10 Greatest Charles Dickens Adaptations

Charles Dickens is one of the most influential and renowned writers of all time. For many, Dickens is also the greatest writer of the Victorian era. Some of his most prominent works of fiction include the novels Oliver Twist and David Copperfield and the classic Christmas novella A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is arguably one of Charles Dickens’s most successful works and has been adapted for theater, film, and television multiple times.



Many other Charles Dickens novels and novellas have received numerous screen adaptations. Some of the most popular include adaptations of Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. These stories have been adapted many times, just like A Christmas Carol. The best adaptations include performances from critically acclaimed actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Ralph Fiennes.


10 Great Expectations Has Many Familiar Faces for Harry Potter Fans

Great Expectations

Great Expectations (2012)

A series of events change the orphaned Pip’s life forever as he eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman.

Release Date
November 8, 2013

Director
Mike Newell

Cast
Ralph Fiennes , Jason Flemyng , Sally Hawkins

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
2 Hours 8 Minutes

Writers
David Nicholls , Charles Dickens

Producer
David Faigenblum, Elizabeth Karlsen, Emanuel Michael, Stephen Woolley

Production Company
BBC Film, Unison Films, Lipsync Productions

  • Fans of Harry Potter will find many familiar faces in this adaptation of Great Expectations, including Ralph Fiennes, who plays Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Bellatrix Lestrange, and Robbie Coltrane, who plays Rubeus Hagrid.

Great Expectations is the coming-of-age story of Pip, an orphan boy whose luck changes after meeting a few colorful characters, including a fugitive convict named Magwitch, a rich spinster named Miss Havisham, and Miss Havisham’s adopted girl, Estella. The 2012 film adaptation of Great Expectations stars Jeremy Irvine as Pip, Holliday Grainger as Estella, Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, and Ralph Fiennes as Abel Magwitch.

Great Expectations is one of Charles Dickens’s most famous works, and some of its characters are still part of pop culture today. The 2012 film Great Expectations is quite faithful to its source material, though some storylines were shortened or removed due to time constraints. Yet, the major themes from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations are still present, and the 2012 film adaptation of Great Expectations is still a perfect representation of one of Charles Dickens’s most celebrated works.

9 Scrooge Introduced the Best Portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge

A Christmas Carol (1951) or Scrooge

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Ebenezer Scrooge, a curmudgeonly, miserly businessman, has no time for sentimentality and largely views Christmas as a waste of time. However, this Christmas Eve he will be visited by three spirits who will show him the errors of his ways.

Release Date
December 2, 1951

Cast
Alastair Sim , Kathleen Harrison , Mervyn Johns , Hermione Baddeley

Runtime
86 minutes

  • Scrooge was released as A Christmas Carol in the United States.
  • Many still consider Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge to be the best.

A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich man who despises Christmas and refuses to celebrate. Scrooge is grumpy, obnoxious, and rude, even to his own family. Scrooge’s business partner died a few years ago, and his ghost appears on Christmas Eve to warn Scrooge to change his ways, or he will die in misery. A Christmas Carol is one of the most famous stories by Charles Dickens, one that has been adapted and referenced many times.

The 1951 film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, titled Scrooge, sees Alastair Sim in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. While the film didn’t receive the best reviews upon release, many still praised Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge. This film adaptation changes some of the storylines from the original Charles Dickens novella and expands on Scrooge’s life and past. In later years, Scrooge became a classic Christmas film and one of the most beloved film adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

8 A Tale of Two Cities Takes Audiences Through Some Historical Events

A Tale Of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

A pair of lookalikes, one a former French aristocrat and the other an alcoholic English lawyer, fall in love with the same woman amidst the turmoil of the French Revolution.

Release Date
December 25, 1935

Director
Jack Conway

Rating
Not Rated

Runtime
2 Hours 8 Minutes

Writers
Charles Dickens , S.N. Behrman

Characters By
Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allan, Edna May Oliver

Producer
David O. Selznick

Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

  • A Tale of Two Cities (1935) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Film Editing.
  • Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Charles Dickens’ historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, follows the main characters between Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. Dr. Manette has been imprisoned at the Bastille for eighteen years, and the story begins after he’s released and meets his daughter for the first time, 17-year-old Lucie Manette. Lucie believed her father to be dead, and after the news of his release, she goes from London to Paris to meet him for the first time.

A Tale of Two Cities has several important characters. Lucie’s main love interests are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Charles and Sydney look a lot alike, something that plays a big role in the story on more than one occasion. The 1935 movie adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities sees legendary English actor Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Elizabeth Allan as Lucie, and Donald Woods as Charles Darnay. 1935’s A Tale of Two Cities is a faithful adaptation of Dickens’s story, one that perfectly translates to the screen the dangers and trials the characters go through in that era.

7 Little Dorrit Brought Together The Crown’s Claire Foy and Succession’s Matthew Macfayden

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

The Dorrits are a family whose life revolves around the Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison. Amy Dorrit’s kind nature brings the family into contact with a wide swath of English society, from the poorest to the richest, and back again.

