Top Ten Favourite Book-To-Film-Or-TV Adaptations

“Top Ten Tuesday” is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the Top Ten Favourite Book-To-Film-Or-TV Adaptations.

As always, these adaptations are listed in no particular order.

1) Pride and Prejudice
(1995, Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth)

Two words: Colin Firth. When I first saw this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, the six-hour-long 1995 mini-series was the first adaptation to come to mind. In my opinion, Pride and Prejudice is the very definition of a perfect adaptation and the one to which all other adaptations should aspire. Unfailingly faithful to the original 1813 novel, everything from the locations to the casting was pitch-perfect and there is not a single thing I would change about this adaptation given the chance. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth Bennett and does not receive enough praise for her flawless portrayal of one of Austen’s, and literature’s, most famous heroines. Oh, and if you value your health (and mine) please do not mention the 2005 abomination masquerading as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in my presence. Unless you want to determine whether or not its a scientific possibility to see steam pour from one’s ears, you will do well not to mention that film in my company.

2) Anne of Green Gables
(1985, Starring Megan Follows)

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 literary classic has been one of my favourite novels since childhood. I would read this novel endlessly, going so far as to re-read one copy until the binding gave way and fell entirely apart. As a result, any potential adaptation was facing an uphill battle in terms of satisfying my rather vast expectations. Thankfully, the 1985 TV movie directed by Kevin Sullivan gave me everything I could have asked for and more. As in the case of the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, this is easily one of my favourite adaptations of all time, and is as close to perfection as they come. The casting choices in this adaptation are faultless. From Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert to Richard Farnsworth as Matthew Cuthbert and even Patricia Hamilton as the loveably obnoxious, insatiable gossip Rachel Lynde, these actors embodied the very spirit of the characters they were portraying and I cannot imagine anyone replacing them in their respective roles with any greater success. Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie as Anne and Gilbert had a chemistry that cannot be manufactured and their scenes together still make me swoon, blush and excite the same giddy anticipation in me that they first did when I was a young girl.

3) Sense and Sensibility
(1995, Starring Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman)

While the updated 2008 mini-series was arguably more aesthetically pleasing and did feature a young, yet undiscovered Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, it will never be able to rival my affection for the Ang Lee-directed 1995 film. As is often the case in the terms of the adaptations I’ve listed here, the casting of the male romantic lead is a make-or-break consideration in terms of my endorsement and enjoyment of a given adaptation. Two words: Alan Rickman. I have yet to see a more convincing and accurate portrayal of Colonel Brandon than Alan Rickman’s nuanced and touching performance in the 1995 adaptation. Sense and Sensibility is one of my least favourite of Austen’s novels, and yet this film made me care deeply for the characters and their relationships in a way I was never able to before.

4) Emma
(1996, Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam)

This was one of the more difficult choices I had to make for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic. While I’m also an ardent fan of the 2009 adaptation, primarily because of Jonny Lee Miller’s involvement, I was not a fan of Romola Garai’s interpretation and portrayal of Emma Woodhouse. I found that her performance was too precocious and often bordered on obnoxious, and the overall adaptation felt too distinctly modern for my taste. While the four-hour-long adaptation was able to delve more deeply into the original source material, Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance remains unparalleled. While I own every adaptation of Emma, it is the 1996 adaptation that I find myself returning to again and again.

5) Bridget Jones’s Diary
(2001, Starring Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth)

As unhappy as I was with its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, I am unashamedly in love with Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and its accompanying adaptation. The humorous account of an unwed thirty-something looking for love in all the wrong places told through the medium of a personal diary, the 2001 film captured the fun, light-hearted spirit of the original novel and undeniably cast the three perfect actors in the leading roles. The choice of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy was particularly ingenious, and would have endeared me to this adaptation even if all else had failed.

6) Clueless
(1995, Starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd)

Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, a loosely-based adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma, is not only one of my favourite films of all time, but is also a smart and witty interpretation of one of my favourite Jane Austen novels. I’m such a fan, in fact, that I wrote an entire academic paper dedicated solely to the subject of this adaptation and its role and importance within the Jane Austen oeuvre while enrolled in university. A tongue-in-cheek parody starring Alicia Silverstone as the superficial, meddling but ultimately good-hearted matchmaker and counterpart to Emma Woodhouse, Clueless is a classic film for a new generation and an inventive and accessible way of easing someone unfamiliar with Austen’s work into one of her novels for the first time. This film is also personally responsible for my abiding crush on Paul Rudd, which still persists to this day. What can I say? I am totally butt crazy in love with Josh!

