Christmas-themed movies have been a mainstay of cinema for decades now, with a fresh batch of great (and not-so-great) festive films hitting theatres each year. A knock-on effect of these annual Yuletide outings is that we’re also introduced to a new breed of big-screen Santas of equally uneven quality every December.
Indeed, for every cinematic Santa Klaus who embodies the spirit of the season perfectly, there’s at least one more who comes up short. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list movie Santas we would (and wouldn’t) want coming down our chimney this Christmas.
10 Wouldn’t Want – Willie T. Soke (Bad Santa)
Deep down (like…deep, deep, deep down), Bad Santa’s Willie T. Soke isn’t a bad guy. Sure, this middle-aged safe cracker poses as a department store Santa so that he can rob these same stores each year, behavior which would certainly land him on the real Jolly St. Nick’s Naughty List.
But Willie’s also shown himself to have a decent streak, most notably in his disarmingly tender, paternal relationship with Thurman Merman. At the same time, Willie is a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, lecherous alcoholic – so he’s not exactly someone we’ll be leaving milk and cookies out for in the hope that he’ll visit.
9 Would Want – Santa Claus (The Christmas Chronicles)
Kurt Russell is great. Santa Klaus is great. So, it’s hardly surprising that Kurt Russell as Santa is especially great. Debuting in Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles, this incarnation of the big man may occasionally come across as slightly more cantankerous than Santa is supposed to be, but he’s nevertheless a benevolent figure who brings the best out of all but the naughtiest of people.
Russell’s Santa is refreshingly unconventional in other ways, as well. He sports a relatively svelte figure – a buy-product of his hectic yearly schedule! – and he eschews the character’s trademark “Ho! Ho! Ho!” belly laugh (although he’s willing to embrace this tradition under very special circumstances).
8 Wouldn’t Want – Wayne (Santa Claws)
If you’ve never seen festive-themed horror effort Santa Claws – released in some regions as ‘Tis the Season – consider your good fortune a Christmas miracle. Seriously: this obscure 90s slasher flick is such a turkey you could almost serve it up for Christmas dinner.
The antagonist of the piece is Wayne, an ostensibly harmless schlub who begins stalking his neighbor, an actress named Raven Quinn, before graduating to bumping off her co-stars while dressed as Santa (hence the title). Needless to say, Wayne isn’t somebody we’d be eager to see on December 25.
7 Would Want – Nicholas St. North
Don’t let his arm tattoos fool you: Rise of the Guardians’ Nicholas St. North is as wholesome a Santa as you’re ever likely to encounter. That’s because, as the Guardian of Wonder, unfailingly cheerful North works tirelessly to ensure that kids the world over never lose the sense of awe that makes childhood so magical.
Yes, he’s also a brave warrior who charges into battle wielding a cutlass in each hand and backed by a horde of fearsome yetis. But ultimately, North is a gentle and compassionate soul – both qualities that make for a perfect Santa.
6 Wouldn’t Want – Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
On the face of it, Jack Skellington has the makings of a terrific Santa: he’s kind-hearted, brimming with infectious glee and single-minded in his desire to engineer the best possible Christmas Day. But as The Nightmare Before Christmas amply illustrates, for all Jack’s good intentions, he’s a poor substitute for the real Kris Kringle.
See, Jack has only a rudimentary understanding of how Christmas itself works, and his perspective on the holiday is skewed by his Halloween Town sensibilities. This explains why his first and only attempt at usurping the real Santa’s responsibilities ended in tears, with Jack traumatizing a whole generation of youngsters (the unlucky recipients of his ghoulish “presents”) before being blown out of the sky by the armed forces. Way to go, dude…
5 Would Want – Scott Calvin (The Santa Clause)
To say that The Santa Clause’s Scott Calvin was initially reluctant to assume the Santa Claus mantle is putting it mildly. At first, this successful toy sales executive had to be cajoled into finishing his predecessor’s nightly rounds, and he did so with very little in the way of good cheer.
As a result, his freshman expedition in the familiar white fur-trimmed red outfit was decidedly subpar. Fortunately, Scott ultimately embraced his destiny as Father Christmas and really upped his game for his second go-round. Not only did he look the part this time around, but crucially, he lived it as well.
4 Wouldn’t Want – Santa Claus (Santa’s Slay)
Bill Goldberg isn’t the first pro-wrestler to portray Santa on the big screen – to the best of our knowledge, that honor belongs to Hulk Hogan, who starred in 1996 box office bomb Santa with Muscles. That said, Goldberg’s take on this iconic role in Santa’s Slay is far more memorable than Hogan’s effort, even if the WWE Hall of Famer’s performance is less than stellar. After all, what could be more unforgettable than a demonic Santa who only delivers presents due to a punishment handed down a millennium ago?
Fuelled by 1,000 years of pent-up rage, Goldberg’s Santa – who we categorically would not like to ever meet – finds himself free to indulge his homicidal tendencies once more, and promptly embarks on a Yuletide-inspired reign of terror that’s both demented and admirably creative. We’re talking Christmas Stars used as shuriken, eggnog drownings and asphyxiation by turkey leg – all of which make a lump of coal seem downright appealing by comparison.
3 Would Want – Klaus
If you’ve not had a chance to check it out yet (and you should), Netflix’s Klaus presents an origin story for the Santa legend. Here, imposing woodsman Klaus and his helper, postman Jesper, are established as the fellas who unwittingly inspired the folklore surrounding the Santa Klaus character.
Channeling his unrealized dreams of starting a family into selfless acts of generosity, Klaus is almost single-handedly responsible for thawing the centuries of bitter resentment that divides the small town of Smeerensburg. The film’s bittersweet ending strongly implies that Klaus later transcends the mortal plane to become the mythic version of Santa we know and love – and we frankly can’t think of a better candidate for the job.
2 Wouldn’t Want – Nicholas (Fred Claus)
When it comes to movie Santas, you could do a lot worse than Fred Claus’ Nicholas “Santa” Claus…but then, you could do a lot better, too. Now, it’s possible we’re being a tad harsh on poor ol’ Nick. Unlike several of the other dubious mentions on this list, he’s a warm-hearted, generous soul, at least.
Honestly, though, the irritable, world-weary and acerbic Nicholas can be a bit of a downer – so not exactly somebody we want to hang out with on Christmas Day. Call us demanding, but we really need our Santa to be an unqualified beacon of Yuletide cheer, and Nick just isn’t that guy!
1 Would Want – Kris Kringle (Miracle On 34th Street)
It’s never explicitly stated in the original Miracle on 34th Street or its 1994 remake whether department store Santa Kris Kringle is the genuine article. After all, that ambiguity is an important aspect of the film’s major theme, which explores the importance of faith in our lives. Yet even in the absence of conclusive proof, Kris is the real deal as far as we’re concerned.
As portrayed by Edmund Gwenn or Richard Attenborough, this elderly gent exemplifies the very best of what Christmas represents: he’s loving, earnest, mirthful and selfless. Take the scene where Kris uses sign language to communicate with a deaf girl, which is guaranteed to put a lump in your throat every time. Thanks to moments like these, Mister Kringle is the movie Santa we’d most like to see emerge from our fireplace on December 25.
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