Christmas songs are as essential to the upcoming holiday as eggnog, tinsel, and Douglas firs. So are Christmas movies — or even moves that don’t particularly center around the theme. That’s why the combination of the two is such a treat. Sure, it can often be too sweet and saccharine, but the cinematic treatment of Christmas has always been musical in nature. Here’s a rundown of some of the best musical Christmas moments captured on film; some are obvious, and a couple are a bit surprising.
Judy Garland — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Meet Me in St. Louis is not a Christmas movie, but it gave us one of the most popular Christmas songs of the 20th century. It’s also incredibly depressing, although it famously could have been much more heartbreaking.
Bing Crosby — “White Christmas”
While it’s more commonly associated with the film that shares its title, “White Christmas” was actually introduced in Holiday Inn by Bing Crosby (who would go on to sing it again in White Christmas).
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen — “Snow”
White Christmas is such an odd musical, mostly because, despite its title, it doesn’t have much to do with Christmas and its other very popular song is not a holiday tune. This one, however, is the closest, seasonally, to a Christmas song.
Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel — “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
Everyone’s favorite song that might be about sexual assault (it’s the “Blurred Lines: Holiday Edition”!) got super, super twee when it showed up in the modern holiday classic Elf.
The cast of Camp — “Turkey Lurkey Time”
Promises, Promises is one of the most oddball musicals of the ’60s, with Burt Bacharach and Neil Simon’s musical comedy version of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment playing up the cutesiness and playing down the whole suicidal part. Plus, there’s “Turkey Lurkey Time,” the most batshit-crazy musical number ever, which showed up in a particularly sincere way in the teen comedy Camp (although without the whiplash-inducing choreography of the original).
Dolly Parton — “Hard Candy Christmas”
Sad sex workers singing about Christmas in Southern accents will always bring a tear to my eye. Bless you, Dolly Parton and the rest of the cast of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
The Muppets — “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas”
Nothing could possible be bad about a Muppet sing-along.
The cast of Scrooged — “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”
It’s not really a Christmas song at all, but it completely nails the sentiment of this black-comedy update of A Christmas Carol.
Lucille Ball — “We Need a Little Christmas”
I almost didn’t want to include this song from the film version of Mame because the movie is really bad (and Lucille Ball couldn’t sing, bless her heart). But the song has become popular enough to warrant it. Be kind to your ears here!
Tessa Niles — “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Love it or hate it, Love Actually does include a really great and endearing cover of the last great original Christmas pop song.