As the immortal Mr. Darcy turns 207, we share fun facts about the greatest actors who have played Jane Austen’s iconic character onscreen.

January 28, 2020, marks the 207th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 1813, so we thought we’d celebrate by honoring Mr. Darcy. Several actors over the past 100 years have played Mr. Darcy onscreen, the aloof but lovable romantic hero of Pride and Prejudice. But playing opposite the quick-witted Elizabeth Bennet is no easy feat. These actors, however, got Jane Austen’s iconic character just right.

1. Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy; Ranking the 10 best Mr. Darcy's
Photo: BBC

Colin Firth’s aunt pleaded with him not to play the part. She didn’t want to ruin how she imagined Mr. Darcy since she was a young girl. While he may have spoiled Mr. Darcy for one person, he went on to portray the most popular interpretation.

2. Matthew Macfadyen in Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy; Ranking the 10 best Mr. Darcy's
Photo: StudioCanal/Focus Features

Matthew never saw the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth, so he chose not to worry about who played the part before and just got “on with it,” playing the role as he imagined. Thankfully, because of his chemistry with Keira Knightley, the almost-kiss scene in the rain was added, giving a new swoony layer to Mr. Darcy.

3. Sir Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Ranking the best Mr. Darcy's
Photo: MGM

Here is an adaptation with controversial creative choices such as Victorian costumes and a rom-com writing style. Initially, the film was meant to star Clark Gable, but after he turned it down, Sir Laurence Olivier took over the role. His passionate and groundbreaking performance went on to influence future Mr. Darcy’s, including Colin Firth. Olivier also wanted his soon-to-be wife Vivien Leigh to play Elizabeth, but Greer Garson got the part instead, much to his frustration.

4. David Rintoul in Pride and Prejudice (1980)

David Rintoul in Pride and Prejudice
Photo: BBC

He’s the only Scottish actor on the list to play the brooding Mr. Darcy and remains a fan favorite due to his accurate, stuffy portrayal. Rintoul continues to act on both the stage and screen, including a new part in The Crown.

5. Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Colin Firth as Mark Darcy
Photo: Miramax

Based loosely on Pride and Prejudice, Helen Fielding formed the character of Mark Darcy with Colin Firth in mind. For fun, he agreed to play Mr. Darcy yet again. “I’d never played out a bit of self-referential popular culture mischief before,” Firth said in an interview, further intertwining himself with the classic character even more. He has played Mr. Darcy four different times.

6. Matthew Rhys in Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

Matthew Rhys in Death Comes to Pemberley; ranking the best mr. darcy's
Photo: BBC

When he got the role in this continuation, Rhys worried about upsetting Austen fans with specific ideas about who Mr. Darcy is. To prepare for the part, he decided to watch Colin Firth and copy him as best he could. Fair to say, he succeeded!

7. Elliot Cowan in Lost in Austen (2008)

Lost in Austen
Photo: ITV.

For anyone who’s ever dreamed of marrying their own Mr. Darcy, Lost in Austen is the perfect Austen adaptation. Elliot Cowan broods with precision while also paying tribute to Firth. He successfully recreated the famous lake scene, wearing the white shirt and all. Cowan admits he did the real thing while Firth used a stand-in. And yes, it was “very cold.”

8. Daniel Vincent Gordh in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; Ranking the 10 Best Mr. Darcy's and What You Need to Know
Photo: Pembroke Digital Media

He appears in only 12 of the 100 episodes of the award-winning Web series. But his authentic modern portrayal of Mr. Darcy made an impression, and the Streamy Awards nominated him for Best Actor.

9. Martin Henderson in Bride & Prejudice (2004)

bride and prejudice; Ranking the 10 Best Mr. Darcy's and What You Need to Know
Photo: Miramax

He wanted to do this Jane Austen variation because “it was such a fresh and new idea.” To prepare, Mr. Henderson studied the Pride and Prejudice novel as well as the BBC version so he could honor the original material. He believed the final movie demonstrated the right balance between western and eastern film styles.  His co-star, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, agreed, calling it a “groundbreaking” opportunity that increased the standard for diversity.

10. Sam Riley in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Photo: Sony Pictures

Pride and Prejudice is his mother’s favorite book, so she was thrilled when he got the part in this excellent fantasy version of the story. For research, she convinced him to watch the “only” adaptation – the 1995 production.  His intent for the character then became a mix “of Colin Firth, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Sean Connery in Dr. No and the voice of James Mason.”

No matter who your Mr. Darcy is, let’s celebrate all that’s great about Fitzwilliam Darcy. And remember, never judge based on first impressions because you might find a new Mr. Darcy to enjoy.

Who is your favorite Mr. Darcy? Discuss in the comments below!


“20 Fastidious Facts About BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.” 2017. Mental Floss. March 9, 2017.

“Aishwariya Rai & Martin Henderson Talk ‘Pride & Prejudice’.” 2019. RAJ GIRN. June 12, 2019.

Branch, Chris. 2015. “Colin Firth: ‘I’ve Never Owned’ Mr. Darcy Role.” HuffPost. HuffPost. February 10, 2015.

“Daniel Vincent Gordh.” n.d. Pemberley Digital. Accessed January 28, 2020.

Donelan, Loretta. 2015. “8 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Pride & Prejudice’.” Bustle. Bustle. September 16, 2015.

“Facts about ‘Pride and Prejudice’: Classic Movie Hub (CMH).” n.d. Classic Movie Hub – CMH. Accessed January 28, 2020.

“Interview with Elliot Cowan.” 2010. Jane Austen Today. November 16, 2010.

“Interview with the Cast of Pride & Prejudice.” 2005. Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. September 9, 2005.–Prejudice.html.

“Interview: Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice) (Nov 2005).” 2012. Darcylicious. December 22, 2012.

Looser, Devoney. 2015. “Mr Darcy through the Ages.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media. October 13, 2015.

Looser, Devoney. 2019. The Making of Jane Austen. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

“Movies – Interview – Matthew MacFadyen.” n.d. BBC. BBC. Accessed January 28, 2020.

Nemiroff, Perri. 2019. “’Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’: Sam Riley Reveals His Zombie Outbreak Survival Plan.” Collider. September 24, 2019.

“Pride & Prejudice.” n.d. IMDb. Accessed January 28, 2020.

Riley, Jenelle. 2012. “Keira Knightley On Almost Being Beaten By Mr. Darcy.” Backstage. Backstage. November 20, 2012.

Silver Petticoat Review Logo Our romance-themed entertainment site is on a mission to help you find the best period dramas, romance movies, TV shows, and books. Other topics include Jane Austen, Classic Hollywood, TV Couples, Fairy Tales, Romantic Living, Romanticism, and more. We’re damsels not in distress fighting for the all-new optimistic Romantic Revolution. Join us and subscribe. For more information, see our About, Old-Fashioned Romance 101, Modern Romanticism 101, and Romantic Living 101.
Pin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.
Ranking the 10 Best Mr. Darcy's and What You Need to Know: Pinterest Graphic