When you google A Christmas Carol, aside from Charles Dickens book you will be presented with about 30+ different movie adaptations. That’s a heck of a lot to choose from. So here I’ve compiled a smaller list of the top six best versions to get you into the festive spirit this Christmas.
6. Scrooge (1951)
When given the chance to watch It’s a Wonderful Life (dir. Frank Capra, 1946) in black and white or colour, what would you choose? Black and white, obviously. Why? Because it’s a classic, and evokes that nostalgic, old-school style of film perfect for a traditional festive watch. One of the first, widely watched remakes of Dickens tale, Brian Desmond Hurst’s 1954 adaptation is true to the heart of the story. Without corny embellishments and screen spectacle, this might be one for the older folks to enjoy, with the characters and morals reaching a more personal level than a comedy or kid’s film could.
5. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
Is there anything more British than Charles Dickens? Potentially Blackadder. So, when you put the hit 80’s TV show and the legendary Victorian adventure together…what more could you want? A cup of tea and crumpet, maybe? Rowan Atkinson’s inverted take on Ebenezer Scrooge places him as a kindly soul who is taught into becoming bitter narcissist, as “bad guys have all the fun.” Director Richard Boden’s parody is clever, witty and a no doubt hit with the Blackadder fans out there. If you think you’ve exhausted every possible version of A Christmas Carol, perhaps you should give this old chestnut a try.
4) Scrooge (1970)
Is there anything more Christmassy than songs? Carols and dancing are what make the holidays so fun. So why not add that to a Dickens story? Ronald Neame directs Albert Finney as Scrooge in a 1970’s piece of underappreciated entertainment. The iconic lines- “oh if I had a canon, I would fire it” – will be stuck in your head for days. And with age comes that added sense of nostalgia. As Robert Ebert points out, “the notion of Albert Finney playing Ebenezer Scrooge is admittedly mind-boggling […] why does “Scrooge” work? Because it’s a universal story.”
3) The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (1992)
Don’t let the iconic puppet characters fool you- this is one for the adults too. Michael Cane creaks with East London charm in his younger day’s performance of Ebenezer Scrooge. Though artistic license must be granted when using inanimate objects for characters (though they certainly do feel real!) Brian Henson’s version is in fact pretty close to Dickens intentions. Gonzo narrates the story as Dickens himself, plucking exact lines from the book in perhaps an educational twist for the kids. Kermit the Frog plays little old Bob Cratchit. And oh- did I mention there was singing? And lots of it. Allowing even the Scrooges of the family to let their inner child loose and enjoy the festive fun.
2) A Christmas Carol (2009)
Robert Zemeckis animation, most recent of the list, is probably the most accurate of the six. Clever camerawork and creative effects subtly incorporate the detail Dickens achieved in his short novella. This isn’t to say any originality is lost in Zemeckis’ visually astounding adaptation. Both the animation team, musical score and voicing actors work together in bringing this cosy Victorian classic to life. Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth star- and I mean star, with a sort of uncanny resemblance between pixels and their voicing actors. Only furthering the cartoons realistically humane quality. The warm colour palette and eerie atmosphere make Zemeckis work an instant go-to this Christmas.
1) Scrooged (1988)
The name Bill Murray itself is enough to put this one top of the list. If you haven’t seen Murray’s comedic take on the grumpy old Scrooge…you’re missing out. As ever, Murray brings his own unique flair to the role; his own style of comedy that has established him as an auteur actor in his own right. Not exactly the grey cripple Scrooge is written to be, Murray plays 30-something, alcoholic executive Frank Cross, currently producing a live TV performance of A Christmas Carol. The parallel story line layers Richard Donner’s black comedy with meaning, as we are reminded of how Dickens’ timely classic is still relevant today. A chain-smoking taxi driver, surprisingly violent fairy and silently menacing cloaked skeleton take Murray on his journey to gratitude. All ending in a nice old sing song for all the family.