A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published in 1843 and tells the story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates Christmas and guards his money. He is mean to everybody, including his long-suffering and eternally optimistic nephew and his assistant Bob Cratchett, who is so poor, he cannot afford to properly care for his family, especially his sick young son Tiny Tim.
On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, who tells him he will be visited by three ghosts. These ghosts will show Scrooge his past, his present and his future and he must change his ways or else spend eternity damned like Marley.
The tale is a simple one, but so beautifully written and now so synonymous with Christmas that it is one of the most adapted books into theatre, TV and of course film on numerous occasions.
Here are my Top Five Adaptations of A Christmas Carol:
5. A Christmas Carol (1951)
If you like your Christmas films with a classic black and white feel, you’d struggle to find a better adaptation of A Christmas Carol than this 1951 version starring Alistair Sim in the lead role. It takes us on the usual journeys to the past and present, but it’s the ghost of Christmas yet to come that really stays with you. As the ghost points a spectral finger at Scrooge’s gravestone and the embittered old man falls to his knees in terror, you’ll really start to feel the Christmas spirit!
4. Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppet’s have done many films over the years but one of the firm favourites has to be this take on A Christmas Carol, with legendary British Actor Michael Caine at the helm. It has all the silliness and humour (and singing) you would expect from the Muppets with Kermit the Frog as Scrooge’s assistant Bob Cratchett and Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchett, but Caine adds a touch of something magical to it. He smoulders and sends chills up your spine with a mere utterance of “Bah humbug”.
3. A Christmas Carol 3D (2009)
The 3D craze was just kicking off in 2009 when this performance capture adaptation was released, starring Jim Carey in the title role. It was one of the first 3D films I ever saw at the cinema and its impact is still vivid. When the ghost of Christmas future appeared as a shadow in the ground and then lifted his bony finger up at Scrooge and into my face, I ducked back in my seat. It was a much more action-packed take on the 2001 animated feature and with Carey at the helm, had much more expression in the title character. It’s a little scarier for young children but a brilliant adventure from start to finish.
2. Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)
Simon Callow has one of the greatest voices of all British actors and his vocal talents go beautifully with this largely accurate adaptation of the book as both Scrooge and Charles Dickens. As Dickens starts reading his infamous story, it comes to life in animation. Kate Winslet plays the love interest Belle. Other contributing voices are Nicolas Cage as Jacob Marley along with Jane Horrocks, Michael Gambon, Rhys Ifans and Juliet Stevenson. Overall, the film is beautiful and elegant and a fantastic all-round family film.
1. Scrooged (1988)
I can’t remember a year when I didn’t watch Bill Murray as Scrooge at Christmas time. In this version, Scrooge is a TV executive who gets his assistant to buy towels for his brother – his only relative – while instructing crew to staple antlers to a mouse and denying anyone time off. His assistant needs money for a doctor to care for her young son who hasn’t spoken since a family tragedy. He has let the woman he loves go because she didn’t care about money or possessions. When the ghosts arrive, they are both hilarious and terrifying, going from scary taxi rides to slaps across his permanently stunned face. The end is of course heart-warming, as it should be – but with such a lavish dollop of Murray humour and theatricality that you will be laughing through your tears. A perfectly witty, funny and utterly brilliant modern take on the classic.