Without a doubt, Jane Austen is one of the most acclaimed authors to this day, thanks in large part to her use of irony and satire to go against the traditional romance and sensibility novels that were more common during that time.
Unfortunately, like many female authors during the 18th and 19th century, Jane Austen had to publish her work anonymously and thus, received little praise or recognition in her own lifetime.
Thanks to posthumous publications of her work, however, we’re still able to read her novels today.
You’re probably familiar with many of Jane Austen’s works, whether you know it or not.
Some of her more well-known novels include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Sanditon (which wasn’t actually completed, as she died before it was done).
Her novels have been adapted into other different forms, including films and TV shows, and some even several times over!
In this list, we give you the best Jane Austen TV shows that includes older as well as modern adaptations of Jane Austen’s actual work, TV series inspired by Jane Austen’s work and life, and even some foreign language shows!
English language TV adaptations of Jane Austen novels
Sanditon, ITV/PBS (2019 – present)
With just two seasons in so far, Sanditon is one of the more recent shows on the list.
Since the original manuscript was unfinished, it serves as the basis for the first episode and the show’s creators developed the rest of the story as the series progressed.
It’s set during the Regency era and follows Charlotte Heywood, a “spirited and unconventional” young woman who finds herself at the seaside resort called Sanditon.
The show’s heroine is eager to explore the town, meet its inhabitants, and experience what it has to offer, but it certainly wasn’t what she expected at all.
Emma, BBC (1960)
In 1960 came the first TV adaptation of Emma, with Diana Fairfax in the leading role (fun fact: a little over two decades later in 1981, Fairfax would also have a role in another Austen adaptation: Sense and Sensibility!).
Viewers meet Emma Woodhouse for the first time and are treated to her antics in finding love for those around her.
However, Emma is always so focused on matchmaking for others that she fails to find a match for herself – even when he’s been standing right in front of her since she was just a young girl.
Emma, BBC2 (1972)
The second adaptation of Emma was aired in 1972 over six episodes and starred Doran Godwin in the titular role.
In staying true to the source material, Emma is set in the small “provincial world” of Highbury, where Emma gets about finding love between its inhabitants.
High off her success in arranging the marriage of her friend and governess Miss Taylor, she next sets her eyes on Mr. Elton, the local vicar, and her protegee Harriet Smith.
Guiding her through her sometimes ill-placed good intentions is Mr. Knightley, her long-time friend, and confidant who is often either amused or just downright angry at Emma’s antics.
Emma, BBC One (2009)
The 2009 TV serial from BBC One is the latest among a few adaptations of Austen’s novel, Emma.
The titular series unfolded over just four episodes and starred Romola Garai in the character role of Emma Woodhouse, the heroine described as “handsome, clever, and rich”.
Within her social circles in Highbury, Emma takes joy in playing matchmaker amongst her friends and those surrounding them, believing herself to be quite skilled in the matter.
However, the consequences were always bound to catch up to her and they soon do when she takes Harriet Smith to be her protegee and their meddling produces less than romantic results.
Sense and Sensibility, BBC Two (1971)
The very first series adaptation of Sense and Sensibility was in 1971 on BBC Two, and it aired over just four episodes.
Similar to the adaptation that was released in 1981, Margaret Dashwood has been removed from the plot.
Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, and Marianne face the daunting idea of having to live with Mrs. Dashwood’s stepson and his wife, who are set to move into their home at the Norland estate.
Amidst these changes and complications, Elinor and Marianne hope to find love among the various men who come in and out of their lives.
Sense and Sensibility, BBC1 (1981)
The 1981 BBC1 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is the second of three in total and spanned just seven episodes.
While this series does follow the source material in that the Dahwood family undergoes a significant shift in their dynamics and lifestyle, it differs in one pretty significant aspect: the youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret, isn’t included in the storyline.
Instead, it focuses on Elinor and Marianne, described as sisters of “opposing temperaments” as they navigate through finding love and heartbreak.
Sense and Sensibility, BBC One (2008)
Over a decade after the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility came BBC One’s three-episode series.
It was intended to be “more overtly sexual” and thus, featured many scenes that were in the original novel but left out of the film.
