Like wrapping gifts, caroling and decorating the tree, cozying up to watch A Christmas Carol is many people’s favorite holiday traditions. The only question is, which is the best Christmas Carol movie?
Of course, most every TV show has done its own themed episode — from Sanford & Son and Family Ties to The Jetsons and Doctor Who. There was even a musical movie starring Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley and Jane Krakowski as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
The story clearly still captivates audiences, just as it did after it was first published in 1843. Charles Dickens was actually in a bit of a slump when he wrote it and under pressure from his publishing house to turn things around or face a cut in pay.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the author, who was expecting his fifth child with his wife, so he diligently got to work. As the Charles Dickens Museum notes, “Drawing upon his experience of the desperate poverty he saw in London and Manchester, and determined to open people’s hearts to the extremity of need all around him, he picked up his quill and created one of the most famous books in English literary history.”
Carol is just one of five Christmas stories that Dickens wrote throughout his career, and obviously his most well-known. To celebrate it, the museum hosts Christmas Eve in Dickens’ historic London home. “For an extra special treat, we’ll be playing adaptations of A Christmas Carol, including the family favorite The Muppet Christmas Carol, throughout the day,” the museum’s site says, and (spoiler alert!) Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and friends make our list of favorites, below, as well!
So read on to discover the best Christmas Carol movie to celebrate the season, even if you can’t make it to London for the mince pie and mulled wine that the Charles Dickens Museum serves on Dec. 24!
Best A Christmas Carol movies, ranked
12. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)
Robert Zemeckis directed this boldly animated 3D version, with the equally as animated Jim Carrey leading its all-star voice-over cast as Scrooge, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. “He’s so talented. That guy’s range is crazy,” says Robin Wright, who plays both Scrooge’s younger sister, Fan, and Belle, Scrooge’s wife, while Gary Oldman brings Bob Cratchit, Marley and Tiny Tim to life. Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes and Lesley Manville voice others in what Slate calls “a punchy 88-minute retelling” of the classic.
Watch Disney’s A Christmas Carol on Disney + now!
11. A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)
Yabba-dabba-Scroooooge! Everyone’s favorite modern stone-age family takes a crack at the holiday favorite with Fred stepping into Ebenezer’s role. Fans of this classic comedy might say this version is the best Christmas carol movie. This was Hanna-Barbera’s final full-length project that featured the original voice actors of Fred (Henry Corden) and Wilma (Jean Vander Pyl), as well as Bamm-Bamm (Don Messick). John Rhys-Davies, known for playing Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is also onboard, giving voice to the cleverly named narrator, Charles Brickens.
Watch A Flintstones Christmas Carol on Amazon Prime now!
10. A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000)
In this TV movie adaptation, Vanessa Williams stars as Ebony Scrooge, a coldhearted superstar who gets a visit from her dead former singing partner Marli Jacob (TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas), and the classic tale’s three ghosts, one of whom is played by comedian Kathy Griffin. Williams heats up this version with some songs for its soundtrack, including a fun cover of “Sleigh Ride” and a number with Chilli called “Heartquake.” “When you can be a brat, it’s a lot of fun to play,” Williams said of the role, adding that people “also love to see redemption at the end, which definitely happens.”
Watch A Diva’s Christmas Carol on Fubo now!
9. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
“Magoo is nearsighted [but] my analysis of that is that I think Magoo sees better than anybody else,” Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island’s Mr. Howell), the actor who provided the voice of the beloved animated character, once said. And in this musical version of the classic Dickens tale, Magoo sees clearly into Scrooge’s past, present and future. “Oh, humbug, Magoo, you’ve done it again,” the New York Times said of the project, praising it for being “a pioneer among animated Christmas traditions.”
Watch Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol on Peacock now!
8. Scrooged (1988)
In this modernized big-screen retelling, Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a Scrooge-ish TV exec who needs to be shown the error of his ways after firing an employee (Bobcat Goldthwait) on Christmas Eve. Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, Robert Mitchum, and Carol Kane also star in this version that The Hollywood Reporter called “a wild and woolly holiday feast,” adding that “its energy, nuttiness and charm are in no small measure due to Murray’s hip and sassy performance.”
Watch Scrooged on Pluto TV now!