7) Little Women
(1994, Starring Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, etc)

I’ll be the first to admit that this adaptation is problematic at best. While I myself had certain problems with the casting choices, the 1994 adaptation of Little Women is a sentimental favourite and one I would re-watch endlessly as a child. I do believe that Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation has a great respect for the original source material and makes the most of it within the limitations of a 115 minute film. While the production did border on sappy and sentimental, I thought that Winona Ryder gave an admirable performance as Jo March and the film captured the true heart of the story, which was the relationship between the sisters and the dynamic within the March family.

8) North and South
(2004, Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage)

Two words: Richard Armitage (Are we beginning to see a pattern here?) All joking aside, the BBC-produced 2004 mini-series adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 tale of the disparate relationship between employers and their workers and the budding romantic relationship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton is ascetically stunning in its cinematic scope and respectfully adherent to the original source material. Credited with revitalizing the popularity of Gaskell’s novel, North and South also has the unique distinction of portraying what I would argue is one of the sexiest and most passionate kisses ever to be included in a period drama.


9) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
(2001, Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson)

While each and every Harry Potter film holds a special place in my heart, none will ever be as fondly remembered as the one that came first. I can still vividly remember my sense of wonder and astonishment as I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time. Everything was precisely as I had imagined as I read the novel, and I could only marvel as Harry, Hogwarts, and the magical world that J.K. Rowling had created was brought to life on the big screen for the first time. Like the books, the adaptation was larger than life, and perfectly captured the spirit and essence of the novels with a respect and faithful attention that I both admired and appreciated.

10) Elementary
(2012-Present, Starring Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller)

From Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch, few topics are currently more popular or contentious than the debate as to which portrayal and adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s seminal classic, Sherlock Holmes, reigns supreme. While each adaptation has its own unique set of quirks and aspects by which to recommend them, I would argue that none can compare to CBS’s revolutionary new series, Elementary. Putting aside Jonny Lee Miller’s masterful, nuanced portrayal of the beloved fictional detective, I cannot express how much I appreciate the show-runners’ decision to cast both Watson and Moriarty as women. Not only is Watson a woman, but she is an active and intelligent member of the team, providing Sherlock with emotional and moral support as well as practical application and ideas in his casework. He welcomes her input and encourages her endeavours, and this equal partnership makes me want to stand up and cheer every time I watch a single episode. This inventive and entirely new interpretation of an age-old tale has really breathed new life into a universally-recognized story.

Honourable Mentions

» Gone With The Wind
(1939, Starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable)

» Agatha Christie’s Poirot
(1989-Present, Starring David Suchet)

» Northanger Abbey
(2007, Starring Felicity Jones and JJ Feild)

» The Notebook
(2004, Starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams)

42 Responses

  1. *flails* over your list. YES, YES, YES! The 1995 P&P version is by far the BEST and nothing can top it. I wish those who love the 2005 version had seen the ’95 version first, but many even afterwards just don’t see the beauty of the ’95 version. I agree about the 09 S&S-for me it was just the casting choices weren’t right. I couldn’t like it. The same goes with Persuasion (I prefer the Ciarán Hinds version, but admit Rupert Penry- Jones is pretty to look at).

    Did you know the 1975 version of N&S with Patrick Stewart is being released? That version is more true to the novel, but the accents the actors use make it difficult to watch, but still a lovely production.
    Jess @ Literary, etc recently posted…10 Best Book to Film AdaptationsMy Profile

    1. I completely agree with you re: Pride and Prejudice. The 2005 version is all flash and no substance, but when people watch it first, I feel they’re less inclined to feel favourably toward the 1995 adaptation based on aesthetics alone.

      I must admit I’ve never seen the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. I’m definitely going to be looking into it immediately though as I can never find enough adaptations to watch! I didn’t mind the 2007 version – I loved Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth but there was something about Sally Hawkins as Anne that really rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not sure I can place my finger on why, but I did find her rather irritating at times. That said, I had to laugh at Anthony Head’s involvement. He’ll always be Giles to me.

      I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen the 1975 adaptation of North and South either 🙁 Suddenly there are glaring gaps in my adaptation knowledge!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  2. I’m kinda ashamed to say that I haven’t watch any of the movies you mentioned above (well, except for Harry Potter) but your words has convinced me to try and check them out soon; I love reading your words <3
    Great list!

