It is a truth universally acknowledged that a fan of Jane Austen in possession of a good-sized bookshelf, must be in want of a Pride and Prejudice adaptation.
The first time I picked up Pride and Prejudice, I was 14 years old. My best friend had watched (and subsequently raved about) the Keira Knightley film adaptation and, although FOMO wasn’t technically a thing yet, I was feeling it. Hard. But, I also knew I needed to read the book before I let myself watch the movie.
Thank God, I did because I absolutely adored Pride and Prejudice, and I still do. I’ve studied it as a part of literature, film and culture classes (plus one very cool Spring Term class all about the life of Jane Austen). I’ve reread it countless times. It’s the book that I return to again and again. It’s comfort reading, the very best type of indulgence.
Over the years, I’ve also come to love a good Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Any time I can even remotely revisit Elizabeth and Darcy’s story, I am all in. And I’ve read and watched my way through every adaptation I’ve come across.
I thought it might be fun to celebrate nearly 15 years of Jane Austen’s classic being at the top of my list of favorite books with a definitive ranking of Pride and Prejudice adaptations, according to me. Keep scrolling for the best books and films that reimagine this iconic love story.
A quick note about these book recommendations. I am notoriously stingy with my star ratings on Goodreads. Here’s a little breakdown on what they signify to me:
I hated it.
I didn’t like it.
I liked it.
I enjoyed it so much that I would read it again.
I’m adding it to my absolute favorites.
Just wanted to clarify before you dive into these Pride and Prejudice adaptations!
Books from Elizabeth’s Perspective
Most of the Pride and Prejudice adaptations that I’ve read are from the Elizabeth character’s perspective. I probably should’ve split these up into smaller categories like modern vs. period adaptations, but instead I decided to throw them all together. Enjoy!
Bridget Jones’s Diary
By Helen Fielding
I read this novel for a class in college, and I just didn’t like it. I really, really wanted to because I love the movie (see below), but the book is a very loose Pride and Prejudice adaptation — as in, it’s often difficult to get any Austen out of it — and Bridget kind of annoyed me.
By Curtis Sittenfeld
I read this adaptation among a number of them last year, and it was truly odd experience. The modern retelling is set in Cincinnati where I live, and I honestly think the familiar street names and neighborhoods might have pulled me out of the book too much for me to get into it. Otherwise, I didn’t think it did enough to set itself apart from other adaptations.
By Soniah Kamal
This adaptation is just fun! In this Pakistani retelling, Alys Binat is a schoolteacher whose family fortune and prospects have been ruined by a vicious rumor. When they get invited to a well-to-do wedding, Mrs. Binat sees it as the perfect opportunity to find eligible matches for her daughters, and a whole mess ensues. Plus, I love that Alys teaches Pride and Prejudice to her students in the book.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By Seth Grahame-Smith
I picked up this book right after college expecting to hate it, but surprisingly, I didn’t. For one thing, the book includes a lot of lines directly from the original (Austen is actually credited as an author), and I think Grahame-Smith does a good job of incorporating his zombie plot without making it feel forced or too outlandish. Also, I found that forcing a zombie apocalypse on Regency England makes for a more gender equal society; the Bennet sisters are serious badass warriors who can shut down a zombie horde just as well as Darcy and Bingley. How refreshing!
My favorite: Pride
By Ibi Zoboi
I think this is the most unique Pride and Prejudice adaptation that I’ve read, but most importantly, it keeps to the essence of the original inspiration. High school student Zuri Benitez is proud of her Brooklyn roots and Afro-Latino heritage; when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, she wants nothing to do with them. But when she gets to know Darius and finds they have more in common than she imagined, she’ll have to take a hard look at the gentrification of her Bushwick neighborhood and find where she fits in this new world.
Books from Darcy’s Perspective
While there aren’t as many as from Elizabeth’s perspective, a Pride and Prejudice adaptation from Darcy’s point of view is a treat! These stories tend to be pretty true retellings but through the male hero’s eyes, and it’s fun to see how authors imagine Darcy spending his time.
An Assembly Such As This | Duty and Desire | These Three Remain
By Pamela Aidan
★★★☆☆ | ★★★☆☆ | ★★★☆☆
I read this trio at the end of last year, and honestly when I began, I thought there was only book. I clued in pretty quickly when the book ended, and we’d only gotten Darcy’s story up to the ball at Netherfield. These books were all pretty quick reads, and I was amazed at the imaginative way the author grew Darcy’s story and sphere of influence. I will say, though, that by the end of the second book (which takes place between the Netherfield party leaving Hertfordshire and when they are reunited at Rosings), I missed Elizabeth and the heart of their story.
My favorite: Mr. Darcy’s Diary
By Amanda Grange
The title says it all: This book is a true retelling of Pride and Prejudice told through entries in Darcy’s personal diary. It gives a bit of insight into how he’s feeling just before arriving at Netherfield and continues through to the end of the original story. Being his personal journal, Darcy doesn’t mince words, and I like being privy to all of this thoughts about Elizabeth.
From Both Perspectives
Some of my favorite modern adaptations are so interesting because they include alternating points of view, giving us a chapter from the Elizabeth character’s perspective followed by one from the Darcy character.
