The Cast of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – 1995 vs 2005 (The Bennets)

Like a lot of people, I saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie before I saw the 1995 adaptation. Since I was so blown away by the 2005 movie, it took me a while to begin appreciating the 1995 TV series. Now I love both – the 2005 movie for its unbelievable soundtrack (I’m currently learning to play “Dawn” on the piano) and breathtaking cinematography, as well as the intense chemistry between Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen’s Mr. Darcy; and the 1995 TV series for its length (6 hours! quite enough to bring to life a lot more of the story) and faithfulness to the novel.

In this blog entry, I will try to compare the performances of the cast, and pick the one I liked better. Since there are so many of them, I will start with the family from Longbourn, the Bennet family.


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Benjamin Whitrow (1995) vs Donald Sutherland (2005) 

Much as I like Donald Sutherland as an actor, I think Benjamin Whitrow was able to capture the crustiness of the character in general. But there was one line by Donald Sutherland that I particularly loved. This was when he said, “How happy for you, Mr. Collins, to possess the talent of flattering with such (pause) delicacy.”

TALLY – 2005: 0, 1995: 1


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Alison Steadman (1995) vs Brenda Blethyn (2005)

They were both able to portray the cringe-enducing character of Mrs. Bennet, but I prefer Alison Steadman because she was shriller and a lot more over the top and ridiculous, adding a bit of comic relief.

TALLY – 2005: 0, 1995: 2


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Susannah Harker (1995) vs Rosamund Pike (2005) 

I thought Susannah Harker looked a little too old to play the part of the lovely Jane Bennet. I also thought she was a little too passive and beatific, so I guess it’s safe to say Rosamund Pike wins it for me. She was not only incredibly lovely, she was also very composed and kind.

TALLY – 2005: 1, 1995: 2


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Jennifer Ehle (1995) vs Keira Knightley (2005)

This was the easiest choice for me. At first, I couldn’t get myself to watch the 1995 adaptation because Jennifer Ehle did not meet my idea of Lizzie – except for her dark hair. She was, once more, a little too old and a little too smiley for my taste. And I got distracted by the fact that she had a resemblance to Meryl Streep. I’m sorry. I guess it’s just that I thought Keira Knightley played the role of Lizzie extremely well.

TALLY – 2005: 2, 1995: 2


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Lucy Briers (1995) vs Talulah Riley (2005) 

Both of them didn’t have much screen time, but I’m going for Lucy Briers because she was more plain-looking and had more of a touch of conceit about her accomplishments and wisdom. I actually thought that Talulah Riley was quite pretty and had a nice voice.

TALLY – 2005: 2, 1995: 3


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Polly Maberly (1995) vs Carey Mulligan (2005) 

This is a very tough call for me since both didn’t have much screen time either. However, I particularly liked Carey Mulligan’s highly excited plea to Mr. Bingley – “Oh, do have a ball!” – when she went with her mother and sisters to Netherfield. Just for that line alone, I’ll have to choose Carey Mulligan though I really liked Polly Maberly as well.

TALLY – 2005: 3, 1995: 3


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Julia Sawalha (1995) vs Jena Malone (2005)

So the tie-breaker goes to the youngest Bennet. This is another tough call for me because I thought they were both sufficiently irritating and insufferable. The only problem was that I was quite distracted trying to remember where I saw Jena Malone before (it was “The Ruins,” as I found out later on by checking IMDB). I loved Jena Malone’s evident silliness when she said excitedly, “Officers! As far as the eye can see!” However, I would give this win to Julia Sawalha simply for the scene where she was seductively rubbing Mr. Wickham’s back with her toe.

FINAL TALLY – 2005: 3, 1995: 4

For the cast of the Bennet family, the 1995 adaptation wins!

