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Favorite Christmas Carol Adaptations

December 7, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Scrooged A Christmas Carol Bill Murray

Tis the season! Thanks to Netflix and the Hallmark Channel we’re flooded with a lower quality of holiday movie year after year but we still have the classics to look back on and you can’t get any more classic than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

We can be sure that Dickens had no idea back in 1843 that his A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (What a title!) would go on to inspire a slew of television adaptations retelling his story about Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Spoiler alert: he changes his ways.

The holiday classic has been adapted countless times, for better or for worse, and in virtually every medium and performance genre, and new versions appear regularly. Here are some of my favorites and I’d be curious to hear yours.

My personal favorite is the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol with the great George C. Scott. It’s the first one I remember seeing and made the biggest impression on me. As a kid, Mr. Scott made a huge impact on my viewing and although I saw several other versions around the same period, this was the one I always gravitated to watching. Even today, I prefer this one to others that might be more highly rated. I just watched it last night and it still holds up today. A stellar ensemble that captures the spirit (pun intended) of the source material.

I know that Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol doesn’t end up on a lot of “Best of” lists but the Jim Carrey computer-animated Scrooge version has a certain charm that I enjoy. It makes a great double feature with A Polar Express.

Sticking with a kid’s version, you can’t go wrong with The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine. As a lifelong fan of The Muppet Show, this is another one that I’ll stop to watch if it’s on. It has a bit more humor than the majority of other versions but that comes with the territory when dealing with the Muppets. Caine’s Scrooge is an over-working brute but doesn’t overdo it while keeping it toned down for kids.

I know several people would say that this list begins and ends with Richard Donner’s 1988 Scrooged starring Bill Murray. While it doesn’t follow the traditional storytelling of the others, its modern take on the classic captures the spirit of the book perfectly. The character of Frank Cross is right in Murray’s wheelhouse and even at the end you’re not quite sure if Cross “gets it”.

Thanks to having kids, I’ve rediscovered Mickey’s Christmas Carol. It’s short, sweet, and hits all the right notes of the Dickens classic. That goes the same for the Bugs Bunny Christmas Carol and the Flintstone’s Christmas Carol.

I’ll close out with the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol because to many, this is the version they are most familiar with. Alastair Sim IS Scrooge and his performance is classical all on its own. There is a comfort in watching this one around that holiday that brings back good memories and in thinking back on what your favorite version is, that brings a lot of weight.

What version of A Christmas Carol is your favorite?