The Muppets have always been synonymous with music. When they starred in their own variety show, The Muppet Show, each episode would feature some of the characters and the weekly celebrity guest in at least one musical number. When the Muppets made the leap to the big screen, they didn’t stop making music, with songs written by musicians like Paul Williams and Joe Raposo. Over a few decades and eight different films, the Muppets sang many wonderful original songs -- these are the 20 best of those, from top to bottom.

20. "Scrooge"

In 1992, Walt Disney Pictures released its first of four Muppet movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol. As the title suggests, this is an adaptation of sorts of Charles Dickens’ famous story about an English skinflint who learns the value of Christmas over one very wild, spooky night. Though this version isn’t exactly the most faithful, its Ebenezer Scrooge, played quite well by Michael Caine, is introduced in a song that’s both Muppety and ominous, “Scrooge." In the song, Scrooge himself doesn’t sing because he doesn’t have to — every Muppet we see explains through song just how bad Scrooge is. The song climaxes in our first glimpse of the grouchy Caine, but it’s the playful lyrics that make it memorable.


19. "It Feels Like Christmas"

As in every version of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge eventually warms to the concept of Christmas, and being a generally nice person. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, his softening starts during “It Feels Like Christmas," a song primarily sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present. The jolly giant extols the virtues of “the season of the spirit” in this song-and-dance number set in the middle of downtown London. While the musical sequence is clearly shot on a soundstage, the composition by Paul Williams (no stranger to the Muppets, as we’ll get to soon) manages to be sentimental without being sappy. Plus, the sequence ends with Michael Caine awkwardly dancing, which is oddly delightful all by itself.


18. "I’m Gonna Always Love You"

One of the more important songs in the Muppet discography, “I’m Gonna Always Love You” is in part why the world of these felt characters expanded to TV animation with Muppet Babies. In a fantasy sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, we see what the Muppets would have looked like as...well, babies, as they sing this '50s-style rock number with appropriately high-pitched voices. Depending on what you think of what baby-shaped versions of famous Muppet characters look like (and if you think they look icky), this song might be a bit too saccharine for your tastes. But the fast pacing, driving guitar and percussion make it more fun than creepy.


17. "Life’s a Happy Song"

When the Muppets returned to the big screen in 2011 after a 12-year absence with The Muppets, “Life’s a Happy Song” was the aural mission statement. In the new film, a friendly human (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter go on a journey to reunite the Muppets and save their old theater. Before we meet any of the old favorites, though, Segel and his Muppet pal sing “Life’s a Happy Song,” as buoyant and charming a number as you’d hope from a new film. Though “Life’s a Happy Song” isn’t the best song in the film, it’s the kind of upbeat number that the Muppets made their name with back in the '70s. Songwriter Bret McKenzie finds a way to make the almost cheesy lyrics sly and clever; plus, brief cameos from Feist and Mickey Rooney (yes, really) help out.


16. "Man or Muppet"

The two heroes of the 2011 Muppet movie have a dual identity crisis, explored in this song. Is Walter a Muppet or would he rather be a man? And would his brother Gary (Segel) rather be a Muppet? For most of the film, it feels like they’d prefer to switch places, but they separately realize they embrace their own identity in the climactic song “Man or Muppet." For Walter’s half, it’s even more fun to see his human counterpart, played by Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory. The echoed chorus of “Am I a Muppet?” and “Am I a man?” feels very much like an offshoot of McKenzie’s work in Flight of the Conchords, introducing some slyness into the musical sequence.


15. "Cabin Fever"

The 1996 film Muppet Treasure Island is, like The Muppet Christmas Carol, an adaptation of a famous British story. But this take on the pirate-themed adventure is a lot weirder and wilder than the Dickens adaptation. As the mix of human and Muppet pirates head their way to a mythical island to search for lots of treasure, their ship gets stuck and they suffer from “Cabin Fever." The resulting song is extremely silly, but in the way that Muppet movies excel at. The lyrics are plenty meta — at one point, a Muppet croons, “I’d like to get my hands on whoever wrote this script” — but the show-stopping number is suitably ridiculous and funny, whether you’re a kid or an adult.


14. "We’re Doing a Sequel"

After the success of the 2011 reboot, it was only natural that Disney would commission a sequel, in the form of 2014's Muppets Most Wanted. The new film picks up literally where the previous one ended, outside of a big theater in Hollywood after the Muppets triumph over an evil oil baron. When they realize the cameras are still filming them, the Muppets figure out it’s because “We’re Doing a Sequel." Though this bouncy number alludes to the film’s original title in the lyrics (The Muppets...Again), the meta humor is funny without being too inside-baseball. And, in the case of one gag, when the Great Gonzo suggests they only got to do a sequel while Disney “waits for Tom Hanks to do Toy Story 4”, the joke’s only funny because of how true it is.