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Leigh Lidgard says:

    I’ve loved this story for ages and saw the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version long before both the 1995 & 2005 versions ever existed. I still like that version despite what Hollywood did to the story, however, I loved the 1995 adaption from the first. It is the closest I’ve seen to the actual story. The acting of all the cast is second to none.
    When I heard they were remaking Pride & Prejudice I was excited to see it. However, I felt disappointed with that version. I felt that Keira Knightly’s version of Lizzy Bennett to be much too modern and her language much too rapid. In general, I felt the movie was rushed and I didn’t enjoy it.
    I did like the music of the 2005 version though; but other than that, the 1995 version gets my vote. It was far and away the better of the two.

  2. Wiktoria says:

    I’ve read the book between 70 and a 100 times, it’s my all time favourite, bare this in mind when you read my comment and please don’t judge me to harshly. 🙂 I have only seen the BBC production of 1995 and the 2005 movie, not the earlier productions. I can not understand for one minute how anybody can think that anything in the 2005 movie is better than the miniseries from 1995. I would even say the one from 1995 is flawless. I would even argue that the 2005 movie is “only” a romantic comedy based on Pride and Prejudice, and more of a modern take to please young viewers used to other romantic comedies. But then again it is not fair to compare a 2 hour movie with a 6 hour miniseries. But I will anyways. 🙂 The relationship between mr and mrs Bennet is absurd in the movie. They’re not supposed to like each other. Since Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time, I have very high standards on any adaptation. The 1995 one is perfect when compared with the book; actors, dialogue, setting. In the 2005 movie I cannot detect even the tiniest pinch of chemistry between miss Elizabeth and mr Darcy, which I think is the most important point. Any discussion on the looks of the actors (body shape, prettiness etc) belongs to the 19th century and now it’s 2017, so I won’t touch on that. I could go on forever but I think you’ve had enough already. Enjoy all the versions of Pride and Prejudice, this fantastic early book on equality!

  3. Jeff says:

    I saw the 1980s version first, then the 2005 version, then the 1995 one. Then I read the book and re-watched the movies. I think the 1995 one is best by far. Ehle was fabulous, as was Firth. Knightley was far too modern and loud. Indeed, the 1980 Lizzy was better than Knightley. McFadden was okay, but way too love-struck and puppy doggish. I again preferred the 1980 one over the 2005 one.
    Whitrow was by far the best Mr. Bennett. Sutherland slouched his way through it in a most ungentlemanly fashion. He was weak in confronting Mrs. Bennett, and ruins one of the best lines of the book as to Lizzy’s unhappy choice of having one parent become a stranger to her. Whitrow was perfect, a mix of quick humor and clever sarcasm. Indeed, the 1980 Mr. Bennett was also much better and true than Sullivan.
    The one character I could barely watch in the 1995 version was Harker’s Jane. She had no character and was decidedly NOT beautiful. Rosamund Pike was much more true and pretty. Harker reminded of Jethrina from the Beverly Hillbillies. Again second place to the Jane from 1980.
    I also preferred Blethyn as Mrs. Bennett. Steadman was just too shrill, making her character farcical and beyond rude. Blethyn was more believable, while still being true to the character.
    Prefer the Lydia from 1995. Lydia is supposed to be pretty, selfish, and improper. Malone does not pull it off. You just cannot see Wickam falling for her. But Swahala perfectly portrays the flirtatious Lydia and you could see her winning the short term lust of Wickam.
    I also prefer the Mary from 1995. She is prettier, but still undesirable because of her preachiness and social awkwardness.
    Didn’t care about Kitty’s one way or the other.
    1995 also had better Mr Wickam, Charlotte Lucas, and Mr. Collins. 2005 had the better Lady Catherine. Both Colonnels were great. Actually, the best Mr. Collins was the tall one from 1980.

