or most of us in the Western world, Christmas music is inescapable for the month of December. It is a fact of life, just as the sun rises in the east. As such, Christmas songs make a boatload of money. Never a town to miss an opportunity for a quick buck, Hollywood has built plenty of Christmas jingles into their Yuletide films. These songs can create some unforgettable moments in films, and can often stand up just as well outside the movie. Here are some of the best Christmas movie songs!

Best Christmas Movie Songs

10. Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation opening

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the funniest Christmas movie ever, featuring Chevy Chase at the peak of his powers and a fully anarchic script from John Hughes. The film opens with a fantastic animated sequence set to an instant earworm from the great Mavis Staples.

If you had only one song to show an alien to help them understand the sound of 1980s pop, “Christmas Vacation” would have to be a contender. Laden with synth work and gated reverb drums, it’s a tune which will instantly take you back forty years. Pair that with a catchy hook and you’ve got yourself a Christmas classic.

Best Christmas Movie Songs


It’s easy for Christmas Vacation’s opening sequence to get overshadowed by the antics which follow. But give Mavis Staples the respect she deserves — throw “Christmas Vacation” onto the turntable this holiday season.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

9. Christmas in Hollis (1987)

This is Christmas music

Actually, maybe this is the perfect encapsulation of the ‘80s. Run-D.M.C.’s Yuletide banger wasn’t technically made for a Christmas film, but we’re willing to make an exception here because it now feels inextricably linked to Die Hard.

“Christmas in Hollis” boasts D.M.C.’s iconic sound and serves as the perfect opening for the Bruce Willis vehicle. The record scratches, the blaring horns, Run’s flow — all quickly establish that this isn’t going to be your grandma’s Christmas movie.

Best Christmas Movie Songs


“Christmas in Hollis” has everything great about Run-D.M.C. John McClane may not be so sure about it, but even he can’t help but smile once he gives the tune a listen.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

8. A Holly Jolly Christmas (1964)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s best song

One might expect “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to be the song chosen from the Christmas special of the same name, but, for us, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” is the best song to come out of the stop motion classic. Few songs evoke the holiday spirit like the lilting melody.

The song was originally written by Johnny Marks two years prior to Rudolph, and was performed by The Quinto Sisters. But it was the inimitable Burl Ives who made the song his own on the Rudolph soundtrack.

Ives’ vocals sound delightfully effortless as he croons over the orchestra and humming choir. In the special, it’s a quick little ditty. But its impact lasts to this day.

Christmas Songs From Movies


One of Christmas’s best snowmen sings one of Christmas’s best songs. Listening to “A Holly Jolly Christmas” is, for lack of a better word, a jolly experience through and through.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

7. Put a Little Love in Your Heart (1988)

Power duo

On paper, a duet between Annie Lennox and Al Green sounds a bit incongruous. But “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” proves all the doubting Scrooges wrong. Lennox and Green’s playful back and forth works like eggnog and whiskey, resulting in a grooving Christmas track.

“Put a Little Love in Your Heart” was originally performed back in 1969 by Jackie DeShannon, and it was a minor hit. But Lennox and Green improved upon the ditty for the ending theme song of Scrooged. The lyrics are apt for the film, and that key change still hits.

Christmas Movie Music


Produced by Lennox’s Eurythmics partner David A. Stewart, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is a danceable update to a strong melody. It works as well outside of Scrooged as it does within it.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

6. Little Drummer Boy (1988)

A fresh take on Little Drummer Boy

No one does it like Grace Jones. When she appears in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, she immediately commands all the attention in the cluttered room, wearing what looks like a futuristic queen’s armor. When she sheds her fur shawl, she proceeds to deliver the best rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” ever.

Many covers of “Little Drummer Boy” can feel like a slog, one note and repetitive. Jones takes these elements of “Drummer Boy” and makes them strengths. She combines her distinct vocals with a driving techno beat to create a song infused with an evocative funk.

Christmas Movie Soundtracks


Grace Jones’s “Little Drummer Boy” is short but undeniable. Even Pee-Wee can’t help but get up and dance.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

5. What’s This (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas is lightning in a bottle. The film captures three creative powerhouses at exactly the right time — Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman. Burton brought with him the Hot Topic stylings, Selick the stop motion animation wizardry, and Elfman the game-changing music.

Elfman’s songs are the exact sounds you would expect to hear from Selick’s aesthetics —spooky yet fun, idiosyncratic yet accessible. The cherry on top is Elfman’s vocal performance, brimming with personality.

