifer Ehle, in the famous white shirt in the BBC mini-series ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ (Photo: A&E/BBC)
1. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (PBS, 1995)
The blockbuster TV adaptation that helped start the mid-90s Austen boom, there’s nothing better than this miniseries starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Paired with Jennifer Ehle as a playful, funny Lizzie Bennet, the series has several hours to tell Austen’s long story, and uses many verbatim passages from her most famous novel into the script word for word. Firth’s performances became instantly iconic, and he would go on to somewhat revive it multiple times in the “Bridget Jones” film series, a modern spin on the story.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2020/01/12/jane-austen-5-best-adaptations-clueless-sanditon/2837043001/