Shivering with anticipation until “Fifty Shades of Grey” hits theaters? Here are a few good (fictional) men and their best movie adaptation to keep you going until Christian Grey arrives. Don’t worry; we trust you’ll behave yourself.
1. Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice”
Many readers go through a Jane Austen phase at some point in their lives. It’s one phase you never really have to grow out of, not with the love affair to end all love affairs. Like Christian Grey, he’s originally mistaken as someone out of reach, but it’s our female protagonist who discovers his softer, sensitive side. In Elizabeth Bennet, readers find the independence of a young woman willing to disobey her parents and not conform to her future in-laws. Ultimately, it’s her independent streak that Mr. Darcy is enamored with and the two live “happily-ever-after.” The Austen classic was adapted for the screen once again in 2005 with Keira Knightley starring as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy.
2. Heathcliff, “Wuthering Heights”
If you’re still pining for the dark, brooding types, be sure to revisit Emily Brontë’s original hopeless romantic, Heathcliff. Orphaned and adopted by the wealthy Earnshaw family, Heathcliff and the young Earnshaw daughter Cathy grow close as they grow-up, until it is Cathy’s turn to marry for status. It’s yet another story where only the female protagonist, Cathy, can see the good in a difficult man like Heathcliff. Perhaps the most memorable (and rather inaccurate) “Wuthering Heights” film adaptation comes from 1939 and stars the dreamy Laurence Olivier as the doomed lover sentenced to roam the earth alone. Won’t you keep him company?
3. Count Vronsky, "Anne Karenina"
Depending on how tragic you like your literary romances, “Anna Karenina” is almost as sad as those books can get. The all-or-nothing affair that sets Leo Tolstoy’s troubled protagonist down a path to ruin starts with a pretty soldier. Count Vronsky is, for the most part, all looks and not much insight. His hot-blooded affair appears to be a youthful error that derails his military career and Anna Karenina’s marriage and life. He is no more ready for family life than he is for a committed relationship. Another recent Joe Wright adaptation (“Pride and Prejudice”) introduced Aaron Tyler Johnson’s blond haired Count Vronsky in his highly-stylized and opulent adaptation of the Russian classic.
4. Rhett Butler, “Gone with the Wind”
Interested in more costume dramas and bad boys? Rhett was another early roustabout with no true sense of patriotism or loyalty when he was first introduced to readers in Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling Civil War melodrama. Worldly, free-spirited with devilish charm, he was the antithesis to Scarlett O’Hara’s original crush, the mild-mannered and sweet Ashley Wilkes. In the epic 1939 film production, Clark Gable’s Rhett broke all our hearts with his unforgettable line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
5. Sam Spade, “The Maltese Falcone”
The working class, hard-boiled detective archetype was a fairly modern and cynical response to the rise of the 1920s gangster. He didn’t have time for Sherlockian puzzles or long affairs, as this surly character would be much better suited to battling the criminal underworld of bootleggers and rum runners. If you’re a tough self-sufficient dame or femme fatale, you could fall for the original tough guy, Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. His iconic character, solidified by Humphrey Bogart’s steely portrayal in the 1941 film adaptation, is still a source of inspiration for the mystery genre.
6. Atticus Finch, “To Kill A Mockingbird”
There’s an awful lot of recent talk about “To Kill A Mockingbird” now that author Harper Lee has confirmed to release a sequel to her best-selling book after 50 years. Perhaps it’s time to give good guy Atticus Finch another look, as his progressive politics and parental support of Scout and Jem set him apart from many other Alabama lawyers of the time. Finch consistently ranks among the top heroes in American film and literature. It also helps that his character was brought to the screen by a swoon-worthy Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version with Lee's blessing.
7. Severus Snape, "Harry Potter"
There’s enough fan fiction and fan art on Tumbr to suggest many Harry Potter fans wished for a happier ending for the greasy potions master. As his story progressed throughout the series, readers learned of his difficult childhood, bullied adolescence (by Harry’s father and friends, no less) and unrequited love for Harry’s mom, Lily. It was his unlikely lifelong protection of the pupil audiences thought he despised that made us all cry just that much harder when we reached the end of J.K. Rowling’s seventh book. The baritone voiced actor Alan Rickman does great justice to the character over the course of eight movies.
This is by no means a complete list of the hundreds of other page-turning heartthrobs just waiting to be discovered. Did we leave a favorite off the list? Who else in fiction gets your heart going?