Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens’ iconic holiday ghost story, “A Christmas Carol,” has been depicted numerous times over the years on both stage and screen. Easily one of the holiday’s best anti-heroes, these are our favorite portrayals of the Christmas curmudgeon.
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992)
The Muppets are known for their wonderful adaptations of classic stories, and in each one a high-profile celebrity takes on an iconic leading role -- “Muppet Treasure Island” (1996) had Tim Curry (“Clue,” 1985) as Long John Silver and “The Muppet’s Wizard of Oz” (2005) stared Ashanti (“John Tucker Must Die,” 2006) as Dorothy Gale. In this take on Dickens’ tale, British actor Michael Caine (“The Prestige,” 2006) portrays Scrooge. Caine’s incredible range is instrumental in showing Scrooge’s astonishing transformation from sinister and selfish to kind-hearted and generous. This version of the story also has a musical twist, with music throughout and an uplifting finale performed by Caine and the Muppets.
While most adaptations take a traditional approach to Dickens’ tale, Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day,” 1993) stars as Frank Cross, a cynical television executive, in this modernized version of the classic story. In this depiction, Frank is more than just a bitter business man, his scathing sarcasm and ruthless nature take cruelty to new levels. Even so, the combination of impressive writing and Murray’s unique comedic style turns what is normally a serious tale into a hilarious holiday classic, as Frank learns the hard way that you can’t negotiate with ghosts.
“A Christmas Carol” (1999)
Of all the versions of “A Christmas Carol” that have been made, it’s hard to get much more traditional than this late ‘90s made-for-television film. British actor Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: Picard”), who has shown his abilities on both stage and screen (and was even been knighted for his services to drama), takes on the role of Mr. Scrooge. Stewart’s skills as a serious actor bring a certain gravitas to the role, portraying the bitter miser in a way that would make Dickens proud. The role even earned Stewart a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” (2009)
Having already taken on the role of another famous Christmas grump back in 2000 starring as the Grinch in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Canadian comedian Jim Carrey (“Bruce Almighty,” 2003) took on the role of Scrooge in this computer-animated film from 2009. While Carrey’s performance as the Grinch got mixed reviews — some claimed he was incredible while others found his portrayal too crude for a children’s movie — his work in “A Christmas Carol” got rave reviews. Even renowned critic Roger Ebert called the film “true to the spirit of Dickens” and another reviewer praised Carrey for being comedic while still delivering a thoughtful and occasionally moving performance. This acclaimed film adaptation of the story didn’t take long to become a Christmastime staple for kids.