Another adaptation of A Christmas Carol? For the holiday season? Groundbreaking. The latest version of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale is Spirited, starring Ryan Reynolds as Scrooge. It also features Octavia Spencer, Sunita Mani, and some guy named Will Ferrell.
Spirited‘s all-star cast, combined with Avenger-worthy special effects and the fact it looks like it could actually be funny, puts it in the running to be one of the better comedies of 2022. And, it’s a musical! Theater nerds, rejoice.
Given that A Christmas Carol adaptations are a genre all in of itself — there are reportedly at least 135 versions out there — we decided to rank some of the most popular adaptations from worst to best. Please keep your bah humbugs to yourself. And those bedbugs, too.
18 Christmas Carol Movies Ranked Worst to Best
18. Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1978)
This might just be the wild card of all of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol. It’s essentially a one-man show. Rich Little impersonates different celebrities whilst playing the classic characters from A Christmas Carol, including W.C. Fields, Peter Sellers, and John Wayne.
We’re going to say that Rich Little’s version is most definitely an acquired taste. A bad one.
17. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Sure, The Muppet Christmas Carol features Michael Caine who is nothing short of brilliant. And it has an 86% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But there is something deeply unsettling whenever the puppets look directly into the camera and talk to you. Or just whenever the Muppets are on screen. It’s not easy being green, and it won’t be easy to change our minds on this.
16. A Christmas Carol (2009)
Jim Carrey. Colin Firth. Gary Oldman. Robin Wright Penn. Robert Zemeckis as the director, who also did Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Back to the Future. What could go wrong?!
Well, a lot. Starting with the fact that the special effects are scarier than your boss scheduling a “quick chat.” Either use real people or cartoons that don’t look like real people. They’re cartoons for a reason!
Quite frankly, having the ghosts of Christmas visit you on Christmas Eve is preferable to watching A Christmas Carol. That said, the performances are pretty good, so it at least deserves a participation ribbon.
15. Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost (1901)
Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost was the very first adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It was made in 1901, which was 58 years after Charles Dickens’ novel was published. And yes, this means for over one hundred years we have been remaking this story. But that’s a conversation for another time.
Given that the film is over 100 years old, it makes sense that it’s a silent one. And while it was originally six minutes and 20 seconds in length, only three minutes and 23 seconds of the film survives at the British Film Institute.
Since we can all agree that length doesn’t matter, the original adaptation finds an honorable spot on this list.
14. A Christmas Carol (2019)
A formal apology to all the Swifties out there as this one stars Joe Alwyn. This 2019 mini series is a gothic adaptation, making it one of the scarier versions of this holiday tale. And between the abused common folk and the dementor-like ghost figures, it’s honestly tad over dramatic.
“This is where Christmas comes to die.” Okay, have a Snickers and then see how you feel. It’s entertaining, sure. But this one is more for Halloween season than Christmas Eve. Unless your name is Jack Skellington…then disregard this whole section.
13. A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)
This makes us long for the days of Glee. It stars Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge, and Jesse L. Martin and Geraldine Chaplin as the ghosts of Christmas Present and Future. And as the title suggests, it is indeed a musical. We love it when they aren’t confusing. (Looking at you, Reservoir Dogs. Huge lack of dogs!)
On paper, A Christmas Carol: The Musical seems like something should be good. But the execution is pretty meh. But we do give it some points for the creative songs and the Bridgerton-like costumes.
12. A Christmas Carol (1971)
This is one of the many animated versions of A Christmas Carol, but it isn’t one for children. Like the novel, this 25-minute short film is bleak and dark. Think Daria, but with even less pep.
For its time, this adaptation of A Christmas Carol really stood out. It even won an Academy Award. But over forty years later it’s just okay. When the state of the world looks like it does in the 2020s, it really takes a lot to be the bleakest thing on the block.
As it’s December here is my annual tweet to tell you to watch the animated version of A Christmas Carol from 1971 if you haven’t already because it’s stunning and it is the version that captures the darkness of the story the best in my opinion. pic.twitter.com/ExQ60dmlD8
— wiccatreecrafts (@wiccatreecrafts) December 3, 2021
11. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
This Disney-fied flick might be the most predictable of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol on this list. But sometimes you just want to watch something old and faithful. That is, without going all the way to Wyoming.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol is dependable, heart warming, and has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Will Mickey starring as Bob Cratchit knock your socks off? No. But will it entertain your five-year-old niece? For about 12 minutes, yes!
10. A Christmas Carol (1984)
Like so many others, this version stays true to the plot and the original time of Charles Dickens’ story. And in a world where all of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol start to blend into one big Victorian aesthetic, the actors of this film help it stand out.
