Inside the mind of a movie lover: inside “A Christmas Carol”


Courtesy Amazon

Photo Editor Annabella Ferraiuolo dives into the countlessly adapted ‘A Christmas Carol’, critiquing six live action versions.

Annabella Ferraiuolo, Photo Editor

In honor of the holiday season, I decided to take a dive into the world of “A Christmas Carol.The book by Charles Dickens has become the most movie adapted story of all time. In addition to both animated and live action adaptations, the story line has been used in countless television episodes like “Psych” and “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” The story of a Christmas Carol follows Scrooge, an incredibly cheap and unsympathetic old man living in early 1800s London. On Christmas Eve he sees the ghost of his former coworker who tells him he will be visited by three ghosts that night. The ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas yet to come each show Scrooge his life and his impact on society. When he wakes on Christmas day he is a changed man who wants to better the lives of others both financially and emotionally. 

I watched six live action versions of the story (and yes there are more than just six), partly to get into the holiday spirit and partly so you don’t have to. Additionally, I ranked them all for you from best to worst. Now I know this post looks a little hefty but I think someone had to finally rank a good chunk of the “Christmas Carol” adaptations. 

The Muppet Christmas Carol(1992): 9.5/10

Okay, I know what you’re thinking and yes I even thought I was insane for liking this version the most, but hear me out. One thing about holiday movies that we all love is their ability to make us feel happy and in the holiday spirit, and this wildly comical version does just that. I feel sometimes comedy can feel forced, especially in a more serious story like “A Christmas Carol,” however the muppets just make it work. The use of the muppets makes the story an easy way for children to understand the iconic story and gives older viewers a new, more comical view on the classic story. The movie is part musical which is all mostly sung by muppets. The songs used in the movie aided in the comedy factor and helped move the movie along. 

The use of a muppet narrator was relied on to transition the movie which typically would be something I wouldn’t like but I felt in this movie it works. If I was an elementary school child trying to understand the story for the first time it would’ve helped me to comprehend what was going on. The narrator is met with sarcastic responses from his muppet sidekick which appeals to those that are older and already know the story.

 I was also shocked at how good the cinematography was. I felt composition and angles of shots were above my expectations for a Muppet movie. The movie lost half a point as I feel the movie could’ve been a bit longer, I understand an hour and a half is a lot for a child but I feel like I would’ve enjoyed a few extra songs. 

Available to watch on Disney+

A Christmas Carol(1938): 8/10

I felt this version really went above and beyond to get the audience to understand different characters intentions, personalities and beliefs. In the beginning of the movie we see multiple examples of Scrooge’s (Reginald Owen) grumpiness versus Bob Crachit’s (Gene Lockhart) warm hearted spirit and gratefulness. I feel a common trait among all “Christmas Carols” is them rushing through the beginning scenes to get to Scrooge meeting his first ghost. The fact that this movie rides it out longer in the beginning helps to establish who characters are and provide more background thus making the rest of the film feel more significant. 

The film also uses sound effects and music in order to create the delusional effect that Scrooge experiences throughout his ghostly encounters. Overall, the acting is strong, touching and convincing alongside special effects which are actually quite seamless considering the movie’s release year. Costuming and set design is also believable, sleek and fitting. 

The movie lost a point as I felt myself spacing out a couple times (this is probably because I’ve watched so many “Christmas Carols” at this point). The movie lost another point as I found the Muppet version to just be more entertaining and comical and comparatively I don’t think this movie would be as entertaining for others.

Available to watch on HBO Max

“Scrooge” (1970): 8/10

This one’s a classic 1970s movie musical complete with random songs that somehow always make you feel good with lots of intricate scenes. I felt this one appropriately included both new and old world elements. The movie is almost two hours long which I found to be kind of long, however I expected it given the fact that it is such a typical movie musical. In the street scenes there were lots of extras which made the scenes look and feel like the real streets of London. Like the 1938 version the beginning of the movie is drawn out longer giving the audience a better idea of the characteristics and relationships between different characters which is highly effective. 

