Scrooged: Revisiting the Bill Murray Christmas Classic

Richard Donner’s Scrooged is an unassailable holiday classic. If you’re channel surfing on Christmas Eve, you’re all but guaranteed to run into this film at some point. While versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol are a dime a dozen at Christmas time, Scrooged is different. A spoof of the classic tale that swaps Victorian-era London for a 1980s Yuppie-filled NYC, Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, the meanest TV exec in the business. When not producing fare like “The Night the Reindeer Died” (with Lee Majors – the Six Million Dollar Man!), he torments his employees, including Alfie Woodard as his Bob Cratchit stand-in, Grace Cooley and Bobcat Goldthwait’s Elliot Loudermilk. But, of course, Cross wasn’t always a miser, with Karen Allen’s Claire Philips reminding him of the gentle guy he used to be.

As per the original tale, on Christmas Eve’s visited by the ghost of his old mentor, John Forsythe’s Lew Hayward, who warns him that three spirits will visit him. They include David Johansen (of the New York Dolls) as The Ghost of Christmas Past, Carol Kane as the violent Ghost of Christmas Present, and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Future. Can Frank’s soul be saved?

While the film, justifiably, gets dinged about for how saccharine it gets in the final act, for the most part, Scrooged is a black comedy classic. The screenplay, by Michael O’Donoghue and Mitch Glazer, is often inspired and full of throwaway gags Murray riffs on. Bill Murray is at his best when he plays the cynical, black-hearted Frank, even if he’s not quite as convincing when he discovers the nice guy hidden within. In between Lethal Weapon movies, the late Richard Donner directs with a style reminiscent of a young Tim Burton. Despite somewhat underwhelming domestic box office (at least compared to Ghostbusters), it’s become a classic. In this episode of Revisited (edited, written and narrated by Adam Walton), we examine the movie’s making and its current status as a holiday staple.

Where do you rank Scrooged in the holiday pantheon? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.