On December 18, 1843, A Christmas Carol was published by a then 31-year-old Charles Dickens, who wrote it in just six weeks. Drawing from his own life experiences and the world around him, the book was a commentary on how the poor and underserved were treated by so-called high society. It's no coincidence that people today still connect with these themes.
The book has been adapted in all forms, from cartoons to made-for-TV movies and multiple films. Some have been faithful to the source material while others have taken quite a few liberties. But regardless of how this story has been retold, the message remains the same: Kindness is the most important currency.
To get into the holiday spirit(s), here are the best adaptations of A Christmas Carol. We suggest you watch them with three visiting ghosts.
'A Christmas Carol' (1938)
Venerated British actor Reginald Owen stepped into the heartless slippers of Scrooge in an adaptation that opted to also showcase the lives of his clerk Bob Cratchit as well as his nephew Fred. In doing this, we're able to see the overnight evolution of Scrooge through the eyes of those around him. The ghosts are a little lacking but Reginald turns in a noteworthy performance. We walk through his fear with him and shed a few tears along the way.
Rent A Christmas Carol (1938) on Prime Video or stream on Paramount Plus.
'Mickey's Christmas Carol' (1983)
Come to this movie as a fan of Disney and stay for Goofy as Jacob Marley. Who could have predicted that so many existing characters in the Disney catalog could fit so perfectly into A Christmas Carol?
Obviously, Scrooge McDuck is Scrooge with Donald playing his nephew, but has anyone ever been a more perfect Bob Cratchit than Mickey Mouse? If you're wondering if Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, of course he is. God bless this movie, every time.
Rent Mickey's Christmas Carol on Prime Video or stream on Disney Plus.
This is a tough one because Bill Murray is problematic, however there are so many thrilling performances in this adaptation, so we simply can't ignore it.
The greed of the 1980s lends itself perfectly to a then modern-day take where Scrooge is now Frank Cross (Murray), head of a television network that's airing a live version of A Christmas Carol. It's very meta and very funny. Please take note of former New York Dolls singer David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past and the ethereal Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Prime members can stream Scrooged for free on Prime Video.
'The Muppet Christmas Carol' (1992)
In classic Muppet fashion, you're getting a solid mix of muppets and humans as Michael Caine takes on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge to Kermit the Frog's long-suffering Bob Crachit. Co-narrated by Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, this delightful journey is heartwarming, hilarious, and nostalgic. Also, we love to see Miss Piggy and Kermit married with a brood of children. This is the life we always wanted for Miss Piggy!
Rent The Muppet Christmas Carol on Prime Video or stream on Disney Plus.
'A Christmas Carol' (1999)
We end this list as we began it, with an undeniable classic. Sir Patrick Stewart as Scrooge is transformative. You find yourself wondering what took him so long to get to this part. This was a made-for-TV movie so it has that semi low-quality vibe that people of a certain age will definitely appreciate. This is a must-watch for anyone hungry for an all-British cast that includes but is not limited to a young Dominic West, Richard E. Grant, and Jeremy Swift. You'll be saying "bah, humbug" with a cuppa.
Rent A Christmas Carol (1999) on Prime Video or stream on Vudu.