Film Adaptations of Bestselling Romance Novels

by Elysian Magazine

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” as the old saying goes. You can’t judge a book by its pages anymore, either. Books are no longer limited to the printed page. They’re oral and visual to conform with our fast-paced, ever-demanding lifestyles. Slip an Audiobook into your CD player; plug your earbuds into your Smartphone and choose a book from to listen to while you jog, or access it from Apple CarPlay™ or Android Auto™ while you drive. If you’re a film buff, watch any number of books adapted into a major motion pictures or television. Here are some of our favorites, which make perfect Valentine’s Day viewing.


There have been 17 film and television adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic 1813 romance novel that, for more than two centuries, captures human nature and the obstacles two people put in one another’s way before allowing themselves to fall helplessly head-over-heels in love. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the haughty, proud, wealthy, 27-year-old British aristocrat who is secretly smitten by Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest of five daughters of an English country gentleman and his high-strung wife, who’s determined to find rich husbands for them all. The inevitably happy ending is only reached when the many loose ends are finally tied together. The first adaptation, in 1938, was actually the first dramatic film produced specifically for television and starred the late Welsh actress, Curigwen Lewis. The second film adaptation was the 1940 Hollywood motion picture starring English actors Greer Garson and Sir Laurence Olivier. The 2005 version, directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement, Anna Karenina) is arguably the most popular for today’s audiences.


Bridget Jones’s Diary is a broad, humorous, modern-day reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A 32-year-old assistant to a high-profile, handsome, sexually wayward London book publisher (Grant) details her daily dilemmas in her diary. She struggles with weight, self-esteem, her overbearing mother, incessant advice from her circle of friends, and being single as her biological clock ticks is conflicted when she realizes she is madly in love with a childhood friend who seems emotionally distant…at first. Based on the Helen Fielding novels, the original film spawned two sequels, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)—but neither is as much fun, nor as impeccably written and acted, as the original.


Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe steam the small screen with this vastly popular, award-winning television series about a time-traveler who lives a double life in the present—and three centuries across the years, into the past.

Adapted from the series of fantasy-romance novels by author Diana Gabaldon, Outlander first premiered on the streaming channel Starz on August 2014. The first episode of the sixth season is scheduled to air March 6, 2022, and fans can’t wait. Claire Randall, a military nurse on the front lines of World War II, is finally reunited with her husband, an historian. They travel to the highlands of Scotland to meet with a colleague of her husband’s and rekindle their romance when Claire wanders off into the hills. An eerie sound emanates from a stand of ancient rocks, a place of pagan worship, when Claire is suddenly transported back in time, to the year 1743, at the cusp of the Jacobite rising of 1745 in an attempt to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the British throne. To recount the riveting, winding, colorful storyline that unfolds over the span of three decades in both time warps would take a book by itself. Suffice it to say that Outlander’s global community of readers remain riveted to the TV adaptation—even when there’s the occassional departure from the Gabaldon books.


Arguably one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, When Harry Met Sally was written by the great, late Nora Ephron and brilliantly directed by Rob Reiner. The film opens when Harry hitches a ride with Sally to their hometown of New York during college break. No two people could be more opposite: Sally is anal-retentive; Harry goes with the flow. They part ways when they arrive, and years pass before they meet again. Each is established in a career but their flint-and-steel sparks right back up. After several “coincidences” they begin to see one another—till the wonderfully, sensitively poignant end when each realizes they simply cannot live without the other. The most memorable scene is at the beginning of the movie, when Sally proves to Harry while they are eating in a crowded diner that a woman can feign an orgasm. She does—and you can hear a pin drop as everyone pauses to watch her. An elderly woman then says to the waiter, “I’ll have what she has,” The woman was Rob Reiner’s mother—and wife of the great comedic genius, Carl Reiner.

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