    And by the way, I adore the design of Pop! Goes the Reader so much, Jen, it's superb!
    Tirta @ I Prefer Reading recently posted…Looking for Alaska by John GreenMy Profile

  3. Great picks. I’ve watched all except for Elementary. And I love them all.
    I heart North & South…wish more people see it. The scenes in the cotton mill were soo gorgeous and the chemistry between Margaret and Thornton was amazing.

    I prefer the 1995 P&P too. The 2005 version was mostly ok to me. (I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it since I’m about to agree with you) But I didn’t like how they tried to up the romance. The movie had two cuts, the US and UK one with slightly different ending. I really hated the US ending, which was that ridiculous scene of Lizzie massaging Darcy’s feet and having some lovey dovey conversation.
    Read Books and Blog recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie AdaptationsMy Profile

    1. I really wish people were more aware of North and South as well, both the original novel and the adaptation! It’s such a beautiful, moving story but I’ve spoken to very few people who have also read it. It’s truly a shame. I was interested to find in the course of researching this week’s post that when the mini-series first aired, the BBC expected very low viewing figures and were shocked to find that the series was so popular that fans actually crashed the message boards as they arrived to talk about it in droves!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  4. I agree with all of these so hard (except for HP, which I’m really not a fan of the film version of, and Elementary, which I’ve not seen). We’re less in sync in the Honorable Mentions section, though I do love the Northanger adaptation. I haven’t read Gone with the Wind, but I hated the movie. Like, a lot. I turned it off at the disc switch and pretended they all died in a fire, because I hated everyone a hundred percent, and not in the fun way. To each her own. Haha.

    Because of those gifs, I need to watch North & South like BURNING.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Top Ten Reasons I Pick Up YA BooksMy Profile

    1. The funny thing is, I absolutely hate the original novel for Gone With The Wind, but I have to give credit where credit’s due in regards to what production was able to accomplish in 1939. The vast scope is mind-boggling and they really were respectful of the original source material, as irritating and odious as it could often be.

      The same could be said for The Notebook, to a lesser extent. I absolutely hate Nicholas Sparks and wasn’t a fan of the original story, but the combination of Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams and James Garner were enough to sell me on that particular film.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  5. I agree with you on the BBC adaptations. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. I watch it all the time. And I forgot about Anne of Green Gables. Have you read her Emily series?

  6. You made ME want to stand up and cheer when I saw Elementary on your list!! Gah, I could not agree more. It’s become my favorite Sherlock adaptation, even more than the BBC’s Sherlock (which I still love, but it’s nowhere near Elementary). I love Joan, and Moriarty, and just everything about it. Incredibly true to the spirit of the original characters. SO GOOD.
    Nikki recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday (#15)My Profile

  7. Jen, you read & watch so many classics! I need to do more of that, so I can compare. Sadly, I can only relate to ONE of your favorites up there, and that’s Harry Potter. That book/movie series will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. I really want to read and watch P&P! Thanks for sharing your ten favorite books-to-movie adaptations, Jen! Brilliant post. 🙂
    Jen recently posted…Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell | ReviewMy Profile

    1. To be fair, I grew up reading classics from a young age and also filled in those I hadn’t read when I was in university as I majored in English and many were a part of my required reading lists 🙂 Between the two, I ended up covering most of my bases!

      You really should read Pride and Prejudice and then watch the accompanying 1995 adaptation! I would love to hear what you thought of it 🙂 If you find the novel a little daunting, I would recommend watching the mini-series first as it’s extremely accurate and incorporates many of the actual lines and dialogue from the book into the production. It might make reading the novel afterwards a little bit easier on you, as you’ll be able to picture it all as you read along.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  8. Of course I love the 1995 P&P! Colin Firth is the most amazing Mr. Darcy. But I’m not gonna lie, I’m not madly in love with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. I like her, but she doesn’t portray Elizabeth as I pictured her. Again, I like her, but I don’t love her. And I do like the 2005 P&P. I definitely don’t think it’s an abomination. And I really liked Keira Knightley as Elizabeth. Sorry.

    I love Clueless, but I’ve never read the book. It is on my list.

