There are certain holiday staples that have a way of becoming an annual tradition — baking sugar cookies, stringing lights on the tree and turning up the volume on Christmas tunes the moment Thanksgiving leftovers are packed up and in the refrigerator are among them.
And so are a few beloved characters, like Frosty the Snowman, Buddy the Elf and, of course, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the story of a cynical, unflinchingly miserable character on a mission to steal Christmas that we all can’t help but love. Between his plotting to nix Christmas once and for all and rather poignant thoughts on holiday commercialism (“Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”) he’s the green grouch with a message, and it’s one that is now playing in theaters again, this time with Benedict Cumberbatch lending his voice to the infamous role.
The Grinch movie —which hit theaters on Nov. 9— is directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier’s spin on the old favorite (for both younger viewers and older viewers alike) with a bit more narration related to his back story, according to Vulture.
“Whoville’s carols take the Grinch back to memories ‘of his earliest years, to that lost, lonely boy, who cried all of those tears,’ and we learn that he was once a little wide-eyed orphan whose eagerness to receive presents and cards and visitors was matched only by his heartbreak and eventual bitterness when he got none,” the publication noted.
Curious about how The Grinch movie stacks up against other renditions of the story? Here’s a breakdown of the various versions, kicking it off with the one that started it all — the book.
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
The original How The Grinch Stole Christmas! book was published by Random House in 1957. It was then that Dr. Seuss introduced readers to the Grinch, the surly character who wants to steal Christmas, only to hurt the town of Whoville, but ultimately discovers that the season might just be about more than presents and festive decorations.
It turns out that Seuss—whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel—didn’t have to look far for inspiration for the character. According to Biography, Seuss said that actually, the Grinch tells the story of his own growing feelings about the holiday. Seuss said he wanted to “see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
In 1966, the Dr. Seuss book was adapted by Warner Bros. cartoon director Chuck Jones and turned into an animated television special for CBS. Boris Karloff played the role of Grinch and the narrator, and Thurl Ravenscroft sang “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” with lyrics written by Seuss. While the book’s drawings were almost entirely black and white, the television version is where Grinch was first given his bold green color, according to Biography.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1992)
In 1992, Random House Home Video released an animated version of the book to VHS. Narrated by Walter Matthau, the video included a bonus animated version of Seuss’ Caldecott-winning If I Ran the Zoo.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Just like the Grinch’s heart was three sizes too small, the live-action version of the classic story was intended to be at least three times bigger than the original. The film stars Jim Carrey, who brought his transformative acting ability to the role of the cynical grump. The cast of the 2000 Grinch includes Gossip Girl’s Taylor Momsen, who plays Cindy Lou Who, and Christine Baranski’s Martha May Whovier, who stars as Grinch’s childhood-crush-turned-present-day love interest.
Directed by Ron Howard, this film is where viewers first get a glimpse of the Grinch’s past which, according to The Guardian, led to his “exile up the mountain.”
“Fortunately, the real redemption in the film is provided by Carrey’s splendidly antisocial performance as the gleeful, unreformed Grinch, going about his troublemaking ways, accompanied by his dog Max,” the publication noted.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018)
Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role of Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, lending his voice to everyone’s favorite holiday hermit. In this heartwarming and visually stunning version, you’ll find a return to the animated rendition of the story, as well as a message of “spreading love and kindness” that points at “our politically turbulent era,” says The Hollywood Reporter. It’s also nothing like the Jim Carrey Grinch and, if you weren’t a fan like film critic Michael Rechtshaffen, then that’s a good thing.
“Much closer in spirit to the beloved book and the evergreen 1966 TV special than the soulless lump of coal that was the 2000 Ron Howard-Jim Carrey collaboration, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is a vibrant, amusing CG animated feature that gives the big mean, green guy a kinder, gentler makeover,” Rechtshaffen writes, noting that this version is “just what the Dr. would have ordered.”
The cast also includes Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Angela Lansbury and Pharrell Williams. Tyler, The Creator also performs a new version of the song “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” With this star-studded cast in place, the latest version of The Grinch movie could make Christmas three times bigger.