Mr Darcy may be one of the most iconic and beloved romantic interests in the history of both literature and film. This misanthropic, awkward, and smug hero stole our hearts in several different versions of the classic tale. And it is very likely that it will continue to be stolen again in the future as Hollywood seems to love modeling their male leads after this iconic character.
Though Pride and Prejudice has seen dozens of adaptations since it was originally released, today we are going to be comparing three different versions of the story. We will be comparing the 2005 version of the film- as it is one of the most accurate adaptations (with Matthew MacFadyen playing Darcy,) Bridget Jones's Diary- a loose adaptation with a modern twist (with Colin Firth as Darcy,) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- a creative and innovative take on the classic tale (with Sam Riley playing Darcy.)
10 Awkwardness - Colin Firth
Darcy is a many-sided character and few actors are able to nail every single aspect of him. And that is okay. Due to the sheer amount of adaptations that have arose from the original source material, seeing different versions and sides of Darcy in each adaptation has been rather refreshing. And one aspect of Darcy that is continually forgotten about is his more awkward nature. While it is true to say that he is rather arrogant and misanthropic, he is also a very awkward man and few actors bring that aspect of Darcy to light.
However, Firth's Darcy seems to nail the more awkward side of things. Though Darcy's more awkward moments in this film may go unnoticed as Elizabeth/Bridget spends an entire year of her life mucking everything up that it makes all other characters look smooth as silk in comparison.
9 Smugness- Sam Riley
While Firth's Darcy nails the more awkward nature of Dary and MacFadyen has his misanthropic side down in spades, Riley truly captured the smugness that Darcy can exude at times.
Being the best zombie hunter in England may have gifted Darcy with a rather inflated ego and an enlarged head to match. He seems to assume that everyone is going to do something stupid and get themselves killed and is rather smug in his own abilities. This does get him into trouble when he continually underestimates Lizzie, but she continually proves her worth and refuses to allow him to sideline her.
8 Contempt Towards Mr. Wickham- Colin Firth
It is fair to say that each and every version of Darcy absolutely dispises Wickham, but none hate the man like Firth's Darcy does. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Riley's Darcy seems far more considered with keeping the Bennett sisters safe; therefore, his hatred towards Wickham tends to take a backseat to his more pressing concerns. And MacFadyen's Darcy seems much more irritated with Elizabeth than he does with anyone else.
However, Firth's Darcy cannot stand his Wickham. This Darcy even goes as far as to resort to physical violence and gets in a lengthy altercation with his sworn enemy. Though we do not encourage violence, it was a rather satisfying moment.
7 How Miserable He Is At Parties- Matthew MacFadyen
The MacFadyen version of Darcy looks as though he is being slowly tortured to death at all social gatherings at which he finds himself. And that is precisely the kind of misanthropic, moody, and broody behaviour that we expect from Darcy.
Riley's Darcy seems to be frustrated by the people around him and focused on keeping everyone alive and Firth's Darcy keeps himself entertained by making Elizabeth/Bridget miserable. But the MacFadyen Darcy is truly miserable in his own right at each and every ball and party.
6 Disdain For Social Decorum- Sam Riley
Though all versions of Mr Darcy find themselves disgusted by the vain and frivulous nature of the social scene and all things involving gossip, class, and social standing, the Riley version seems to genuinely revile those who participate in such things.
It is worth noting that his disdain for the parties and social decorum makes sense, considering the situation in which he finds himself. He is in the midst of a genuine zombie apocalypse and people are still risking their lives with foolish parties and focusing on who is who and what is what rather than trying to protect their own safety.
5 Best Ending- Colin Firth
Though it was not a proposal in the traditional sense, Colin's version of Darcy seems to genuinely wish the best for his "Elizabeth." This modern twist on a classic tale creates a looser adaptation which gives the creators room to sweeten things a touch.
Though we love seeing Knightly finally come around to MacFadyen in the 2005 adaptation and knowing that Riley survived in the zombie theme adaptation is truly satisfying, seeing Firth's version of Darcy be willing to give his version of Elizabeth/Bridget the benefit of the doubt shows a lot of growth and trust between the two characters. Darcy's main issue is that he jumps to conclusions about Elizabeth and her family and makes rash decisions in order to protect his own pride, so seeing this version of Darcy giving Elizabeth/Bridget the benefit of the doubt when he would have been in the right had he stormed out of her flat, never to return, shows a growth in the character that sits right with a modern audience.
4 Worst Proposal- Matthew MacFadyen
Though we truly do love the MacFadyen version of Darcy, we have to admit that his proposal is the worst out of the bunch. This Darcy was far moodier and misanthropic than the other versions on this list, which created a rather unpleasant relationship between him and Elizabeth.
While he is meant to be admitting his love for Elizabeth, he continues to explain how he is much above both her and her family (which, to be fair, is accurate to the source material) in a rather insensitive and cruel way. And since Knightley's Elizabeth was one of the more vocal and stubborn versions of the character, she is not having any of it. By the end of this failed confession of love, it genuinely feels like both parties are utterly disgusted by Darcy's words. Though they come around to each other in the end in one of the most romantic moments in modern cinema, we cannot forget the hurdles we had to get through to get there.
3 Rivalry With Elizabeth- Sam Riley
Lily James and Sam Riley have the best Elizabeth/Darcy rivalry that we have seen on screen in a long time. And this may, in part, be due to the fact that they are actually able to act out their emotional constipation towards each other in a legitimate fight (a sequence which would not have worked in other adaptations.)
In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Elizabeth and Darcy are constantly underestimating and surprising each other in ways that keep both parties on their toes. These two do not hate each other (as some other versions of the pair do) but rather want the other to stop assuming things about them (which feels very in line with the original source material.)
2 Turn Around Towards Elizabeth- Colin Firth
When we first meet Colin's Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary, he cannot stand "Elizabeth." He openly mocks her towards his mother (when he thinks that he cannot hear her) and labels her an unfit match for him. In later meetings, he seems to truly enjoy making her squirm in her most embarrassing moments.
However, at the film's climax, he reacts to her honest and emotional journal entries in a truly mature way. He does not take them personally nor demand that she explains herself. He merely notes that her feelings were valid as he was not the kindest to her in the past and recognizes that those feelings changed over the year and gives her an opportunity to create a fresh start with him.
1 Winner- Colin Firth
Simply put, this is a man who was born to play Mr Darcy. And, luckily for him, Hollywood agrees with us as they have cast him in the role of Mr Darcy in several adaptations of the beloved novel.
The thing that makes Colin Firth the perfect Mr Darcy is the fact that he understands the more subtle nuances of the character. While, yes, it would be accurate to play him as a misanthropic, moody, and sulkly loner, Firth brings in an element of awkwardness that softens Darcy and reminds of the original novel. His version of Darcy also learns how to successfully navigate the pitfalls that other versions of Darcy find themselves stuck in. Which makes him the best live action Darcy there is.