    Oh and North and South!! I haven’t read the book, but, like you said – RICHARD ARMITAGE.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…15 Day Book Blogging Challenge: Day 2My Profile

    1. There’s no need to be sorry! We’re all entitled to our own opinion. I was mainly joking when I wrote the write-up for Pride and Prejudice (1995), although my general disgust for the 2005 adaptation does still stand. But to each their own! 🙂

      In terms of the original novel, North and South can be a little dry in parts, but I still really enjoyed it. Richard Armitage can make anything better. The man is seriously delicious.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

    1. Oh, you should! While I do prefer Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Mansfield Park over Emma, there is something about the latter that’s very cute and heart-warming. I know some find Emma Woodhouse irritating but portrayed by the right person, I find her character can be very endearing. Gwyneth Paltrow did an admirable job in her performance and I found gave the most tolerable of the Emma Woodhouse on-screen portrayals.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  9. Great list Jen! I love that adaptation of Anne of Green Gables as well, it slipped my mind. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it, I definitely need to watch it again. Love Anne – I d/l all the book to my kindle recently. Really want to go through from start to finish again.

    I know SO many people who adore that version of North & South. Really want to watch it and see what the fuss is about but I want to read the book first.

    Austen really has had some utterly fab adaptations (let’s just ignore that 2005 P&P shall we!)
    Bree recently posted…Darkfever – Karen Marie MoningMy Profile

    1. Writing this post made *me* want to re-watch the Anne of Green Gables adaptation as well. Its been a couple of years since I last saw it but I’m desperate to re-read the book and watch the mini-series again. I can never go very long without revisiting it, I find Montgomery’s work so comforting.

      I hope you enjoy North and South, both the book *and* the adaptation. I read the novel first and was pleasantly surprised by how well I thought the BBC rendered Gaskell’s original work. While I know most find the greatest allure in Richard Armitage, who is admittedly wonderful in the role, it’s visually stunning as well and I think stays true to the essence of the original story.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  10. You are definitely an Austen fan! I like a lot of these movies too, especially SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. OMG THAT MOVIE IS SO GOOD! I also liked the latest BBC version, but it was hard to compare to the Kate Winslet version.

    I haven’t tried “Elementary” mostly because I’m sorta boycotting it. Hah! I’m a huge “Sherlock” (BBC) fan, and I don’t like that they made Watson a girl in the American TV show, mostly because the bromance between Sherlock and Watson IS MY FAVORITE PART. So. Yeah. It’s probably awesome, but I refuse to watch it. 😉
    Katie recently posted…I Need New Adult Recommendations!My Profile

    1. Guilty as charged! I think it’s definitely safe to say I’m a big Austen fangirl. I didn’t mind the 2008 BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility either, although there was something about the casting that didn’t sit right with me. I’m not sure I can place my finger on exactly what went wrong, but I definitely prefer the 1995 version. A little of that is also likely sentimentality as I grew up watching Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet and no-one could ever truly replace them in my affections.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Waiting On…No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen HaleMy Profile

  11. Many of these are favourites of mine too! I am a big Austen fan, so yes to the BBC P&P, the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma (for me, mostly because of *coughJeremyNorthamcough*), Northanger Abbey, and both versions of Sense & Sensibility. (I saw the Emma Thompson version first, but I also like certain aspects of the more recent adaptation – like the fact that it includes Lucy’s sister from the original!).

    Plus, I am also a fan of Anne of Green Gables (although not the third movie!) and North & South. Just generally I love period dramas, lol.

    Excellent list! 😀
    Danya recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Book-to-Movie AdaptationsMy Profile

  12. The only one I’ve watched in which I actually read the book as well is Harry Potter. For me, that is part of the reason why I included adaptations that might not stick to the book or worry about that while watching a movie – because 90% of the time I haven’t read the book! And I’m not one of those who feels the need to read the book before seeing the movie. Oftentimes I don’t even realize it’s a book until later! That may make be a bad person or bad reader, but to me books and movies are completely different. While I would love the movies to match the book, I know they rarely will and rather go in open-minded than constantly worrying about what’s not the same. 😛
    Asti (A Bookish Heart) recently posted…Bookish Reviews: ScarletMy Profile

    1. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad reader! To each their own 🙂 I’m a stickler for that sort of thing – I always like to read the original text before seeing the adaptation, but that’s just me! Honestly, I wish I could be a little less concerned about the faithfulness of adaptations as I am sure there would many I would enjoy a lot more if I was able to disconnect them from their original texts, but I can’t. I can’t help but feel that if you’re going to adapt an already beloved story to the big screen, you should be homage to the material rather than endlessly changing it to suit your needs.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse AndersonMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!