Sense and Sensibility follows the story of the Dashwood family, primarily Mary Dashwood and her three daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.
The story begins with the death of the family patriarch, who has left his fortune and estate to his only son, John.
Though he originally promised to provide for his stepmother and stepsisters, they are eventually forced to leave the Norland Park estate to a small cottage in Devonshire to live a life much more modest than they’ve been used to.
Pride and Prejudice, BBC (1958)
Over 60 years ago came the first television adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride & Prejudice.
The novel and subsequently the series follows the Bennet family: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, of course, and their five unmarried daughters.
The parents are eager to have their daughters off and married to suitable men, and hope is kindled when eligible bachelors Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy move into the neighborhood.
Ah, but if only it were that easy! After all, it is pride and prejudice that complicates the relationship between these men and the Bennet daughters.
Sadly, this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is believed to be completely lost as there are no traces of episodes in archives or online.
Pride and Prejudice, BBC One (1967)
Unlike the 1958 series that is considered lost, BBC One’s Pride and Prejudice that aired in 1967 is widely considered to be the actual first adaptation as it’s the first to have survived, and can even still be accessed online.
The series aired over six episodes of 25 minutes each and, much like the others, stays fairly loyal to the source material.
However, there’s one fundamental difference: the Bennets only have four daughters this time as the middle daughter, Mary, is omitted from the story, though with Elizabeth also still at the center of it.
Pride and Prejudice, BBC2 (1980)
Though this is technically BBC’s fifth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it’s only the second that is still available to watch in full.
The 1980 series aired over five episodes and even made it to the US screens via PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre.
The episodes focus on the Bennet daughters’ quest for suitable and respectable husbands, beginning with Mr. Bingley who has just moved into the neighborhood.
The relationship at the center, however, is that between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who Elizabeth immediately harbors suspicions against.
However, it is her pride and prejudice that causes her to almost lose her chance at real love.
Pride and Prejudice, BBC1 (1995)
In this more recent (though still almost 30 years old) adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, viewers may come across much more familiar faces in the roles of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy: Jennifer Ehle (who won a BAFTA Award for this role) and Colin Firth (who was also nominated for a BAFTA for the role).
The story zooms in further into the relationship between them, as well as the romance between Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley, and highlights their journey to overcoming their prejudices and differences to find true love.
Mansfield Park, BBC2 (1983)
The six-episode adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park may not be the first-ever screen adaptation, but it is the one that stays loyal to the source material.
The series primarily follows young Fanny Price, who moves to the eponymous estate owned by her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram.
However, having come from an underprivileged upbringing, she is unable to find her place among the rich upper society – except with her cousin, Edmund.
This is further exacerbated when she rejects a marriage proposal from a wealthy man who she believes to be unprincipled.
Will Fanny eventually be able to win over the respect of her family and those who think that wealth equates to worth?
Persuasion, BBC One (1960)
Jane Austen’s original novel Persuasion was published in 1817 and was the last that she had completed fully before she passed away – though it was actually published six months after she died!
The first TV adaptation came in 1960 and comprised just four episodes of roughly half an hour each.
Sadly, like many other BBC shows that aired at around this time, the episodes are believed to now be lost.
Thus, not much is known about the series outside of the cast (Daphne Slater as Anne Elliot, and Paul Daneman as Captain Wentworth), particularly on how truthful it stayed to the original novel.
Persuasion, ITV (1971)
The ITV series production of Persuasion runs over five episodes of about 50 minutes, which certainly allows for more details to unfold over the story.
It follows the aristocratic Elliot family, who have fallen into hard times and are forced to move into their country home to help their financial situation.
Their estate is then rented out to an Admiral and his wife – whose brother was previously engaged to the show’s heroine, Anne Elliot.
Anne and Captain Wentworth’s love story unfold over the episode, but it’s not without difficulty as many other suitors and love interests cross their path before they find their way back to each other.
Screen Two, Series 3 Episode 7: “Northanger Abbey”, BBC (1987)
For over 20 years, BBC ran Screen Two, an anthology drama series that featured a new mad for TV film drama with every episode.