13. "A Professional Pirate"

The premise of “A Professional Pirate” is simple enough — the nefarious Long John Silver explains his personal philosophy to the heroic Jim Hawkins in the hopes of leading him to the dark side. Here’s an example of a song where the reason it works is less because of the lyrics (though there’s enough fourth-wall-breaking and pop culture references for the adults in the crowd), and entirely because of the performer. TIm Curry’s performance as Long John Silver is a gleeful case of scenery-chewing, film-stealing work. “A Professional Pirate," which he correctly dubs “my only number," is a high point of a largely underrated film. Curry, unlike the previous film’s human lead, had extensive experience in stage musicals and it shows in his impressive performance here.


12. "Something So Right"

It takes a while for the Muppets to realize in Muppets Most Wanted that their friend Kermit has been captured and switched out with a criminal mastermind. For Miss Piggy, the crisis is represented in the song “Something So Right," as she wonders how it is that her dream coming true — marrying Kermit — feels so wrong. Piggy, whether performed by original Muppeteer Frank Oz or Eric Jacobson in this film, is the perfect character to belt out a romantic ballad, and Bret McKenzie’s lyrics are right up her alley. The song gets an extra oomph with Piggy’s imagined co-star in the duet, none other than Celine Dion. The diva gets into the anarchic spirit by mocking her bombastic self-image, lending her powerful voice to a song that’s just so silly. And so right.


11. "Happiness Hotel"

Some of the best Muppet songs are group numbers, and “Happiness Hotel” from The Great Muppet Caper is a perfect example. In the 1981 film, Kermit and Fozzie stay in a ramshackle hotel while investigating a mysterious crime; the ensemble number that ensues amongst the hotel’s employees and guests is the raucous “Happiness Hotel." The name aside, this doesn’t seem like the kind of place you’d want to stay at for too long because the place would likely fall apart. But while the hotel itself is too crazy, the song is the perfect kind of crazy that encapsulates the Muppets and their crowd-pleasing style of performing. For the hotel itself, as Scooter says, “you’ll never beat the price."


10. "I’ll Get What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)"

Perhaps the smartest decision made in the production of the two new Muppet movies released by Walt Disney Pictures was bringing Bret McKenzie onboard to write the songs. Part of the New Zealand comic band Flight of the Conchords, McKenzie’s wry humor shines through the best songs in the new films, and “I’ll Get What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” is the top of the crop. In Muppets Most Wanted, our hero Kermit the Frog is forcibly replaced with an evil doppelganger criminal named Constantine. In this number, Constantine croons this to Miss Piggy to get her under his spell. The disco-infused song not only has a great beat, but lots of clever examples of what Constantine will give to Miss Piggy, from a second pillow to an armadillo to a kangaroo, just to please her. It’s both catchy and hilarious.


9. "Right Where I Belong"

In the second half of 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit has an unexpected bout of amnesia to the point where he thinks he’s an advertising executive instead of one of the Muppets. (It’s a bit of a weird film.) Kermit realizes things are amiss just before things go too haywire, after which he starts singing this brief song, explaining that...well, he’s right where he belongs with the Muppets. This song works arguably as well as it does less because of Jim Henson’s traditionally quavery singing voice and more because of the playful music underscoring the lyrics, both when Kermit sings by himself and with the other Muppets.


8. "Steppin’ Out With a Star"

The Muppets have a shamelessly old-fashioned streak running through them, and their musical numbers reflect this almost every time. “Steppin’ Out With a Star,” in which Kermit sings and soft-shoes his way through getting dressed for a fancy night out on the town while investigating a story, is one of the more old-fashioned numbers in the Muppet discography. Part of the purpose of the musical sequence was to show off how the Muppet performers were able to manipulate their felt creations to make them move around like humans. But “Steppin’ Out With a Star” is a Fred Astaire-like song that walks a fine line between being clever and being sweet.


7. "Hey A Movie!"

