A Christmas Carol
Another Silvestri/Zemeckis adaptation that distills the spirit of Christmas, although this time in distinctly more melancholy and dark ways. After all, Charles Dickens’ landmark story is one infused with a chilling bleakness, a depiction of a cruel man ultimately redeemed by the magic of the season, and Silvestri’s score manages these disparate elements brilliantly. Veering from spirited interpolations of classic Christmas carols to toiling, Gothic undercurrents, it’s a richly upholstered soundtrack that superbly honours Dickens’ enduring legacy.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Occupying that off-kilter hinterland between Halloween score and Christmas score, Danny Elfman’s twisted musical masterpiece juxtaposes comical darkness with a surprising amount of sweetness. The Tim Burton-produced, Henry Selick-directed stop-motion animation rises on the strength of Elfman’s musical compositions, one that champions both the dark side of pumpkin king Jack Skellington whilst also reflecting his redemptive awakening upon discovering the land of Christmas. Plus, it has a brilliantly nasty number titled ‘Kidnap the Sandy Claws’. What’s not to like?
Miracle on 34th Street
It’s an age-old argument: which Miracle movie do you prefer? Opinion tends to split between the 1947 Maureen O’Hara classic and the equally beloved Richard Attenborough offering from 1994. In terms of the score, the latter wins out, as composer Bruce Broughton follows in the footsteps of John Williams by fashioning his own lyrical carol arrangements (‘Bellvue Carol’) alongside a full orchestral ensemble. It’s not earth-shattering but Broughton’s lovely music embodies the essence of Attenborough’s cuddly Kris Kringle.
The late, great James Horner fashioned a long-standing collaboration with director Ron Howard, a partnership that encompassed classics including Willow, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. This festive offering may not rank with their most memorable scores but it’s got enough festive sweetness for a dozen Christmas movies. In-keeping with Jim Carrey’s manic take on the Dr. Seuss character much of the music is zany and intentionally silly, ultimately unveiling those familiar, warm James Horner melodies in the closing stages as the magic of Christmas takes over.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Few can resist Jim Henson’s take on Charles Dickens’ timeless story, one dedicated to the memory of the Muppet creator who died during pre-production. It manages the tricky feat of sustaining the Muppets’ familiar wacky humour whilst also staying faithful to the author’s gloomy Gothic undercurrents, largely down to the brilliantly severe performance of Michael Caine as Scrooge. Similarly walking a tightrope act is the all-singing, all-dancing soundtrack, a collision of ear-worming Muppet hits (‘Scrooge’/’A Thankful Heart’) and a robust orchestral score from Miles Goodman.
Sean Wilson is a writer, journalist and soundtrack enthusiast, and can be found on Twitter here.