  4. Kristina says:

    The 1995 version is best. No doubt about it. The 2005 version can’t even BEGIN to compare with 1995 version. I don’t like the 2005 version because it is modernized. Young lady’s wouldn’t act like that in that time period. And like somebody said earlier Kiera knightly’s actions are leaning more towards Lidia’s and Kitty’s character. Nobody and I mean NOBODY where’s their hair down in public during that time period. That is absolute disgrace. It’s like walking around naked in public. The only time you would have your hair down is when you’re in bed or sick. PERIOD. The only reason I would like the 2005 version is because of the rest of the sisters looks. In the 1995 version the sisters aren’t exactly the pretty sort to my taste (excluding Jenifer Ehle she is beautiful and perfect for the role) But for their time period, i guess they would be handsome. The six houred version is exactly like the book. Another reason i like it best. Rarely you’ll see a movie that is exactly like the book. It’s true that i saw the 1995 version first and that most people are inclined to like the version you first saw best, but even if i saw the 2005 version first it would have been a great disappointment to me. Jenifer Ehle smiling too much? Like somebody else said earlier, that’s the point. Elizabeth is supposed to smile a lot. That’s her character. She is a lively person and lively people smile a lot. I’m just saying my own thoughts and opinions as you did with your comparisons so no hard feelings i hope. 🙂

    1. Mikki says:

      I 1000% agree with Kristina. Well said. If you read the book, the 1995 version is the most historically accurate to the novel and the period. The 2005 is way too modern and that devalues it greatly for me. When I read or watch a period piece, I don’t want it modernized. That is the point of a period piece! One the best things about any period movie or literature is how we can compare then to now, how much we as a civilization have changed for better or worse. But Keira’s Elizabeth with her hair down, yelling at her mother, nearly kissing Mr Darcy in some veiled attempt at restrained sexual tension, come on people, its nothing more then a high school play with 19th century costumes! She had too much attitude for a gentile woman for the 1800s. If you want a modern P&P then set it in modern times the way Amy Heckerling did for Emma with Clueless. Clueless is classic without denigrating JA’ s classic Emma.
      I hated the 2005 version. Excludimg Rosamund Pike and Brenda Blythen, they did a good job.

      I say read the book. If you enjoyed it then watch 1995 immediately after. Then watch the 2005. You will be converted, lol.

      1. Mikki says:

        Addendum to my previous. I want to remark on you comment about the 1995 actresses who played Elizabeth and Jane. I’m glad they were, as you put it, “heavy”. They had the bodies of real women. They weren’t overweight. They were fit, firm mid 20s actresses who gratefully weighed more than 100 lbs each. Size 0 is not sexy or generally attractive.

  5. Donna S says:

    Jennifer Ehle’s performance as Elizabeth Bennet completely overshadows Keira Knightley’s. I too saw the movie before the 1995 tv series. After I had seen the movie someone suggested the 1995 version. All I can say is I don’t even remember anything about the movie. Although I thought all the actors in the 1995 version were outstanding, it was Ms. Ehle’s performance I enjoyed the most. Not withstanding Mr. Firth’s smouldering looks. I don’t believe there are many who could have nailed the dialogue in my two favorite scenes like Ms. Ehle. The infamous first proposal of course, and the contentious scene with Lady Catherine De Bough. I never tire of watching those two battle it out in that “little park”.

  6. Love Olivier says:

    Nobody can really comment on either version, until you’ve seen the ORIGINAL, which was the Greer Garson / Laurence Olivier black and white film of the 1940s. Beautifully shot, brilliantly played -and almost verbatim the dialogue for the drama adaptation with Colin Firth. Can only assume it must have been difficult to better how they did it back then. Olivier is the epitome of moody Darcy. If you like P&P, I would highly recommend.

  7. Christine Scudder says:

    I hated the 2005 film version. In spite of a very distinguished cast, I thought the acting fell well short of the mark, and the whole thing was utterly pretentious. Joe White was the director and gave much the same treatment to “Anna Karenina”. I got the feeling that the cast had been given their scripts on Thursday, and told filming started on Friday, resulting in poor performances from said actors. I also think Rosamund Pike is a poor actress, and says her lines as if she was reading a shopping list. This was reinforced, in my opinion, by her performance in “Gone Girl” (what a ridiculous title!). She is very beautiful, but that’s all one can say. She just floats about looking lovely. She certainly doesn’t convince me as the characters she portrays.
    However, the BBC 1995 version was excellent with brilliant performances by all the cast. The only problem I had was that Jennifer Ehle looked a bit too sophisticated for Lizzie Bennet.