As was the case with its predecessor, The Great Muppet Caper was shameless about breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience from the start. The film’s opening song, “Hey A Movie!," continues this trend as we see Kermit, Fozzie, and the Great Gonzo sailing in a hot-air balloon before landing in the middle of London. Each chorus of the song ends with one of the characters replying to the cry of “Hey, a movie! Starring everybody…” with, “And me!” The song also includes Kermit directly explaining to the audience the premise of the film, which is that he and Fozzie are journalist brothers trying to solve a mystery. (And it fittingly introduces the film’s villain, played hilariously by Charles Grodin.) The Muppets are at their best in these films when they emphasize how fake everything is, with this song as a prime example.


6. "Movin’ Right Along"

Before Kermit the Frog meets Miss Piggy and the Great Gonzo in The Muppet Movie, he runs across a vaudeville-inspired stand-up comic in a rundown restaurant. That, of course, is Fozzie Bear, the old-school performer who’s desperate for a laugh. After the two endeavor to travel to Hollywood to find fame and fortune, they belt out this road-trip song. “Movin’ Right Along” is a suitably fast-paced and very pun-heavy song, as Kermit and Fozzie encounter a fork in the road (a literal fork in the road), and seem to get so turned around that they’re soon driving in a snowstorm. The lyrics are as playful as the visual gags, though one of the last lyrics — “Is it ready for me?” — referring to Hollywood hints as Kermit’s future stardom.


5. "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along"

In either its theatrical or extended version (the soundtrack’s version is a bit longer), “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along” is a textbook example of a great Paul Williams song that also manages to fit perfectly for the Muppets. Following one of the film’s funniest scenes, anchored by a Steve Martin cameo, Kermit the Frog is down in the dumps and left behind by Miss Piggy during a romantic dinner. Kermit commiserates with the piano-playing dog Rowlf (both played by Jim Henson), as they duet on this number, grappling with how they love women even though they drive men crazy. With a piano-driven composition and lyrics like “She made a monkey out of old King Kong," this song is a perfect case of Muppet slyness.


4. "Together Again"

The 1984 film The Muppets Take Manhattan is the last one to feature the full original cast of Muppeteers, such as Jim Henson and Frank Oz. With that in mind, it makes “Together Again” an even more poignant song. The opening number from the comedy, in which the Muppets have various adventures in the Big Apple before reuniting happily in the finale, is a straightforward, almost deliberately simplistic number that’s part of a college-set stage show. The music to the number is almost more charming than the lyrics, and it starts with Kermit lightly scatting in rhythm to the song before he’s joined by Miss Piggy and Fozzie in singing in full. “Together Again” is a winsome, almost wistfully upbeat number that starts this film off right.


3. "Can You Picture That?"

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem were a major part of the Muppets back during the era of their popular TV show, a fact reflected by the placement of this song in the first half of The Muppet Movie. After a long drive, Kermit and Fozzie discover the band in an abandoned church; once the band learns of our heroes’ plight, they endeavor to help out. As they disguise Fozzie’s old Studebaker, they sing this lyrically baffling rock song. (As much fun as this song is to listen to, the lyrics make literally no sense. What does “Lost my heart in Texas/Northern Lights affect us” even mean?) What makes “Can You Picture That?” so infectious and special is its tune and the ebullient enthusiasm with which the band performs to a largely, comically asleep Kermit and Fozzie. Even they can’t appreciate this wigged-out song.


2. "I’m Going to Go Back There Someday"

Somehow a more pensive and sad song than the number at the top spot, “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” is performed by the Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz) at a truly low moment for all of the good guys in The Muppet Movie. Though Kermit has reunited with Miss Piggy, the two of them, Gonzo and Fozzie are stranded in the desert with seemingly no chance of rescue to arrive in Hollywood in time for a key audition. At this moment, Gonzo sings a lonely number to the stars and clear sky, inspired by the joy he felt while being lifted in the sky by balloon earlier in the film. This song might not have the same potency to kids, but adults will arguably appreciate the inherent sadness of the number, and how the Muppets can sell such emotion without it seeming ridiculous.


1. "Rainbow Connection"

How could the top pick be anything else? “Rainbow Connection” is not the funniest song in the Muppets’ repertoire, but it represents the charm of the Muppets in an aural microcosm. Kermit the Frog plaintively sings this ode to rainbows and the mythology surrounding them, as he strums a banjo and lazes about on a swampy log. Whether you watch this song, which opens The Muppet Movie, or just listen to it, it’s hard to not get choked up at the wistful tune. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s composition, coupled with Jim Henson’s vocal performance, make for one of the greatest movie songs of all time. As inexplicable as it may be that this lost the Best Original Song Oscar in 1979, “Rainbow Connection” is just perfect.

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