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23 Movies like Pride and Prejudice: Wonderful Heroines

This article has been written by Scout Beck & Jane Howarth.

Would you like some more film recommendations? Do you fancy scrolling through a list of 100 movies like ‘Pride and Prejudice’? No, me neither.

From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry…

If you like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ you’ll like quite a few other films I recommend, because quite simply, I’m a fan.

Which surprises even me a little, because if I think over my favourite genres, period drama doesn’t quite fit. My only explanation for this can be that I don’t see ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or other movies like it as period pieces. I just see them as great films.

For a list of articles about movies and recommendations of similar films, please click here.


‘Sense and Sensibility’ (Ang Lee, 1995)

All I want – all I have ever wanted – is the quiet of a private life, but, eh, my mother is determined to see me distinguished…

It’s another Jane Austen classic – did she write any that weren’t? So it’s an obvious choice for lovers of her work. This is more of the same in a good way so I’m pretty sure you’ll love this movies like ‘Sense And Sensibility’ as well.

An instantly appealing feature for me is it has another feisty female protagonist, Elinor Dashwood.

I don’t think it should ever be overlooked just how feisty Austen’s heroines are.

Yes they are still hugely trapped by sexism, convention, and social status, but Austen does a mighty job of breaking the mould with Elizabeth Bennett and here Elinor by giving them – (how very dare she) – intelligence and personality. Not only that – (the cheek of the woman) – she makes them funny too.

And that plays a huge part in my affection for these films. In my opinion those two women are pretty cool, and that’s now. God knows how the country set took to them at the time.

But my unusual crushes on the heros of the films are a little harder to justify aside from the obvious – that they aren’t actually real.’Mr Darcy’ for example – and I do mean ‘Mr Darcy’ not Colin Firth.

And no, as my (male) friend so crassly suggested, it’s not ‘because he’s rich’.

It’s his awkwardness and shyness that I find appealing and in ‘Sense and Sensibility’, Austen has the audacity (does this woman ever stop!) of providing another unconventional hero in the shape of Colonel Brandon, a mature man, injured, who is also reserved and dignified, keeping his feelings to himself for fear of being hurt. Really rather an attractive quality it seems.

If I was going to make an afternoon of indulgent film viewing I would temper the uplifting romance of my previous suggestion with the dark and really quite frightening.

In another Austen adaptation, ‘Sense and Sensibility’s unconventional but dashing suitors and feisty heroines live up to Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett’s legacy.

‘Jane Eyre’ (Cary Fukunaga, 2011)

I will not leave you. No one shall take me from you…

It’s gothic, it’s spooky, it’s got the wild moors of a Bronte mind written all over it, and yes I know it’s impossible but it’s like it was written for film.

To me this is a classic ghost story, only in this case the ghost is real. If you’re not frightened by creaky old houses, locked rooms and screams in the night then forgive me but… what’s wrong with you?

Like another of my favourites, ‘Rebecca’ the unsuspecting heroine is living in the shadow of someone else’s past – a past that will come back to haunt (Yes, haunt) – and though Jane is undermined more obviously by her background than a Bennett or a Dashwood, she still stands her ground against the snobbery and disdain of all around her.

And she has a brain. I’m starting to understand why I like her so much…

Have a look at this article if you want to watch some great movies like ‘Jane Eyre’.

A typically dark Bronte story following another strong woman, the intelligent ‘Jane Eyre’.

‘Little Women’ (Gillian Armstrong, 1994)

Feminine weaknesses and fainting spells are the direct result of our confining young girls to the house, bent over their needlework, and restrictive corsets…

Let’s stay with the period drama theme. ‘Little Women’ draws from the strength of an excellent ensemble cast including Susan Sarandon, Wynona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale and Gabriel Byrne.

This is a recession-friendly movie of making ends meet and snuggling together in front of the fire to keep warm, just like our old age pensioners of today!

Like in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, some of the sisters are just playing the marriage lottery waiting for their lucky numbers to pop up.

How many of us saw ourselves as Jo when we were pre-teenage (preenage? I stand corrected, it’s “tween”) girls? I certainly did! Forget about the whole “get married and have 1.5 children”, I wanted to be a writer! This film is worth watching just for the whole “girl power” message.

Another addictive period drama about sisters hit by poverty whose only hope is a good marriage.

‘Miss Potter’ (Chris Noonan, 2006)

Stories don’t always end where their authors intended. But there is joy in following them, wherever they take us…

“I didn’t want to marry a man simply because he was rich enough to take care of me!”

Take a pinch of ‘Little Women’ (“I want to be a writer!”) and a pinch of ‘Pretty Woman’ and you get ‘Miss Potter’ (well, minus the “working as a prostitute” bit from ‘Pretty Woman’, of course!).

