‘Tis the season to watch multiple adaptations of the iconic 1843 Charles Dickens novella that gave us Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, and the character that defined greed to good, Ebenezer Scrooge. While there are other characters associated with Christmas that never go out of style (Frosty, Rudolph, Ralphie), the longevity of literature’s most famous miser is a testament not just to talent of one of the English language’s greatest writers, but also the many great actors who have taken on the challenge of playing this iconic role. And since Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and your local video store (if you still have one!) offer countless different versions of A Christmas Carol to choose from, we’ve helpfully narrowed it down to the five best.
5. Kelsey Grammer
This one is the Scrooge version of a sympathy fuck, because Kelsey Grammer really wasn’t good as Scrooge, but it sure would be nice to see him get some more work. Hopefully this high ranking will convince NBC executives that Frasier still has the magic touch. Let’s file this one under “early-aughts camp classics.”
4. Bill Murray
Bill Murray’s Frank Cross, a contemporary Scrooge who’s the protagonist of 1988’s Scrooged, is not only one of the greatest portrayals of a timeless character, but also among the most underrated performances of Murray’s career. He plays a greedy executive in the way only he could, and it ends up paying off in a film that is funny, sweet, and at some points (if you’re a little younger) kinda scary.
3. Michael Caine
Also a shoo-in for any list of Quintessential Living Englishmen, Caine is a no-brainer for his portrayal of Scrooge in the excellent Muppet Christmas Carol.
2. Scrooge McDuck
Years before Ducktails, Uncle Scrooge was teaching kids about Dickens in a cartoon version of A Christmas Carol that has become a classic. Mickey’s Christmas Carol hits that sweet spot where it’s good for kids of all ages, and still enjoyable to watch long after its 1983 debut. Complain, if you will, that Scrooge McDuck is a cartoon character and not a real actor, but after nearly a century of old human dudes playing Scrooge, Disney’s version gave this holiday tradition a real kick in the butt.
1. Alastair Sim
Sim spiked the ball with his 1951 portrayal of Scrooge. All Scrooges before and after pale in comparison to him, and no matter which version of A Christmas Carol is your personal favorite, his is the best.