The film was released by Screen Gems on February 5, 2016 in the United States, and by Lionsgate on February 11 in the United Kingdom. The film grossed just $16 million worldwide against a budget of $28 million, making it a box office bomb.
In early 19th century England, the Bennet sisters—Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, Lydia, and Mary—have all been trained in the art of weaponry and martial arts in China at their father's behest so they can defend themselves from the zombies. Mrs. Bennet only wants to see her daughters married off to wealthy suitors. The Bennets attend a country dance also attended by the rich Bingley family, where the young and handsome Bingley falls for Jane. Charles Bingley has inherited £100,000 (£5.9 million today)—attracting Mrs. Bennet's attention as a desirable suitor for her daughter. When zombies attack the ball, the Bennet sisters fight them off, and Colonel Darcy, a friend of Bingley's and skilled zombie-killer, with property that pays him £10,000 annually (£590,000 today), becomes smitten with Elizabeth. On the way to the Bingleys later, Jane is attacked by a zombie and catches a fever. Darcy orders her confined in fear that she may have been bitten, but she successfully recovers.
The Bennets are visited by the overbearing Parson Collins, who proposes to Elizabeth, but states that she must give up her life as a warrior, something she refuses to do. Elizabeth meets a charming soldier named Wickham, and arranges to meet him at another ball. She travels with him to a church that is filled with zombies who feed on pig brains instead of human brains, keeping their behaviour relatively normal. Wickham believes that with these new civilised zombies, humans can coexist peacefully with them. He asks Elizabeth to elope with him, but she backs off. Elizabeth learns that Darcy convinced the Bingleys to leave to keep Bingley away from Jane. When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, having fallen in love with her, she expresses outrage at his actions and fights him.
Darcy later writes Elizabeth a letter to apologise. He reiterates that he separated Jane and Bingley for fear that Jane only wanted to marry Bingley for his wealth, having overheard Mrs. Bennet drunkenly mention it. He also exposes Wickham's true nature: he and Wickham were childhood friends but Wickham may have murdered Darcy's father, squandered the inheritance he did receive and tried to elicit additional money from Darcy's estate, then tried to elope with Darcy's little sister for her fortune. Elizabeth learns that Wickham has taken Lydia and London has been overrun with zombies. Darcy saves Lydia and learns that Wickham is actually using the 'civilised' zombies to create a zombie army which has overrun London based on Wickham's planning, and will rule the country. He stops him by giving the zombies human brains, which turns them savage.
While fighting, Darcy stabs Wickham's chest, revealing him to have been undead all along, staying civilized by consuming pig brains. Elizabeth saves Darcy from being killed by Wickham. As the two ride across the bridge, the army destroys it to keep the zombies from crossing over from London. Darcy is injured in the explosion, and Elizabeth tearfully admits her love for him. After Darcy recovers, he proposes to Elizabeth again, and this time, she agrees. The two have a joint wedding with Bingley and Jane.
In a mid-credits scene, Wickham leads a horde of zombies toward the wedding celebration with the Four Horsemen of the Zombie Apocalypse riding behind him.
The film is based on the 2009 novel of the same name, which was billed as having been co-written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. The project was first announced on December 10, 2009, in Variety, when it was revealed that Natalie Portman would both star in the role of Elizabeth Bennet and produce, and that Lionsgate would finance and distribute. On December 14, David O. Russell was announced as the writer and director of the film. On October 5, 2010, it was revealed that Russell had left the production due to scheduling conflicts. Russell later revealed that he had disputes with Lionsgate over the budget. The next day, it was announced that Portman had quit the role of Elizabeth Bennet, though she would still produce the film. Following Russell's departure, Lionsgate offered Mike Newell and Matt Reeves the chance to take over from him, but both declined. On November 3, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lionsgate had held meetings with Mike White, Neil Marshall and Jeffrey Blitz as potential directors. White was hired on November 5. On January 19, 2011, it was announced that White had had to leave the film due to scheduling conflicts with a pre-existing commitment at HBO.
In February 2011, Craig Gillespie took over as director. Gillespie revealed he was attracted to the project by the mashing of genres. In May 2011, screenwriter Marti Noxon was hired to rewrite Russell's script. On October 27, 2011, it was announced that Gillespie had left the film. The project then stalled until March 2013, when Panorama Media joined to produce, finance, and handle foreign sales. In May, it was announced that Burr Steers would take over as director. Steers did a rewrite of the script, saying that he had reinserted "all the Pride and Prejudice beats”.
At one point, Lily Collins, Jennifer Aniston, and Rowan Atkinson were all attached to the project.