George C. Scott is an iconic Ebenezer Scrooge. Angela Pleasence, Michael Carter, and Edward Woodward – who play the Christmas ghosts – all put on a great performance. PSA to the shirtless Woodward in a velvet gown: you can haunt us anytime.
All in all, A Christmas Carol (1984) is a decent movie, and it lands at a respectable spot number 10.
9. Scrooge (1970)
Now this 1970 film is how movie musicals should be done. If you watch the trailer and think that it looks like Oliver! then nothing gets past you. Because it’s in fact a follow-up from Oliver!
There are jolly songs and grand dance scenes. Like…a lot of grand dance scenes. If flash mobs weren’t invented at this instance, we don’t know when they were. But most importantly, it’s just not as depressing as other Christmas Carol adaptations. More soup?
8. A Christmas Carol (1999)
Patrick Stewart and Richard E. Grant…and yet, this TV movie is only at spot number eight. That said, A Christmas Carol (1999) is a classic for a reason. Mainly because it showcases Patrick Stewart’s wide emotional range, and special effects with a very limited range. What? We’re suckers for juxtaposition.
Maybe it just needs to hire the same PR team as Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas Is You” and it’ll move up a few spots.
7. A Christmas Carol (1951)
A Christmas Carol (1951), or Scrooge under its original title, is known for being one of the best versions of A Christmas Carol. We agree. It doesn’t do anything crazy with special effects (Hi, 1950’s), but that almost makes it even more haunting.
Skewing towards the depressing and dour side, this “realistic” version captures Charles Dickens’ novel in a way that most modern adaptations fail to. It’s not the movie’s fault that Dickens needed more serotonin. It might be Hans Christian Andersen’s, though.
Alastair Sim & Michael Hordern, as Scrooge & Marley, in SCROOGE (aka A Christmas Carol) (1951). Dir. Brian Desmond Hurst. pic.twitter.com/R6oKAF4Gz4
— Daniel Marley (@UlteriousFilm) December 24, 2021
6. A Christmas Carol (1997)
One of the main reasons why this ‘90’s adaptation is up so high on this list is because Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself – AKA Tim Curry – is in it.
This animated 1997 adaptation is yet another musical version, and it also stars Whoopi Goldberg who was in her prime at this time. The songs definitely steal the show, with our favorite being “Santa’s Sooty Suit.” But we will concede it’s better suited to Mary Poppins.
5. Ms. Scrooge (1997)
This one flips the classic story in a few ways. It’s set in modern times, and it takes place in the US. It also gender swaps the characters of Scrooge and Jacob Marley. Considering how much of a sausage fest the original story is, this was a necessary take.
The soundtrack, the acting, the filming…Ms. Scrooge is a Hallmark Christmas classic if ever we saw one. (There’s a parental lock keeping us from that channel.)
4. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)
This gives us Matthew McConaughey in his prime rom-com era, Emma Stone as one of the ghosts of Christmas, Jennifer Garner who shines in everything she does, and Michael Douglas as the icon he is. Already, that puts this movie solidly in the top five.
Now, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past may not be everyone’s cup of tea since it’s a pretty big diversion from the classic tale. Think of it more as an “inspired-by” version of Dickens’ story.
But still, it takes the heart of the story and does something new with it. It’s like the cauliflower of Christmas Carol adaptations.
3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
This movie is a vibe. It’s got all the usual ingredients for an adaptation, but it also has helpings of old Hollywood style. And that’s why it’s so high up on the list.
A Christmas Carol (1938) is in black and white, which gives an eerie tone to the story. The narrator is a key feature of the movie. He speaks to the audience, which just adds to the intimacy of the movie – something that many adaptations lack.
This version of Charles Dickens’ novel truly hits the nail on the head. Which it will probably regret in the morning.
2. Bah Humduck!: A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006)
What sets Bah Humduck! apart is that it takes place in more recent times. Oh right, and it features the Looney Tunes characters. We have a soft spot in our heart for Daffy Duck.
It features all the classic characters like Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner, which automatically makes the entire story way less depressing. Still, it gets to the heart of the message and stays true to the story. Fun for everyone on Christmas Eve! Except for Santa, who still has to work.
1. Scrooged (1988)
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is about a selfish greedy businessman, so it was a stroke of genius for the creators to take this and make it about a selfish greedy TV executive. It’s both dark and cheesy. And in the ’80s of all eras. *chefs kiss*
Scrooged has a killer cast with Bill Murray in the lead and Carol Kane, David Johansen and Robert Hammond as the ghosts of Christmas. This version makes the story more relevant to current times and we would argue, is far more entertaining than the original. Sorry, Charlie.
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