“What’s This” is the best song in a soundtrack filled with great songs. Somehow, some way, it walks the line between Halloween and Christmas, equally appropriate for both seemingly opposing holidays.

Movies With Christmas Songs


It’s hard to pick just one song off of the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. But such is the nature of this list, and we have to go with the spellbinding “What’s This.”

Best Christmas Movie Songs

4. White Christmas (1954)

Bing’s hit single

Put simply, “White Christmas” is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever. It’s up there with “Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song.” Bing Crosby’s version is one of the highest-selling (if not the highest-selling) singles of all time. So it should come as no surprise that it’s a pretty good song.

“White Christmas” appeared in not one but two Crosby movies: 1942’s Holiday Inn and 1954’s White Christmas. The 1942 version was a duet between Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds, and wasn’t intended to be a hit. But the song’s nostalgic, wistful lyrics struck a chord with listeners during World War II, and became the most celebrated song from the film.

It’s White Christmas, however, which has the classic, solo Crosby version. By ‘54, it’s clear Crosby and his crew realized what they had and did the song the justice it deserved in film. It should be noted that the version you hear on the radio is likely the third version Crosby did in 1947.

Christmas Soundtrack


It’s hard to argue against “White Christmas.” As Bing said to composer Irving Berlin when he first heard the single, “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.”

Best Christmas Movie Songs

3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944)

Judy Garland at her best

Like with “White Christmas,” there have been many, many iterations of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Frank Sinatra, Sam Smith, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bublé, John Legend, the Glee cast — all the greats have taken a shot at the tune.

But, to our ears, no one’s topped the original version sung by Judy Garland in 1944’s Meet Me in St. Louis. It’s no secret that Garland was MGM’s greatest singer. Her take on the song, with music by Hugh Martin and lyrics by Ralph Blane, is all the proof you need.

There’s something profoundly moving about “Merry Little Christmas.” Again, it’s a tune influenced by the Second World War, with lyrics that hint at brighter days to come. “Until then,” Blane writes, “We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Christmas Song in Movies


It’s said that Garland’s performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at the Hollywood Canteen made stoic soldiers burst into tears. The song undoubtedly has that power.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

2. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (1966)

He’s a mean one

There’s a strong argument to be made that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! would not have been the phenomenon it was without “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The song perfectly encapsulates the classic Christmas character, in both sound and lyrics. Who else could be described as “cuddly as a cactus” with “the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile”?

As these descriptors can attest, Dr. Seuss’s lyrics are a large part of the magic of the song. But it’s Thurl Ravenscroft who is the star of this show. The singer’s booming baritone is deliciously wicked, capturing the essence of Mr. Grinch.

Ravenscroft was uncredited on the song for a long time, leading many to believe Boris Karloff, the narrator of the Christmas special, sang on the track. Luckily, the truth has finally come out and Ravenscroft has gotten the immense credit he deserves.

Christmas Song From Movies


No other Christmas song relishes in being bad as much as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” And very few Christmas songs have a title as perfect.

Best Christmas Movie Songs

1. Christmas Time is Here (1965)

The top spot

Like with many great songs, “Christmas Time is Here” as we know it almost didn’t exist. When jazz pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi was tasked with scoring A Charlie Brown Christmas, he wrote the song as an instrumental. It wasn’t until producer Lee Mendelson heard it that lyrics were brought into the picture.

Mendelson couldn’t find anyone to write words to Guaraldi’s piece, so he jotted some down himself in about ten minutes. Guaraldi organized a children’s choir to sing the piece, and the rest is history.

And by history, we mean one of the prettiest Christmas songs ever recorded. The children’s choir, which in any other case could be grating, is the perfect tone for the arrangement, angelic and ethereal. Guaraldi’s instrumental version, too, is equally strong. Put it over the animation of Charlie Brown, and the tune solidified itself at the top of our list

Best Christmas Movie Soundtracks


“Christmas Time Is Here” is deceptively simple, but it is this simplicity which makes it so beautiful. It’s the type of song that immediately evokes a time and place — namely, Christmas and a snowy wonderland.

Up Next

Best Movie Songs of All Time

Fed up with feeling festive but still want to dig into classic movie songs? In the next post, we made a list with dozens of tracks that have made their movies iconic. What would Almost Famous be without "Tiny Dancer" or Pulp Fiction without "You Never Can Tell"? See if your favorite movie songs made our all-time list.

Up Next: Best Movie Songs Ever →
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