How can you resist it?

By Maureen Lee Lenker
June 11, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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It's summer and that means it's time to envision island getaways — perhaps lounging on a beach in Greece or sailing around an island with all three of our possible dads.

There's perhaps no set of films that quite captures the ethos of summer like Mamma Mia! and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Combine romance on a sun-soaked Greek island with an irresistible ABBA soundtrack, and you have the recipe for a perfect summer evening. Whether you're here for all the mother-daughter love between Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Donna (Meryl Streep) or you love the romantic hijinks of Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), Harry (Colin Firth), Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Rosie (Julie Walters), and Tanya (Christine Baranski), it's impossible to resist. We might not be able to go outside and enjoy summer to the fullest this year, but we can still get lost in these sublimely campy odes to having the time of your life.

In honor of the summer season, we've ranked every number from both of the Mamma Mia! films, because how can we resist it?

34. “I Have a Dream” — Mamma Mia!

This opens and closes the first film, but it’s an incredibly dull “I Want” song that gives no real taste of the fun to come. Who cares if you have a song to sing? Just sing it!

33. “Chiquitita” — Mamma Mia!

There’s some camp delight here in Donna’s distraught nose blowing and Rosie and Tanya’s attempts to cheer her up, but a memorable banger this is not.

32. “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” — Mamma Mia!

We have abundant love for Pierce Brosnan’s pained singing, but this song makes an otherwise romantic moment too corny. This wedding has enough refreshments, please take the extra cheese away.

31. “One of Us” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

This establishes the central conflict between Sophie and Sky in the sequel, and it’s a lovely break-up ballad, but ultimately pretty forgettable.

30. “I Have a Dream”— Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

While this song is a framing device in the first film, here it’s a literal metaphor for Donna’s dream hotel and Sophie’s realization of that dream. We see the space as it once was, and as it was envisioned – plus, it's another beautiful link between mother and daughter.

29. “Honey, Honey” — Mamma Mia!

While we’ll always love this scene for introducing “…” as a euphemism for sex-capades, this is mostly a frothy ditty that you forget the moment the song is over. But while it lasts, how it thrills us.

28. “Kisses of Fire” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The song is used for a brief gag onscreen, demonstrating the joke that is the local taverna band. But this song was a huge ABBA discovery for us, and the excellent soundtrack rendition pushed it higher up our list.

27.  “Our Last Summer” — Mamma Mia!

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This pokes immense holes in the timeline of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, but it’s still a charming mini travelogue around a Greek island. It’s a surprisingly heartfelt love song, and who knew Colin Firth could play the guitar?!

26. “Knowing Me, Knowing You" — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Sam and Donna are the epic romance of the Mamma Mia franchise, and this is the most ABBA-fied of break-up tracks ever – but a good jam and beautiful Greek scenery can only carry you so far.

25. “Money, Money, Money”— Mamma Mia!

This is Donna’s “I Want” song, a showcase into her money troubles and her yearning for romance (played for mercenary laughs). The camp fantasies of Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters riding jet skis on a yacht is delectable, but the number lacks the pizazz of so many others. Must be funny -- well it is, but it's also trying too hard.

24. “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” — Mamma Mia!

This song runs together with “Voulez-Vous” in terms of the action and is predominantly a background track to Sophie working out the truth about her dad(s). But we heartily endorse any song that is the basis for tying Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård to poles and frolicking around them. Gimme, gimme, gimme indeed.

23. “Voulez-Vous” — Mamma Mia!

This is the stronger half of the bachelorette party numbers because it features an extensively choreographed number that is arguably the fanciest footwork (literally, the feet shots are <chef’s kiss>) in the entirety of the first film. We dare you not to dance along to this one. Nothing promised, no regrets.

22.  “The Winner Takes It All” — Mamma Mia!

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This might be one of the most heartbreaking break-up ballads ever penned, with the singer resigning themselves to being the loser in love (and life). Meryl Streep gives it her all, packed with throaty emotion, and the dramatic backdrop of the island cliffs give it that extra something. But the power of the song itself just isn’t fully realized on screen here. The loser has to fall, after all.

 21. “The Name of the Game” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The slow, sultry beat of this track makes it ABBA’s sexiest song by far. Lily James really leans into that with her rendition, all bolstered by her frolicking through orange groves. It’s not the first song you think of when you envision Mamma Mia!, but it’s still a diverting number that pushes the plot forward.

