Emily Brontë Film Adaptations

Emily Brontë’s only novel, ‘Wuthering Heights,’ proves a rich soil for the big screen, and since its 1847 publication, the book has undergone several adaptations from filmmakers through the years.

Emily Brontë

(1818 - 1848), English Novelist and Poet

The case is unsurprising considering how scary rich amid unsettling Emily Brontë’s characters, storylines, and settings are in the book ‘Wuthering Heights.’ With several visual adaptations gone down in cinemas – starting from 1939 to date, there are a few versions that have become especially popular for reliving the author’s masterpiece on television. This article will explore some notable film adaptations of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights.’

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Digital Art
Wuthering Heights Digital Art

William Wyler’s 1937 ‘Wuthering Heights’ Adaptation

Directed by the experienced William Wyler, this early adaptation of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ stays up top as one of the greatest visual versions of the classic. The production brought together iconic movie stars such as Sir Lawrence Olivier, who plays Heathcliff, while David Niven and Merle Oberon play Edgar Linton and Catherine Earnshaw, respectively.

Wyler’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ adaptation ticks all the right boxes in the book but still has a tremendous overhaul of Emily Brontë’s storyline just to make it more visually appealing and commercially ready. For example, the adaptation reduced the plots of the original novel – halving the chapters to get a sharper, more decisive output that only included two of three generations of characters, thus leaving out Heathcliff, Hindley, and Catherine’s children.

At best, Wyler’s adaptation can be termed an abridged version of the book – which goes on to capture all the thrills and chills that happen around Heathcliff and Catherine – and the two major families – the Lintons and the Earnshaws. To viewership, this version was highly applauded for bringing the book’s plot to life and for its inclusion of additional twists in the plot and characters. However, it also got criticized for cutting out a large amount of the book’s original parts, but then again, it proved a thriller for viewers.

Peter Kosminsky’s 1992 Adaptation

For one thing, Peter Kosminsky’s adaptation of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ remains true to the original book work, including portraying all three generations of the book’s characters, sticking to the true plot and setting. 

Kosminsky does a good job with this adaptation which features the likes of Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and Juliette Binoche as Catherine. Although this version doesn’t compare in terms of its popularity amongst viewers to that of Wyler’s 1937 adaptation, it still is recognized as one of the most important versions of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ that ever grace the television screen. 

Andrea Arnold’s 2011 Adaptation

This version of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is another one of the few adaptations that have a reasonable acceptance in the eyes of critics and viewership. Although it’s not quite highly rated as that of the 1939 version, its output can be said to have been engineered towards bettering all versions of the film. 

With reputable filmmakers led by director Andrea Arnold, the 2011 ‘Wuthering Heights’ adaptation does good to stay original to Emily Brontë’s blueprint for the book – this includes all relevant generations, characters, and settings, among other things. James Howson comes in as Heathcliff, while ‘Skins’ star Kaya Scodelario plays Catherine Earnshaw in a film that tries to portray the dark, gothic classic in its true sense. 

Reviews for this version were fair and reasonably positive, although it didn’t match that of the earlier 1939 remake. However, if there is one thing viewers never fail to compliment about the 2011 adaption of ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë is the fact that the film stayed with the original book version both in terms of style, plot, and characters. 


How many ‘Wuthering Heights’ adaptations are there?

There are more than twelve film adaptations of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ over the years – starting from Wyler’s version of 1939 to date. 

What film version of Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ should you watch?

All versions are interesting and unique in their way, but if you’re looking to see a more popular film version of ‘Wuthering Heights,’ then Wyler’s 1939 adaptation is what you might need. 

Is ‘Wuthering Heights’ the movie as good as ‘Wuthering Heights’ the book?

Based on viewers’ reviews and ratings, no movie version is yet to match the captivating, dark, gothic, scenic storylines of the original book as written by Emily Brontë herself.

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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