I ranked it equal to the 1938 version because while it has original songs, the movie appears to have garnered much inspiration from both the 1938 and 1951 versions. They stuck by what worked in those versions. For a musical I would’ve loved to see some more comedy, a couple more songs, and more original quirky aspects. For example, “The Muppet Christmas Carol” uses musical-like songs to get the audience’s attention and within those songs and elsewhere comedy is invoked. Some comedic aspects in this movie felt a little forced and I didn’t love how comedy didn’t freely flow in the dialogue. It seemed like they tried to stick to the typical uptightness of the 1951 version a little.

Available to watch on Youtube at 

“A Christmas Carol” (1951): 6/10

While this version was released thirteen years after the 1938 version, I found it to be extremely similar. The costume design was nearly the same, however, the ‘51’s version was more intricate in the set design. The set design and lighting of this movie was my favorite part. Every set was detailed and lit in an intriguing way. For example, when Scrooge (Alastair Sim) enters his house, light from an unseen window lights the hallway creating shadows and a creepily intense effect. The striking black of the shadows against Scrooge’s face harshly lit by the windowed lighting is so eerie yet satisfying to see, this was easily one of my favorite cinemagraphic moments of the film.

However, the dialogue in this film felt more forced than in the 1938 version. The acting was more uptight, stiff and confined to the script. When reciting lines that is all it appears to be: reciting. Quite honestly it reminded me of myself and my classmates in seventh grade blank facedly reading from the “Christmas Carol” script except we didn’t get fun nineteenth century clothing or payment for our crude performance. The actors seemed to only have relationships with each other because it said so in the script. Personally, this aspect made me not like the movie nearly as much as other versions. As it lacked the emotion that the 1938 adaptation was more full with, I had to subtract four points.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime

“A Christmas Carol” (1984): 5/10

This film really did nothing for me. It was nearly identical to the 1951 adaptation except it was in color. The beginning of the film was rushed as it begins right away with Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Roger Rees); this event was prolonged a bit in other adaptations. The acting was as uptight and forceful as it was in 1951. The set design was nothing special and was also identical to the 1951 set. Knowing that this version was made over thirty years after the 1951 adaptation, I would’ve expected the sets to be more impressive, not identical to those used back then. There were also not many interesting effects with lighting used; it was all very basic lighting. 

I gave it a five because I respect the dedication to the original storyline even if it does cause the story to lack emotion. I think that something that makes “A Christmas Carol” a timeless story is the powerful and original script that is used or at least referenced to some extent in all adaptations. The fact that this story has been carried on with such precision so that you could press play on all adaptations and hear five different actors say the exact same line is so unique. I can understand why when this screenplay was written that they chose to rely heavily on the original lines. If this had been a remake of any other movie I don’t think I would have been as generous with my rating given that I think this only works because it is such a classic.

Available to watch on Youtube at 

“Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost” (1901): 3/10

Given the fact that the movie was made in 1901 and it was three and a half minutes, I was quite impressed. While the film is silent, it made me laugh. The acting was a little over the top and the ghosts were just guys with a sheet over their head. However, these factors made the movie unique and show how you don’t need modern technologies to make a movie. There are also little details that pay tribute to the original story like tiny Tim’s crutch and the ghost in the door knocker. Comparatively, I feel the film still lacks a lot of character development and viewers are required to know some of the story in order for it to make sense. There are some written details given in the film but it is so brief and shows up so quick, this wouldn’t be a good film for someone just learning about this timeless story.

Available to watch on Youtube at 


Overall, the story of “A Christmas Carol” has proved to entertain audiences visually for over a century and continues to do so. In order for the story to continue to entertain, I have found that those that tell the story in unique ways are the ones that can truly entertain all. Take it from the one that just watched seven different versions, “A Christmas Carol” can easily bore. So, whether you are looking for a fun retelling of the classic story or a traditional retelling of the story, I hope you were able to use my ranking to guide your Christmas Carol viewing this holiday season.