Once upon a time, before Colin Firth, there were other on-screen Darcys for ladies to fawn over. After all Pride And Prejudice, published in 1813, is not only Jane Austen’s most famous and popular novel, it also happens to be the most adaptable to screen, for a number of reasons.
On the surface level, Pride And Prejudice is a fairy tale: poor (well, sort of) girl fights against all odds and lives happily ever after with the rich, handsome prince. The fairy tail attribute of this story is universally appealing, but what makes it so compelling and timeless is the wit and charm Austen uses to deliver her story. Those readers (or viewers) who only manage to see a light romantic comedy in Pride And Prejudice are missing the most important reasons for its persistent appeal – it is a story of empowerment and control over one’s destiny. Our heroine (Elizabeth Bennet) and our hero (Fitzwilliam Darcy) don’t succeed because of the advantages of their birth and their inherited wealth (or lack of) – it’s their personal revelations, their ability to self examine and change their attitudes and behavior that appeal to us.
Over the years, Elizabeth Bennet has been played by Greer Garson, Jennifer Ehle, and most recently, Keira Knightley. Elizabeth is not only Austen’s most beloved and modern heroine, but her most relatable. When you read Pride And Prejudice, it’s hard not to visualize yourself as Elizabeth – and I think that’s why there is such a strong attachment to this character, and as a result, such strong feelings towards the women who have played her over the years, whether positive or negative.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely familiar with Austen’s characters, and at least one or two of the adaptations of the story. I’ll assume, then, that I can skip the details and descriptions of some of the characters for each version and instead focus on the merits of each adaptation. Lord knows any fangirl could write a novel on Mrs. Bennet’s overbearingness or Caroline Bingley’s haughtiness, but that isn’t what this list is for.
Some adaptations of Jane Austen’s most famous novel were more successful than others, as it turns out. These days, as far as P&P is concerned, two versions fight over the top spot(you know the ones I’m talking about), but there are other adaptations worth watching along the way. Hundreds of adaptations of this story exist in book form, but ranking screen adaptations of the original text was challenging enough.
The only book I’ll rank is Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, because it’s been in development on IMDB for a while now and there is a possibility we may see it on the big screen in the next decade. Published in 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel is one of the most blogged about adaptations in recent memory. Because who doesn’t love a crossover between nerd culture and Regency England? It’s a pretty simple concept: there’s all the original text of Pride And Prejudice, and then there is zombies.
Here’s to hoping the development on this one starts moving along.
We are currently seeking Film contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Film contributor, click here.