A general parametric framework based on the generalized Student t-distribution is developed for pricing S&P500 options. Higher order moments in stock returns as well as time-varying volatility are priced. An important computational advantage of the proposed framework over Monte Carlo-based pricing methods is that options can be priced using one-dimensional quadrature integration. The empirical application is based on S&P500 options traded on select days in April 1995, a total sample of over 100,000 observations. A range of performance criteria are used to evaluate the proposed model, as well as a number of alternative models. The empirical results show that pricing higher order moments and time-varying volatility yields improvements in the pricing of options, as well as correcting the volatility skew associated with the Black–Scholes model. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.