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
By Sonali Dev
This books takes the story of Pride and Prejudice and flips it on its head in the most fun way! Dr. Trisha Raje is an acclaimed neurosurgeon who also happens to be from an influential family that is basically royalty back in India. DJ Caine is an up-and-coming British chef who has had to fight poverty, racism, and the world’s judgments for everything he has. When his sister develops a brain tumor and becomes one of Trisha’s patients, DJ finds himself as the personal chef to Trisha’s political hopeful brother to help pay for her treatments. Every character is so well-developed, and the story plays with the original material in such an inventive way.
My favorite: Ayesha at Last
By Uzma Jalaluddin
I absolutely adored this book! It’s a Muslim retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and the author does a great job of weaving the story around the lives of two Canadians trying to find their way in the world. Ayesha Shamsi does not want an arranged marriage; she wants to perform her poetry, survive substitute teaching, and be helpful to her large immigrant family. Khalid Mirza is a “fundamental” Muslim who thinks an arranged marriage is the best way for him to find a life partner. I devoured this book in a handful of sittings, and it’s a beautifully written modern tribute to Austen’s classic.
And then there are a few books that don’t belong in any of the categories above! Each Pride and Prejudice adaptation include a steamy sequel, an upstairs-downstairs story, and a murder mystery.
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife
By Linda Berdoll
Oh man, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I read this Pride and Prejudice sequel. It’s basically a smutty fan fiction account of what the first few years of the Darcys marriage would be like. No shame to anyone who wants to read something like that, but there are better options on AO3 or Fanfiction.net.
Death Comes to Pemberley
By P.D. James
This fun murder mystery is set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. On the eve of the Darcys’ annual autumn ball, Lydia Wickham arrives unannounced, hysterical and screaming that Wickham has been murdered. The household immediately jumps into action, bringing a dark cloud over the estate and strain on Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage under the threat of a murderer on the grounds.
There’s also a film adaptation of this book from PBS, but I haven’t seen it yet, so it isn’t included in the section below.
My favorite: Longbourn
By Jo Baker
One line alone in the synopsis got me to read this book: If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them. This book tells the story of the Bennet family’s servants in a very Downton Abbey kind of way. Sarah is an orphan who serves the Bennets, but being a servant doesn’t mean her story is any less interesting. Baker does a phenomenal job of placing the story of Pride and Prejudice in the world of Regency England and the Napoleonic Wars, and I can’t recommend it enough.
And then what would a list of Pride and Prejudice adaptations be without a ranking of film adaptations? I’ve included a bit of everything below, from true retellings to Pride and Prejudice adjacent films.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
This story is pretty far up on my list of book adaptations, but I just can’t rate the film version as high. While Lily James is a veritable bad ass and the scenery is beautiful, I wasn’t able to get into the film as much. This is the most terrible thing, but it’s also probably because Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy was as interesting as a limp noodle. Sorry not sorry.
This film isn’t strictly Pride and Prejudice related. It’s more like a fun romp through a Disneyland version of Austen’s Regency England. Keri Russell is absolutely adorable, and it’s a sweet romantic comedy to take your mind off all the woes of the world.
Lost in Austen (2008)
Picture it: You’re minding your own business, reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, when you’re suddenly pulled into your favorite story. That’s the plot of this mini-series, and it’s truly a fun retelling. With only four episodes, it’s a quick watch, and you’ll be hooked (and maybe upset?) as the new heroine begins to catch Mr. Darcy’s eye.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
I know I’m going to get a lot of crap for not putting the BBC mini-series closer to the top of my list, but that’s life. Yes, it’s a truly accurate retelling in six episodes. The casting is perfect. And, it’s a must-watch for every Austen fan. But it’s not my absolute favorite, which is why it’s not at the top. Still watch it! It’s good!
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)
This YouTube mini-series came out when I was in college, and I spent an entire weekend in bed watching episode after episode. Lizzie Bennet has a vlog where she interviews her crazy family members, hangs out with her friend Charlotte, and complains about her life as a poor grad student who still lives at home. The ways that the web series accommodates all the different pieces of the Pride and Prejudice story and its unique settings will impress you, and the off-shoot vlogs from other characters are worth catching as well.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
The book was at the very bottom of my list, but you’ll notice that the movie is up here toward the top. Maybe it’s Renée Zellweger, maybe it’s Colin Firth, or perhaps it’s that the film makers pushed the Pride and Prejudice connection more than Fielding did in her novel. Whatever it is, this film and its sequels are worth a watch!
Bride and Prejudice (2004)
If you are an Austen fan and you’ve never seen this ridiculously amazing Bollywood adaptation, you’re required to drop everything and watch it right now. The story lends itself so well to the Regency England world of Austen’s novels, and it’s worth seeing for the music and dance numbers alone.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
That’s right, the Joe Wright version with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen is my favorite. Yes, it’s more Romantic with a capital R than Austen’s novels truly are, but I adore the scenery, the casting, the beautiful film moments, the score. It’s the movie that pulls me out of a funk every single time, and I think it does a good job of encapsulating the entire story that Austen gave us in a concise, feature film length. Do yourself a favor, Pride and Prejudice fans, and watch this gorgeous film today.
Alright, Austen fans. What have I absolutely gotten wrong in your opinion? Leave me a comment with your favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation. I’m ready for it!
P.S. If you’re looking for an adaptation of another Austen novel, look no further than For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, inspired by Persuasion.