13 Movie and TV Show Versions of 'A Christmas Carol'

5:00 AM 12/22/2017

by Katherine Schaffstall

The Charles Dickens classic has inspired multiple movie adaptations and holiday TV episodes featuring similar tales.

'Scrooged,' 'The Odd Couple' and 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'
'Scrooged,' 'The Odd Couple' and 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'
Paramount Pictures/Photofest; ABC/Photofest; Courtesy of Garlands Films

Charles Dickens' tale of holiday-hating miser Ebenezer Scrooge and how he's transformed by visits from three ghosts, A Christmas Carol, has become a Yuletide staple.

The 1843 novella has inspired multiple movie adaptations -- including variations of the traditional story (even one with the Muppets) and modern-day retellings like Scrooged and rom-com version Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and holiday episodes of TV series that draw inspiration from the concept. Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World and Great News are just some of the TV shows that featured versions of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

As the holidays approach, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at some of the most memorable adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

  • 'The Odd Couple' (1970)

    ABC/Photofest

    In the first season, Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Felix (Tony Randall) have differing perspectives as Christmas approaches. The episode “Scrooge Gets an Oscar” finds a grumpy Oscar having a dream in which he visits a miserable childhood Christmas. A ghost then shows him the present, which includes Felix as a Bob Cratchit-like character. Finally, a ghost of Felix shows Oscar a future Christmas with his abandoned grave. By the end of the episode, Oscar gets into the Christmas spirit and joins his friends for a singalong of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

  • 'Family Ties' (1984)

    Courtesy of CBS

    Alex (Michael J. Fox) takes the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the second season episode “A Keaton Christmas Carol.” The money crazed character has a dream that Jennifer (Tina Yothers) appears as the ghost of Christmas past. Alex then learns the true meaning of Christmas when Mallory (Justine Bateman) takes on the role of the ghost of Christmas future. She shows her brother the Keaton family struggling financially as Alex selfishly lives a rich life in New York City. The dream prompts Alex to go out and buy his family presents for the holiday.

  • 'Scrooged' (1988)

    Bill Murray stars in Scrooged as Frank Cross, a selfish and cynical television executive. As he prepares for an over-the-top live production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a former mentor (John Forsythe) who announces that the executive will be visited by three ghosts throughout the night. The ghosts appear as a taxi driver from his childhood, a pixie with the catchphrase “sometimes you have to slap people in the face to get their attention” and a skeleton with a TV for a head. Following his journeys to Christmases past, present and future, Frank gains a more positive and humbled perspective on life.

  • 'Saved by the Bell' (1991)

    Courtesy of NBC

    The two-part third season episode “A Home for Christmas” finds Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) developing feelings for mall employee Laura (Jennifer McComb). When Zack and the rest of the Bayside gang learn that Laura and her father are homeless, they take inspiration from their production of A Christmas Carol to help the family out. After Laura is fired by her boss for allegedly stealing a sports coat, the friends persuade the Scrooge-like boss to hire Laura back. The episode concludes when Zack and his mother decide to let Laura and her father stay with them until they are able to find a home of their own.

  • 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' (1992)

    Buena Vista Pictures/Photofest

    Gonzo the Great takes on the role of Charles Dickens to narrate A Christmas Carol with the help of Rizzo the Rat. Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge, who does everything he can to avoid Christmas festivities. The Muppets take on the roles of classic A Christmas Carol characters in the retelling of the story with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim, Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit and Statler and Waldorf as the Marleys. 

  • 'Roseanne' (1992)

    Courtesy of ABC

    The season five episode “Halloween IV” gives A Christmas Carol a Halloween twist. Disappointed by Becky’s (Lecy Goranson) absence, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) stays home while the rest of her family and friends attend the Town Hall Halloween party. When a ghost shows up at her door in a dream, Roseanne is transported to past Halloweens in which she played malicious pranks on her loved ones. When the ghost of Halloween present appears, Roseanne is taken to the Town Hall celebration to see all of the fun she is missing out on. The ghost of Halloween future, dressed as the Grim Reaper, then shows her two possible upcoming scenarios, including one in which she’s a perky housewife and another in which she's elderly and alone after Dan (John Goodman) inevitably divorces her. When she wakes up from the nightmare, Roseanne rushes to the party and pulls off an elaborate prank to get back in the Halloween spirit.

  • 'Boy Meets World' (1997)

    Courtesy of ABC

    “A Very Topanga Christmas” is the 11th episode of the fifth season of Boy Meets World. As the Matthews family prepares to celebrate their first Christmas with Topanga (Danielle Fishel), she imposes her own family’s traditions on the hosts including that they need a real tree to decorate. A frustrated Cory (Ben Savage) has a dream in which a Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) look-a-like gives him a glimpse of a future Christmas. The ghost first shows Cory what his life will be like if he decides to break up with Topanga. A fat and lonely Cory lives with Eric (Will Friedle), while Topanga is married to Jack (Matthew Lawrence) and they have three children. The Feeny look-a-like points out that the couple has an aluminum tree, proving that Topanga is willing to compromise on traditions just like Cory should be. The episode ends as the real Mr. Feeny reads A Christmas Carol to the Matthews family and their friends.

  • 'A Christmas Carol: The Movie' (2001)

    MGM Home Entertainment/Photofest

    The 2001 film begins with a live-action sequence in Boston in 1857 as townspeople gather to attend a reading by Charles Dickens. As the novelist begins to tell the story of A Christmas Carol, the film becomes animated. A mouse named Gabriel starts off the story as he navigates the streets of London where iconic characters like Scrooge (Simon Callow), Marley (Nicolas Cage) and Bob Cratchit (Rhys Ifans) live.

  • 'An American Carol' (2008)

    Vivendi Entertainment/Photofest

    Kevin Farley stars as left-wing activist and filmmaker Michael Malone, who campaigns to end all celebrations of the Fourth of July due to his embarrassment and dislike of the United States history. Throughout the course of the film, Malone is visited by three spirits. The first guest is George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), who takes Malone to an alternate universe in which slavery was never abolished. The next spirit is of George Washington (Jon Voight), who lectures about God’s gift of freedom and the lengths people have to go to maintain it. The final visit is from the spirit of death (Trace Adkins), who transports Malone to a future in which radical Islamists have taken over Los Angeles. But the end of the visits, Malone denounces his original views about the Fourth of July.

  • 'A Christmas Carol' (2009)

    Walt Disney Pictures/Photofest

    Jim Carrey takes on the roles of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come in the Robert Zemeckis-directed Disney film. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman balances the roles of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim, and Colin Firth plays Fred, Scrooge’s nephew and only living relative. Following visits from three ghosts, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas Day with an overwhelming feeling of love.

  • 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past' (2009)

    New Line Cinema/Photofest

    The romantic comedy directed by Mark Waters and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore is based off of the plot of A Christmas Carol, though it takes place on the night before a wedding instead of on Christmas Eve. While attending his brother’s wedding, womanizer and romantically cynical Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is met by the ghost of his uncle (Michael Douglas) and told that he will be visited by three ghosts throughout the night. The first ghost is from his past and comes in the form of Allison Vandermeersh (Emma Stone), Connor's high-school girlfriend and first love. The two take a look back at his childhood, mostly reminiscing about his relationship with former friend Jenny (Jennifer Garner). Connor’s assistant Melanie (Noureen DeWulf) takes on the role of the ghost of girlfriends present. She shows him how his peers perceive his shallow bachelor lifestyle. When Connor is finally visited by the ghost of girlfriends future (Olga Maliouk), he realizes that he will never have any meaningful relationships if he continues to live with a selfish attitude. The realization helps him come to terms with his true love for Jenny.

     

  • 'The Man Who Invented Christmas' (2017)

    Courtesy of Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street

    The 2017 film follows Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) in 1843 as he struggles to find publishers that will take on his latest project after his three most recent books failed to be successful. While in a professional slump, Dickens creates the storyline of A Christmas Carol and develops iconic characters like Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit. As the classic story comes to life, the celebration of Christmas evolves into the holiday viewers know today.  

  • 'Great News' (2017)

    Bill Inoshita/NBC

    The holiday episode of the NBC sitcom finds Carol (Andrea Martin) in a reverse Christmas Carol situation. In the episode, the optimistic mom/intern learns that her Christmas spirit has gone too far and is driving her co-workers at the news station crazy.