20. “Lay All Your Love On Me” — Mamma Mia!

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We don’t exactly know what the point of this number is, but it has Sky (Dominic Cooper) and Sophie going full From Here to Eternity in the waves and a platoon of shirtless men dancing in snorkels and fins – and honestly, lay all of it on us.

19. “Take a Chance on Me” — Mamma Mia!

Rosie’s relentless pursuit of Bill is adorable (especially with the hindsight of the context that she’s been crushing on him for decades), and we love how this number hams up the physical comedy by leaning into the lyrics (guys, she literally can't let go). We’ll watch Julie Walters chase Stellan Skarsgaard across a roof any day – even if it is slightly cringe-y in its portrayal of desperation, the longer you think about it.

18. “Waterloo” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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"Waterloo" was one of ABBA’s all-time greatest hits, but it plays less nimbly in the context of the films. It’s a fun moment of wooing for Harry (Hugh Skinner) here, and we love the inventive use of the restaurant paraphernalia as props (a baguette is a guitar and then a sword!) to play up the Napoleon-ness of the whole situation. It has some of the best tableaus in the franchise, but doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot of combined production value and zany plot.

17. “SOS” — Mamma Mia!

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Much has been made of Pierce Brosnan’s less-than-stellar pipes, so much so that his singing has become less a detractor and more a campy moment of delight in the franchise. Nowhere is it more on display than in “SOS” where we can both revel in the split-screen woes of Sam and Donna’s relationship and try not to giggle at his resolute commitment to it all. So darling can you hear me? Yes, yes, we can. And we love it in spite of ourselves.

16. “Andante, Andante” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

This is one of the great discoveries of the second film, a deeper cut from the ABBA catalogue. Lily James absolutely nails this ballad about taking it slow and being gentle with someone’s heart. We want to luxuriate in the sultriness of these chords forever. Donna is presented in both films as a great singer, and the soulfulness James brings to this number makes that inarguable. She’s luminous on this love song, distilling Donna’s charm and talent into one beautiful number.

15. “Waterloo” — Mamma Mia!

The credit sequence numbers aren’t meant to be anything but disco riots of joy, and perhaps for that reason, they’re the purest expression of what the Mamma Mia! films are all about. The amount of fun being had by all here is infectious, and we love Meryl Streep's improvisational spirit. But we rest our case on four words: Colin Firth in spandex.

14. “Angel Eyes” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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The adult Tanya and Rosie don’t get quite as much a feature in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which is why we love this ditty about avoiding the trap of a handsome pair of eyes. It’s not only a catchy song, but it also plays up the relationship between Sophie, Tanya, and Rosie – and still makes space to poke fun at Rosie’s dancing in a playful "we’re laughing with her" kind of way. One look and you're hypnotized.

13. “Super Trouper” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

While we love the joy and improvisational nature of the credit sequence number in Mamma Mia!, they majorly topped themselves in the sequel. Everyone’s custom '70s outfits are eye-poppingly amazing. Cher knocks the vocals out of the park, and it uses the set in a delightfully playful way. But nothing beats the unabashed joy of watching the younger counterparts dance with the actors who originated the older version of the roles. It makes the lyrics "smiling, having fun" blissfully real. This number is pure frothy musical glory that's shining like the sun.

12. “When I Kissed the Teacher” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again kicks off with a bang – this fizzy number that takes audiences through the streets of Oxford University. The connotations of kissing your teacher are weird, shoe-horning the song into a college graduation setting. But the choreography and camerawork immediately key audiences into the fact that this sequel is taking things to another level. Plus, you don’t get much more picturesque and storied than Oxford.

11. “Slipping Through My Fingers” — Mamma Mia!

The grand central love story of Mamma Mia! franchise is that between mothers and daughters. This bittersweet ode to how quickly children grow up is lilting, intimate, and moving. It’s one of the quieter songs to get this high on the list, but it perfectly captures the naturalism and genuine sense of emotion and connection that elevate the films beyond campy diversion.

10. “Mamma Mia!” — Mamma Mia!

