Charlotte Brontë’s Film Adaptations 🎥

Having written several books that stand out with clear, actable storylines, it was never in doubt that Charlotte Brontë’s writings were made for television.

Charlotte Brontë

(1816-1855), English novelist and poet

Renowned author Charlotte Brontë wrote a handful of good books – including ‘ Shirley,’ ‘The Professor’ and ‘Villette,’ but of all her novels is the remarkable ‘Jane Eyre,’ a book which over the years has undergone several interesting film adaptations. This article exists to analyze important adaptations to Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork.

Jane Eyre by Christy Cabanne (1934)

Director Christy Cabanne pioneered one of the earliest adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece ‘Jane Eyre,’ making history as being the first of its kind to incorporate audio into the film version of the book. First rolled out in the summer of 1934, this film made history as the earliest audio-enabled motion picture of Charlotte Brontë’s work in ‘Jane Eyre.’ 

With a screenplay written by Adele Comandini, acted over a 62-minute duration, this version was considered short and constricted for time, meaning that a lot of the originality of the book was edited out by promoters, Monogram Pictures. However, the film went on to deliver a rather applaudable show that was worth its modest resources and budget.

Actors like Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive graced respectively as Jane and Mr. Rochester, and to be fair, submitted a series of eye-catching scenes to deliver on the true personalities of the characters to which they represented. The only major shortfall of this version is that it succeeded in cutting out large portions of the original book of the same name and tweaked the personality of the characters more than was applicable. For example, Jane was made prettier than implied by Charlotte Brontë in her book. 

Jane Eyre by Robert Young (1997)

This version becomes relatively longer than Cabanne’s 30s version – spanning nearly two hours of screen time. With an extended running time, it meant that this version was able to incorporate several additional scenes previously left out by the Cabanne version. 

Robert Young was the director for this one, with the script co-written by Richard Hawley, Peter Wright, and Kay Mellor. For the actors, Samantha Morton headlined as ‘Jane Eyre’ while Ciarán Hinds picked up the role of Edward Rochester – and his handling of the role proved interesting, adding new twists to the character’s original temperaments. 

In all, this version received some fair credit in terms of its actors who rendered a fairly outstanding show to live out the integrity of their character. However, the downside or con to this film was its exclusion of certain important scenes from the original book, such as the part where Jane returns home to Gateshead to tend to Aunt Reed – who’s now very sick and dying. 

Jane Eyre by Julian Amyes (1984)

This version is praised for being one of the very few adaptations that stayed true to the original plot of Charlotte Brontë’s book, ‘Jane Eyre.’ This version was done in a sequence of up to the eleventh series – with each having a runtime of 30 minutes. It carefully covered, from start to finish, scene to scene, what the original book has to offer. 

For the acting roles, Zelah Clarke turned up for the ‘Jane Eyre’ character, as the Edward Rochester role got commanded by Timothy Dalton. The film managed a more appealing review from viewers – especially people who wanted to experience the original Brontë work coming to television with its full integrity and originality. 

Although the above-listed adaptations were some of the more significant versions of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ masterpiece, there exist tenths of other versions of the work pioneered by different directors – acted by notable film celebrities including Orson Welles – intending to do justice to the brilliant narrative, with many of these directors and sponsors tweaking and fine-tuning the work to make it more commercialized and tv worthy. 


Is there a film version of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Brontë?

There are several film adaptations and versions of Charlotte Brontë’s bestseller, ‘Jane Eyre,’ with different versions serving the expectations of diverse interests, however, a handful remain true to the work. 

How many film adaptations have ‘Jane Eyre’ undergone?

Jane Eyre’ has undergone more than ten film adaptations to date because of its story richness and classic significance. The count is not over yet, as both the book’s plot and ideas are still getting incorporated into recent films and tv shows. 

Which ‘Jane Eyre’ film version is the best? 

Based on a film version staying true to the uniqueness of Charlotte Brontë’s work, Julian Amyes’ 1984 film adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ is by a long margin the best. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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