Many, many actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge. Not even counting all the various stage productions featuring the likes of Patrick Stewart, the movies and TV alone have brought us dozens, including George C. Scott, Bill Murray, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Palance, Jim Backus and Scrooge McDuck. It says a lot, then, that Alastair Sim is widely considered the best Scrooge of them all. And the film that he starred in, Brian Desmond Hurst's Scrooge -- released in 1951 in the U.S. as A Christmas Carol -- is likewise the definitive film adaptation.

Sim is known for this role above all; his only other two roles of note came in Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950) and Peter Medak's The Ruling Class (1972). For one thing, Sim looks like Scrooge as Dickens might have imagined him; he has a kind of sour, pointy mouth and sunken, dagger-like eyes. His body is stovepipe lanky, and his wiry, white hair flies off in frightening angles. For another, he seems to understand Scrooge at some core level. Rather than a being of pure evil, this Scrooge comes from a place of sadness, loss, anger and regret. In one great scene, Scrooge has left the office on Christmas Eve and stops at a tavern for his meal. He orders more bread, but when he finds out that it will cost extra, he decides against it. His expression after the waiter leaves is nearly broken, crushed, as if that bread might have brought him his final bid at happiness.