There's nothing like putting on a Christmas movie to get yourself in the holiday spirit. But you know what's even better than a yuletide movie? A holiday movie musical! Something about the season makes filmmakers decide their wintertime flicks need merry scores in addition to good cinematography and performances. Us music folk here at Live365 couldn't be more supportive, and for this special Top 10 list, we're going to be counting down our favorite holiday movie musicals.
Since there's several different types of musicals within the Christmas flick world, we're going to be a bit lenient when it comes to our entries on this list. We've also taken things like holiday chart data, quantity of songs, and the amount of holly jolly vibes a film has into account. Without further ado, here are our picks!
10. The Polar Express (2004)
The Polar Express is chock full of wonder, twisty-turny plot points, and quotable Tom Hank lines that oftentimes people forget it's a musical! This early 2000s gem has poignant songs our tiny tot brains will never forget: such as "Hot Chocolate," "When Christmas Comes to Town," the title track, and of course, that swoon-worthy end credits song "Believe" by the one and only Josh Groban.
We could totally see this movie being adapted into a Broadway show in the future. For now, we'll just appreciate it as an underrated holiday movie musical. And another reason on the list of why Alan Silvestri is a genius composer.
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Perhaps Rankin/Bass's most treasured wintertime movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer deserves a rewatch from you and your pals. In terms of its music, it's got a banjo-playing snowman singing "Silver and Gold," the seasonal standard "Holly Jolly Christmas," and Clarice the reindeer's dreamy "There's Always Tomorrow." And of course, the important title track! This movie doesn't play any reindeer games and is a pure holly jolly masterpiece.
8. Scrooge (1970)
It might not be the most popular version of Dickens' immortal tale, but the 1970 picture Scrooge gives A Christmas Carol the full musical treatment. There's several songs, superbly choreographed numbers, heart-wrenching solos, and full-on company-led numbers. With how big it is, this movie feels like a huge Broadway show crammed into your tiny television screen.
From Scrooge's hilarious-yet-appropriate "I Hate People" to the delightful "Father Christmas" and extremely catchy "Thank You Very Much," there are more than enough reasons to stick around for this strange but enjoyable version. If it's been a while since you've enjoyed the story of A Christmas Carol, this may be a good version to refresh your memory.
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
For a special that's only 30 seconds long, this 1960s animated flick manages to have more noteworthy music than the 2000 Jim Carrey version. Okay, yes: the soundtrack is essentially different renditions of the same two songs. However, that doesn't mean they aren't without their merit.
The chipper "Welcome Christmas" is the grand little anthem of Who-Ville, and one of the greatest villain songs of all time, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is also in the mix. The latter tune is easily one of the most replayed Christmas songs during the season, and it has this musical special to thank for its existence.
6. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Despite the fact Meet Me in St. Louis takes place during several seasons in the year, it's always been categorized as a Christmas movie thanks to its third act, which takes place during the holidays. And of course, it's a holiday movie because it features that classic scene of Judy Garland crooning "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with tears in her eyes.
Speaking of that song, it was written specifically for Garland and has since become a holiday standard – although nowadays renditions tend to sound more chipper as opposed to Judy's tearjerking performance. Besides "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," other notable showtunes in Meet Me in St. Louis include "The Trolley Song," "Ghosties and Ghoulies," "Skip To My Lou," and the title track.
5. Frozen (2013)
"But wait!" we hear you cry, "Frozen is technically a film that takes place during the summer! How can you classify it as a holiday movie?" Well, we could be idiots and simply state it's a Christmas movie because there's snow, godammit! But we'll be smart and let some holiday chart data do the talking.
Based on Soundscan and RIAA certifications, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" is actually considered the second best-selling Christmas single of all time just behind Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You". Additionally, "Snowman" is #50 on Billboard's Greatest of All Time Holiday 100 Songs list, and let's face it: "Let It Go" does tend to get more airtime around December. Not to mention the often-overlooked "Reindeers are Better Than People" totally fits in with the themes of Christmas.
