Two years ago, during the first year of Film Misery, I posted my list of Top Ten Christmas Songs in Movies. Since our traffic has quadrupled since then and many of the YouTube videos I originally posted are now defunct, I thought it was time to bring this list back to life with an updated version. Since December of 2009 there have been several new Christmas movies released, often featuring music, but none have proven worthy enough to make the list. Instead many of the originals re-appear with the addition of a few new songs from classic films. Turn up your speakers, grab a glass of peppermint mocha, and enjoy!
Top 10 Christmas Songs from Movies
“Auld Lang Syne” – It’s a Wonderful Life
“Christmas is All Around” – Love Actually
“The Bells of St. Mary’s” - The Bells of St. Mary’s
“Baby, it’s Cold Outside” - Elf
“Deck the Harrs” – A Christmas Story
10) “Believe” – The Polar Express
Performed By: Josh Groban
It might be cheating to put this film on the list because it doesn’t actually play during the runtime of the film, but appears during the closing credits. However, it is one of the only Christmas songs to be written for a specific movie and was nominated for an Oscar for the effort. Josh Groban is a great voice to have nearby during this season as his strong vibrato and mellow voice goes great with a mug of hot chocolate in front of the Christmas tree.
9) “Snow” – White Christmas
Performed By: Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen
For a Christmas musical, there are a surprisingly low number of songs in the movie White Christmas that are actually about Christmas. Apart from the obvious title song, most of the songs are enjoyable, but could be cut and pasted into any season. However, one fabulous song that I feel isn’t paid enough attention in Holiday soundtracks is “Snow.” This song is one of the only times in the film that the four main characters come together to sing in harmony. With music and lyrics by the great Irving Berlin the song “Snow” is reminiscent of the soft fall of the first winter flakes. The harmonies are beautiful and Bing’s deep baritone can put anybody in the Holiday spirit as they ask the essential question – what is Christmas with no snow?
8) “Somewhere in My Memory” – Home Alone
Performed By: Children’s Chorus
One of the classics from my childhood that never ceases to warm my heart is Home Alone. The film features some excellent Holiday music with an original score by John Williams. Some songs are not necessarily Christmas or Holiday-themed, but they become that way by association. One of those songs is “Somewhere in My Memory” that appears in one of the rare serious moments in Home Alone. Our protagonist, Kevin (Macauley Culkin), is realizing the importance of family at Christmas time as he peers into windows to see Holiday gatherings. The non-diegetic song “Somewhere in My Memory” fades into the diegetic “O Holy Night” as sung by a children’s chorus. This is representative of Kevin’s dreamlike moment becoming a real one as he is confronted by the neighbor he fears and the realization that he is alone.
7) “Silver Bells” – The Lemon Drop Kid
Performed By: Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell
The often performed Holiday classic “Silver Bells” originally appeared in the subpar Christmas movie The Lemon Drop Kid. It’s not a particularly great movie and it has a poor execution of its themes, but it is undeniably warm especially in the scene where the soon-to-be classic Christmas tune is introduced. Marilyn Maxwell’s vocals are fantastic and Bob Hope’s comic interjections put a humorous spin on the Christmas Carol tradition. Also, enjoyable is the long tracking shots that are used showing the central couple literally surrounded by “busy sidewalks” and “the hustle and bustle” of the season.
6) “One More Sleep Till Christmas” – The Muppet Christmas Carol
Performed By: Kermit the Frog
As I was reminded by the recent Muppets movie, there is something undeniably enjoyable about Kermit the Frog singing. From his classic rendition of “Rainbow Connection” to “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” his cartoonish voice is only improved when put to song. That is why my favorite song from Jim Henson’s retelling of A Christmas Carol is Kermit’s solo “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas.” Kermit plays the sympathetic Bob Cratchit, a character who spends his day being verbally abused by his curmudgeonly boss, Ebenezer Scrooge. Despite the deplorable conditions of his place of employment and his financial insecurity, nothing can destroy Bob’s Holiday spirit. That spirit is magically exemplified in the upbeat song that he sings as he closes up shop on Christmas Eve.
5) “Noel” – The Bishop’s Wife
Performed By: The Boy’s Choir
One of the often overlooked Christmas classics is The Bishop’s Wife starring the dynamic Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. It is not a very “musical” film with the exception of one scene that could melt even the most frozen of hearts. Cary Grant’s character enters a church where boy’s choir rehearsal is supposed to be occurring. The pastor talks of the difficulty of competing with basketball practice and other activities around Christmastime. Cary Grant convinces the one boy who is present to start singing a rendition of “Noel.” The beautiful first soprano begins a solo and is soon joined by the entire chorus entering slowly and assuming their respective harmonies. It is a remarkable scene that truly captures the communal and youthful spirit of the season.
4) “What’s This?” – The Nightmare Before Christmas
Performed By: Danny Elfman
Henry Selick and Tim Burton’s dark stop motion Christmas film The Nightmare Before Christmas is full of excellent songs that don’t sound a bit like your classical Holiday tunes. With the film’s score and Jack Skellington’s raspy singing vocals done by Danny Elfman, we get a taste of the creepy side of Christmas. One of my favorite moments comes in Jack’s discovery of Christmas Town where it is actually Christmas every day of the year. He elatedly explores all of the traditions in which the citizens partake while he tries to learn the cause of his sudden happiness. The true message here is that even those of you who scoff at the cheesiness of the Holidays and prefer the ghoulishness of Halloween over the magic of Christmas should get into the spirit once in a while.
3) “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Meet Me in St. Louis
Performed By: Judy Garland
Despite not being a Christmas movie at all, Vincente Minelli’s classic film Meet Me in St. Louis provides one of the most memorable Holiday songs of all-time. The song is used as a mood-changing device in the film as Esther (Judy Garland) attempts to cheer up her distraught younger sister “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien). The song she sings has become an anthem for Holiday cheer with poignant lyrics for anybody who is going through struggles during the Holidays – “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow / Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” The way the Minnelli shoots the scene is perfect with Esther and “Tootie” framed in a window as if to represent a snapshot of America. The lighting in the film suggests a quiet optimism that is reassuring and goes perfect with Garland’s beautiful voice.
2) “All I Want for Christmas is You” – Love Actually
Performed By: Olivia Olson
I will admit I have a guilty pleasure when it comes to Holiday movies. Many people would categorize Love Actually as a “chick flick,” but I adore the ensemble comedy and am not ashamed to say it proud. Of all the various love stories occurring simultaneously in the movie, none is more precious than the innocent crush that young Sam has on his American classmate Joanna. Sam works around the clock to learn the drums just to impress the girl of his dreams and we get to see his work pay off in the school’s Christmas concert, for which young Joanna has a solo. I’d like to see the Grinch whose heart doesn’t leap for joy when Joanna turns and points to Sam as she sings “all I want for Christmas is YOU”. That emotional peak is crushed a split second later as she turns and points to everywhere in the audience saying “and you, and you, and you…” It’s a hilarious moment that is well-directed by Richard Curtis.
1) “White Christmas” – Holiday Inn
Performed By: Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds
The song “White Christmas” has been performed numerous times in films and on television and even inspired an entire Holiday movie. However, I will take the original performance of the song any day. That performance was in the film Holiday Inn and performed by the master of Holiday tunes, Bing Crosby, and his co-star Marjorie Reynolds. The scene is a simple one. Jim Hardy (Crosby) is distraught by his inability to keep love and a steady job and he decides to reveal a special song he’d been working on to Linda Mason (Reynolds). What follows was destined to become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all-time. What more can be said about the classic scene? Enjoy!
Those are my top 10. What are your favorite Christmas movies of all-time?