One of those was Northanger Abbey, which was based on Austen’s 1817 novel of the same name.
It tells the story of Catherine Morland, who moves to Bath with her family.
While there, she befriends an older girl named Isabella whose brother immediately courts her.
However, Catherine falls in love with another man, but their relationship is complicated when it’s revealed that they come from vastly different financial backgrounds.
Foreign language Jane Austen TV shows
Pride and Prejudice, MBC (2014)
Our first foreign language production hails from South Korea and, though titled after the Pride and Prejudice novel, differs greatly from Austen’s plot in the novel!
In fact, this leans more towards the legal drama genre as it takes the prejudice aspect quite seriously.
In Pride and Prejudice (or 오만과 편견 in the original Korean), viewers follow a team of prosecutors and investigators as they fight against the injustices committed against the poor and innocent by the proud higher-ups in society and a prejudiced justice system.
Kasthooriman, Asianet (2017 – 2021)
Kasthooriman is a Malayalam soap opera that, albeit having just two seasons, spanned over a whopping 900 episodes!
Only the first season, however, is inspired by Austen’s Sense and Sensibility as it centers on a widow and her three unmarried daughters.
Despite having to raise them alone, she’s determined to give them a happy life and help them find husbands who are suitable and deserving.
Thus, the season explores the culture of courtship and marriage in their culture – as well as the drama native to a soap opera!
Trishna, DD National (1985)
Trishna is a bit of an older broadcast and is a Hindi-language adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that has been reimagined into a middle-class Indian household, albeit still refreshingly loyal to the original novel – down to the character traits.
It follows Rekha, the family’s second daughter, who meets the handsome and wealthy Rahul at a party but is immediately disinterested due to his arrogance.
Over time, and many complications with Rahul, his friends, and her own sisters, true love finds its way into her heart.
Orgulho e Paixão, Rede Globo (2018)
We move to Brazil with the telenovela Orgulho e Paixão, which brings something different as it mixes up the stories from Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Lady Susan!
The series follows Elisabeta in the fictional town of Café, who is encouraged by her father to live out her dreams as a young woman with ideals much different from the other women of her time.
Living with four sisters, Elisabeta also seeks out love when she crosses paths with the handsome Darcy.
Kahiin to Hoga, Star Plus (2003 – 2007)
Kahiin to Hoga is an Indian soap opera based on Pride and Prejudice, and it ran over almost 800 episodes between 2003 and 2007!
It tells the story of five sisters: Kashish, Mahek, Mouli, Kanan, and Charu, who live a modest life with their father.
The primary heroine, this adaptation’s Elizabeth, so to speak, is Kashish, who eventually falls into a romantic relationship with her rich boss, Sujal.
Through many twists and turns, mostly the result of interference and misunderstanding, with Kashish and Sujal find their happy ending too?
Jane Austen-inspired TV series
Lost in Austen, ITV (2008)
The four-episode mini-series Lost in Austen holds the novel Pride and Prejudice at its center, with a modern, fantasy twist.
Rather than a series adapted from the book, Lost in Austen follows a young Londoner named Amanda.
She swaps out her modern life with that of Elizabeth Bennet’s by traveling into the book through a portal in her bathroom!
She fights to fit in with the Bennets, as well as the Bingleys and Darcys, but disastrous events start to unfold that are out of Amanda’s control.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, YouTube (2013)
What better way to make a modern adaptation of classical literature than to make use of technology, right?
YouTube’s The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a web series that, of course, is adapted from Pride and Prejudice and tells the story of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet in a modern way: through vlogs and interactive elements – such as real social media accounts!
Each episode was between just two and eight minutes long, with each one retelling a significant part of the narrative – occasionally with help from other characters.
Death Comes to Pemberly, BBC One (2013)
Death Comes to Pemberley is an extension of Pride and Prejudice in that it serves as its sequel, detailing events six years after the original novel.
However, it’s based on an entirely different source: P.D. James’ 2011 novel of the same name!
It’s got a touch of the murder mystery, as it revolves around Lydia Bennet and her husband George Wickham.
He gets into an argument with another man while they’re on the way to Pemberley and blames himself when the man dies in his arms.