A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved Christmas stories ever written. The short novel by Charles Dickens concerns the extraordinary Christmas Eve experience of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who comes to mend his stingy ways after visitations from four spirits give him a deeper appreciation of life and its blessings. It's a classic tale of redemption, and its enduring popularity has allowed it to be adapted in a variety of ways, particularly for the screen. Below are some examples of various movies that rework Dickens' classic.

A Christmas Carol (1984) - This made-for-TV version of Charles Dickens' "ghost story of Christmas" is my favorite of the many straightforward adaptations. With a running time of 100 minutes, it's of a manageable length, and it seems to by much more quickly than that, thanks to the towering performance of George C. Scott as Scrooge. He brilliantly conveys extremes of irascibility and humility, caressing each word of Dickens' expertly crafted dialogue. Also outstanding is David Warne in an understated performance as Scrooge's faithful clerk, Bob Cratchit.

The Muppet Christmas Carol - Michael Caine steps into Ebenezer Scrooge's shoes in this lively adaptation featuring oodles of Jim Henson's colorful cloth creations. While Muppets step into most of the other major roles, Ebenezer's long lost lady love and his exuberant nephew Fred are among those portrayed by humans. Caine fills his performance with regret and vulnerability, portraying a gentler Scrooge than Scott's, while Kermit is his usual decent, hard-working self as Bob Cratchit. Other notable roles include Miss Piggy as the explosive Mrs. Cratchit; Statler and Waldorf as Scrooge's former partners, the Marley Brothers; Fozzie as Scrooge's old employer, Fezziwig; and Gonzo as Charles Dickens, who serves as the narrator. With zany humor, memorable songs and plenty of heart, this is an off-beat adaptation, but it's the one that I have to watch again every year.

Mickey's Christmas Carol - This is the Christmas special that introduced the world to the crusty old Scot who would later be known as Scrooge McDuck, the fabulously wealthy caretaker of his three great-nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. In this short movie, he is Ebenezer, while his nephew Donald is cheerful Fred. Mickey Mouse makes a great Bob Cratchit, and stock Disney villain Pete makes a terrifying Ghost of Christmas Future. For many kids, this half-hour special is their first introduction to the story. While it's greatly simplified, it's certainly the most classic of the versions produced primarily with youngsters in mind.

A Diva's Christmas Carol - Vanessa Williams portrays the self-centered songstress Ebony Scrooge in this contemporary adaptation. There's plenty of music and even more obnoxious behavior as she lives up to the distinction of the title with a performance prefiguring her role as the devious Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty. A bit like the Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged, which also criticizes the entertainment industry while borrowing from Dickens' plot. Murray's movie is more popular, though it's a little dark for my tastes.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - Though the title is an immediate clue as to the inspiration behind the movie, this Matthew McConnaughey comedy only bears the most cursory resemblance to the original. The basic formula remains, but this time, our Scrooge is a young man who spends his life womanizing, only to come to the spirit-aided realization that his childhood sweetheart was the one he loved all along. Though Jennifer Garner is fairly lovable in this, McConnaughey is not, and the relentless onslaught of crude jokes makes this a highly skippable adaptation.

Springtime With Roo - I hate to end on too much of a downer, though, so I'll mention a couple of charming videos geared toward children and focusing on Easter. I was a third of the way through this movie before I realized that I was watching a Christmas Carol remake. After all, it's the only one on the list whose title contains no nod to the original story. Once I caught on, however, I took delight in the subtle nods to the original story and the ways in which the residents of the Hundred-Acre Wood fulfilled the roles of some of its key characters. Testy Rabbit is the Scrooge character here, having renounced Easter as a disastrous holiday to be ignored, while Roo is like Tiny Tim and the always bouncy Tigger is reminiscent of Fred. It's also Tigger who gets to tip the audience off as to the inspiration for the hour-long tale with a sly reference to Dickens.

An Easter Carol - VeggieTales finally tackled Easter in this 45-minute-long video, one of the few in the Christian series to explicitly mention Christ. Mr. Nezzer, a deep-voiced zucchini who generally is cast as a confused leader, is in the Scrooge position, while Junior Asparagus, as a pastor's son named Edmund, is like Tiny Tim. Meanwhile, a new character, an angel named Hope, does the job of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future all at once. Like the two above it, this is a pretty loose adaptation, but the fancy Victorian settings make it an especially eye-catching spectacle for young viewers. A natural bookend to The Star of Christmas, this is one of the more somber Veggie videos, but there's still plenty of room for silliness thanks to the accident-prone Cavis and Millward and a couple of very catchy ditties.

A Christmas Carol is a story that will no doubt continue to be treasured for years to come, and I suspect that filmmakers will continue to search for new ways of bringing this beloved material to new audiences. The book has been in print continuously ever since its publication, and I would encourage all fans of the story to read that original version, no matter how many adaptations they've seen. Still, it's fun to see how many different ways directors and screenwriters can come up with to tell the same story, even if they strike out miserably. Come Christmastime, I know that several of these will be making their way to my television screen.