The film received four Academy Award nominations.
On Christmas Eve, in 19th century London, Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly money-lender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Fred's invitation for Christmas dinner and reluctantly gives his loyal employee Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off. As Scrooge leaves for home, he visits some of his clients including Tom Jenkins and declines two gentlemen's offer to collect money for charity. In his house, Scrooge encounters the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned in the afterlife like he was, carrying heavy chains forged for his own greedy ways. Before leaving, Marley informs him that three spirits will visit him.
At one o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the Victorian upper-class Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life. They visit his lonely school days, and then his time as an employee under Mr. Fezziwig. Attending a Christmas party held by Fezziwig, Scrooge falling in love with his daughter, Isabel. However, the spirit shows Scrooge how Isabel left him when he chose money over her. He dismisses the spirit as he returns to the present.
Scrooge is visited by the gigantic, merry Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly giant, who shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the spirit visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner, Scrooge taking pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim. Before the spirit leaves, Scrooge is warned that life is too short and comments that Tiny Tim might not survive until next Christmas.
Returning to his bedroom, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a silent, cloaked figure who takes him into the future. Scrooge and the spirit witness Tom and the other citizens rejoicing at the death of Scrooge. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's house, where he discovers that Tiny Tim had died. The spirit escorts Scrooge to a cemetery, where the spirit points out his own grave. Realizing this, Scrooge promises to change his ways before the spirit forces him to fall into the fires of Hell from his empty grave. Scrooge reunites with Marley, who has him adorned with the same chains made of his past sins by several demons.
Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, with love and joy in his heart, a gleeful Scrooge decides to bring happiness to the citizens of London. He goes on a shopping spree, buying food and presents. He runs into Fred and his wife and gives them some overdue presents as well. They invite Scrooge to Christmas lunch, which he gladly accepts. Dressed as Father Christmas, Scrooge then delivers a giant turkey, presents and toys to the Cratchits, and after making his identity known, gives Bob a raise and promises that they will work to find the best doctors to make Tiny Tim better. Scrooge then frees all his clients from their debts, much to their delight. Scrooge returns home to get ready for lunch with his family and thanks Marley for helping him at a second chance at life.
- "Overture" (removed from current Blu-ray release)
- "A Christmas Carol" – Chorus
- "Christmas Children" – David Collings & Cratchit Children
- "I Hate People" – Albert Finney
- "Father Christmas" – Urchins
- "See the Phantoms" – Alec Guinness
- "December the 25th" – Laurence Naismith, Kay Walsh & Ensemble
- "Happiness" – Suzanne Neve
- "A Christmas Carol" (Reprise) – Chorus
- "You....You" – Albert Finney
- "I Like Life" – Kenneth More & Albert Finney
- "The Beautiful Day" – Richard Beaumont
- "Happiness" (Reprise)
- "Thank You Very Much" – Anton Rodgers & Ensemble
- "I'll Begin Again" – Albert Finney
- "I Like Life" (Reprise) – Albert Finney
- "Finale: Father Christmas" (Reprise) / "Thank You Very Much" (Reprise) – All
- "Exit Music" (Bonus Track, not included on LP)
A soundtrack album containing all the songs from the film was issued on Columbia Records in 1970. Due to legal complications, however, the soundtrack has never been re-released in the CD format. The current Paramount Blu-ray release of the film has removed the Overture (intact on all VHS and DVD releases).
The film features an opening title sequence of numerous hand-painted backgrounds and overlays by British illustrator Ronald Searle. Art of the Title described it, saying, "As is often the case with Searle’s illustrations, the forms jump and squiggle into shape, the strokes loose and sprightly. In each scene, swaths of colour and life pour out, white snowflakes dotting the brush strokes." The illustrations later appeared in a book, Scrooge, by Elaine Donaldson and published in 1970 by Cinema Center Films.
The film was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award in the UK, one Golden Laurel award, four Oscars, and five Golden Globes in the USA, in which Albert Finney won for The Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical/Comedy in 1971. Finney was only 34 years old at the time he was chosen to play both the old miser and the young man Scrooge of flashback scenes, but his performance was widely praised by the critics and the public. Several critics, however, found fault with Leslie Bricusse's score.Academy Award nominations
Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Terence Marsh and Robert Cartwright; Set Decoration: Pamela Cornell)
Best Costume Design (Margaret Furse)
Best Original Song
Best Original Song Score
In 1992, a stage musical adapted from the film, featuring the Bricusse/Fraser songs and starring Anthony Newley, was mounted in the UK under the title Scrooge: The Musical.
The show was revived in 2003 on a tour of the country by British song and dance man Tommy Steele, and he again reprised the role at the London Palladium in 2004 -making him the performer to have done the most shows at the Palladium. In 2007, Shane Ritchie played the part at the Manchester Palace. The musical was revived at London Palladium in October 2012 with Steele reprising the role. It ran till 5 January 2013.