Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. It would stand to reason that Jane Eyre would be one of my favorite movies, but so far, this has not been the case. Something about the translation between page and screen loses what I love best from the story. And yet, there are numerous attempts at Jane Eyre movies. This definitive ranking of Jane Eyre adaptations will help you avoid the worst offenders, at least.
There have been over 50 TV or movie version of Jane Eyre leading back to 1910 (!), so this list only includes the most well-known Jane Eyre adaptations.
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Jane Eyre Adaptations Ranked from Worst to Best
These ranking s are my personal opinions, so feel free to discuss!
Number 12: 1949
This is a Charlton Heston movie. Not a Jane Eyre movie.
Number 11: 1970
There isn’t much to say about this version of Jane Eyre. The casting is rather strange, Rochester is the right age and amount of grumpy, but Jane is older than usually cast. While I like the attempt to somewhat match the characters in age, Jane was meant to be much younger than Rochester. All in all, this version is unremarkable in a sea of Jane Eyre adaptations.
Number 10: 1957 (TV)
Jane is terrible in this version, but Mr. Rochester is appropriately creepy. It definitely makes you wonder why Jane would be attracted to such a terrible person (which I wondered when reading the book as well). Everyone loves staring off into space and talking in this rendition.
Number 9: 1910
This silent movie was the first movie version of Jane Eyre. The movie tapes were lost, and so, we cannot watch this version for evaluation. However, judging by this still shot, Mr. Rochester was heavy-handed and Jane was yielding and mild. The movie was likely over-the-top in drama and had gothic flair, as that was fairly popular in silent movies.
Number 8: 1973 (TV)
This Jane is appropriately Janey, but Mr. Rochester is quite another story. This Rochester is robust, young, and even bouncy. A strange combination that seems unlikely to meld well with the Jane presented in the story. This rendition of the story is definitely romance-focused.
Number 7: 1996
This version of Jane basically hits you in the face with an oak plank. All of the main elements are there, but every element is applied with a heavy hand. The entire movie is overdone. I especially dislike that Mr. Rochester is blonde in this movie. Why?
Number 6: 2011
I had such high hopes for this Jane Eyre, but I was sorely disappointed in this. This movie is depressing. Jane’s story is a harsh one, but she has a continually positive and strong outlook on life. This Jane seems like she will drop dead of depression any moment, taking the rest of the cast with her. There is no humor and absolutely no life in this story. I felt I needed to watch puppies playing in flowers to feel better after watching it. Still, the best part of this version is the portrayal of the gothic mystery and drama, which is missing from other versions.
Number 5: 1997
Although this version of Jane Eyre has more humor than most, the movie feels more like a play than something meant to be in a film production. I like this Jane, but everyone else in the movie is unremarkable. There is a lot of wind noise in this version, making it feel like it was made in someone’s backyard with their phone camera.
Number 4: 1934
This version of Jane Eyre says more about the 1930s than it does about the franchise. The movie is deliciously over-the-top. Jane is impossibly beautiful, the house is elaborately decorated, and Mr. Rochester looks like he stepped out of the WWI soldier catalog. Definitely one of my favorite versions.
Number 3: 1943
This is the gothic version of Jane that has been missing from my life all these years. Although this version is vastly overdone, I love that they played up the gothic/horror side, which is often ignored in favor of the romance. To me, Jane Eyre is first and foremost a gothic horror story with elements of romance thrown in. I appreciate this effort to bring another side of Jane’s story to life.
Number 2: 1983 (TV)
This version of Jane Eyre was the first I ever watched, so I might be more forgiving of it for that reason, but still, the acting is wooden on Jane’s part, but Mr. Rochester in this version is as sparkly as any hero/villain should be. The series drags on a bit, but die hard fans will definitely want to watch this version (and some of the costumes are hilarious). Still missing: the humor and extreme feminism found in the book.
Number 1: 2006 (TV)
This version of Jane Eyre is probably the most feminist ever made. This Jane is the hardened orphan, unloved by family and fully capable of standing on her own two feet. Rochester, too, is nearly perfect as both a romantic and tortured hero. Missing from this version, however, is the creepy goth factor and humor from the original book.
What is your favorite Jane Eyre adaptation? I’m still waiting on my perfect version!
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