Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in my book has to be the best Yuletide story of all time. The simple story of Ebeneezer Scrooge's transformation delivers the perfect feel good Christmas message. It's got all the Christmas merriment you could want without being sickly sweet (apart from Tiny 'God bless us, everyone!' Tim of course), but it's also a creepy ghost story. The darker side of A Christmas Carol is what makes Scrooge's story of redemption such a compelling one irregardless of the Christmas theme.
The sheer wealth of versions of A Christmas Carol that have been committed to film suggest that I can't be alone putting it up there as the best Christmas story. Dickens' work is in the public domain so anyone can have a go at making their own version of the story, and it seems about everyone has. You would be hard pressed to find another story that has been made into a film as many times and that also share so many exact lines of dialogue.
We've put together a list of 7 of the best versions out there, spanning a period over 70 years, all available on demand right now.
This 1938 version was by no means the first version of A Christmas Carol to hit the big screen, there had been a handful of silent versions prior and at least one previous effort with sound. This was the biggest production yet however, produced by the powerhouse of the day: MGM. The story is quite truncated and it only lasts an hour, with a lot of the darker edges trimmed off. It's an interesting watch, but I can only recommend it to the most die hard of Christmas Carol fans truthfully: much better versions were to come. You can catch it on a LoveFilm subscription, while BlinkBox is your cheapest option for renting or buying.
If you're looking for a straight adaptation of Dickens' classic tale, this 1951 version, titled Scrooge is the one to go for. Alastair Sim's is perhaps the best Scrooge to grace the silver screen. He plays the transition from old curmudgeon to life loving softy perfectly. The sheer crazed delight he portrays at the end of the film is unforgettable. The film also doesn't back away from the grizzlier aspects of the tale, Jacob Marley's Ghost is suitably creepy and the darker parts of Scrooge's past are not overlooked, like his mothers and sisters' death. This really is a Christmas Classic and my first go to at this time of year. Currently the only on-demand options for Scrooge is purchase or rent on Itunes.
If you ever wanted to see A Christmas Carol given the Oliver! musical treatment, then check this one out. All singing, all dancing and all a bit over the top, but for some this 1970 British version is a treasured treat for the family. A rather too young in truth Albert Finney depicts Scrooge in this almost two hour romp. Not the best, but a signal that the story of a Christmas Carol had the potentially to be told with a variety of twist. The musical numbers are undeniably catchy it must be added. LoveFilm have the exclusive on this one.
This originally made-for-tv film is perhaps only second in quality to the 1951 version for straight adaptations of Dickens' literary classic. George C Scott is a particularly good Scrooge, just look at that magnificent mutton chop facial hair. My only complaint with this version of the film, is the low budget shows through with the ghosts. They're pretty simple and not suitably creepy or wondrous for me. Everything else about the production is classic Dickensian fair though, from the sets, t the costumes and dialogue. The only on-demand option for this version at the moment is a purchase on Itunes oddly.
Scrooged is the film on our list that takes the most liberties with the Christmas Carol story. Certainly more based off rather than a direct re-telling of A Christmas Carol, which is entirely welcome considering the sheer number of versions. It helps that this is Bill Murray at the height of his comedic powers, in an adaptation that very cleverly updates and works in aspects of Dickens' work. Murray is great, but the unique take on the three Christmas ghosts steal the show. Carol Kane's Ghost of Christmas Present is just delightfully wicked and funny. Rent it at Google Play or Itunes for £3.49. Itunes is your cheapest option for purchase.
I'm sure for a lot of people this is their favourite film version of A Christmas Carol. It's not hard to see why. The puppets and effects are brilliant and charming. Michael Caine is a fantastic scrooge and the songs, acting and jokes all shine. Gonzo as Dickens himself and his partner Rizzo are a particular favourite for me. The three Christmas ghost are great too, but Jacob and Marley are brilliant. It's surprisingly faithful to Dickens' original too. So if your looking for a musical and entertaining version of the story, I'd go for this all day long over the 1970 effort. There are plenty of places to get this one on-demand. Sky On Demand, LoveFilm, NowTV and Wuaki Selection all have it, but for those who don't subscribe, it's currently only 99p on Itunes. For purchase Itunes is also your best option at £4.99.
There has been quite a few animated version of A Christmas Carol over the years, including other efforts from Disney. A lot of them are not at all recommendable to be honest, and the few that are, such as Mickey's Christmas Carol are not available on-demand anywhere. Ron Howard's 2009 effort starring Jim Carrey is the best of those animated versions that are available. It's another pretty straight faithful adaptation of the story, and Jim Carrey does a fine job as Scrooge. The motion capture CGI style allowed Howard to do a lot with the more fantastical elements of the film. This aspect brings both the best and worst of the film. The ghost of Jacob Marley is great and the sweeping shots over London are fantastic... the first time. It goes a bit too far by the end, with a completely unnecessary extended chase scene, clearly included to simply show off the 3-D effects, and it really makes the film drag. Still there's plenty to enjoy in this very imaginative version of the story. The viewing options for this one mirror the Muppet version closely. Available on plenty of subscriptions and cheapest to rent or buy on Itunes.
Less than 10 days now till Christmas so get watching asap. Hope this helps find the right Christmas Carol film for you. Let us know your favourite or any versions you think should have made the list?
By Matthew Taylor