Principal photography began on September 24, 2014 at West Wycombe House & Park, Buckinghamshire. During the Halloween weekend, actors were spotted shooting some scenes at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. In early November, crews were filming at Basing House in Old Basing. On November 13, filming shifted to Frensham in Surrey, where they shot until November 21.
The film's soundtrack was released digitally on February 5, 2016, and physically on February 12 by Varèse Sarabande. The soundtrack features the film’s original score, composed and conducted by Fernando Velázquez.
On March 30, 2015, Screen Gems originally set the film a release date for February 19, 2016. However, on April 22, 2015, Screen Gems moved up the film's release date to February 5, 2016. The film was released by Lionsgate in the UK on February 11, 2016.
In October 2014, Entertainment Weekly published the first photo from the production. In July 2015, Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Burr Steers and Seth Grahame-Smith appeared at a panel at Comic-Con to promote the film, where the first trailer debuted. On October 9, 2015, the UK teaser trailer and poster were released. On October 22, 2015, Screen Gems released the first official US trailer and poster. On November 26, 2015, Lionsgate UK released a full-length trailer and the film's first official British poster.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on May 31, 2016.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies grossed $10.9 million in North America and $5.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $16.4 million, against a budget of $28 million.
The film was released in North America on February 5, 2016, alongside Hail, Caesar! and The Choice. The film was projected to gross $10–12 million from 2,931 theaters in its opening weekend. It earned $300,000 from previews showing on Thursday night and $5.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing below expectations and 6th at the box office. In its third weekend it was pulled from 2,455 theaters (88%), the third biggest drop in history at the time.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 43%, based on 161 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies manages to wring a few fun moments out of its premise, but never delivers the thoroughly kooky mashup its title suggests." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 45 out of 100, based on reviews from 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.
Rafer Guzmán of Newsday wrote positively about the film, giving the film three out of four stars, calling it "an unexpected and off-kilter treat, thanks to a BBC-quality cast and (un)deadpan humor." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, commenting that "PP&Z is rated PG-13, so the zombie gore is decidedly decorous. But before repetition dulls the party, the movie gets in a few juicy innings." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film two out of four stars saying "Compared with other Jane Austen movies, it isn't much, but compared with other zombie apocalypse movies, it's an intelligent, literate effort." Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club gave the film a C, commenting "That this particular retelling of the Jane Austen novel feels like a Cliffs Notes version is understandable; that its zombie bits are equally rudimentary, though, is more disappointing." Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "If more inventive than scary, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies breathes fresh life into the hugely popular, but now desperately predictable, undead genre." Mark Kermode of The Guardian gave the film two out of five stars, saying "Yet torn between Austen and the undead, Steers seems unsure how straight to play either element, blunting comedy, horror and romance alike. The result lacks bite—the one element that zombies and Austen should have in common." Helen O'Hara of The Daily Telegraph also gave two out of five stars, saying "If it had been more elegant in its storytelling, it could have been a fun genre crossover, but the best efforts of Steers and his cast can’t turn the overstuffed book into a film that makes any real sense." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, saying "Both pride and prejudice still play their parts, but now in service to one tediously repeated joke: the sight of a gentleman or a lady, together or alone, playing cards or ballroom dancing, fatally swarmed by devouring zombies."
Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com gave the film one and a half out of four stars, saying "Like the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the movie Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is predicated on a simple, single gimmick: It’s Pride and Prejudice … with zombies. This is a vaguely amusing idea which somehow got stretched out to an entire book, which somehow became a best seller, which inevitably means it had to be made into a film." Keith Uhlich of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, calling the film "Lumbering, lifeless and—strange thing to say about a cadaver—almost entirely charmless." Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press also gave a negative review, saying "This story might have been better suited to a television adaptation. The characters would have been allowed to breathe for a beat in that case. Here, the action and violence take up the space that would have generally been used for character development." Stephen Whitty of New York Daily News gave the film two out of 5 stars, saying "The hungry monsters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are looking for nice big brains. Well, they won't find any here." Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, commenting ""Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" delivers what its title promises: a little romance and some undead villains, plus a bit of comedy. But this overly busy riff on Austen's winning formula doesn't justify all the tinkering." Britton Peele of The Dallas Morning News gave the film a B−, calling the film "Fun, funny, gory and yet still strangely romantic."
Literary scholar and Austen professor Devoney Looser stated in Entertainment Weekly magazine her opinion that the film's first half, and especially Matt Smith's Mr. Collins, were comic, jarring, and enjoyable. She assessed the film overall with, "I laughed a lot and I shrieked. I was wavering between B+ and A−. I’m willing to bump it up for its originality and live with my grade-inflation reputation: A−." Zombie expert Clark Collis did not rate the film quite as high: "I enjoy genre movies that attempt something different—and this does—but I didn't find it all that scary. I'd give it a 'B'".