One of Hollywood’s nicknames is “the dream factory” — and sometimes, the dream that comes down the pipeline is of a white Christmas. Irving Berlin’s ubiquitous holiday ballad is just one of the many Christmas tunes that originated on the big screen. Most of the entries on this list, like “Silver Bells,” were written specifically for the film in which they appeared; others, like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” were little-known before making their cinematic debut. We could have stuck with the classics (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” anyone?), but it’s more fun to look at the full range of Christmas songs that have cropped up in movies over the years, from classic to cult favorite to, well, “Santa’s Super Sleigh.” Read on as Yahoo Entertainment assembles the ultimate Yuletide playlist for film lovers.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, sung by Judy Garland
This Christmas standard began its life as a melancholy ballad, sung by Garland’s character in Meet Me in St. Louis to comfort her little sister as the family prepares to leave their hometown. The uncertain lyric “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” was replaced by the celebratory “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” when Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1957.
“Christmas Is All Around” from Love Actually (2003)
Written by Reg Presley and Richard Curtis, sung by Bill Nighy
“Silver Bells” from The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell
When Paramount asked the songwriters to come up with a holiday tune for this Bob Hope con-artist comedy, they replied, “It’s impossible to write a hit Christmas song.” Inspired by Salvation Army workers ringing bells on New York City street corners, the song was original called “Tinkle Bell.”
“One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” from The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Written by Paul Williams, sung by Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire)
This heartwarming Muppet tune, performed by Kermit in character as Bob Cratchit, celebrates the cozy anticipation of Christmas Eve as only a singing frog can.
“White Christmas” from Holiday Inn (1942)
Written by Irving Berlin, sung by Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds
“When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Written by Stephen Schwartz, sung by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky
The lyrics of this song, written for the animated musical about Moses, describe the faith of the Israelites as they escape from slavery in Egypt. The winner of the Best Animated song Oscar, “When You Believe” took on new life as a Christmas song when it was recorded by X Factor winner Leon Jackson. Jackson’s version became a No. 1 single in the U.K. in December 2007.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” from Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
Written by Frank Loesser, sung by Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett and Red Skelton
The Guys and Dolls songwriter and his wife performed this comic duet at parties for years before Loesser sold it to MGM for Neptune’s Daughter. (The film was one of several “aquamusicals” produced for ex-professional swimmer Williams; the plot involves a swimsuit design company and a water polo team.) Given the contemporary controversy over consent in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (which won the Best Original Song Oscar), it’s worth noting that Neptune’s Daughter flips the script in the final verse, reversing the male and female lines for Garrett and Skelton.
“Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi, sung by the children’s choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California
At first, the decision to score the Peanuts Christmas special with Guaraldi’s jazz piano didn’t go over well with CBS executives. Audiences, however, fell in love with the music, which includes this haunting Christmas ballad that plays while Snoopy and company go ice skating.
“All Alone on Christmas” from Home Alone 2 (1992)
Written by Steve Van Zandt, sung by Darlene Love
Like the film itself, this one is an inferior sequel, specifically to Love’s 1963 classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”). Written for Home Alone 2, the song gets by on Love’s inimitable vocals and the accompaniment of The E Street Band.
“Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone (1990)
Written by John Williams and Leslie Briscusse
Written for a rare poignant moment in the home-invasion comedy, “Somewhere in my Memory” garnered Williams one of his 50 Academy Award nominations, for Best Original Song.
“Snow” from White Christmas (1954)
Written by Irving Berlin, sung by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Trudy Stevens
It never approached the popularity of “White Christmas,” but this delightful two-minute ditty put an upbeat spin on Berlin’s dream of a snowy New England winter. Beriln took the melody from an earlier song called “Free,” which was cut from his Broadway show Call Me Madam. (Vera-Ellen, the actress who plays Judy in the film, had her singing voice dubbed by Trudy Stevens.)
“Believe” from The Polar Express (2004)
Written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, sung by Josh Groban
This Grammy Award-winning song took its cue from the theme of Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture film, about a boy who learns to believe in Santa over the course of a magical train adventure.
“Santa’s Super Sleigh” from About a Boy (2002)
Written by Peter Brewis and Nick Hornby, sung by Nicholas Hoult and Victoria Smurfit
Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy lives off the royalties from his father’s famous, hokey Christmas song. The fictitious novelty song was adapted from Nick Hornby’s book (which contained a few lyrics) and given a melody and chorus by Peter Brewis. Only a couple lines are sung in the film, yet the full song somehow made it out into the world; one widely-shared version is credited to a singer named Carl Purkin (not to be confused with rockabilly icon Carl Perkins).
“What’s This?” from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Written and sung by Danny Elfman
Of all the spooky Christmas songs in this classic stop-motion musical, “What’s This?” stands out for capturing the giddy anticipation of the season – as experienced by Jack Skellington, who is discovering Christmas for the first time.
“Christmas Vacation” from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, sung by Mavis Staples
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Written by Dr. Seuss and Albert Hague, sung by Thurl Ravenscroft
The 1966 animated TV special based on Dr. Seuss’s book contains what may the grumpiest, funniest Christmas song of all time, with each inventive insult (“You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!”) topping the next. Singer Ravenscroft, uncredited in the original broadcast, was best known as the voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger.
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