Who could ever forget the first time they saw the iconic overhead shot of an overall-wearing Meryl Streep losing her mind over the reappearance of her three lovers? This number is supremely self-aware in its own silliness, and we love how hard it leans into the ethos of the Mamma Mia! films, combining unadulterated glee with just the hint of something ridiculous. My my, how can we resist it?

9. “I’ve Been Waiting For You” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

They re-wrote some of the lyrics to this tune to make it about Donna and Sophie singing to their child, and it works flawlessly. It’s a beautiful ode to the hopes and unconditional love of motherhood. Over the course of two films, we’ve watched the ebb and flow of Donna and Sophie’s relationship, their unbreakable bond, and this song brings that all home. If you don’t cry during Donna’s labor scene, are you even human?

8. “Does Your Mother Know?” — Mamma Mia!

Christine Baranski is a goddess and this number is testament to that. It’s literally a song about how she’s much too sexy and mature for the boys chasing her on this island – and she gets to strut her stuff on a beach while proclaiming it. We bow down to the queen.

7. “Super Trouper” — Mamma Mia!

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This taste of the glory days of Donna and the Dynamos lets you revel in both Sophie’s love for her mom and Donna and her gal pal’s true talents. The trio of Donna, Rosie, and Tanya shines here with infectious enthusiasm. Plus, it gave us the incredible GIF of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgaard awkwardly dancing – and who can ask for more than that?

6. “Why Did It Have to Be Me?” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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Sam may be Donna’s soulmate, but this duet between young Donna and Bill is the peak of the young lovers’ tunes. There’s a playfulness here that belies the deep attraction and affection at play between the characters. It’s a master class in flirtation, and it makes ample use of its nautical setting, leaving us yearning for an island escape of our own. More like, why couldn't it be me?

5. “Mamma Mia!” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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From the DIY denim threads of Donna and the Dynamos to the slow a cappella opening that blooms into pop perfection, we want to live in every moment of this number. Heartbreak never looked or sounded so good. Donna’s final fall off the bar into Bill’s arms is the cherry on top. Mamma Mia, now we really know, we’ll never let go of how much we love this song.

4. “Dancing Queen” — Mamma Mia!

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While the title of the film is Mamma Mia!, “Dancing Queen” is the epitome of ABBA. The first film in particular has an organic DIY spirit to it, and it’s never better than this number, which sees Rosie and Tanya grabbing for props out of Donna’s bedroom. It’s a testament to their friendship, their history as a singing group, and their commitment to having a really good time. It moves from Meryl jumping on the bed out onto picturesque cliffsides before ending with a rousing cannonball into the sea. You can tell the entire cast is, to quote the song, having their time of their life – and who are we to resist its spell?

3. “My Love, My Life” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Donna and Sophie are the soul of this franchise, and this song unites all of them, including a surprise cameo from Meryl Streep. Lyrically, it captures both how our children can be our whole world, but how we also have to let them go. It’s a pitch perfect, incredibly emotional ending to what is really just two movies about a great mom. When we think of Mamma Mia!, we think of Greek island getaways and disco spandex. But the unabashed sentimentality of this song underscores what really makes the movies sing – their deeply felt, proudly beating heart. We can see it all so clearly — all this love so dearly.

2. “Fernando” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Cher. Andy Garcia. Fireworks. Need we say more? We always knew Cher’s role in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again would be memorable, but we didn’t know it would give us one of the high points of both films. When Ruby (Cher) spots Senor Cienfuegos (Garcia) across the patio and recognizes him as her lost love, it’s a delightful plot twist. But then they break into song and the literal fireworks happen? There's something in the air that night, indeed. Can we get this prequel now? Cher and Andy Garcia can just play themselves and pretend to be 40 years younger. Just take my money.

1. “Dancing Queen” — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

ABBA’s biggest hit was somehow destined to top this list. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again takes all the playfulness and glee of this number in the first film and dials it up by one hundred. Much of the song takes place across several boats ferrying to the island for a celebration of epic proportions that’s already happening on-board. It’s cinematic and inventive and the perfect level of absurdity. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård do the Titanic pose on the bow of the boat. Pierce Brosnan gets his disco on. Everything culminates in a party back on the dock, and we’ve never wanted to be anywhere more than right here in the middle of his number. It’s over-the-top musical theatre bliss, which is Mamma Mia! in a nutshell, and we’re digging the dancing queen.

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