  8. M says:

    It would be interesting to see what you think of
    ‘bride and prejudice ‘ is a bollywood film.

    It is pictured little bit like slapstick comedy,but
    Would be interesting to see how would you compare it:)

  9. fahia islam says:

    I loved the 1995 version. It was so good that I barely needed to go through the text. After watching the movie when I read the text it was like I was watching the miniseries again.

  10. Lilly says:

    In my opinion the 1995 version is without a doubt the best; Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy remarkably well and Jennifer Ehle was amazing.
    My biggest issue with the 2005 adaption is that it was modernized, girls were not supposed to have their hair down, laugh out loud in public and generally be silly. Especially not Elizabeth. Since when did she ever play on a swing?

    1. Alex says:

      If you haven’t seen the 1995 version, you haven’t lived, and that’s that.

  11. Harriet says:

    I have seen all the versions – don’t forget the excellent one in the 1980’s – and by far, the 1995 version is the best. I agree that Jane and Lizzie were a little old to play 20 and 21, but remember Greer Garson played that age in the film version and she had to be in her mid 30’s. No other Darcy can compare to Colin Firth’s version.

  12. Tom says:

    Wow. To suggest that Keira Knightley, truly dreadful in this film, wins over Jennifer Ehle, an astonishing actress who captures Lizzy Bennett perfectly, is insane to me. Just because Keira Knightley is thin??! Blimey. What a sad world we live in.

    1. Admin says:

      It’s all a matter of opinion. I did not prefer Keira Knightley because of her figure. I just preferred her take on the role of Lizzie.

      1. M says:

        I guess this could because you watched
        2005 version first.

        If you watched the other one first,I’m sure you will have enjoyed that better.

      2. Jane says:

        Well you did say that Ehle was too heavy, which kind of makes one think that you chose Knightly partly for her figure. No worries, I like them both. I grew up watching the older one and always loved it, but I also love that 2005 covers all my favorite parts and I can watch it much faster. And shockingly to many I adore Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy over Colin Firth. I agree that 2005 has modernized things but I don’t mind.

    2. Kelly says:

      I must agree. I’ve read the book, watched both movies and thought the only reason one would like Keira’s Knightley’s version of Elizabeth is due to the influence of modern media. Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennett was a cringeworthy anachronism. It seems Knightley did not care to research her history for her part. No woman at this time would be as loud, flamboyant, and improper as she was in playing her character. All of the actresses in the 1995 were spot on. Though I find none of them handsome, in the time period they are I’m they would have been considered beautiful. I like that the 1995 was true to history and not modernized for our sake.

  13. Flo Fflach says:

    I’m doing a marathon watching of jane austen productions for tv and film. [I have done close readings of some of the texts – persuasion, S7S and P&P]. Lizzy and Jane were viewed as handsome women – handsome women, the beauties of the time, were heavier than our fashion plates today, so definitely not kiera knightley. Jane’s flaw is her passive nature, revealed several times in the text, particularly by charlotte and mr. darcy. so perhaps Susannah Harker closer to the original, though rosamund pike had some lovely frocks… Keira knightley is a touch too flightly and over lively, too close to kitty & Lydia in actions and facial expressions, tho not in intention/character and her costumes a bit at odds with her position.
    But I do like the film as well. I thought Brenda Blethyn did well as mrs Bennett, not too much of a mere comic distraction, she was a woman with 5 daughters and no financial security for them.
    Mary need not need to look unpretty, it is what she says, her opinions that count. Sometimes she is viewed as too much of a caricature.

