His eyes how they twinkle! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks are like roses, his nose like a cherry!
Well... not necessarily. In the long history of Christmas movies, Santa Claus has appeared numerous times, in various incarnations. And while some of these movie Santas are the jolly ol’ Saint Nick we know from our childhoods, others are a little more... unconventional.
But why discriminate? Here are our 10 favorite dudes to don a Santa suit on screen!
10. Mall Santa from A Christmas Story
This isn’t a good Santa. In fact, he’s a terrible one — and his elves are just as bad. He’s so awful, in fact, that Ralphie can’t even remember what he wants for Christmas when perched atop this jerk’s lap. (And when he finally does tell him about the BB gun, Santa dismisses the request with a: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Then he gets kicked down a giant slide.) This one brings back memories of all the phony mall Santas we visited when we were kids, and he provides one of the many hilarious moments in this Christmas classic.
9. Anthony Swofford from Jarhead
Okay, so Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t even remotely playing Santa Claus. But he does spend a large chunk of the movie wearing a Santa cap, when he throws a booze-fueled Christmas party while stationed in Persian Gulf — that ends in a major disaster. But before that, he drunkenly dances to “Down Wit’ OPP” with nothing but a Santa hat on... so, yeah, we’re gonna list this as one of favorites. (You're welcome.)
8. Santa Claus from Elf
Not quite the most "with it" of movie Santas — he inadvertently kidnaps a young child, and later crashes his sleigh into Central Park. But if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have Will Ferrell in one of the funniest Christmas movies of this century.
7. Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street
Is he or isn’t he? It’s up to you what you want to believe, but holiday classics don’t get much more heartwarming than this. In both the 1947 original and and the 1994 remake (with Richard Attenborough as Santa), a man claiming his name is Kris Kringle becomes a department store Santa, but eventually gets called into court to verify his identity. By the end, his jolly ways have convinced virtually everyone to believe. The store in the original is Macy’s, but the remake had to change it to the fictional “Cole’s” because Macy’s wouldn’t participate. Bah, humbug!
6. The Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas
We’re not sure we could handle Jim Carrey-level mania on Christmas Day — there’s enough of a sugar rush as it is — but the cartoon movies’s more Suessian Grinch will suit us just fine. Sure, he may start out the movie as a mean one, cuddly as a cactus, but in the end his heart grows three sizes, and he's able to scarf down roast beast and sing "Da-hoo Doray" with the best of 'em.
5. Jake Wilkinson from I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Admittedly, it’s been quite a few years since we’ve watched this, so we’re not sure how it holds up. But back in 1998, Jonathan Taylor Thomas in a Santa suit was just about the merriest thing imaginable. In the movie, he plays a bratty teenager who’d prefer to spend Christmas in Cabo with his girlfriend (a young Jessica Biel). He races from California to New York hoping to be home in time for Christmas Eve dinner with his family... but only because his father has said if he’s there by 6:00, he’ll give him a vintage Porsche. (Nothing says Christmas like an arbitrary time limit on when you can collect your gifts!) Along the way, JTT’s heart also grows three sizes, and he shows up to dinner dressed as Santa, in a bona fide one-horse open sleigh. He doesn’t even go inside until 6:01, realizing it isn’t a Porsche that makes spirits bright at the holidays. Aww!
4. Scott Calvin from The Santa Clause
And speaking of Home Improvement stars dressed as Santa Claus... Tim Allen plays a non-believing divorced toy executive who accidentally causes Santa to fall to his death. Happy holidays! Fortunately, this is all part of the system, and now Scott Calvin has to take over for the Jolly One, rapidly gaining weight and watching his hair turn white. (Bummer.) Good thing his initials are the same as Santa’s to avoid any confusion!
3. Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Like several other Santas from this list, Jack starts this movie off with the wrong intentions — stealing the role of Santa, and bringing a macabre Halloween vibe to the merriest of holidays. Needless to say, that doesn’t pan out too well. But in the end, Jack feels terrible and sets everything right, and anyway, he only did it because he was so enchanted by the discovery of this holiday in the first place. And haven’t we all gone a little Christmas crazy once or twice?
2. Willie T. Stokes from Bad Santa
Billy Bob Thornton’s crooked mall Santa smokes, drinks, fornicates, steals, and does all kinds of things we don’t think Santa Claus should do. But he’s hilarious! And isn’t the “ho, ho, ho” the most important thing? As in most Christmas stories about selfish people, he has a gradual change of heart — and is shot eight times. So, you know, that’s one way to learn a lesson.
1. Santa Claus from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Now this is Santa as Santa should be. Arguably the best Christmas classic there is, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer adds a few extra characters to the beloved song, like Hermey the elf, Yukon Cornelius the prospector, a love interest for Rudolph named Clarice, and an Abominable Snow Monster. But in the end, it all comes back to that foggy Christmas Eve, with Santa inviting Rudolph to guide his sleigh, and all the reindeer loving Rudolph, and everyone shouting out with glee... well, you know how it goes. Good stuff.
Which movie Santa is your fave?