One of the best, most cheer-inducing parts of the Christmas season is the songs and music that help make it special. Any form of Christmas media is bound to have a track or two included, so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of amazing Christmas musicals out there to watch during the holidays. But musicals can come in many forms, from TV specials and films to full-scale Broadway productions. In this article, we’ll take a look at 41 amazing Christmas musicals, spanning in all different forms that are perfect for any annual Yuletide traditions.
1. A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol recounts one of the season’s most famous stories, centered on the elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge. It first appeared as a novella by Charles Dickens in 1843 and was largely responsible for popularizing the phrase “Merry Christmas” in Victorian-era England.
Numerous adaptations of the story have been produced over the nearly two centuries since its publication, including Scrooge in 1970—that we’ll discuss a bit later—and the animated A Christmas Carol in 2009. Both serve as great musical versions of the story and are a timeless part of the holiday season.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas has a massive following, and this Tim Burton-produced musical combines the best of both Halloween and Christmas into a single film. Based on his book of the same name, it’s a movie that has swayed from October through the end of the year, something most of these musicals can’t say for themselves.
It dips into the macabre in a demented yet beautiful way, following the story of Jack and his no-so-successful Christmas takeover. While it might not be the classic that everyone thinks of first for this holiday, it’s undeniable that this is one of the best and most creative Christmas musicals.
Will Ferrell starring in Elf gave us one of the best Christmas comedies of all time and a beloved classic holiday film, but not everyone knows that it was also turned into a musical by Mathew Sklar and Chad Begulein. Released in 2010 and based on the 2003 cult-classic movie, it similarly follows the story of Buddy the Elf, so it’ll be familiar to fans of the movie as well.
Throwing in more musical numbers only makes it better though, and songs like Sparklejollytwinklejingley capture the essence of Buddy and the film it tries to stay true to well.
4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch has become one of the most iconic Christmas antagonists of all time thanks to the original story by Dr. Seuss. The original cartoon version of the story was released in 1966 and is only 30 minutes long, perfect for cable TV.
Despite its relatively short runtime, this version of the story packs in a couple of great songs, from the Whos singing Welcome Christmas to the narrator singing You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, one of the most replayed tracks of the entire season. Alternatively, you can also watch the live-action version of the story starring Jim Carrey as the titular Grinch from 2000 or the updated animated adventure from 2018.
5. The Muppet Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol itself is the most beloved and reimagined story of the holiday season, but Jim Henson elevated it in 1992 by telling the story with The Muppets. His version isn’t just one of the best out there, it’s got some of the most and best musical numbers of any adaptation of the original film.
It’s an easy musical to get behind, especially for kids being introduced to the story for the first time. Catchy songs like Marley And Marley are original to this version and are just as amazing, plus who doesn’t enjoy the colorful cast of the Muppets?
6. White Christmas
White Christmas was released in 1954 and saw the legendary Bing Crosby team up with Danny Kaye to produce one of the most performed and aired specials of the holiday season. The film focuses on two old army buddies and performers who help save their old general’s failing country inn with a big musical number.
While this is a musical that lives on cliches by modern standards, it’s one of the classics that turned those themes into cliches in the first place. The best song is Bing Crosby’s performance of the title track, which is still one of the most played versions of the song even today.
7. Meet Me In St. Louis
Meet Me In St. Louis is the first of a few true classic musicals to make the list that isn’t strictly a Christmas film. The most famous song of the film has to be Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which is one of the most iconic tracks of the season. While it’s been covered by numerous other artists and is on repeat during the holidays, it was originally written for Judy Garland in the movie.
Her other number The Trolley Song is just as beloved though, giving audiences several iconic musical performances in one film. There’s a reason why this is one of the most legendary musicals of all time, but it also happens to fit in perfectly for Christmas.
8. Babes In Toyland
Babes In Toyland is based on an operetta, but Disney produced this film as a musical in 1961. No matter how many versions were produced later, the original is an absolute standout thanks to things like Parade Of Wooden Soldiers and the classic feeling that oozes from it despite being dated in comparison to modern movies.
The story is pretty standard when it comes to Disney, with a happily-ever-after ending, but that isn’t what draws people to it. The musical numbers have great choreography and are well-written as well. Though it’s definitely a product of the 1960s, it’s still a great classic musical for the holiday season.
9. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is perhaps the most famous and beloved stop-motion classic of the Christmas holidays. Released in 1964, it follows the story of the titular reindeer as he ascends to lead Santa’s sleigh on a foggy Christmas Eve. It’s essentially impossible to avoid this musical during the holiday season, with it appearing and being replayed each year several times on TV.
Tracks like its titular theme song, Holly Jolly Christmas, and There’s Always Tomorrow helped make it one of the top Christmas musicals of all time, even helping it earn a stage adaptation in the years following its initial release.
Scrooge hasn’t really ever been the most popular retelling of Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol, but it deserves much more respect than it gets. This 1970 film is still one of the best live-action versions of the story, though it isn’t particularly accurate when it comes down to the details of the original work.
There are plenty of catchy songs like Thank You Very Much, but it provides emotionally deep tracks as well with numbers like Father Christmas and I Hate People. It comes off as a Broadway production on the big screen and is one that should certainly be on your list of amazing Christmas musicals to watch during the holiday season.
11. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is a beloved classic TV special from Rankin and Bass that uniquely depicts Santa Claus during his younger years before he took on his real “Santa” persona. Kris Kringle starts out as an abandoned orphan and eventually turns into a Robin Hood-esque toy maker, dueling and outmaneuvering the evil Burgermeister Mersterburger.
Narrated by the illustrious Fred Astaire, this is one classic Christmas musical that should be a can’t-miss part of any holiday season and actually tells the story of Santa from a unique perspective. It’s not often that Santa isn’t a jolly old man, so this serves as a refreshing take on his story and origins.
12. The Year Without A Santa Claus
The Year Without A Santa Claus is another one of the classic Christmas specials of the 1960s and 1970s eras, but it gets underrated in comparison to some of its more famous cousins. It’s full of catchy tracks about the year that Santa Claus is too sick to go on his magical sleigh ride on Christmas Eve, including iconic and unforgettable numbers by both Snow Miser and Heat Miser that remain dear to kids’ hearts today.
It’s also one of the few Rankin and Bass collaborations that hasn’t gotten a major stage adaptation, which is a bit of a shame. But it’s one Christmas musical that I make sure appears on my TV every single year.
13. Holiday Inn
Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin spent a good chunk of their careers performing in both musicals and Christmas media, working together on occasion. One of their best collaborations came in the 1942 film Holiday Inn. The pair work through a love triangle and their scheduled performances at the titular hotel, singing songs like White Christmas and other holiday favorites. It’s an old black-and-white classic, but it’s still an amazing Christmas musical to throw on during the holiday season.
14. Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas
Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas is a bit obscure when compared to the likes of the other musicals on the list, but this Jim Henson creation deserves more attention than it gets. It follows two poor, country otters who enter a music contest, trying to win money to buy the other presents for Christmas. The level of puppetry in it is on par with his other works, and the songs show off his creativity and musical abilities. If you’re looking for a heartwarming yet slept-on, amazing Christmas musical, then this is the one for you.
15. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
When you think of Christmas musicals, most fit into specific boxes or follow classic plotlines that have been reimagined over the years. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a rare example of a Christmas film, let alone a musical, that stands out for being a unique, original idea.
The plot follows Jernocius Jangle and his granddaughter Madalen Mills as the former tries to recapture the magic that made him one of the most inventive toymakers in history. The songs are varied and unique as well, including the villainous Magic Man G and the emotional duet Make It Work.
16. A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is one of the quintessential holiday musicals out there and one of the most popular to many. The film is a holiday classic, something many people watch every year as part of their Christmas traditions, but the musical is just as good as the movie.
It follows the same plot as the film, making it familiar to those who have only seen the movie, but it adds in show tunes that are unforgettable and add layers to the movie you didn’t even know were missing. If you are a fan of the original, the musical is a must-see during the holiday season.
17. The Polar Express
The Polar Express is an underrated holiday film on its own, but this holiday classic from 2004 still doesn’t get the attention it deserves for its musical numbers. It follows the story of a passenger train and its journey to the North Pole, spreading Christmas cheer along the way.
Most of the songs in the movie are fairly short and they don’t pick up in frequency until after Hot Chocolate. However, tracks like that one and Believe are incredible performances of holiday music and make it an amazing musical.
Spirited is one of the best and newest entries to the list, being released in 2022. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, serving as a reimagined version of A Christmas Carol. With those two involved, you can expect a high level of comedy and creativity in the end product of the movie, which is reason enough to watch the film alone.
