A Christmas Carol (1951) Movie Poster Image

A Christmas Carol (1951)

The classic book brought to life.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1951
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Everything the word "Scrooge" has come to stand for is questionable behavior, but in the end he mends his ways.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic may be too frightening and dramatic for younger viewers. Serious themes are the center of this film: A man is forced to relive his greatest agonies; and there are two heart-wrenching deathbed scenes. And a cycle of guilt and anger is passed from an embittered father to his emotionally-wounded son.

What's the story?

In this classic Charles Dickens adaptation, Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is too busy collecting debts on Christmas Eve to be bothered with making merry. He scoffs at those who would help the less fortunate, refuses his kind nephew's invitation to dinner, and berates his own underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, for wanting the following day off. That night, he's visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and three spirits who show him his past, present, and dreadful future in order to convince him of his wrongdoing. Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man, and makes good his promise to carry the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year round.

Is it any good?


Aided by Noel Langley's (The Wizard of Oz) insightful script and some truly phenomenal performances, director Brian Desmond Hurst gave us a grand Christmas present with this film. It's inarguably the best version of Dickens' immortal tale of greed and redemption ever to be captured on film. Alastair Sim breathes depth and complexity into Scrooge, showing us a man bewildered at times by his own cruel nature; it's like an unshakeable illness he's come to accept over the course of his life. Resigned to his lonely fate, he resists the spirits who might save him, telling them he's beyond help.

Maybe it's that conviction, the utter dourness he exudes, that makes the ghosts especially hard on this Scrooge. Marley shrieks lamentably and bangs his chains for attention. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows him painful scenes that no other version has presented: a heartbroken young Ebenezer at the deathbed of his beloved sister; his and Marley's evolution as shrewd and tyrannical businessmen; a dying Marley telling Scrooge with his last faint breath that they were wrong, to save himself. Sim's transformation at the end is the most dramatic you'll ever see, hilarious and touching and insanely energetic.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how people overcome bad habits. Why do we have them? Did Scrooge have good reasons for being hurt and emotionally stunted? How do you deal with that pain?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 2, 1951
DVD/Streaming release date:November 5, 2002
Cast:Alastair Sim, Glyn Dearman, Mervyn Jones
Director:Brian Desmond Hurst
Studio:VCI Entertainment
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Parent of a 8 year old Written bylynxandwolf January 8, 2011

A great antidote to the cynicism surrounding Christmas.

This is a wonderful movie, a classic. The story of Scrooge's redemption and return to life "among the living" as someone who keeps the messages of kindness, gratitude, and charity towards his fellows is one that has been obscured by countless re-tellings and absorption into pop culture. There are two deathbed scenes, and the climactic scene where Scrooge faces the reality of his own death, and they are sad (for different reasons), but I wouldn't prevent my son from watching them. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is presented as a black-robed faceless figure, Death-like, and this can be frightening for younger children. Also, there is a scene where the Cratchits, including the children, have a round of gin punch, but there is no drunkenness or inappropriate behavior--this is just a matter of historic and textual accuracy.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written bymyab October 14, 2010


I watched this with my kids last Christmas as a school project, and they both loved it. You can't beat the mean demeanor that Alastair Sim creates, nor the incredible, joyous change that he acts through. Wonderful messages about being generous and kind throughout the entire year (not just at Christmas), how having loving family and friends can bolster you, and what Victorian England was like without it being too scary or violent for younger viewers.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written bythebluewhale May 21, 2012

the best a christmas carol.

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models