Release Date
October 26, 2008

Cast
Claire Foy , Matthew Macfadyen , Tom Courtenay

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
1 Season

Producer
Lisa Osborne

Production Company
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), WGBH

Number of Episodes
14 Episodes

  • Little Dorrit won seven Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.
  • Little Dorrit stars Claire Foy, who later rose to prominence for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown.

Little Dorrit follows Amy Dorrit, the youngest child of William Dorrit, whom many affectionally call Little Dorrit. William is a debtor who has been imprisoned for over twenty years in Marshalsea, the prison for debtors in London. Amy was born and raised in Marshalsea and works as a seamstress to support her father and older brother, who is also imprisoned in Marshalsea. Amy Dorrit works for Mrs. Clennam, and soon Amy falls in love with Mrs. Clennam’s son, Arthur.

The BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit stars Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit and Matthew Macfadyen as Arthur Clennam. The miniseries consists of 14 half-hour episodes. Like many Charles Dickens novels, Little Dorrit features many characters and subplots. The main story, however, sees Amy Dorrit and her family through different ups and downs in their lives. The BBC miniseries is a perfect adaptation of Little Dorrit, and the performances by the main cast earned critical acclaim.

6 The Personal History of David Copperfield Adds a Modern Touch of Satire to the Classic Story

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Personal History of David Copperfield

A modern take on Charles Dickens’s classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.

Release Date
August 28, 2020

Director
Armando Iannucci

Rating
PG

Runtime
1 Hour 59 Minutes

Main Genre
Comedy

Writers
Armando Iannucci , Simon Blackwell , Charles Dickens

Producer
Kevin Loader, Armando Iannucci

Production Company
FilmNation Entertainment, Film4, Wishmore

  • The Personal History of David Copperfield received eleven nominations for the British Independent Film Awards.
  • The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, 2019, before being theatrically released in the United Kingdom on January 24, 2020, and in the United States on August 28, 2020.
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield stars Dev Patel as the titular David Copperfield, with Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Benedict Wong, and Gwendoline Christie in supporting roles.

The Personal History of David Copperfield adapts one of Charles Dickens’ most famous novels, David Copperfield. It is the story of the titular character and his trials and tribulations throughout his life. David Copperfield was born into wealth but suffered many hardships as he grew up. As David Copperfield goes from riches to rags and riches again, he meets several unique characters. This 2019 movie adaptation brings joy and a modern touch to the classic Dickens story while staying true to its source material.

The Personal History of David Copperfield might appeal to fans of comedy shows like Veep. Veep’s creator, Armando Iannucci, is also the director of The Personal History of David Copperfield. Iannucci adds his personal touch of satire and awkward comedy to the classic story, which makes it an entertaining and captivating adaptation. The first-person narration from the original David Copperfield novel is present in The Personal History of David Copperfield in a clever way. The story jumps between past and present with a captivating rhythm, and Dev Patel as the titular David Copperfield will most likely earn the approval of any Dickens fan.

5 Great Expectations Is a Faithful Adaptation of Dickens’s Novel

Great Expectations-1

Great Expectations (2011)

The orphan Pip becomes a gentleman when his life is transformed by a mystery benefactor.

Release Date
December 19, 2011

Creator
Sarah Phelps

Cast
Douglas Booth , Jack Roth , Ray Winstone

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
1 Season

Producer
George Ormond

Production Company
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Masterpiece Theatre

Number of Episodes
3 Episodes

Release date: December 27, 2011

  • Great Expectations stars Ray Winstone as Magwitch, Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, Douglas Booth as Pip, Vanessa Kirby as Estella, and David Suchet as Jaggers.

The 2011 adaptation of Great Expectations is a three-part BBC television drama. Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations consists of three parts, and the BBC television adaptation follows the same steps. It follows Pip, a young orphan boy from the coastal marshes of Kent, whose luck changes after meeting a convict named Magwitch and a rich spinster named Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham takes an interest in young Pip and invites him over to her house a few times, where he meets Estella, an orphan girl adopted by Miss Havisham.

As he grows older, Pip finds out a secret benefactor will pay for his education in London. Pip believes his benefactor is Miss Havisham and hopes that she wants Pip and Estella to eventually marry. However, things don’t turn out the way Pip expected, and many hardships await him. Great Expectations is a perfect coming-of-age story, with contrasting themes of wealth and poverty and good versus evil.

4 Nicholas Nickleby Is an Entertaining and Heartwarming Adaptation

Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby

A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-heartedly grasping uncle.

Release Date
December 27, 2002

Director
Douglas McGrath

Cast
Charlie Hunnam , Jamie Bell , Christopher Plummer

Rating
PG

Runtime
2 Hours 12 Minutes

Main Genre
Adventure

Writers
Charles Dickens , Douglas McGrath

Producer
Simon Channing Williams, John Hart, Jeffrey Sharp

Production Company
United Artists Film Corporation, Hart Sharp Entertainment, Potboiler Productions

  • Nicholas Nickleby stars Charlie Hunnam as the titular Nicholas, with Christopher Plummer as Ralph Nickleby and Anne Hathaway as Madeline Bray, Nicholas’ love interest.

