- Its lyrics describe silver bells intoning holiday cheer into every home, yet its melody suggests a force both relentless and mirthless.
Though based on the melody of the Ukranian New Year's song "Shchedryk", "Carol of the Bells" is among the most iconic Christmas Songs ever written. Its unique sound with its fast tempo and minor key makes it a prime song to use to get the blood pumping... especially if it's a twisted or ass-kicking Christmas. Since the song is is the Public Domain (mostly), it's ripe for use in soundtracks and scores during the action or the suspense to give the listeners a rush of adrenaline while tying into the probable Christmas theme the work has.
As it is a well-recognized piece of Public Domain Soundtrack that is easily recognizable and easy to utilize, it is commonly a Standard Snippet; for this trope, it must be used in a manner that invokes senses of urgency, suspense, action, or dread.
See also For Doom the Bell Tolls.
- A 2020 commercial for Honda features several Honda Civics racing around a track to an electric guitar rendition of the song.
- The trailer for the 2019 remake of Black Christmas plays the song while showing snippets of the film's murders.
- In the first Home Alone movie, a choir-sung "Carol of the Bells" transitions into the John Williams composition "Setting the Traps" — which is heavily influenced by the aforementioned carol — as Kevin McCallister booby-traps his house in preparation for the villains' arrival.
- Krampus: Played with, as a dark choir version plays not during an action or horror scene, but during the film's Closing Credits after Krampus has captured everyone to invoke a lingering sense of dread.
- The Nativity Story: The song is played when Mary goes into labor in Bethlehem and she and Joseph frantically and desperately search for a safe place to deliver Christ. When the song's English lyrics are considered, the song fits perfectly.
- Cobra Kai: In the season three finale "December 19", an electric guitar rendition of the song plays as the Cobra Kais carry out an attack on the LaRusso house.
- The West Wing: Downplayed. At the end of the episode "Noel", a group of Christmas Carolers sing the song, with sirens blaring in the distance as they finish, calling back to Josh's PTSD diagnosis.
- "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" is an instrumental medley of "Shchedryk" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", originally by Savatage (from their album Dead Winter Dead) and more famously covered by their spinoff Trans-Siberian Orchestra (from their album Christmas Eve and Other Stories). Both versions represent the story of a classical cellist who returns to his home of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, and protests the war by playing his instrument in the city square, in defiance of the bombs dropping around him. (This was inspired by the real story of Vedran Smailović.)
- The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society parodies the song and trope with their song "Carol of the Old Ones", which tells of the coming of the Old Gods and the end of mankind to the melody.
- Black Friday: Used as a Leitmotif during tense moments, such as the initial Wiggly outbreak, as the bridge in the song "Wiggle", and when it is revealed that the president has begun World War III.
- Jesus Christ Superstar: The bridge section of the song "Getsemane" is a dramatically arranged, discordant rendition of the song used to underscore Jesus' dismay and worry about his upcoming crucifixion.
- Batman: Arkham Origins: The song is used as the Joker's theme, played when he commits his acts of terrorism on Gotham on Christmas Eve. It also plays upon the completion of a Crime in Progress.
- Jazz Jackrabbit: An action-packed remix is used to score levels added by the Holiday Hare expansion pack.
- Mega Man's Christmas Carol: An electronic remix of the song, titled "Carol of the Spirits", plays during various boss fights against Christmas-themed Robot Masters.
- "Christmas Demolition": TomSka uses LilDeuceDeuce's bassy dubstep version of "Carol of the Bells" in his video, which sees his character violently battle Santa and his elves because Santa brought him nothing for Christmas years ago.
- The Chronicles of Poop: In the Christmas-themed YouTube Poop "The Nightmare Before Christmas Who: Skellington's Revenge", the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's cover is used during the battle against the Black Hiver, a sadistic holiday demon.
- Mr. Nightmare uses a haunting piano version of the song to underscore the horror stories he tells in several of his Christmas-themed "true scary stories" videos.
- American Dad!: In "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", a hard rock remix of the song plays as Santa Claus appears in the horizon, setting up the climactic battle between his forces and the Smiths.
- Regular Show: The song plays in the episode "The Christmas Special" as Mordecai and Rigby battle Quillgin over a pit of lava.
- Prep and Landing: Plays during the climax as Christmas Elves Wayne and Lanny struggle to lay down landing lights for Santa Claus during a snowstorm.