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The Top Five Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the book is better than the movie. Pride and Prejudice, however, has been re-imagined and adapted in so many wonderful ways over the years. It certainly isn’t going anywhere any time soon, inspiring a wealth of books, movies and other stories. Regardless, the popular novel that Jane Austen published in 1813 remains ridiculously relatable and never seems to get old. There are so many great adaptations that I sometimes choose to watch the Keira Knightley version over rereading the book. What can I say? It’s just that good.

Without further ado, here is a ranking of the five best adaptations of Pride and Prejudice:

5. Pride and Prejudice BBC mini-series (1995)

Starring: Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth

The Basics: In 1995, P&P was adapted into a six-episode miniseries by Andrew Davies. It won several awards, including the BAFTA television award for Best Actress, honoring Jennifer Ehle as well as an award for outstanding costume design for a miniseries or special. Colin Firth in a wet shirt was also honored as “one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history.”

Why It’s Great: This miniseries clocks in at six hours long, so it’s extremely faithful to the story (and if you’re a real P&P lover, six hours is barely enough.) Jennifer Ehle is arguably one of the best actresses to portray Lizzie Bennet, with her subtle sass hiding her soft interior. Also, did I mention that it features a young Colin Firth?!

4. Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth

The Basics: This modern retelling of P&P was inspired by the BBC miniseries and was first written as a series of novels by Helen Fielding. (So it’s an adaption of an interpretation of an adaptation. Keep up!) In this retelling, Bridget Jones is a young single woman, tired of being unlucky in love. She keeps a diary of her romantic misadventures as she finds the roguish and ultimately unfaithful Daniel Cleaver and eventually falls for her “true love,” Mark Darcy.

Why It’s Great: Few romantic comedies are as relatable as Bridget Jones’ diary– from her feisty group of friends pushing her towards romance to her family, who she loves but drives her completely up the wall. It also stars Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, who I loved from the beginning, regardless of his cold, aloof demeanor (or maybe because of it. I really love Colin Firth).  

3. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2013)

Starring: Ashley Clements, Julia Cho, Daniel Vincent Gordh, Laura Spencer, and Mary Kate Wiles

The Basics: The Lizzie Bennet diaries adapts P&P into a vlog style web series by Lizzie Bennet, a communications grad student. She and her best friend Charlotte recount stories of their everyday life with the help of Lizzie’s sisters, Jane and Lydia. They often reenact interactions with other characters who eventually end up in front of the cameras themselves. The characters also had interactions via social media accounts that weren’t always presented outright in the vlogs to add to the immersive world of the characters.

Why It’s Great: I’ve never watched one hundred videos on YouTube this quickly in a row. Seriously, it’s that good. Lizzie’s stubbornness and love for her family as portrayed by Ashley’s Clements is charming and will pull you in right away. This retelling also adds a significant amount of diversity to P&P, which is traditionally more whitewashed than it needs to be. The modern twists and turns in the story are not only adorable, they are sometimes downright shocking. 11/10 would recommend binging, especially during finals week.  

2. Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews

The Basics: In Bride and Prejudice, the Bennets and Bollywood collide. The story is retold in Amristar, India, where Lalita Bakshi lives with her family, helping her father with their farming enterprise. At the wedding of one of Lalita’s close friends, she and her sister Jaya meet Balraj, a wealthy British Indian Barrister and Will Darcy, his rich American friend. The major plot points are much the same as P&P with added Bollywood song and dance numbers and a clear social commentary on being about the importance of understanding cultural differences.

Why It’s Great: I bet Jane Austen would have never guessed that adding Bollywood flair to her story would make it better in the best ways imaginable. Not only are the songs ridiculously catchy (they’re still stuck in my head), they add new life to the story. The movie is saturated with beautiful colors, having been moved out of gloomy England, straight to north-western India. On a more serious note, Bride and Prejudice is another adaptation that introduces a non-whitewashed cast and brings out important elements of class that might be less visible to the modern P&P reader. On a less serious note, Mr. Kholi, though certainly ridiculous, is the most adorable version of Mr. Collins. Ever.

1. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Starring: Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfadyen

The Basics: This classic retelling is the current standard for film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (at least in my humble opinion). The film takes place in England and is fairly faithful to the novel. The directors of the film hoped to present a “muddy hem version” of the Regency era, which they do with beautiful muted landscapes and an intimate portrayal of the Bennet family that makes you want nothing more than to watch on a rainy Sunday while drinking a cup of tea.

Why It’s Great: Where do I begin? Dame Judi Dench wears an amazing period wig. Mr. Bingley is an adorable awkward redhead. Keira Knightley is in perfect mix of snarky and sentimental. The soundtrack is warm and wonderful. And if you can watch the scene where Mr. Darcy confesses his love to Lizzie in the pouring rain without your heart melting, well, then that makes the one of us.

Abby is a current senior at William & Mary majoring in English and minoring in French. She plans to attend law school after college. When she isn't in class, she can be found knitting, drinking coffee way too late at night and trying to play frisbee.
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