Nicholas Nickleby is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel of the same name, also known as The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The film adaptation is a comedy-drama and follows the titular Nicholas and his family: his mother, Mrs. Nickleby, and Kate Nickleby, his sister. They enjoy a comfortable life until Nicholas’ father dies, and the family must seek the help of Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas’ wealthy yet cold-hearted uncle.

Nicholas Nickleby sees the titular character through many hardships after the loss of his father. Nicholas’ uncle Ralph is cruel and hateful and forces Nicholas and Kate to work demeaning jobs. Eventually, Nicholas moves on and finds success as an actor in a production of Romeo and Juliet, but must return to London to save his sister from the cruel abuse of their uncle. Nicholas Nickleby is a great film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s work, as it maintains the spirit of the original novel. It also boasts a talented cast that brings to life the many colorful characters from Nicholas Nickleby, and the story is fast-paced while staying true to its source material.

3 David Copperfield Marked Daniel Radcliffe’s Acting Debut

David Copperfield

David Copperfield

A gentle orphan discovers life and love in an indifferent adult world.

Release Date
December 25, 1999

Creator
Adrian Hodges

Rating
Unrated

Seasons
1 Season

Producer
Kate Harwood

Production Company
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), WGBH

Number of Episodes
2 Episodes

  • Daniel Radcliffe would work again with his David Copperfield co-stars Maggie Smith, Zoë Wanamaker, Imelda Staunton, Dawn French, and Paul Whitehouse in the Harry Potter film series.
  • Chris Columbus wanted Daniel Radcliffe for Harry Potter ever since Columbus saw Radcliffe’s performance in David Copperfield.
  • Paul Whitehouse appears in another David Copperfield adaptation, The Personal History of David Copperfield, where he portrays Mr. Peggotty.

The 1999 adaptation of David Copperfield is a two-part BBC television drama starring Maggie Smith, Emilia Fox, and Ian McKellen, with Daniel Radcliffe in his acting debut as a young David Copperfield. Much like the original David Copperfield novel by Charles Dickens, this adaptation sees the titular character grow and go through different hardships in his life.

David Copperfield was born in a loving home and raised by his widowed mother, Clara. However, things take a turn for David once his mother remarries a stern and cruel man, who sends David to boarding school before forcing David to work at his factory. Eventually, David finds a home with his aunt, Betsey Trotwood, and his luck begins to change once more. This two-part adaptation takes Charles Dickens’ novel to the screen faithfully, with enough time to see David growth into a respectful man, despite his adversities.

2 Scrooge Is a Musical Film Adaptation for the Whole Family

Scrooge

Scrooge

A musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic novel about an old bitter miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.

Release Date
December 17, 1971

Runtime
1 Hour 53 Minutes

Main Genre
Musical

  • Scrooge was nominated for four Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards.
  • Alber Finney won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular Christmas stories of all time. This Charles Dickens novella has received multiple adaptations, including films, television series and special episodes, theater, radio, and even ballet. A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich businessman who hates Christmas. However, things change after the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future visit him on Christmas Eve.

The 1970 film adaptation Scrooge is a musical film with Albert Finney as the title character, Ebenezer Scrooge. For many, this classic film is now a must-watch during the holiday season, as it perfectly encapsulates the magic of the story. The musical elements bring the story home and provide another layer of holiday cheer to this classic Christmas story. Scrooge is the perfect Christmas family film and one of the best adaptations of a Charles Dickens story.

1 Bleak House Received Critical Acclaim for the Cast’s Talented Performances

Bleak House

Bleak House

A suspenseful tale about the injustices of the 19th Century English legal system.

Release Date
October 27, 2005

Cast
Anna Maxwell Martin , Carey Mulligan , Denis Lawson

Main Genre
Crime

Rating
TV-PG

Seasons
1 Season

Producer
Nigel Stafford-Clark

Production Company
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), WGBH, Deep Indigo Productions, Smallweed Productions

Number of Episodes
15 Episodes

  • Bleak House received ten Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, including one for Outstanding Miniseries.

Bleak House tells the story of an estate battle and many different heirs who await the resolution of the probate case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The Charles Dickens novel follows several different characters and many subplots, but the major storyline centers on Esther Summerson, who serves as a narrator in a few parts of the story. The 2005 BBC adaptation consists of fifteen half-hour episodes and boasts a star-studded cast.

Bleak House stars Gillian Anderson, Timothy West, Charles Dance, Carey Mulligan, and Anna Maxwell Martin, among other talented actors. While the BBC adaptation had to remove some of the minor characters from the Charles Dickens novel, Bleak House remains true to its source material. The powerful performances grasp viewers’ attention from the start, and Bleak House does an incredible job of transporting audiences to a different era.

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