  14. Catherine says:

    You say first that you are going to judge the actors perfomance, yet, then you talk about how they did not look like you imagined them and that you got distracted since you wandered were you had seen them before. One thing is Jane. You can say that you thought she or she looked more like Jane because she or she was more beautiful (as Jane is supposed to be the hansomest). But in the book there are very few descriptions as to how the caracters look. Elizabeth is a bit lower then Miss Darcy, is less beautiful then Jane and has very fine eyes. Mr. Collins, for one, is tall. (Funny enough both versions seem to have found the lowest actors they could get to play him. In the 1980 verion, however, he is rather tall.) There are a few more descriptions of some of the caracters, but the point is that how the actors look can not influence how well they fit to play the roles, as how the caracters look is only our imaginations choice.

    Now, you say that Jennifer Ehle smiled too much, but hey. That is the point! Elizabeth Bennet is lively and does smile. That is one of the things that attracts Mr. Darcy to her.

    I may seem very critical to your post, but actually I liked it quite much. Thank you.

  15. Juliet Ashmore says:

    It seems that we are all highly influenced by the production that we saw first. However it is difficult to compare a six hour production with a 2 hour film. Both had fabulous locations staging, costumes.and actors. I felt that the acting was excellent in both. The tension in the 1995 production created by Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle was mesmerising. Keira and Mathew gave a more modern and warmer performance. This has to come down to script, direction and the amount of time they had to tell the story. Both are enjoyable but given the inevitable restrictions placed on a film versus series in terms of the editing of scenes and even characters, I prefer the more accurate 1995 version.

  16. karen says:

    apparently never ever took time to read the book..the 1995 adaption went by the book completely.. the essence completely by the book.. too heavy shes too heavy to play lizzy or jane.. wth?? knew you never read the book.. sorry woman in 1818 circa England weren’t waiver ass actresses .. average size 10-12 . lousy contrasting. Also the 2005 version depicted Darcy as a love struck puppy dog with little struggle to conceal his actual feelings for the more poverty stricken loose connected lizzy Bennett..Colin Firth nailed Darcy remarkably..Kiera did well despite what liitle she has to work with cant do a decent damn P&p movie in 2 hrs.. 1995 hands down’

    1. Jane says:

      Okay. So let me get this straight: you haven’t read the wonderfull BOOK and you’ve watched the movie?

  17. marina whitacre says:

    Having seen the 1995 series first I waited to watch the 2005 version. And I have to say the 2005 movie is nothing compared to the 1995 version, it’s like night and day!!

  18. Chris says:

    The 2005 version is the best! It is fresh and the actors are awesome!

  19. Cliff says:

    I have never seen a better Acting performance then Jennifer Elhe version and
    the 2005 Film cannott compere

  20. Rosie says:

    I like the 2005 version very much. I LOVE the 1995 miniseries.

    1. Kelly says:

      I must agree. I’ve read the book, watched both movies and thought the only reason one would like Keira’s Knightley’s version of Elizabeth is due to the influence of modern media. Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennett was a cringeworthy anachronism. It seems Knightley did not care to research her history for her part. No woman at this time would be as loud, flamboyant, and improper as she was in playing her character. All of the actresses in the 1995 were spot on. Though I find none of them handsome, in the time period they are I’m they would have been considered beautiful. I like that the 1995 was true to history and not modernized for our sake.

      1. Emerogork says:

        I have to say that I absolutely loved Polly Maberly as Mary in the 1995 version. However, I have a need that seeks a remedy.

        I have been looking for a very long time to find the score of a piano piece that Mary plays in the 1995 movie. I want to learn to play it.

        Can someone please tell me more about it? I believe it was written for the movie and is not a vintage classical piece.

        It is played Disk 2, Episode 6-chapter2 titled: A mistake in Pride 7 minutes into the video, 1 minute from the end.

        You hear it as a piano solo that is almost background music shortly after Lydia and Mr Wickham leave for their honeymoon.

        I have the audio version of it but need it as a score for piano.

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