5. Bride & Prejudice (2004)
I’m a sucker for musicals, my all-time favorite being Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, so I jumped at the chance to see a Bollywood interpretation of Jane Austen’s well-known work, Pride and Prejudice. I wasn’t disappointed, especially by Aishwarya Rai’s portrayal of India’s answer to Elizabeth Bennet — Lalita Bakshi. She is beautiful, sassy and engaging; pretty much everything a Jane Austen heroine needs to be. The film follows the basic story of the novel complete with well-timed and immaculately crafted musical interludes. How can you go wrong with that?
4. Emma (1996)
Let me start by saying that Emma is probably my least favorite Jane Austen novel. I find the majority of the book’s main players, including the title character, obnoxious, annoying and generally forgettable. So when I sat down to watch the British TV movie version of the novel, I prepared myself for a thoroughly underwhelming experience. But then something strange happened. Kate Beckinsale’s portrayal of the title character won me over. She’s coquettish enough to not seem easy and just the right blend of charming and sweet. Do yourself a favor and if you’re forced to watch any film or television version of Emma, choose this one over that horrible “thing” Gwyneth Paltrow attempted to save with her lackluster performance.
3. Mansfield Park (1999)
In stark contrast to my experience with Emma, Mansfield Park is probably my favorite Jane Austen novel. This is due mostly to the main character, Fanny Price, who is snatched from her indigent family and thrust into the home of her wealthy relatives, the Bertrams. There she meets her “soulmate,” for lack of a better term, Edmund. After a few pitfalls, romantic near-misses and a questionable suitor, Henry Crawford — played with devious sensuality by Alessandro Nivola — true love prevails. Everyone who deserves it gets their comeuppance in the end and the main characters live happily ever after.
2. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
When Jane Austen fans heard about the casting for this movie, many surely had the exact same thought: Emma Thompson? Playing a 19-year-old? Really? In reality, Thompson was around 36 when she made the flick, but don’t let this insignificant fact deter you from this beautiful film. Sense and Sensibility tells the story of two vastly different women, the Dashwood sisters. Thompson’s character, Elinor, is austere and guarded. Marianne Dashwood — who is played to cherubic perfection by Kate Winslet — is flirtatious, outspoken and looking for love in all the wrong places. Everything about this film is glorious, from the adapted screenplay — which Thompson won an Oscar for — to the costumes and set designs.
1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Before watching the BBC’s masterful adaptation of Austen’s best-known novel, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the experience fully. First, send your spouse and children to the zoo, the podiatrist or wherever. Then turn down the lights and watch the entire six-hour miniseries in one sitting and take in the glory that is Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Sure, Jennifer Ehle is amazing as Austen’s beloved heroine Elizabeth Bennet, but that is completely irrelevant. There is a reason that Helen Fielding wrote the character Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary with Colin Firth in mind. That reason can be summed up in three words — the pond scene. Do yourself a favor and fast-forward to Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s first meeting at Pemberely. You won’t be disappointed.