The theme is the quest for independence versus the quest for love. ‘Miss Potter’ somehow manages to achieve both, even though there is also an element of loss, which the movie touches upon with enormous grace. Maybe director Chris Noonan (who gave us Babe, in case you are wondering) did not want to upset anyone by portraying strong emotions (even depression is being tip-toed around), but you can’t get annoyed at the delicate treatment of Beatrix Potter’s story (animated cartoon animals included). The film is charming and well executed.

‘Miss Potter’ is a movie about friendships and fulfilling ideas, dreams and aspirations. What’s not to like? It’s thumbs up all the way from me.

Like the Bennett sisters, author Beatrix Potter is stuck between her own desire for love and her need for independence in this well-crafted film.

‘Rebecca’ (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

I watched you godown, just as I watched her a year ago. Even in the same dress, you couln’t compare…

Now the second Mrs De Winter, the protagonist of ‘Rebecca’ is just a little too passive to be a heroine of mine, but the film is included here for all round enjoyability.

It’s Hitchcock so it’s going to be scary and if, like me, you have a weird phobia of housekeepers who just appear and tell you to do things like kill yourself (just me? Surely not) then you are going to have nightmares about Mrs Danvers.

Now she is frightening, but not a recommended role model.

This story has a real twist to it and I think it’s as shocking a conclusion as you can imagine and one that highlights that this film is as much a tale of madness as it is of love.

Romance comes second to suspense in Hitchcock’s adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel.

‘Pretty Woman’ (Garry Marshall, 1990)

Impossible relationships. My special gift is impossible relationships…

Woman from poor background (or should I say “a caricature of a woman”) being rescued by rich gentleman? Check. ‘Pretty Woman’ is your 20th century version of your ‘Austen’ heroine waiting for her knight in shining armour.

Sometimes it’s worth re-watching ‘Pretty Woman’ just to see the different layers this movie has: yes, it’s a chick flick and it was always supposed to be so. However, watching it again years after its release I hadn’t noticed the journey that Vivian (Julia Roberts) (should we say the Eliza Doolitle role from My Fair Lady?) embarks on. Yes, it’s patronising that Edward (Richard Gere) takes her to the opera because she’s a nobody who “clearly” has no idea about high culture. Still, millions of women worldwide fell in love with Edward and (Richard Gere) because of him playing the “I Tarzan, you Jane” role.

Evolution and the sexual revolution obviously never happened, according to this film. Like in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, women are waiting in the wings according to their pecking order, their value being carefully measured and weighed in for the ultimate aim of marriage. But there’s something about this film that is totally charming and irresistible. Go figure. Another recession-friendly film about men making deals and women trying to change for them.

There are some glaring faults in the polarised social status and gender roles, but like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ this movie portrays women as carefully valued commodities.


More Austen-Worthy Movies

Whether you’re looking for a likeable heroine like Elizabeth, or maybe one with her sisters’ and the other society girls’ flaws, I’m sure you’ll like at least a few of the ones we’ve already been introduced to.

But there’s no harm in being sociable, so let’s see which other wonderful heroines are out there…

‘Daniel Deronda’ (Tom Hooper, 2002)

Made for TV and repackaged on DVD in movie form (so prepare for a running time that reaches over the three hour mark), ‘Daniel Deronda’ is a George Eliot adaptation following a society chap struggling with his own identity.

If you’re looking for a heroine with an extra level of bravery, meet Gwendolen Harleth. Daniel is drawn to her right away – unfortunately, she’s locked into a grim marriage of convenience designed to save her family from destitution.

You’ll recognise the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ society, but troubled Gwendolen’s taken the path Elizabeth was determined to avoid.

‘Mona Lisa Smile’ (Mike Newell, 2003)

I thought I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow’s leaders, not their wives!

A progressive art history teacher tries to inspire her class at a girls’ college in the 1950s. Unfortunately, she faces an uphill struggle.

Some of her students letting their potential fall by the wayside as they pursue traditional housewife roles while others desperately want to break free, only to be limited by the same social expectations.

The world of ‘50s academia gives a brave teacher and her students a challenge. Like Lizzy, they’re determined not to settle for the easy option.

‘The Young Victoria’ (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2009)

You are confusing stubbornness with strength, my dear. And I warn you, the people will not like you for it…

Dramatising the early life of the UK’s second longest-reigning monarch will inevitably throw up a few inaccuracies, but let’s not get tangled up in the details. ‘The Young Victoria’ is essentially a historical romance with a factual basis, and it’s an extra sumptuous one.

Royalty isn’t exempt from heartache, and the pressures of status and expectation are magnified. Lush ballroom scenes and an inspiring queen are the jewels in this crown though.

