By Australian Council on Children and the Media
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Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens in the movie The Man who invented Christmas (c) Bleecker Street
© Bleecker Street
This movie at a glance Move mouse over icons to see their meaning
  • Parental guidance recommended
  • Not recommended for children under 10
  • Parental guidance for children under 13
  • Suitable for children over 13
  • Contains frightening scenes
Genre Biography, comedy, drama
Length 104 minutes
Release Date 30/11/2017


Set in the 19th century, The Man Who Invented Christmas is the story of how Charles Dickens created the famous and enduring story, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens (Dan Stevens) is in considerable debt after the failure of three of his novels, and he’s under a lot of pressure to write a good story before Christmas. Dickens has also just moved into a new, large house in London with his pregnant wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) and four children. He has difficulty sleeping. And he often recalls the horror of his childhood, when his father, John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce), was dragged off to debtor’s prison with his mother and sisters. Charles was left alone and had to work in a boot-blacking factory.

In this period, Dickens also meets a grizzled old man attending a funeral at night. This gives him the idea for the character of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). Other characters from A Christmas Carol start appearing in his room as real people, mixing fantasy and reality. Charles also gets inspiration from a young maid, Tara (Anna Murphy), who tells Irish folk tales about spirits.

It’s a frantic rush for Dickens to finish the manuscript of his new novel, have the illustrations done and the book printed. With help from his friend and self-appointed manager, John Forster (Justin Edwards) he makes it just in time.

Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Christmas; poverty and charity; Victorian England; fantasy; ghost stories
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.

There is some violence in The Man Who Invented Christmas. For example:

  • An explosion on a stage throws Dickens to the floor.
  • A bad-tempered man throws a cat off a chair.
  • Under pressure, Dickens yells at everyone, throws things and sends people away.
  • In the boot-blacking factory, the young Dickens hits out at a boy who’s taunting him. They get into a fight.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Man Who Invented Christmas has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Scrooge is a threatening, mean old man.
  • There are many scary images, as well as ghostly, dark, windy scenes and characters.
  • Charles walks through a graveyard at night – this is quite scary.
  • A ghost called Jacob Marley (who looks a lot like Dickens’s lawyer) bursts into Dickens’s bedroom. The ghost is grey and covered in chains and dragging his safe behind him. He says that he’s wearing the chains he forged in life and then he screams.
  • Scrooge appears in Dickens’s bedroom during the night while he’s sleeping. Dickens goes into his study where a light is flashing, and the ghost of Christmas past appears.
  • On a windy dark night, lights start flashing again, and the ghost of Christmas present appears sitting on a tree. A statue (the ghost of Christmas yet to come) moves and points its hand in a direction Dickens must follow.

From 5-8
In addition to the violent and scary scenes mentioned above, The Man Who Invented Christmas has scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. They include many scenes that feature memories of Dickens’s childhood. For example:

  • The young Dickens is frightened by a picture of a ghost with a dark face.
  • Street urchins and beggars are covered in mud.
  • The young Dickens watches his father being dragged away in a prison van with his mother and sisters. He cries and clings to his father, but he’s left alone, cold and hungry.
  • When the young Dickens is sent to work in the boot-blacking factory, it’s very dirty and frightening. All of the children are dirty and sad. They mock Dickens when he says his father is a gentleman. The owner of the factory pushes and shoves Dickens along the way. There are rats everywhere, and one of the boys picks up a large dead rat and puts it in front of Dickens. Charles has to work 12 hours a day.

From 8-13
In addition to the scary and violent scenes mentioned above, The Man Who Invented Christmas has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Dickens enters Bob Cratchett’s home, where his sick, crippled child, Tiny Tim, has just died.
  • When Dickens tells Tara that Tiny Tim has died, she gets very upset and says he mustn’t die.
  • Scrooge says that men who like Christmas should ‘boil themselves in their Christmas pudding and die with a stake in the heart’.
  • Scrooge is in a pit that starts to close in on him. He says he doesn’t want to die unloved and forgotten.

Over 13
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Man Who Invented Christmas shows some use of substances. For example:

  • People drink alcohol at clubs and parties and at home at Christmas.
  • John Dickens smokes cigars and appears drunk.

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

The Man Who Invented Christmas has some coarse language and name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a fantasy drama about the creation of A Christmas Carol. The movie gives an insight into Charles Dickens and his unfortunate upbringing. It also explains why Dickens was so passionate about the injustices of Victorian society and the poverty that people of the lower classes experienced.

Although the movie features a ghost story, it’s told in quite a light-hearted way, which makes it less scary than it might be. But because of its subject matter, it isn’t recommended for children under 10 years and is more suited to older children and adults.

The main messages from this movie are that ‘no-one is useless if he lightens the burden of another’ and that Christmas is a time to think of those less fortunate and to share with them if you can.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the importance of helping people who are less fortunate than you. It also gives you the opportunity to talk about what it was like for children in Victorian society, who had to work in terrible conditions. It wasn’t until the 20th century that it became illegal to employ children in industrial work.

  • Last Reviewed 2017-12-11