7. A Christmas Carol (1999)
Patrick Stewart earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for best actor for this dark retelling of the Dickens work, which co-starred Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit and Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Variety raved that this interpretation was “handsome, wholesome and finely tuned.… True to the novel, but peppered with sharp special effects that don’t encumber the narrative, this one gets it right.” Of its star, who’s toured extensively in the role in stage productions, it notes, “Stewart as Scrooge is such a perfect piece of casting that it will be hard to imagine anyone else as the sour ol’ tightwad in years to come.”
Watch A Christmas Carol (1999) on Sling TV now!
6. A Christmas Carol (1984)
“He had such the kind of reputation of being a giant, so I was quite kind of scared when I first met him, but he put me at ease and we had a lovely time,” said David Warner (Bob Cratchit) of “the great” George C. Scott, who fills Scrooge’s miserly shoes in this TV adaptation. Salon went so far as to call this “the best Christmas Carol ever,” praising Scott for his “lovely underplaying of Scrooge’s villainy, which has lured many an actor into the slough of hamminess.” Not surprisingly, the legendary actor was nominated for an Emmy for his performance.
Watch A Christmas Carol (1984) on Hulu now!
5. Scrooge (1970)
Albert Finney won a Golden Globe for his star turn as the Dickens heavy in this musical adaptation, which earned two of its four Oscar nominations for its score. “I was extremely attracted by the thought of playing the character,” Finney said at the time. “When I read the script, I liked it very much and the juices started to work inside. I hadn’t read a script that had had that affect on me for some time.”
In his 1970 review, famed critic Gene Siskel noted that “Finney takes full control of the film as soon as the Christmas Yet to Come appears. His walk, his eyes…This is as exciting a performance as you will see all year.”
Watch Scrooge (1970) on Paramount Plus now!
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
“It’s Charles Dickens’ classic tale as only the Muppets could tell it,” as the trailer promises, and what’s not to love about Jim Henson’s irresistible creations in anything they do? Michael Caine adds a human (inhuman?) touch as Scrooge, and Kermit and Miss Piggy star as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit in this laugh-out-loud comedic and musical take on the story that’s fun for the whole family.
It’s also got a winning soundtrack from Paul Williams, which will fill any child of the ’70s or ’80s heart with nostalgic warmth and possibly earn the title of best Christmas carol movie. Empire calls it “vastly enjoyable,” adding that “Michael Caine is perfect in the role and there are many genuine belly laughs.” Caine agreed. “I saw it not long ago when my grandchildren were watching it, and I came in and watched a bit of it,” he told GQ in 2016. “It made me laugh a lot.… It’s a good, fun film for kids. And of course it can never grow old, unlike me.”
Watch The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) on Disney + now!
3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
“Old Scrooge is played…by Reginald Owen, and Reginald is old Scrooge, just as Dickens conceived him,” promised Lionel Barrymore, who made a promotional short for this MGM version in 1938 instead of reading the classic story on the radio as he traditionally did.
Many agree this original version of the film is the best Christmas Carol movie to date. Gene and Kathleen Lockhart co-star as the Cratchits, and their real-life daughter June Lockhart (Lassie, Lost in Space) made her screen debut as one of their kids in the film, which TV Guide calls “a great and eternally heart-warming film that can stand an appreciative viewing every year through every decade.”
Watch A Christmas Carol (1938) on Amazon Prime now!
2. Mickey’s A Christmas Carol (1983)
As with the Muppets, it’s hard not to melt watching your favorite Disney characters “star” in this classic animated retelling of the story, which The A.V. Club calls “the gold standard” of reinterpretations that use established franchise characters. “[Alan] Young’s Scrooge is crotchety enough to be believable as a miser, but also warm-hearted enough to be the star of a children’s special,” the site says of the actor who voices Uncle Scrooge McDuck in this thoroughly enjoyable Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film.
Watch Mickey’s A Christmas Carol (1983) on Disney + now!
1. A Christmas Carol (1951)
“Other Christmas Carols need not apply,” declared Entertainment Weekly of this “definitive version” starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. “This flick is not only the gold standard against which all other holiday films should be measured, but also one of the greatest films ever made, period.” Sim’s performance is “pitch-perfect,” EW added. “Whether expressing goggle-eyed horror, heartrending sorrow, or gleeful giddiness, Sim is equally adept at wringing tears and peals of laughter from the viewer.” Raves like that just might be enough to warm the miserly curmudgeon’s cold, cold heart!
Watch A Christmas Carol (1951) on Amazon Prime now!
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