To celebrate the festive season in style we thought we’d rank cinema’s best santas… Buckle up and join us on our sleigh ride through the very best of the bearded present givers…
10. Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa
The title says it all, doesn’t it? Booze binges, lots of sex and traumatising kids for life. We all enjoy seeing someone’s dark side – why not Santa’s? So he has sex with the mum from Gilmore Girls in a car. So what? Santa’s allowed to have fun too, even if he is only a crappy mall replica.
9. Jim Carrey as The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Perhaps the worst Santa of all time. Isn’t the guy in the red suit supposed to give out presents, not steal them? Nevertheless, the Grinch’s dedication to the Santa role is admirable and all in the details (turning his dog into Rudolph truly aided his disguise…). By the end of the film he’s learnt his lesson and his heart has warmed, so it’s okay to enjoy him as Santa even if he did almost ruin Christmas.
8. Tom Hanks in The Polar Express
Personally, I always thought this Santa was a little on the thin side. I can’t quite picture his belly shaking like a bowl full of jelly. Still, Hank’s kind voice suits that of Santa, and I believe the magic. Job done.
7. Paul Giamatti in Fred Claus
Seeing Santa as the younger brother who can do no wrong, but knows how to throw a decent snowball, is a nice change from the warm cuddly Santas we’re used to. Giamatti portrays a man who can argue with his brother, is trying to keep family peace and is still having to run a hectic business. Nice to see that Santa’s human. Sort of.
6. Douglas Seale in Ernest Saves Christmas
Not the greatest Christmas film of all time. In fact, one of the worst. But Seale makes it watchable as the adorably sweet English Santa who enchants us all. Definitely the most adorable and ‘don’t-you-just-want-to-take-him-home-and-feed-him-werther’s-originals’ Santa on our list.
5. Ed Asner in Elf
He’s not as soft and squishy as we might like in a Santa, but there’s still something very likeable about Asner’s version. It might have something to do with Buddy’s infectious love of the man: ‘SANTA!! OH MY GOOOD!’ Who wouldn’t get excited along with him?
4. David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie
This is who Santa is supposed to be. An old, slightly overweight gentleman, who takes genuine pleasure in making toys for unfortunate children. His intentions are kind, his laugh the perfect ho-ho-ho, and his flying skills enviable. A jolly good Santa.
3. Tim Allen in The Santa Clause (1994)
The Underdog Santa. Who doesn’t love an underdog?! Especially one with a ridiculously cute kid, an amazing ability to grow facial hair, and an attitude that we love to see transformed. True, when you imagine the great St.Nick, Tim Allen wouldn’t usually be the first name to spring to mind. But for some reason, with the help of a very quippy elf named Bernard, he works.
2. Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th St (1947)
For many, Gwenn IS Santa Claus, and I may come under a storm of snowballs for putting him in second place. His performance has even the most dedicated of Anti-Christmasites questioning their lack of faith. Thanks to Gwenn, there are plenty of people who are now willing to believe.
1. Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th St (1994)
If I go to the North Pole, if I see Rudolph, if I meet a bunch of elves and if Santa really does exist (he does), I desperately want him to be Attenborough. I grew up with this film, and so to me his kind face and warm English voice is that of Christmas. He had me the second he signed Jingle Bells with the deaf girl, and no amount of other Christmas films, digital effects or overweight actors will break my steadfast conviction that Richard Attenborough is the best movie santa.