There have been 20 different films based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, if you consider the recent 3-D version, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey. When I say there have been 20 Scrooge Stories on film, though, I’m talking about animated films for Children, silent movie shorts, modern adaptations and films loosely based on A Christmas Carol. If you want faithful, feature length live-action films that played on the big screen, there have been 7 such movies based on A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol in Prose
The original 1843 novella by Charles Dickens was titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Ironically, it’s said that Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in a matter of weeks, because he needed money for the coming birth of his fifth child. A Christmas Carol is famously based on a character who loses the spirit of Christmas (or human goodwill in general) because of an immoral level of greed. When visited by three ghosts who show Ebenezer Scrooge visions of the past, present and future, Scrooge learns a valuable lesson and turns from the picture of the amoral businessman of the 19th century into a man of charity and goodwill.
Since the publication of A Christmas Carol, the story has never been out of print and has been adapted both for 22 stage productions, 2 operas, 4 recordings, at least 10 radio broadcasts, 49 loosely based tv show adaptations and 20 film versions. Many of the Christmas Carol films have been animated versions of the Scrooge tale.
A Christmas Carol Animated Films
Since it’s a Christmas story and it involves ghosts and children, it’s natural that less grim versions of A Christmas Carol have been turned into animated movies for children. For the past several generations, many peoples’ first encounter with A Christmas Carol has been through animated versions.
- A Christmas Carol – 1971 animated short by Richard Williams, later famous for directing Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Starred Alistair Sim, reprising his role from 1951.
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol – 1983 short film starring the most famous Walt Disney characters, with none other than Scrooge McDuck, naturally in the role of Scrooge. Disney’s first version of A Christmas Carol.
- A Christmas Carol – Lesser known straight-to-video animated version by Jetlag Productions, an American-Japanese studio.
- A Christmas Carol – 1997 – Animated film featuring the versatile Tim Curry as Scrooge and also starring Michael York, Whoopi Goldberg and voiceover master, Ed Asner.
- Christmas Carol: The Movie – Ambitious 2001 animated film by Illuminated Films, using voices of famous movie stars like Nicholas Cage, Kate Winslet and Simon Callow.
- A Christmas Carol - This 2006 film uses computer animation and anthropomorphic animals to tell the story of Scrooge.
- Barbie in a Christmas Carol – 2008 film loosely based on A Christmas Carol, from the seemingly endless series of Barbie animated movies.
A Christmas Carol Short Films
Dickens’ Christmas tale was an early favorite of the movie producers and was adapted to film on four occasions before World War I even. Each of these silent films were film shorts for British audiences.
- Scrooge; Or Marley’s Ghost – 1901
- A Christmas Carol – 1908 version which starred Thomas Ricketts as Scrooge.
- A Christmas Carol – A 15-minute short with Marc McDermott and Charles Ogle, respectively playing Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.
- Scrooge (Old Scrooge) – Sir Seymour Hicks starred in this 1913 film, which was released in the United States in 1926 under another name.
A Christmas Carol Movies
Finally, we have our list of feature-length adaptations of A Christmas Carol. If you’re looking at these as the only faithful film versions of the movie, then I would say there have been 10 film versions. If you’re talking about true adaptations and not Muppet versions and modern versions based on A Christas Carol, then take out the 1988 and 1992 selections and say there have been 8 Christmas Carol feature films or feature length movies.
There are likely others just as deserving as the television movie starring Patrick Stewart, though I’ve relegated most to the list of tv versions of A Christmas Carol, because they are either not very true to the original source material or weren’t full features. For instance, I left off 1997’s Ebenezer, starring Jack Palance and Ricky Schroeder in a Western version of Scrooge. I also left off the Hallmark Channel’s version, starring Tori Spelling as “Scroogette”. I think you get the picture.
- The Right To Be Happy – This 1916 silent movie was the first full length film version of A Christmas Carol, starring Rupert Julian in the Scrooge role.
- A Christmas Carol – Another silent movie version from the United Kingdom, this 1923 film stars Russell Thorndike, Jack Denton, Forbes Dawson and Nina Vanna.
- Scrooge – Seymour Hicks reprises his role as Scrooge in this 1935 release.
- A Christmas Carol – 1938 version with Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart.
- Scrooge – This 1951 release, starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, along with Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley. Considered by many to be the best version of A Christmas Carol on film.
- Scrooge – 1970 musical starring Albert Finney and Alec Guiness as Scrooge and Marley’s Ghost, respectively. This is the film many of us grew up watching.
- Scrooged – Modern adaptation from 1988 starring Bill Murray as a tv producer who doesn’t understand the spirit of Christmas.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol – A 1992 film that was targeted for children, using the famous puppets created by Jim Henson.
- A Christmas Carol – 1999 feature length tv film starring Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge. If you want to consider only feature films that played at the cinema, leave this one off the list. It’s a faithful adapation, though.
- Disney’s A Christmas Carol – 2009 “performance capture” film, with Jim Carrey starring as Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. Released on November 4, 2009. (U.S.)