10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations, Ranked

Unsurprisingly, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been adapted to film many times, and here are 10 of its best film translations of all time, ranked.

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10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Charlotte Brontë’s most popular work, Jane Eyre, published in 1847, has been adapted many times and in numerous ways. The novel’s discussion of Christianity, social class, feminism, and romance caused ripples when it was published that have lasted until today.

Despite taking place in Victorian England, the story of a young woman’s journey towards independence and love is timeless and people can still connect to that story today.

Updated on May 17th, 2021 by Kristen Palamara: While there haven’t been countless Jane Eyre movie versions like other works from the time period of Jane Austen’s novels, the story has seen many different adaptations, from radio to television to stage productions. The best Jane Eyre adaptations for the screen, however, stack up quite well when keeping the original novel in mind thanks to the strengths of the lead actors, with their performances giving each one a distinctly timeless quality. A lot of the best examples are available to stream online as well, even the classic adaptations and older mini-series versions of the story.

10 Jane Eyre 1949, Starring Mary Sinclair and Charlton Heston

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

This version, which aired on CBS, was restricted due to time constraints and filmed on one set. This inevitably led to the removal of some major plot points from the book, such as Jane’s time at Gateshead and at Moor House.

The only time we see Lowood is during a brief scene at the start of the film where Jane indignantly states that she has been mistreated and will never return. The most enjoyable elements of this adaptation are Charlton Heston as Rochester and the ridiculous wife in the attic.

9 Jane Eyre 1957, Starring Joan Elan and Patrick Macnee

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

This adaptation leaves out any plot points that don’t take place at Thornfield. Much of the plot is shifted around, likely due to time constraints. For example, rather than being interrupted at the altar, Rochester is in the middle of his proposal when Mason storms in and demands he tells Jane about Bertha.

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Rochester is a creepy drunk who leers after Jane, and Jane is much less plain than she is described in the novel. Mrs. Fairfax plays a larger role here, serving as Rochester’s confidant about Bertha and helping him keep his secret. Some of the choices can seem a bit bizarre, but they are entertaining nevertheless.

8 Jane Eyre 1934, Starring Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive (Available on Tubi)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

The 1934 version was the first “talkie” adaptation. Monogram Pictures, a small production company at the time, did the best they could with a relatively small budget. Jane never visits her dying aunt or runs away to Moor House, but we at least get to see her childhood at Gateshead and a brief scene at Lowood.

Here is another version where much of the story is changed; Jane is beautiful, talented, and accomplished, while Rochester is kind and paternal. If you like the story of Jane Eyre but wish it were more upbeat and less gothic, then this version may be the one for you.

7 Jane Eyre 1970, Starring Susannah York and George C. Scott (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Skipping Gateshead and going straight to Lowood, this version still manages to shows us the harsh beginnings of Jane’s childhood. For the sake of time, many elements of the plot are condensed. This is the first version to show Jane’s time at Moor House, however, and it includes the proposal from St. John, both being important story elements that often get left out by other adaptations.

This portrayal of the central romance between Jane and Rochester may not be brimming with passion, but Susannah York and George C. Scott capture some of the most central elements of their characters. Perhaps the greatest feature of this adaptation is an instantly memorable score by John Williams.

6 Jane Eyre 1997, Starring Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds (Available on Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, and YouTube)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Everything but Jane’s trip to Gateshead to visit her dying aunt is included in this adaptation, which premiered on television. Ciarán Hinds’ take on Rochester certainly stands out among the others, and fans of the novel either love or hate this particular portrayal.

Hinds often chooses to play Rochester as aggressive and abrasive, raising his voice frequently to convey Rochester’s passionate nature. Both Jane and Rochester certainly fit their physical descriptions in the book, both in terms of age and physical features.

5 Jane Eyre 1983, Starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton (Available to buy on Apple TV)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Of all the adaptations on this list, the 1983 version is by far the most faithful to the source material. Technically a television series, this version spans 11 episodes and details the events of every chapter of the novel.

Because of the length of this adaptation, Jane and Rochester’s relationship is given plenty of time to grow. If what you want out of an adaptation is to see the novel literally translated to the screen, this is definitely the version for you.

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4 Jane Eyre 1996, Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt (Available on Hoopla)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, this version offers a somewhat muted take on the classic tale. Anna Paquin plays young Jane, excellently capturing her defiant spark and temper.

Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Jane as an adult. She is still passionate, but this side of her nature is tempered by her experiences at Lowood and her knowledge that, as a single young woman with no fortune, the world will not react kindly to strong displays of emotion on her part.

3 Jane Eyre 1943, Starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles (Available on Hoopla)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Jane Eyre is a gothic romance, but many adaptations treat it as a classic period piece and ignore the gothic elements. With long shadows and stark black-white contrast, the locations feel the way they are described in the book. Lowood feels lonely and oppressive, while Thornfield feels truly haunted by secrets bordering on the supernatural.

Orson Welles gives a fantastic performance as Rochester, commanding every scene he is in. The actor’s larger-than-life screen presence is perfect for the character and the story.

2 Jane Eyre 2006, Starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens (Available on HBO Max and Hulu)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Here is another version that aired as a television series on BBC. These four episodes cover everything in the novel, from Gateshead to Moor House. Scenes with Jane and Rochester pulse with romance and mystery, and the chemistry between Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is undeniable.

Certain changes are made to the dialogue in an attempt to modernize the story for newer audiences, and these changes may not work for everyone. However, between Ruth Wilson’s wonderful performance and the strength of the central love story, this version certainly does justice to Brontë’s story.

1 Jane Eyre 2011, Starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (Available on Max Go and DirecTV)

10 Best Jane Eyre Film Adaptations Ranked

Each version has its strengths, but no other has captured the essence of the novel the way that the 2011 version has. Director Cary Fukunaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini make the brilliant decision to begin the movie with Jane fleeing Thornfield. The rest of the story—Jane’s childhood, her romance with Rochester, her attempted marriage—is told through flashbacks. This improves the pacing of the film and keeps the audience engaged.

Though many actors have put their own spin on these characters, this cast cannot be matched. Michael Fassbender is a nearly perfect Rochester. Meanwhile, Judi Dench and Jamie Bell, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, give great performances, as well. Mia Wasikowska is the star, and perhaps the greatest strength of this adaptation is the way it is so clearly meant to be Jane’s story. Wasikowska’s performance is perfect in every scene, capturing the nuances and contradictions of the iconic character.

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