A Christmas Carol (2020)

Movie review by
Tracey Petherick, Common Sense Media
A Christmas Carol (2020) Movie Poster Image
Creative retelling of Dickens' story is intense but festive.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Positive Messages

The importance of having good moral values. Empathy, compassion, and helping those who are less fortunate than you. The value of family, and the importance of loving relationships are also prominent themes. What it means to be positive, optimistic, and open-minded. Understanding that wealth won't bring happiness and that we should all appreciate the simple things in life -- laughter, kindness, good health, and family.

Positive Role Models

Bob Cratchit and his family are morally good, selfless, loving characters. Once reformed, Scrooge is warm, caring, and generous.


People lie in the snow as if they are dead -- but they slowly come to life and begin to dance. A ghostly character is creepy, with blackened eyes, haggard skin, wrapped in heavy chains, groaning, and speaking with a menacing voice. Character is beaten on the street, but the action is performed as a dance with the violence being mostly implied. A character punches another in the face with bare fists. Another ghostly figure is sinister, shrouded in black smoke with a single hand.


A brief scene shows a character dressed in tight clothing being described as "ripe for the picking" -- implying they are a sex worker -- as the words "vice and degradation" appear on screen. Later they are seen dancing provocatively and asking "you want a good time?"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One dinner scene with wine on the table and another in which a toast is mimed with no actual glasses.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Christmas Carol is an enjoyably imaginative but accessible take on Charles Dickens' classic story with some scary characters but plenty of positive message. The movie is made up of choreographed dance performances and animation, with the likes of Carey Mulligan, Daniel Kaluuya, and Martin Freeman all involved. The original themes are strongly presented: the importance of good morals, kindness, and benevolence; the value of family and friendships; and the idea that wealth does not equate with happiness. The four ghosts are creepy and menacing to varying degrees -- Jacob Marley (voiced by Andy Serkis) in particular might bother younger viewers. There are also some scenes of hardship and aggression between characters. In one scene, a group of characters lie on the floor as though dead, but they slowly come back to life as part of a dance routine. There is a suggestion that one of the characters is a sex worker -- she is dressed in tight clothing, dances provocatively, and asks someone if they "want a good time?" But overall the tone is positive, the format is compelling, and the ending is joyously festive. It may also prove a good introduction to the literature of Dickens, as well as offer some insight into life in Victorian times in England.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDaphnieDaphnie December 23, 2020


It's almost beyond description how bad this movie is. It's narration as you watch some sort of creepy ballet. I and my husband took an 11 and 8 yr o... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

A CHRISTMAS CAROL follows the story of a miserly old man, Ebenezer Scrooge (Simon Russell Beale), who is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley (Andy Serkis). Wanting to help Scrooge to see the error of his ways, Marley reveals that he will be visited by three spirits. Throughout the night he encounters the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, each of whom shows him the impact his mean and selfish behavior has had on others. Will this be enough to convince Scrooge that he must change his ways?

Is it any good?

Imaginative, artistic, and compelling, this stylish take on Dickens' classic novella feels powerful and unique. But it's also accessible, beautiful to watch and ultimately very festive. Opening with a Victorian family settling down on Christmas Eve to experience the story of A Christmas Carol inside a children's paper theater, the movie then morphs into a performance of contemporary dance, mime, and art, as illustrated characters come to life and cardboard scenery blends with real sets.

A visual triumph that exudes Victorian nostalgia and theatrical flair, this interpretation of the traditional story is made all the more magical by its quirky, modern format, combining imaginative scenery and professional dancers with a cast of reassuringly familiar voice artists. As you would expect from a story with such profound themes, A Christmas Carol is creepy in places, bleak in others, but the overall takeaway is an elegant, dynamic, and ultimately uplifting festive treat.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what messages A Christmas Carol teaches? What is the movie trying to teach us? Why are those lessons still as relevant today as they were when Dickens first wrote the story in 1843?

  • Talk about the scarier moments in the movie. Which scenes did you find most frightening? Why do some people like being scared? Did you feel scared after the movie had finished? How much scary stuff can kids handle?

  • How does Scrooge learn compassion and empathy? What about integrity and gratitude? Why are those important character strengths? Do you think Scrooge should be forgiven for his miserly ways, given that he saw his errors and made the effort to change?

  • Talk about how this movie compares to other Christmas movies you've seen. Do you recognize similar characters or themes? Which modern Christmas movies might have been inspired by Dickens' story? 

Movie details

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