‘A Room with a View’ (James Ivory, 1985)

I don’t care what I see outside. My vision is within! Here is where the birds sing! Here is where the sky is blue!

Just as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ makes Elizabeth and her sisters weigh up the value of good prospects versus true compatibility, this E. M. Forster adaptation forces its heroine to choose between the man she fell for in Italy and a more suitable match at home.

It’s more traditional in style, but a hard-to-contest 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes might convince you if you’re undecided.

Take your pick of the strong female leads in this period romance, with Helena Bonham Carter as a young socialite and Maggie Smith as her chaperone.

‘Anna and the King’ (Andy Tennant, 1999)

The manner in which people might understand such new possibilities is also process of evolution…

You’ve got to be a brave heroine to take up the post of governess to the King of Siam’s many children. In a retelling of actual events, ‘Anna Leonowens’ confronts the harsh realities of life in a culturally preserved kingdom while tasked with educating her charges to late Victorian standards.

A far-flung royal court and an older heroine who’s more sure of herself give this drama an atmosphere that’s far from ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but its charm and atmosphere will win you over.

‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ (Callie Khouri, 2002)

You live with someone long enough, you can see what they’re trying to hide by the way they try to hide it…

The ‘Thelma and Louise’ writer takes on family dynamics. We meet a Southern theatre director who takes time out in Washington State when New York life, her impending marriage and a fall-out with her strong-willed mother pile up on top of her.

Before long, her mother’s friends arrive, scrapbook in hand, to introduce her to the girls they once were – and maybe a few of their dreams, adventures and long-lost romances will explain a few things about the present day.

The Ya-Yas epitomise strong 20th Century Southern women, and this inter-generational story’s got romance, bravery and drama to spare.

‘Great Expectations’ (Mike Newell, 2012)

To be guilty, and to be found guilty, are different things…

Strong women? Take your pick from the ethereal yet controlling Miss Havisham and her subtly cruel adopted daughter, Estella.

We see them through the eyes of Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice granted passage to the elite lifestyle of a London gentleman in training. As he comes up in the world, they alternately teach him to envy and resent their grandeur, influencing him even when they’re not present.

Though the film centres on Pip, two strange and inaccessible women shape his story.

‘I Capture the Castle’ (Tim Fywell, 2003)

I don’t want to go through life like my mother, afraid that I’m not really loved, even if it meant I could go through life with you…

Like the Bennets, the Mortmains live life their own way in the depths of the countryside. When older sister Rose ventures into the fast-paced London society, younger sibling Cassandra wonders if she’ll lose everything to the world of ballrooms and furs.

If you’re looking for a family with its own independent heroines and similarly almost-society life, you’ll love the eccentric Mortmains.

‘Northanger Abbey’ (Jon Jones, 2007)

I have to say, there is a kind of vampirism. No, let’s just say that all houses have their secrets, and Northanger is no exception…

Ok, so you can probably figure out that any movie with a Jane Austen connection’s a good bet if you want a similar society romance story. But I wanted to give this TV movie a special mention, mostly because it didn’t get the kind of recognition that a cinema release does.

And guess what? The cast includes Carey Mulligan and Felicity Jones, up-and-coming at the time but now hard to miss.

In this adaptation, a young Gothic novel addict finds herself living in a spooky stately home which lets hr imagination run riot. When she’s not lost in the pages of a book or her own dream world, she’s accidentally becoming the object of two suitors’ attentions.

This TV movie looks and feels like the 2005 ‘Pride and Prejudice’, plus it’s got a book-loving heroine and lots of Regency loveliness.


Honourable Mentions:

Looking for total Austen immersion?

  • ‘Mansfield Park’ (Patricia Rozema, 1999)
  • ‘Persuasion’ (Roger Michell, 1995)
  • ‘Emma’ (Douglas McGrath, 1996)
  • ‘Becoming Jane’ (Julian Jarrold, 2007)
  • ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (Gurinder Chadha, 2004)
  • ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ (Robin Swicord, 2007)
  • ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (Sharon Maguire, 2001)
  • ‘Austenland’ (Jerusha Hess, 2013)

What All These Films Have in Common?

They are not what we would expect.Which is an unusual thing to say when we can’t really be expected to know anything of that time except assumptions of a straight laced, restricted and humourless society.

These traits are still present in the films, but they are satirised. The films are injected with passion and thrills as well as huge elements of comedy.

And for those reasons they are timeless and relevant and perhaps less of a guilty pleasure than I first believed.

Don’t You Think?

Please share you comments on my list!

Do you guys think that I forgot some?

Or that some of the above mentioned shouldn’t be there?

**For a video playlist of the recommendations, please click here.


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