The Man Who Invented Christmas

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Heartfelt take on idea for Charles Dickens holiday classic.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Charles believes, as his father does, that no one is useless who helps others. Dickens' novella explores the importance of altruism, charity, and redemption. The book sets up Christmas and the holiday spirit as a time of spreading goodwill and being extra generous. Themes include compassion, empathy, integrity, and gratitude.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charles is talented, caring, and kind. But he's not perfect. He sometimes yells at people, gets frustrated, etc. His best friend, John Forster, is intelligent, protective, and selfless. The maid Tara is curious and bright.

Violence & Scariness

Potentially disturbing flashbacks to difficult times when Charles' father is dragged off and arrested for an unpaid debt and Charles is forced to work in a factory. The ghost of Jacob Marley is shown shackled and in chains. A wealthy man says poor people are better off dead than living off charity; they should hurry up and die to "decrease the surplus population."

Sexy Stuff

Use of "ass." Also "bah humbug." Charles is made fun of for saying his father is a "gentleman" when he works in the factory.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few adult characters smoke pipes or drink alcohol at dinners or clubs. Charles' father seems and acts drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Man Who Invented Christmas is a fictionalized take on how English author Charles Dickens came up with A Christmas Carol. Dickens (Dan Stevens) is desperate for a story idea when a series of strangers, relatives, and friends inspires him to write about miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), a character whose presence begins to invade Dickens' life. There's little iffy content aside from a use of "ass" and a few possibly disturbing flashbacks to when Dickens, as a child, is forced to work in a factory after his father is imprisoned, as well as a scene in which a rich man tells Dickens that poor folks should hurry up and die since they don't serve a purpose in society. Ultimately, the film expresses the same sentiments as the classic story -- about Christmas being a perfect time to show compassion, empathy, charity, and generosity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMomof T. December 10, 2017

Fantastic, not to be missed!

I usually do not write online reviews, but I felt compelled because we almost didn’t go to see this movie based on the negative parent reviews. I took my 10 an... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 14-year-old Written bybobbad December 8, 2017

Great movie, but not a kid's movie

This is a great film! I saw it today and really loved the acting, the characters, the costumes, and the story. I am writing this review to point out that just... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byKovac101 December 22, 2020

Great Movie

This is a great movie that lots of people, especially A Christmas Carol fans will enjoy. Children will probably enjoy this one more if they have read the book o... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byprincess15 November 30, 2020


this was a beautiful movie, creative, well written and funny. It is very thought provoking and deeply moving. Younger kids might think that some of the ghosts a... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS is a fictionalized drama about legendary author Charles Dickens' possible real-life inspirations -- and motivations -- for writing the classic story A Christmas Carol. It's 1843, and 31-year-old Dickens (Dan Stevens) hasn't had a commercial success in several years; he's facing a personal financial crisis after three critically panned books. So he decides to write a Christmas-themed book after encountering various strangers -- including a waiter named Marley, a greedy businessman, and a dry-eyed elderly man (Christopher Plummer) who says "humbug" at his business partner's funeral. When Dickens fails to secure a publisher (one says the book won't be profitable because Christmas is a "minor holiday"), he decides to seek financing to self-publish. On a tight six-week deadline, Dickens begins to see the characters as memorable strangers and loved ones alike, with Scrooge (played by Plummer) popping up in his head and defending his miserly positions until the novella is done.

Is it any good?

This is an entertaining, well-acted biographical drama about what could have inspired A Christmas Carol and how the classic novella changed the spirit of the season. Stevens effectively portrays Dickens, who memorably captured the holiday's ethos of altruism and generosity. Young and ambitious, this version of Dickens needs a critical and commercial hit, and, after drawing on the examples of real-life Scrooges -- as well as his own sweet and disabled nephew -- the English author knows his Christmas tale has real potential. Stevens gives a stand-out performance, as do Justin Edwards as Dickens' loyal best friend and agent, Plummer as the real and imagined Scrooge, and Jonathan Pryce as Dickens' kind but spendthrift father, John.

There's a heartfelt Wizard of Oz-type quality to The Man Who Invented Christmas, as audiences discover which real-life figures in Dickens' life ended up depicted on the page. When Dickens' sister, brother-in-law, and nephew visit, it's clear that the sweet, sickly, disabled boy is Tiny Tim. The boy's father even lifts him up exactly as Bob Cratchit does Tiny Tim in every illustration and film adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It's Plummer, of course, who has the most to say and lobbies to remain unredeemed in the end. It's a good thing Dickens decides to listen to his early readers -- like his young maid, Tara, a natural storyteller who begs him to give Scrooge and Tiny Tim a happy, hopeful ending. Thanks to Scrooge's turn of heart, Dickens saves his career and, if we're to believe the film, Christmas itself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why A Christmas Carol is such a holiday classic. What makes it so enduring? Which film adaptation of the story do you enjoy most? Why?

  • How does the story of A Christmas Carol demonstrate compassion and empathy? What about integrity and gratitude? Why are those important character strengths?

  • According to The Man Who Invented Christmas, which aspects of Dickens' life influenced the plot and themes of A Christmas Carol? How accurate do you think this version is?

  • What does the movie reveal about the writing process? What did you learn about Dickens' life that you didn't already know?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday movies

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate