Slanted Spines’ Guide to A Christmas Carol Movies

(Why is it even called A Christmas Carol? Anyway…)

Interested in watching a classic, festive Christmas movie, but you’re not sure which one to go for? If you’re looking to watch a film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this blog post is your ultimate guide for which one to watch! This Christmas, we watched and reviewed fourteen different versions of A Christmas Carol so that we could share our findings with the internet.

Post updates:
11/22/22 to add Spirited (2022)

Judging Criteria

When watching these adaptations of A Christmas Carol, these are the factors we considered:

  • Casting and portrayal of Scrooge and Ghosts of Christmas are crucial
  • Creative spin on the story; what has the film contributed to the original telling?
  • Clever allusions/references to the book are indicative of thoughtful and intentional scriptwriting
  • Bore level: low is not boring, high is very boring
  • How is the story framed? Is it a direct adaptation, a retelling, or a special? How well is this executed?
  • Music? Can be a strength/weakness

I have organized my notes for each movie so that the Strengths are in the top half, Weakness are in the bottom. All are my own opinions!

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

26 m
9/10 stars

-Lots of Disney cameos, great casting
-Brief, to the point, embodies the gist of the story
-Great for children
-Bore level: low
-No music

-Perhaps too brief, leaves out a lot of the novel’s details!

Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (2006)

46 m
8/10 stars

Retelling of A Christmas Carol where Daffy Duck is the Scrooge-esque owner of a store called Lucky Ducks

-Casting was great; lovable cameos
-Daffy as “Scrooge” and the Ghosts of Christmas were well portrayed
-Funny and clever; Daffy really plays up the nastiness of the Scrooge persona in a way that felt natural
-I like that it takes place in a modern setting
-Framed by Bugs Bunny addressing the audience
-Great rewatch quality
-Bore level: low

-Not a lot of “content” and heavy on the slapstick humor, especially in the first ten minutes, in classic Looney Toons fashion

The Smurfs Christmas Carol (2012)

23 m
8/10 stars

Retelling of A Christmas Carol within the Smurf universe

-Grumpy (voiced by George Lopez) was perfect to play the Scrooge character
-Funny and cute
-I like how the animation switched to 2-D for the “Ghost” sequence
-Characters selected for the Smurfs of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are fitting
-Bore level: low
-No music

-Very brief
-Loose interpretation of the novel, only drawing from the main theme

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)

1 h 10 m
8/10 stars

Bedrock is putting on A Christmas Carol as a community play and Fred takes his role as Scrooge too seriously, to the chagrin of Wilma, who is not only a frustrated wife but also the stage manager of the play

-I like how the story is framed to fit well within the Flintsones universe
-Lots of Easter eggs where Flintstones put their touch on the play, i.e. “Cragit” and “Ebonezer Scrooge”
-Pretty thorough adaptation of the book; the play takes a lot of lines verbatim
-Bore level: mid (because it’s a close-ish A Christmas Carol adaptation, but it’s still The Flintstones)
-No music

-I dislike the whole bit with the hot actress who Fred was way too excited to “stage kiss”
-Wilma is the real star of the show, juggling it all like a boss

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

1 h 36 m
8/10 stars

-Probably the most thorough adaptation of the book, scene for scene, line for line
-Excellent/perfect portrayal of Scrooge; just the right amount of miserly in the beginning, properly spooked by the ghosts’ visits, so that his character arc is believable
-Bore level: mid (the animation is quite compelling to watch but there are no gimmicks)
-No music

-More like “A Jim Carrey Carol” because he portrayed all versions of Scrooge and all the ghosts
-Animation is impressive but still somewhat unpolished at times
-Many “slow” or “awkward” parts, especially with Ghost of Christmas Past who was constantly pausing and emoting strange stares (and all I could think about was “This is Jim Carrey”)

Scrooge (1970)

