Ranking Adaptations of Wuthering Heights


Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights is known as a classic to many. However, the theatrical adaptations have not been able to faithfully capture the same legacy. Luckily, today I will be ranking and comparing the four adaptations I watched during the span of twenty-four hours in the month of September. I will be ranking them entirely by my own taste, so if you would like, I would recommend watching these and forming your own opinion.

Wuthering Heights (1970)

4. Wuthering Heights (1970), starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall. 

In last place, we have the film most reminiscent of the Kate Bush music video. It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The overly dramatic cringe-worthy dialogue mixed with confusing cinematography leads to a mind-boggling experience. If you want to have an insane melodramatic screechy experience for two hours, then watch this movie.

Richard Burton and Rosemary Harris  (1958)

3. Wuthering Heights (1958), starring Richard Burton and Rosemary Harris 

This adaptation was unseen for sixty years after the tv premiere special starring Richard Burton and Rosemary Harris. The video image quality is not that great and the sound is unnerving at times. Like most adaptations of Wuthering Heights, it takes itself so seriously and so dramatically that it is hard not to laugh. But other than that, it is certainly both better and not as memorable as the 1970 adaptation

Riley in her supposedly 19th-century scarf and coat.

2. Wuthering Heights (2009), starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley

This adaptation, starring Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy of all people, was definitely the most modern of the bunch. Cathy’s clothes are so historically inaccurate that it takes you straight out of the story, some of them looking like they were bought from Anthropology the day before filming. However, Tom Hardy does do a fantastic job playing a man who has completely lost it, which is oddly delightful and disturbing at the same time. This adaptation was definitely not a big fan of sticking directly to the book.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (1939).

1. Wuthering Heights (1939), starring Merle Oberon and Sir Laurence Olivier

The best overall adaptation of Wuthering Heights is the earliest mainstream one, that being the 1939 adaptation starring the beautiful Merle Oberon and renowned Sir Laurence Olivier. This movie is visually stunning and manages to combine the glamour of old Hollywood and the popularity of big historical dramas in the realm of the success of Gone With the Wind, as well as bringing some of the late 18th century and early 19th century elements into the film. Olivier somehow manages to make the often trashy lines of Heathcliff come across in a dignified manner. Merle Oberon is the picture of class and is a very fun protagonist to follow. I would argue that Cathy and Heathcliff in this movie are much more delightful than those in the book. This theatrical adaptation really reaches into the whimsical and wistful elements of the book and creates an original atmosphere separate from the novel. This is the only adaptation that I can say with absolute certainty isn’t a waste of time to watch.