Celebrate Charlotte Bronte’s Birthday, Watch (Or Read!) Jane Eyre

Posted by Jennifer Adams

Here at Quirk, we like our classic literary mash-ups. But we like the original classics too. Happy birthday to Charlotte Bronte (April 21, 1816), who more than one hundred and fifty years ago wrote a bang-up tale of orphans, ghosts, betrayal, and all-consuming love featuring one of the most independent, kickass heroines in all literature.

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre lately, it’s time to pull it off the shelf and give it a go. It’s good. Really good. In fact, it’s better every time you read it. But if you’re not up for quite that big of a time investment, try one of these movie versions of Jane Eyre instead:

Jane Eyre (2011)

Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs and Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Shame, 300), are impressive as actors and might garner great attention, but when acting together there’s no sexual tension.

In fact, if you don’t already know the story, it’s hard to see why this young Jane would fall in love with this master of the house. When you want Jane to go off to Africa with St. John, you know something is wrong!

Jane Eyre (1996)

Anna Paquin makes a bold young Jane and Helen Burns at Lowood School is beautifully played. This version is worth watching for its arresting cinematography and interesting interpretation. But William Hurt is perhaps a bit too mild to make a convincing Rochester and this Jane may be a little too plain.

Jane Eyre (1943)

The 1943 film retells this classic in black-and-white gorgeousness. It’s film noir gothic romance at its finest with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. I’m in!

Jane Eyre (2006)

Here’s the perfect version at last! Ruth Wilson is absolutely amazing as Jane, and Toby Stephens (son of Dame Maggie Smith), though criticized for being too handsome to play Mr. Rochester, is mesmerizing.

This beautiful interpretation by Masterpiece Theatre has just enough hints of both gore and bodice ripping to be tantalizing without sensationalizing, and plays out the remarkable relationship between two strong, independent characters who know each other’s minds and hearts.