We all have definitive opinions on the best adaptations of our favorite romance novels—and yes, today, I am counting Pride and Prejudice among that number! You see, romance doesn't get adapted for screen all that often, but if anything has or will, it will be Pride and Prejudice. Upon doing research for this post, I realized that P&P has been adapted a lot...especially in the last decade or so. However, when there are so many adaptations out there, sometimes the only way to make a decision is by how hot the lead is! Austen didn't describe Darcy very much outside of him being tall and quite handsome. All the Darcys that I mention below fit the bill, but we all have our favorites! It's shallow yes, but below, find my ranking of the best Pride and Prejudice adaptations...in order of Mr. Darcy hotness.
11. Peter Cushing (Pride and Prejudice, 1952)
Peter Cushing is just so English. And while he is an excellent actor—you may know him for more horror based roles like Dracula, The Brides of Frankenstein...and that one smarmy Death Star officer in Star Wars—however his gaunt countenance just doesn't do it for me in the role.
10. Alan Badel (Pride & Prejudice, 1958)
Like many of these actors the first thing that comes to mind is just how English they look—very uppercrust and placid mien. Mr. Darcy was meant to be relatively unflappable, his snobbery over those below him making him appear above everything. Badel has this look down to a tee, however, in the end, it's his hawkish nose and soft jaw that make me unable to seek out my smelling salts.
9. Lewis Fiander (Pride and Prejudice, 1967)
While Fiander also has the hawkish nose that I found less than appealing in Badel, his eyes are kinder, in my opinion, which helps to soften his overall look. And much could be said for the perfectly quaffed hair that made him magnificent—and somehow blended 1960s flair with 1800s severity.
8. Elliot Cowan (Lost in Austen, U.K. 2008 / U.S. 2009)
While not expressly a Pride and Prejudice adaptation, this one featured so many of the characters that it couldn't be ignored! For those who aren't familiar Lost in Austen takes a Jasper Fforde treatment to the literary classic. For those of you who don't know who Jasper Fforde is...Google him, I guarantee you will enjoy his books. But I digress, Lost in Austen follows an Austen-loving Londoner, Amanda, who is a little sick and tired of modern love. Enter Elizabeth Bennett...literally! Amanda and Lizzy swap places and while Amanda desperately tries to set the world back to rights and not ruin herself in 1800s England, she meets and falls in love with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elliot Cowan is the more rugged version of Darcy than we've seen before or since, but man does he do it for me!
7. Orlando Seale (Pride and Prejudice: A LatterDay Comedy, 2003)
Many people avoided this adaptation for its Mormon affiliation, however, Orlando Seale should definitely not be avoided! While points are taken away for the crunchy curly hair look many men sported in the early 2000s, points are given back for the longing looks he is often found giving to Elizabeth! The mixture of yearning for her and scorning his attraction could not have been better executed—and when he gets caught staring, mmph! So perfect.
6. David Rintoul (Pride and Prejudice, 1980)
Oh, David Rintoul, while your features fall on the “softer” end of the spectrum—which, I don't know about you all, but I want a nose and jaw I can practically cut myself on from their sharpness. However, again the eyes and yearning expression will get me every time!
5. Daniel Vincent Gordh (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, 2012-2013)
By far, Gordh is the “prettiest” Darcy on this list and the most modern! Gordh sprang to popularity on the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and his “look down awkwardly/self-consciously, look back longingly” expressions will never get old. Plus, didn't he have us all saying “bow ties are cool”—he's the Will Darcy of the digital generation and I love him.
4. Martin Henderson (Bride and Prejudice)
Ah, Martin Henderson. Crystal blue eyes, sparkling smile, and looks good in a suit or just a plain untucked shirt—what more could you want! Now, I prefer him with scruff but as the clean-cut, if grumpy, Mr. Darcy, he was beautiful. Plus, if you get paired with the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, I think everyone gets a higher hotness rating! Bonus points for dimples!
3. Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary, 2001/Pride and Prejudice, 1995)
I know, I know! Ranking Colin so low will incur the wrath of many of you. Yes, he has played an incarnation of Fitzwilliam Darcy on TWO separate occasions. And I know his wet shirt and forlorn expression served as many a young woman’s sexual awakening. Despite the fact that I still entertain fantasies of marrying Colin and sitting by a fire until we’re old and gray while he just talks at me, I had to rank him lower—he’s cute and disarming but he’s a bit of a puppy (especially in Pride & Prejudice where the foppish curls do very little to increase his sex appeal). A puppy I want to marry, but a puppy nonetheless.
2. Laurence Olivier (Pride and Prejudice, 1940)
Laurence Olivier is a fox. End of story. He's the measuring stick to which all men stand up and he is beautiful. Even in black and white, Olivier shines through...but I maybe a little biased as he is the role model to which Tom Hiddleston measures himself. Either way his stormy expression, cleft chin, and classic looks make him the classic (and perfect) Darcy.
1. Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice, 2005)
This choice will likely make me very unpopular! But look at his eyes! The fit of his coat, his socially awkward mumbling! I love Matthew Macfadyen, and because of his turn as Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice, I followed his work to MI-5, Little Dorrit (he knows how to wear period clothing, so well!), Death at a Funeral, and beyond! He brings a vulnerability to Mr. Darcy that is undeniable and not often seen, plus, while Firth looks good in a wet shirt, nothing beats Macfadyen in the rain...or in the sunrise...or at a ball! *Sigh*
Honorable Mention: It’s not expressly a Pride and Prejudice adaptation but it featured many of the same characters, so I have to give a shout out to Matthew Rhys in Death Comes to Pemberly as he is also a fox and I thought he made for a very believable, sympathetic, and wonderful Darcy. Another shout out goes to James MacAvoy in Becoming Jane. The movie depicts him as an inspiration for Mr. Darcy and one must appreciate the archetype, even if the character name is different—plus, I just want to tuck him in my pocket and carry his little sassy self around with me all the time.
How do these Mr. Darcy's rank for you? Who would be your number one? Feel free to vent, nominate—and change my mind!—down in the comments!
Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. You can usually find her wishing time-travel was possible so she could go back to Victorian England or that she was a paranormal creature.