Classic cult: 5 favorite Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedies

Classic cult: 5 favorite Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedies

Jane Austen is a classic, no doubt about it, but she’s gathered quite the cult following: normal fans don’t don Regency bonnets at a themed festival, bumper sticker their cars, or buy action figures.

But perhaps the greatest proof is the never-ending stream of Jane Austen remakes and romantic comedies. Here are five favorites.

5 favorite Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedies

clueless

Clueless

In this 1995 movie, Jane Austen’s Emma is re-imagined for 1990s Beverly Hills, with high schooler Cher (Alicia Silverstone) standing in for Emma Woodhouse. The movie sticks awfully close to Austen’s plot: Cher is a devoted matchmaker (she sets up her teachers, she sets up her friends, she sets up new girl Harriet Smith, dubbed Tai in this Valley Girl setting). She’s also obsessed with fashion and dotes on her daddy.

And of course, Emma–er, Cher– finds love of her own, it doesn’t go according to plan. (Watch it free on Amazon Prime. If you’re not a member, start a free trial here.)

you've got mail

You’ve Got Mail

Nora Ephron’s 1998 remake of the 1940s classic Shop Around the Corner also incorporates major themes from Pride and Prejudice. Hanks and Ryan are quippy (and barbed) enough to make Elizabeth and Darcy proud, and the book itself makes it into several email messages and strategically appears in a key scene. The remake is better than the Jimmy Stewart/Margaret Sullavan original.

bridget jones

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Elizabeth Darcy is re-imagined as a thirtysomething single Brit in this 2001 hit, based on Helen Fielding’s book of the same name. This film is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, though the love triangle (that pulls in Hugh Grant) hews awfully close to Austen’s story. Renée Zellweger stars as Bridget, and Colin Firth was asked to play Mark Darcy solely based on his appearance in the 1995 BBS edition of Pride and Prejudice (and specifically, for the lake scene).

Serious Bridget Jones fans know Fielding’s much-anticipated new installment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, just came out on October 15.

Bride-and-prejudice

Bride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice becomes a Bollywood musical in this 2004 adaptation. Lizzie Bennett becomes Lalita Bakshirich, the second of four daughters in a country town in India, who falls–though not at first, of course–for the rich American hotel heir William Darcy.

I put off watching this one for years because I thought it sounded silly. I’m sorry I did: it’s so much fun.

lizzie bennet diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Hank Green turned Pride and Prejudice into a web series in this most recent adaptation. The story is completely updated for the 21st century, maintaining the emotional strength of the original while making it believable for today. (I couldn’t imagine how they’d handle Lydia’s elopement. I was shocked at what they came up with, but I gotta admit–it worked.)

The story unfolds four-ish minutes at a time, in one hundred YouTube installments. Proof of its success: its recent Kickstarter campaign raised nearly 800% of its stated goal. 

What’s your favorite Jane Austen-inspired rom com? Are there any good ones I didn’t include here?

5 favorite Jane Austen romantic coms

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77 comments

  1. Kelly L. says:

    Drat – I just checked Amazon Prime and You’ve Got Mail is not on there! It’s only $2.99 to stream, though. Looking forward to trying some of the others you mentioned, esp. the web series. Not that I need more things to watch…

  2. Tim says:

    You’ve got three of my faves on that list, Anne: Clueless (best modern adaptation of any JA ever), The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which a certain blogger introduced you to if I’m not mistaken) and Bride & Prejudice (love the wedding dance scene!). I never got around to Bridget Jones’s Diary, but I’ve seen You’ve Got Mail and liked it well enough.

  3. Dana says:

    Late to the comments, but “You’ve Got Mail” is the all time favorite romantic movie for my me and my husband. We have watched it so many times on date night with take-out food or wine and munchies. Have not seen any of the other movies although several sound interesting.

  4. Anne says:

    Thanks for this post, Anne! I love Clueless (for the story/acting/comedy but early Paul Rudd, too), and I love YGM. The P&P references make sense in hindsight! (Ever since I learned about intertextuality, I see it everywhere.) So, that makes Bride and Prejudice and LBD next!

  5. AnaKL says:

    Seen it all & I agree from those above Bride & Prejudice is lovely & also my favorite among these 5 but I also enjoyed seeing The Lake House (references to Persuasion) & Aisha (Hindi version of Emma).

      • evelyn says:

        I loved the lake house and it gives me my persuasion fix till they bring out a version worthy of the book. Takes a bit effort to follow the modern take on something worth waiting for but I love Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in this, good sound track as well.

    • Spygirl7 says:

      Yes, I love I Have Found It (Tamil name: Kandukondain Kandukondain in case you can’t find it under the English). Aishwarya Rai is Meenakshi/Marianne, and Tabu plays Sowmya/Elinor. The music is good, too (A.R. Rahman). I think I need to watch that again now.

      And don’t forget that the second Bridget Jones is based on Persuasion, although book-Bridget is much better than the movie.

  6. Virginia says:

    Clueless is one of my favorite movies. I was 14 when it came out, so prime for soaking in all the glitz and humor. However, I didn’t realize until years later that it was based on a Jane Austen book and went out and started reading Emma. That’s what propelled me to start reading Austen, which just made Clueless more dear to me.

    I haven’t hear or seen some of the other ones. You’ve Got Mail is a movie I love to watch because, though not a Meg Ryan fan, I like how she and Tom Hanks play off each other. I haven’t seen it in a while…I might need to remedy that.

  7. Catherine says:

    Great list, I love Bride and Prejudice! But Austenland is the most hilarious – also Scents and Sensibility is so bad it’s good. Could be wrong but I think the second Bridget Jones is meant to be based on Persuasion as well? The book anyway, very loosely…

  8. SP says:

    A couple of other suggestions: BBC version of Persuasion, with Sally Hawkins, and Miss Austen Regrets, with Olivia Williams—beautiful, understated, moving/touching, thought-provoking, haunting, and even profound at times. Not lighthearted incarnations that most people associate with Jane Austen, but show another side of the author and are just as compelling.

    Have to check out Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so thank you for that. Wasn’t a fan of Bride & Prejudice for various reasons, but Clueless, Bridget Jone’s Diary, and You’ve Got Mail were spot on.

    I’m not sure it qualifies as directly inspired by Austen or a classic cult favorite (except by me), but French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline is definitely a comfort watch for me. Entertaining, funny, fluffy, gets better with subsequent watching, deceptively substantive, beautiful visuals, surprisingly excellent and unexpected casting/pairing and acting (okay, you can maybe quibble about Kline’s French accent).

  9. Susan says:

    Not a romantic comedy, but I loved Death Comes to Pemberley (streaming on Netflix) — the two leads are perfect as Mr. and Mrs. Darcy!! A wonderful adaptation of the P.D. James novel.

  10. Nancy says:

    I hope you broken down and watched Austenland. It was funny and romantic. You get lost between fantasy and reality. Keri Russell was perfect as Jane Hayes who was obsessed with Mr. Darcy. Jennifer Coolidge, of Legally Blonde and Two Broke Girls, was hilarious! JJ Feild from Northampton Abbey played the brooding Mr. Henry Nobley. By the time I was done watching it, I had a huge smile on my face!!

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