Like Jane Austen once described Elizabeth Bennet, saying, “I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print”.
Well, 200 hundred years later that statement is a universal truth and Elizabeth Bennet indeed went on to become the most loved heroine of English literature.
From 1940 to 2016, there have been numerous screen adaptations of Austen’s most loved novel, Pride and Prejudice with every generation having its own personal favourite version of Miss Bennet. Having watched most of these movies apart from reading the book several times, I couldn’t stop myself from analyzing and scrutinizing the characters. So, here are my top three picks amongst the best versions of Elizabeth Bennet which have appeared over the past 76 years:
Elizabeth Bennet played by Keira Knightly (2005)
Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Miss Bennet as the spunky, gritty and flaring tempered woman had definitely won the hearts of the elders and youngsters alike. Despite the modern feel to connect with the younger generations, it beautifully managed to keep the essence and details of the main story intact. As the movie begins, we step into the shoes of Elizabeth, seeing and perceiving the things as she does.
Elizabeth Bennet played by Jennifer Ehle (1995)
A fan-favourite masterpiece and now a classic, Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy in the Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC miniseries was exactly how one would imagine Lizzy to be while reading the book except may be a bit more playful. The elegant costumes, sets, dialogues music and of course Mr. Darcy, everything was perfect and hence a visual treat for the audience. Also, this particular adaptation is credited to have the best Mr. Darcy, enacted by Colin Firth. A 12 foot tall statue of Firth as Mr. Darcy in wet shirt was erected in Serpentine Lake of London’s Hyde Park in 2013.
Lizzie Bennet played by Ashley Clements (2013)
Frankly, this Emmy award winning web adaptation came to me as a pleasant surprise. Trying to keep my skepticism aside, I started watching the first episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2013) where a 24-year-old focused and a bit nerdy Lizzie Bennet is documenting her life for her Post Graduation thesis project. I felt that she was exactly how Elizabeth Bennet would have been if she was in 21st century. She would definitely have been a careerist, ambitious and a self-loving woman with an interest in mass communication (like shown in the web series) because she loves to speak her mind.
Other honorable mentions: Lalita Bakshi played by Aishwarya Rai in Bride & Prejudice (2004), Greer Garson for Pride & Prejudice (1940)