It's Frozen's frosty backdrop and beloved talking snowman, Olaf, that associates it with the yuletide season. But we think the musical's heartfelt theme about familial love is also what contributes to its holiday link. After all, the season is at its best when there's a blanket of snow on the ground and you're able to spend some time with the family you love.
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Like Scrooge, this is a musical that also tells the classic story of the very cranky Ebenezer. But unlike that movie, this film has, well...Muppets!
Jim Henson's beloved franchise has always incorporated musical numbers into each of its iterations. While the original songs in The Muppet Christmas Carol aren't as memorable as songs in the other movies on this list, every single one is filled with care and joy. "Scrooge" is probably the hardest-hitting number, with quippy lines and healthy doses of humor to keep the tune from getting too grim. "It Feels Like Christmas" is simply adorable, and Michael Caine gives a warm performance in Scrooge's redemption arc song, "Thankful Heart."
This musical will teach you two lessons. The first is that there's no reason to be a "Mr. Humbug" during the holidays. The second is that you should never eat singing fruit.
3. White Christmas (1954)
You can't have a classic holiday musical without the King of Christmas, Bing Crosby! This musical follows two army buddies/performers as they encounter their old general at his failing country inn. With wits and holiday cheer, they rig up a big wonderful musical revue to help save the place from shutting down. With lovely songs like "Snow," "Sisters," "Blue Skies," and the title track, White Christmas has managed to become a hit both on movie theater screens and on theatre stages.
Besides Crosby, this musical features notable performances from Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Dean Jagger. We should also mention that because of this movie, the song "White Christmas" holds the Guinness World Records for being both the best-selling Christmas single of all time, and the best-selling single generally of all time with an estimated 50 million copies sold.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
HEAR US OUT: we think A Charlie Brown Christmas does technically count as a holiday musical. If we're judging a musical as a movie that contains tunes with lyrics and songs that you can see characters singing, A Charlie Brown Christmas has three in the span of its humble 25-minute runtime. The first is "Christmas Time Is Here" during the opening ice skating sequence (which is non-diegetic but sung by all the kids skating on the ice), the second is the short "loo loo loo" introduction that leads into the third song, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." That last one is sung by the whole cast.
Even without those three songs with vocals, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a movie made famous by its relaxing jazz score. It's a movie practically guided by its music: from the smooth tunes that play when Charlie and the gang are shuffling through the snow, to all of Schroeder's variations of "Jingle Bells" per Lucy's request, and of course, that iconic dance scene bop we think led to a cultural reset in the mid-60s. "Christmas Time Is Here" is even considered one of the most best-selling and popular holiday songs of all time. We're sure plenty of people watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year simply to listen to Vince Guaraldi Trio's masterwork, and for that reason, we figured this tiny tree of a film needed a home on our list.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Last but not least, the holiday movie that's appropriate during both Halloween and Christmas time! Over the years, The Nightmare Before Christmas has built up an impressive reputation. There's the highly-detailed stop motion to consider, as well as the beloved characters like Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie. But if it weren't for the beautiful, fun, merry, and spooky score, this Tim Burton project wouldn't quite be the masterpiece that it is.
There's a mix of Halloween and Christmas-themed tracks within the full score of the movie. Of the Christmas tracks, we have the energized Jack Skellington number "What's This?", the oddly catchy "Kidnap the Sandy Claws," and the creepy-yet-cute "Making Christmas." All of the music production and lyrics are elevated thanks to Danny Elfman's genius. (Fun fact: he's been putting on annual Nightmare Before Christmas concerts during the holiday season due to the popularity of the Disney motion picture).
This merry and macarbe film is anything but conventional, and its because of its uniqueness that we've decided to place it at #1 on our list. We hope this movie makes the spirit of the holidays "buzz in your skull"!
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Article Image: Rosemary Clooney in "White Christmas," Hermy and Rudolph in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas." (Caitlin Ison [Available through Public Domain] and Rankin Bass [Available through Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons, firstname.lastname@example.org via DepositPhotos.)