1 h 54 m
8/10 stars

-Albert Finney performs an amazing Scrooge
-Bob Cratchett is very likable and dynamic, whereas in some other adaptations his character is dull
-Ghosts of Christmases are well done
-Some of the music is really fun and catchy (“Thank you very much!”)
-Does a pretty good job depicting the book
-Bore level: mid (funny yet long and from the 70’s)

-Some of the songs are boring
-Kind of on the longer side of A Christmas Carol movies

Spirited (2022)

Spirited (2022)

2h 7m

Conceptualizes the “behind the scenes” of the Ghosts of Christmas to be an annual production where they scare someone new into being a good person every year; takes place in a contemporary setting

-This creative spin on the A Christmas Carol story was really refreshing
-Some of the musical numbers were actually pretty good, while others were dull and underwhelming
-Although I am not a big fan of Ryan Reynolds or Will Ferrell, their performances were good and Reynolds really seemed to throw himself into the musical aspect of it
-I like how they elicited the question of “Can people change?” from A Christmas Carol and made it the theme of the movie
-Does have some callbacks to the original story
-Bore level: low

-It was unclear some of the logistics of their production operation
-Some of the jokes didn’t land well with me
-Definitely predictable
-The “turn” of Reynolds’ character did seem abrupt
-Didn’t really like Tracy Morgan as his Ghost

The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

1 h 29 m
7/10 stars

-Quite accurate adaptation of the book, often quoting or alluding to direct lines
-I like how the movie was framed with Gonzo as “Charles Dickens” the narrator
-Funny, whimsical
-Love the Muppets, lots of fun cameos

-Music is lackluster and the movie often drags through musical numbers
-Quite boring after the halfway mark
-Michael Caine gives an underwhelming, dull performance as Scrooge (disappointing)
-The Ghost of Christmas Past would have given me nightmares as a child

A Christmas Carol (2019)

2 h 53 m
7/10 stars

Originally a miniseries, condensed into movie on Hulu
A version of A Christmas Carol which takes a lot of creative liberties
Content warning: strong implication of pedophilia/sexual assault

-I like how the film fleshes out a lot of details left out of the original novel, such as why Marley is motivated to save Scrooge’s soul and how Scrooge as a businessman created so much suffering
-Scrooge’s characterization as a genius and a self-serving individual is both appropriate and refreshing; great casting of Guy Pearce for Scrooge
-Some of the new dialogue is incredibly “on point”
-Explores Scrooge’s psyche in a really interesting way
-This is the only movie that mentions Scrooge’s childhood fascination with fictional character Ali Baba, which was included in the original novel
-This movie will appeal to fans of A Christmas Carol who are interested in creative renditions of the story; otherwise, bore level is high

-A bit too long, and yet sometimes choppy because it was originally a miniseries; seems like there were scenes cut from it, at the same time that many scenes are too long or too much monologue/dialogue
-Incredibly dark; very much a joyless movie bordering on horror
-Concludes too quickly with underwhelming payoff

A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)

1 h 37 m
7/10 stars

-Although A Christmas Carol is often interpreted as a dark story, this film version has a very joyous tone
-The music and singing are some of the best out of all the versions of this movie; upbeat and lots of group songs
-I like the casting for the Ghosts of Christmas
-Scrooge’s characterization is well done
-Bore level: mid (good to have on as a holiday movie and half-pay attention)

-Not super memorable

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1992)

1 h 9 m
6/10 stars

-Tim Curry voice acting Scrooge is excellent
-Whoopi Goldberg voicing the Ghost of Christmas Present was also a smart decision
-Scrooge’s sass was funny
-Scrooge has a dog, which is an interesting addition to the original story and a “fun” element of the movie, but not sure if it makes any sense for Scrooge’s character to have a dog
-Songs were generally short
-Bore factor: mid/high (animation style is dull yet very representative of early 90’s cartoons)

-Ending is weak
-Skips a couple important scenes
-Songs aren’t necessarily enjoyable
-Fine but not very fun

