a little Dickens

With my ratings & comments.

Dickens's stories have vivid characters and great dialogue--perfect for translation to film. Here are some of the best adaptations (plus a few misfires).

Please note that I am stingy with stars, and try to rate based on criteria more objective than simply "I loved it/hated it"--a movie has to be really outstanding to earn an 8 or higher from me.
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Great Expectations (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor. (118 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ 10/10
This is the gold standard for Dickens on film. A wonderful concoction distilled from memorable characters and personal growth, gorgeous cinematography, strong pacing; vivid, funny, and heart-breaking in turn. If you love Dickens, you must see this. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
2.
Great Expectations (1999 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor. (168 mins.)
Director: Julian Jarrold
“ 8/10
An intelligent modern version. Gruffudd delivers a strong, believable performance. Beautifully filmed too. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
3.
Great Expectations (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Modernization of Charles Dickens classic story finds the hapless Finn as a painter in New York pursuing his unrequited and haughty childhood love. (111 mins.)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
“ The dreamlike quality of Dickens's fairy tale for adults dissipates quickly in the Florida sun. I'm still trying to figure out the reasoning behind this dreary modernized adaptation. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
4.
Great Expectations (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor. (128 mins.)
Director: Mike Newell
“ Haven't yet had a chance to see it. From the reviews, this sounds like it's rental material rather than add-to-your-Dickens-home-video-collection. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
5.
Oliver Twist (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master. (116 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ 4/10
The plot is intelligently pared down and magically told, with the focus on Oliver's personal journey. Great performances, great cinematography, great great film. One of the Dickens essentials. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
6.
Oliver Twist (1985 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master. (360 mins.)
Director: Gareth Davies
“ 8/10
Follows Dickens's coincidence-filled plot closely. Good performances all around; Oliver is spunkier here than in other versions. The direction is a bit loose, but this mini-series is satisfying in a way that leaner versions are not. Recommended.

(The DVD has a bonus feature of Simon Callow recreating Dickens's own public reading version of Sikes & Nancy. It's terrific!) ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
7.
Oliver Twist (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master. (98 mins.)
Director: Frank Lloyd
“ 7/10
Not stunningly brilliant like the Lean 1946 version, but silent film fans will enjoy this. Coogan is an appealing Oliver, and Chaney is vivid, less of a caricature than Guinness in the later film; Gladys Brockwell broke my heart as the doomed Nancy. There are some imaginative flourishes in the direction. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
8.
Oliver! (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Young Oliver Twist runs away from an orphanage and meets a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor. (153 mins.)
Director: Carol Reed
“ 8/10
Snooty Dickens fans don't always like this. I do. It captures Boz's own exuberance, sentimentality, and empathy for the poor. Memorable score and fine performances, especially Wallis and Reed. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
9.
Oliver Twist (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
An adaptation of the classic Dickens tale, where an orphan meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master. (130 mins.)
Director: Roman Polanski
“ 5/10
Attractively if emotionlessly shot in golden light. Polanski has stripped the story down to the bare bones, and along the way he lost its heart, as well as most of the dramatic tension. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
10.
Oliver Twist (1999 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master. (386 mins.)
“ 4/10
Great cast, costuming, sets--what went wrong here? For starters, flabby direction, plus a script that adds weird things to Dickens's text (like the endless prologue explaining Monks). Worse still, it utterly lacks atmosphere. Catch the David Lean version or the 1985 mini-series instead. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
11.
Oliver Twist (1933)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.0/10 X  
An orphan boy in 1830's London is abused in a workhouse, then falls into the clutches of a gang of thieves. (80 mins.)
“ 3/10
I can't imagine why anybody would choose to watch this instead of the 1948 David Lean adaptation. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
12.
David Copperfield (1999 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Charles Dickens' haunting semi-autobiographical tale of a boy who is sent away by his stepfather after his mother dies but manages to triumph over incredible adversities. (185 mins.)
Director: Simon Curtis
“ 9/10
My personal favorite among the different versions of this tale. The Steerforth-Rosa dynamic works especially well. This really feels like Dickens's novel. Highly recommended. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
13.
David Copperfield (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A gentle orphan discovers life and love in an indifferent adult world. (130 mins.)
Director: George Cukor
“ 8/10
Assured direction that carefully shapes the mood, humour and pathos. I hate Freddie Bartholomew as the child David, but everyone and everything else works well. Breakneck pace. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
14.
A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A pair of lookalikes, one a former French aristocrat and the other an alcoholic English lawyer, fall in love with the same woman amongst the turmoil of the French Revolution. (128 mins.)
Director: Jack Conway
“ 8/10
Made with energy, taste, and tremendous flair, this is relentlessly exciting; not ashamed of sentimentality, nor of Dickens's gleeful humour. Colman is perfect as the cynical lush at the center of it all. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
15.
Masterpiece Theatre: Bleak House (1985 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The great case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce drags on, an obsession to all involved. Then a question of inheritance becomes a question of murder. (391 mins.)
“ 7/10
Deep Dickensian atmosphere, well-cast and scripted. Unfortunately, the Jelliby family was omitted, and there's not much humour (admittedly, this is an exceedingly dark novel)--although Guppy's proposal is hysterically funny. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
16.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-hearted, grasping uncle. (540 mins.)
“ 8/10
Exhaustive, exhausting, and very very good. Moving at breakneck pace, 39 actors perform all of the essential (and much of the lesser) parts of the novel in 505 minutes. Rees is a dynamic hero. The only failure here is the weird over-the-top unDickensian characterization of Smike, which leads to some seriously sappy scenes. (This was shot in England at the same time as An American Werewolf In London, which employs many of the same character actors.) ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
17.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-hearted, grasping uncle. (108 mins.)
Director: Cavalcanti
“ 7/10
Very enjoyable, with strong pacing and exuberant performances. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
18.
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-heartedly grasping uncle. (132 mins.)
Director: Douglas McGrath
“ 6/10
The first half was great--the second didn't hold up for me; maybe the meta-theatrics were overdone. It's worth seeing for Plummer's terrific performance as Ralph. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
19.
A Christmas Carol (1984 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
An old bitter miser who makes excuses for his uncaring nature learns real compassion when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve. (100 mins.)
Director: Clive Donner
“ 9/10
There are dozens of film, television, and audio Carols available. This is my absolute favorite. (See my "A Christmas Carol" list for a comparison of more than 20 adaptations.) ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
20.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by three ghosts on Christmas Eve... (86 mins.)
“ 8/10
Sim is exceptional in this outstanding b&w film version; his scene with his nephew at the end has never been outdone. My only quibble is with what the script adds to Dickens's plot, which unbalances the story. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
21.
A Christmas Carol (1971 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when spirits visit him on Christmas Eve. (28 mins.)
“ 8/10
The perfect short version, which uses John Leech's original 1843 illustrations as the basis for great animation. ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
22.
The Pickwick Papers (1985 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A twelve-part BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens first novel. The story follows Samuel Pickwick and three... (360 mins.)
“ 6/10
Well-cast, but with undistinguished direction; the pacing feels off (to be fair, this is one of Dickens's weaker plots). Still full of fun, period charm, and beloved characters.

(DVD bonus feature: Simon Callow recreates Dickens's own public reading version of the trial scene, which I enjoyed immensely.) ” - blue_sock_monkey
 
23.
The Pickwick Papers (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The Pickwick Club sends Mr. Pickwick and a group of friends to travel across England and to report back on the interesting things they find... (109 mins.)
Director: Noel Langley
“ I haven't yet seen this well-regarded adaptation. ” - blue_sock_monkey