However, it stands out just as much, if not more, for its musical numbers like Christmas Morning Feelin’ and Good Afternoon. It’s not a movie that just lays on the comedic holiday spirit, the songs will get stuck in your head and can stand on their own, even if it didn’t have two of the best comedy actors available today involved.
19. The Sound of Music
It’s undeniable that The Sound Of Music is one of the best musicals out there and that it being a Christmas musical is entirely debatable. It usually gets aired on television quite a bit during the holiday season though, and for good reason.
The story follows the Von Trapp family and is led by Julie Andrews, producing some of the most iconic musical songs of all time like My Favorite Things and Climb Every Mountain. It gets lumped in as a Christmas musical more because of the timing of its appearance on TV than anything else, but it does have some loose ties in its runtime as well.
20. Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol
If you’re looking for a cult classic on the list then look no further than Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Starring the character of Mr. Magoo in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, this TV special musical is a lesser-known adaptation of A Christmas Carol that deserves more attention.
Catchy numbers abound, from Ringle Ringle to Plunderer’s March, leaving audiences with the songs stuck in their heads for quite a while after the special has concluded. It’s a goofy, fun version of the timeless classic that might be more kid-friendly than a graphic retelling since it removes the potentially scary ghostly portions.
Annie might not be the first musical to come to mind when you think of Christmas, but this Broadway classic has plenty of holiday spirit to offer. The story is a familiar one, with the orphaned Annie wanting to find her birth parents and her rich benefactor Daddy Warbucks searching the nation for them.
While they are eventually found to have already passed away, Annie accepts Warbucks’ offer to adopt her instead, and she ends up with a happy family. The 1977 musical ends with a Christmas finale full of joy and happiness backed by the song A New Deal For Christmas.
Flahooley was a short-lived musical that was put on in 1951. It follows the big toy corporation B.G. Bigelow, Inc. as they get ready to release a doll for the holiday season. This satirical indictment of capitalism is more whimsical than searing, built on wonderfully underrated songs like Who Says There Ain’t No Santa Claus? While definitely dated, this stage show was an amazing holiday musical that most haven’t heard of.
23. Here’s Love
Here’s Love sees Meredith Wilson tackle another stage show about a massive parade. Using the classic film Miracle On 34th Street as a base, they were able to produce Here’s Love in 1963. It ran for less than a year and was set between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the Santa Claus balloon from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade trying to convince people he’s the real Saint Nick. It includes the beloved classic It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, which was written by Wilson in 1951.
24. I Love My Wife
I Love My Wife is an awesome musical for swingers, and it was set in the 1970s when spouse-swaps were in fashion. It follows two couples who sit down to have a Christmas Eve dinner together, with it ultimately devolving into a foursome. Not a kid-friendly musical by any means, but the comedic way the actions are implied and the reflective moments involved give it emotional depth and creativity.
Mame is full of showstopping music numbers, but We Need A Little Christmas ranks right at the top of that list. Since it was included in the 1974 classic, it has become a staple song of the Christmas season. The musical follows Mame as she refuses to give into the Great Depression, figuring out how to have a happy holiday season despite having no money to make it happen. If you feel like you need a bit of optimistic Christmas cheer, this is the musical for you.
The hit play The Man Who Came To Dinner was turned into the Broadway musical Sherry! in 1967. While short-lived, it still resulted in a Christmas classic. It follows radio-personality Sheridan Whiteside as he recuperates from a broken hip at the home of the Stanley’s, effectively ruining the family’s Christmas. The result is a flood of celebrities coming through the house to give season’s greetings to the star radio voice.
27. Whistle Down The Wind
Whistle Down The Wind is an Andrew Lloyd Webber product that first came to the stage in 1996. It was based on a 1961 film of the same name and mentions Christmas a couple of times in the play. Based on a pair of tales for children, it serves as a parable for learning life lessons.
Rent is another all-time classic production, following a group of artists struggling to stay in their home without paying rent. One of the best illustrative portions of it comes when the group spends Christmas together with little money but is still able to capture the essence of the holiday spirit. In the rock musical version of it by Johnathan Larson, there’s a Christmas Eve celebration of all things that go against the grain in their little neighborhood.