Scrooged (1988)

1 h 41 m
5/10 stars

This is an A Christmas Carol retelling set in the 80’s starring Bill Murray as the Scrooge-esque Frank Cross, who is a CEO of a television company. Cross’s company is producing a live showing of A Christmas Carol, and the events in Cross’s life this Christmas Eve parallel that of the Dickens classic

-I like that this is a “modern” retelling
-Lots of 80’s nostalgia such as VCR players and shoulder pads
-No music
-The taxi cab driver Ghost of Christmas Past is fun
-The “Bob Cratchett” character role is filled by Cross’s assistant Grace and I like that a Black woman was cast for this role
-Bore level: low

-Bill Murray as Cross is a bit outrageous and over-the-top. I think he was supposed to be funny but none of the lines landed with me
-Cross was also a major jerk and for some reason, his brother and ex-girlfriend Claire are overly forgiving. For how toxic of a human he is, it’s unbelievable that people find him redeemable
-While the nostalgia is charming, the movie is quite honestly just dated in 2020
-I just do not “get” the Ghost of Christmas Present. She is a very strangely written character

All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)

1 h 30 m
4/10 stars

Demon dog Belladonna is teaming up with Carface and Killer to use a giant, magic dog whistle which will hypnotize all dogs to steal one of their owner’s presents and deliver it to Belladonna; Charlie and the gang use a magic collar to create a “Ghosts of Christmas” effect on Carface in order to save Christmas

-Enjoyable if you like All Dogs Go to Heaven
-Endearing flashbacks to Carface’s puppyhood
-Good cameos from Itchy, Sasha, and Charlie as the Ghosts of Christmas
-Charlie references Charles Dickens’ book to inspire their plan

-Music is lame and poorly executed
-The movie’s plot is not really related to A Christmas Carol and only uses the “three ghosts” device to drive a different story
-Missed opportunity of having Charlie step into the Scrooge role, because his character is already morally ambiguous and he could have learned a lesson fitting for his character
-Not very funny or witty
-Just a lower-budgeted movie

Scrooge (1935) (Colorized in 2009)

1 h 18 m
No rating out of respect

-Classic starring Sir Seymour Hicks as Scrooge (again; this man portrayed Scrooge many times)
-Creative problem-solving with how ghosts are portrayed before special effects were possible, including the Ghost of Christmas Future’s pointing hand shadowed across the wall (later referenced in Disney’s 2009 A Christmas Carol)
-Bore level: High (unless you like classic movies)
-Pretty close to the book
-They did what they could

Recommendations for A Christmas Carol

If you want an enjoyable, joyous version of A Christmas Carol, watch:

  • Mickey’s A Christmas Carol (1992) for brief, funny, and mostly accurate
  • Bah Humduck (2006) for funny and modern
  • The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992) for funny, the characters we love, and quite accurate
  • The Smurfs Christmas Carol (2012) for brief, funny, and the characters we love
  • A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994) for the characters we love
  • Spirited (2022) for a fresh spin on the story in a contemporary setting and a more diverse cast

If you want the closest film adaptation to the book, watch:

  • A Christmas Carol (2009) for well done and not-too-long

If you want a dark, horror version of A Christmas Carol, watch:

  • A Christmas Carol (2019)

If you want a version of A Christmas Carol with music, watch:

  • Scrooge (1970)
  • Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1992)
  • The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
  • All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)
  • A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)
  • Spirited (2022)

In my humble opinion, these are the best versions of A Christmas Carol to watch:

  1. Mickey’s A Christmas Carol (1992)
  2. Bah Humduck (2006)
  3. A Christmas Carol (2009)
  4. Scrooge (1970)
  5. A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)

Thanks for reading! I am now officially burnt out on this story. Until next year!

God bless us, every one!

2 thoughts on “Slanted Spines’ Guide to A Christmas Carol Movies

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