Part of what makes Christmas feel so magical for me is the music. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without popping on a playlist of Christmas classics. So many of those classics come from holiday movies. As we all celebrate the season, I wanted to put together a list of some of the best (in my opinion) Christmas movie soundtracks out there. Then, I’ll dive briefly into what makes these soundtracks stand out.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It would be impossible for me to pick between the soundtracks of the original TV program and the 2000 movie, so I’m going to talk about both.
For the original animated TV program, music is an essential part of the plot. It’s a device used to show the audience what’s happening in a fun way. The Whos are shown to be pure through “Welcome Christmas” who after having so much taken from them, still find a reason to rejoice in Christmas cheer. As we watch the Grinch prepare his faux Santa outfit, we are told in song how sinister the Grinch truly is, as we watch him prep for his Christmas heist. The original “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is a true classic, and a must-listen this time of year.
The 2000 movie starring Jim Carrey has a little more room to extend beyond general background music. Don’t get me wrong; the original soundtrack is fantastic. But I also love that this movie adds songs with their own unique sound. These aren’t songs written to go with the plot of the movie necessarily, but they fit, nonetheless. One of my favorites from that soundtrack is “Christmas of Love.” This song plays while Grinch is creating a gift for his crush Martha May, and it’s the perfect song choice for that scene. Now hearing it gives me such a nostalgic feeling. Taylor Momen singing “Where Are You, Christmas?” is another incredible song added into the movie that I think fits splendidly into the plot. There’s also “Green Christmas” by The Barenaked Ladies. This soundtrack is full of great songs. That’s when you know a soundtrack is good: when you can find yourself listening to it outside the movie.
The Polar Express
A great animated movie has a distinct voice when it comes to its music. I think The Polar Express does an incredible job of developing that voice through the soundtrack. There’s a magical ambiance that’s present in every song, and great energy that matches each scene they’re placed in. For example, “Hot Chocolate” which goes with the scene of the train workers giving out hot chocolate to the children riding The Polar Express, is a very high-energy song. The scene has the workers dancing and moving around quickly and like they’re putting on a scene from a musical. It’s a lot of fun to watch. On the alternate end, you have “Christmas Comes to Town” and “Believe” which are slower songs with magical emotional crescendos. This soundtrack has a bit of everything. I especially learned to love “Believe” because my husband’s family adores this movie, and I heard it so much over the years. I didn’t get the hype for Polar Express at first, but over time, the film has grown on me, and I think it's because it has a great soundtrack that puts you in the Christmas spirit.
This might be a controversial take, but I think Elf is one of Will Ferrell’s best movies. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I think Ferrell as Buddy is hilarious. On top of the great performances from Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, and Peter Dinklage, the soundtrack is a staple in Christmas playlists. The soundtrack has a mix of holiday and nonholiday songs, and I think having that mix works really well.
Some of my favorites from the soundtrack include:
“Pennies from Heaven” by Louis Prima
“Sleigh Ride” by Ella Fitzgerald
“The Nutcracker Suite” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
“You Make Me Feel So Young” – Frank Sinatra
As you can see, my favorites are also split between holiday and non-holiday. Although at this point, I see “Pennies from Heaven” a Christmas song.
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause is another holiday favorite of mine. This is the first movie on this list that doesn’t feature a song sung by the people in the movie (not including the very brief scene with Charlie and the elves singing a few lines from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Given that most of the time, a song becomes iconic because of a performance.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
There are plenty of other iconic soundtracks that are not on this list, but these are just a few that give stand out to me. And, who knows, maybe there's a part two on the way? Stay tuned!
Written by Kristen Petronio