29. The Who’s Tommy
The Who’s Tommy is a rock opera that follows a boy who is struck deaf, blind, and dumb by a terrible accident. But all is not lost, as, despite his conditions, he ends up being a pinball wizard. His family laments his state during the holiday season, as the titular Tommy doesn’t even know that the day is Christmas and ends up left out of the jubilations. The song Christmas was originally written by Pete Townshend of The Who.
30. It’s A Wonderful Life
It’s A Wonderful Life started out as a film that followed the hopeless George Bailey as he contemplated and then attempted suicide. Thanks to divine intervention, he realizes the impact he has on his community and decides not to go through with it. In 1986, this classic movie was turned into a musical and is often performed around the holiday season.
31. She Loves Me
She Loves Me is an incredible romantic musical from 1963 that is set in the months leading up to Christmas. The characters of Georg and Amalia work together at a Hungarian parfumerie and hate each other. The twist of the musical is that they’re unknowing pen-pals who have already fallen in love. The secret is revealed as they two close down the shop on Christmas Eve. It was originally adapted from a 1937 play Parfumerie and spawned a book by Joe Masteroff.
32. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas is a musical with a title that doesn’t sound particularly Christmas-y. It mostly follows Miss Mona as she learns that her brothel, The Chicken Ranch, is going to be shut down by the state of Texas. The musical serves as a farewell by Mona and her employees to a place they love dearly. Hard Candy Christmas is the song that cements it as a holiday musical and a recording of that track by Dolly Parton brought it to larger audiences.
33. Black Nativity
Black Nativity is a musical by Langston Hughes that debuted in 1961. It follows the birth of Jesus Christ and the nativity scene most of us are familiar with but uses an exclusively Black cast. Since it was first produced, it’s become a yearly tradition for many communities. Musically, there are a few original songs in the production, but it mostly consists of familiar and common Christmas carols.
34. Black Friday
Black Friday is typically the day that kicks off the Christmas season, serving as one of the biggest shopping days of the year and getting everyone fired up about great sales and the coming presents. A musical by the same name debuted in 2019 and tells a story of events happening on that day and through Christmas. It’s also a bit unique on this list, as it is both an amazing musical and a horror stage show at the same time.
35. Promises, Promises
Promises, Promises follows the lonely Chuck Baxter as he tries to advance up the corporate ladder. While you can debate that the song Turkey Lurkey Time is a Thanksgiving number, it’s sung at an office Christmas party during the musical. It was adapted from the award-winning film The Apartment with a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
36. Subways Are For Sleeping
Subways Are For Sleeping was released in 1961 as a Broadway show by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green. It follows a news reporter as they write stories about well-dressed homeless people who sleep in the New York Subway Stations. Their leader finds them odd jobs and the play is set during the colder months of the year, with many of them working as street-corner Santa Clauses for charity. The sign Be A Santa celebrates donning the red coat and pants to be the lively Saint Nick during the holiday season.
37. Billy Elliott: The Musical
Sometimes, a good holiday musical has a political edge to it. Billy Elliot: The Musical takes plenty of jabs at Margaret Thatcher, sung by Elton John and Lee Hall. The story follows a little boy from a coal mining community who wants to be a dancer. During the union strike of 1984 and 1985, the kids put on a holiday show at the union hall by singing Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher.
38. Call Me Mister
Call Me Mister is less of a traditional musical and more of a series of sketches. The music and dancing performed throughout help drive the narratives along, with one of those numbers being centered on the Christmas holiday. Yuletide, Park Avenue sets the stage for the production as a holiday musical, and it was eventually made into a film in 1951 with many of its songs removed.
The Posthumous Papers Of The Pickwick Club was the first novel Charles Dickens published and another Dickens work that has been adapted into a holiday musical. It was later adapted into two silent films, the world’s first televised opera, and a musical in 1963. While earlier attempts were made to make it into a theatrical production, this one was the version that stuck for nearly 700 performances. It later opened on Broadway in 1965 and was made into a TV movie in 1969.
40. The Woman In White
The Woman In White has a plotline that mostly features tales of a ghostly woman, backed by music and songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Christmas is a small part of the plot for this one, with it serving as the wedding date in the story, and a Christmas track titled The Holly & The Ivy being sung during the first act.
Henry VIII is the main focus of the 1976 musical Rex, providing plenty of entertaining and dramatic moments for audiences. While fairly short-lived, the production was still a success, though only one act ties it to Christmas. Titled Christmas At Hampton Court, it depicts a royal holiday celebration for the ages.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.