Favourite Christmas Film Scores from our Film Music Faculty

By Kath Hartley


With the festive season now well underway, we've tasked academic staff and students on our Film Music pathway to take a look back over the years at some classic, Christmas film scores and pick their favourites.

Home Alone

Home Alone captures the spirit of Christmas to such a degree, that 27 years after its release, the MacAllister family caper still reigns supreme as a festive favourite. Yet it’s not just the film’s mischievous charm, stellar ensemble cast and heart-warming themes that make it such a classic.

John Williams’ iconic score perfectly emphasises the film’s Christmas spirit, coupled with a finely selected soundtrack of Christmas songs – The Drfiters’ ‘White Christmas’, Mel Torme’s ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and Johnny Lyon’s ‘Please Come Home For Christmas.’

Here, Lecturer in Film Music Andy Barraclough talks about what makes Home Alone the perfect Christmas film score…

Home Alone (1990) was the first collaboration between Director Christopher Columbus and Composer John Williams. As the film is set at Christmas time, there are naturally many Christmas carols which feature within the score (most of them arranged by John Williams for the film); Star of Bethlehem, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, Silent Night, O Holy Night and more.

John Williams naturally scores the film with a Full Symphony Orchestra, however the percussion section is extended to include Sleigh Bells, Celeste, Glockenspiel, Hand Bells, Tubular Bells, Chimes and other various mallets. The prominent use of these kinds of instruments in the score make it the perfect fit as the popular Christmas soundtrack that it is.

Did You Know?

Christopher Columbus collaborated again with John Williams on the first Harry Potter film, The Philosopher’s Stone. The soundtrack to Home Alone was used as a lot of the ‘Temp Music’ on the early edits of the film, so you can hear all of the Home Alone / Christmas influence in various parts of the film. This is also why Harry Potter finds its way into the festive catalogue of films. 


Jon Favreau’s Elf is fast becoming a modern Christmas classic - combining all the hallmarks of Christmas spirit, nicely rolled up with that inimitable Will Ferrell humour. As the backdrop to the festive favourite, John Debney’s score expertly captures the sweet-natured spirit of Christmas.

Here, 2nd year Film Music student Olivia Crawford talks us through what makes Elf her favourite Christmas film score…

Elf (2003) and its score captures the adorable, youthful joy that children have around Christmas, combined with a theme about the importance of love, family and friends. Sentimental moments within the film are often scored with choirs singing similarly to Christmas carollers, bringing a sense of sweet nostalgia.

The use of Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young” (1956) reiterates the youthful excitement that composer John Debney’s score creates. From the use of Sleigh Bells and hand bells emphasising Christmas spirit, to the use of chimes, xylophone and pizzicato expression in the string section bringing a child-like musical atmosphere, Debney brings the happy joy of Christmas time to the scoring stage.

I can't think of a more perfect song than “Buddy and Santa’s Flight” to fill your heart with the joy of Christmas. Jazz lives on as a musical must-have for Christmas time, and Debney’s score, particularly “A Snowman’s Advice” and “Christmas Medley” brings the fun of Christmas Jazz to life. Overall, Elf’s feel-good, happy theme paired with its’ joyful score really rocketed the film into becoming a timeless classic for years to come. 

Did you know?

Composer John Debney is no stranger to bringing a sense of magic to the viewer, having also scored the cult classic, Hocus Pocus (1993).

 Find out more about our BA (Hons) Music (Film) degree at Leeds College of Music

By Kath Hartley

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