I love the Christmas season especially since it means I get to see my all time favorite movie – Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. The story of a grumpy and stingy old man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who through three visits with holiday sprits (and one scary visit from his dead business partner Marley) learns the value of having an open and giving heart. This redemption tale is heartwarming and a great story to watch, especially around the holidays. This movie has been so much of a hit throughout the years that they have remade it in many different styles and with many different actors, even animated ones! To make it easy on you to tell which ones are the cream of the crop I have assembled my list of the best Christmas Carol movies ever made, in order of production date:
- Reginald Owen – This 1938 version is the oldest one on my list. Filmed in black and white, I love the supporting actors in this piece. Bob Cratchet is a rotund jolly little fellow who just screams happiness and Scrooge’s nephew is tall and handsome and charismatic. No matter what Scrooge throws at him, nothing seems to faze him. His wife to be and their relationship is also a great addition. Tiny Tim has a great personality and really stands out as he should. Scrooge himself is a codgy old fellow who looks the part. He even fires Cratchet the day before Christmas! My favorite parts of this film are when Scrooge gets drunk on the milk of human kindness and the end when he gets giddy. The ending is hilarious when Scrooge takes gifts to the Cratchet children and Mrs. Cratchet hides in the closet because she thinks he is insane! This is my all time favorite adaptation.
- Alister Sims – This next one was filmed in1951 but it is also in black and white. An English version of the tale, it sticks pretty close to the original story with a few notable exceptions. I enjoy the ending a lot where Scrooge’s maid is nearly scared out of her wits when he is cheerful and giving. She runs screaming down the stairs away from him! My favorite line comes at the very end when Scrooge mutters “I don’t deserve to be so happy… I can’t help it!” It makes me laugh every time! Sims is delightful when he goes crazy and is well worth watching if only for the end.
- Albert Finney – This 1970 version is in color and a musical! If you are a fan of musicals then this is the film for you. Great songs and a great cast make this film unforgettable. I love when Scrooge dances on his own coffin unknowingly and follows a parade in honor of his death. A twist in this film is that Scrooge ends up visiting Hell, where he gets the coldest room there. The icy room is punishment for never letting Cratchet get more coal. “Thank You Very Much” has to be one of the catchiest songs ever filmed. The end of this one is special as Scrooge goes around town dressed as Santa Claus forgiving everyone’s debts. He also slides down the banister of his house and delivers presents to the Cratchet children dressed as Santa. Finney too gets drunk on the milk of human kindness and is hysterical with his twisted expression.
- Scrooge McDuck – This Disney version was made in 1983 and stars Mickey and friends as the main characters. Mickey plays the part of Bob Cratchet and is adorable. This is a great film to introduce kids to the story and is not so long as to bore them.
- George C. Scott – Made for television in 1984, this has to be the scariest Scrooge ever filmed. The powerful actor who played Patton is no less hard and dramatic in this rendition. I love the creep factor in this film and it is definitely the most serious of the adaptations listed. For drama and great color photography this is the film for you. Bob Cratchet is played by a great actor too who is very endearing as the father who loses his child. Tiny Tim is cute and personable and you really get to like him. The Spirit of Christmas Present is a large man, but it is the children under his robe who are truly scary. This one might be a bit much for younger viewers. The end is a sweet relief as Scott jumps on the bed, breathlessly finishing with a grin.
- Michael Caine – Made in 1992, this Muppet version of the classic story is surprisingly well done. What really sells it is Caine’s topnotch acting and the astounding lack of Muppets throughout most of the film. Oh, they are there, do not get me wrong. But they function more as comic relief then the main characters. The story sticks to the original and even interspersed with songs seems to fit. While it is not my favorite adaptation, it is another great one for adults and kids to watch together without either one falling asleep.
- Patrick Stewart – Filmed in 1999, this is the most modern film on the list. You might know this actor as Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation or even Charles Xavier from the X-Men movies. This made for TV adaptation is not the best, but it is decent.
As you can see, there have been many adaptations of this classic Christmas story of redemption. There are actually many more then even this, but these are my favorites. If you have yet to see an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, then please watch one of these films. Or, better yet, go see a live performance during the holiday season at a theatre near you! Seeing this play live is a great way to enjoy the holiday season and really get a feel for what it was supposed to be like when Charles Dickens wrote it.
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