Though hardly enough is known about Jane Austen's too-brief, non-celebrity life, there is one biographical certainty we can surmise from this distance: No one ever asked her whom she'd pick to play Mr. Darcy in the movies.
May I weigh in? ("Insolent girl!" Lizzie Bennet would scold.) I do so only after having rented, streamed, watched, read, and taken notes during a week of adaptation immersion. Thus "pleased with the preference of one," I announce that the head-and-shoulders winner of Best Mr. Darcy is Colin Firth (1995 Masterpiece Theatre, 300 minutes.)
A geological sample of Darcy's core, as portrayed so beautifully by Firth, would show the following layers: at the bottom, his breeding and wealth. Undeniable. On top of that, confusion, the push-pull of class--egad, 10,000 pounds a year and a house 10 times larger than Downton Abbey! Who wouldn't be conflicted, falling in love beneath his station with a penniless girl in possession of an insufferable mother? Next: love-struck silence. And finally, which we learn from the housekeeper who has known him since he was four, a heart of pure gold. Before Disc Two, it is only hinted at. He stares at Elizabeth Bennet with an intensity that promises passion and--spoiler alert--a happy ending.