Critic’s Picks: the simplest (And Worst) of the main ‘Little Women’ Adaptations

Ahead of the Christmas Day release of Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women,’ check out how this new film ranks among the novel’s many other large- and small-screen adaptations.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in Greta Gerwig's'Little Women'
Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’
Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures

When Louisa May Alcott published her semi-autobiographical novel Little Women in 1868, few could have predicted this domestic story about four Massachusetts sisters surviving genteel poverty, the Civil War and the transition from childhood to adulthood would become a smash hit. Yet, young readers flocked to Alcott’s hilarious and devastating coming-of-age vignettes showcasing covetous beauty Meg, tempestuous writer Jo, shy musician Beth and self-involved artist Amy. They created what was essentially the world’s first YA sensation. Alcott took the internal lives of teenage girls seriously and crafted for them a timeless tale that is a drama, a comedy, a romance and an adventure all at once. It’s a quintessential American novel.

Little Women has been adapted to the screen more than a dozen times, including two silent films released in 1917 and 1918, multiple television serials between the 1950s and 1970s, two Japanese anime series, a contemporary Lifetime reimagining, and a Hindi language web series. For the purposes of this ranked guide, I have focused on the major film and television adaptations.