6 of cinema's best Santas: ranked
Claus for applause…
Santa isn’t the only one with a list. We’ve lined up some of our favourite on-film Father Christmases from very naughty, to impossibly nice.
6. Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa
Bottom of our round-up, and unquestionably getting coal for Christmas is the star of 2003’s alternative black comic take on the Christmas movie. He’s not the real Kris Kringle of course, Thornton’s mall Santa is more hobo than ho-ho-ho, an inveterate womaniser, petty theif and schnapps fiend – whose festive crime spree is interrupted by, for once, a more wholesome sort of holiday spirit. Against all odds, and his own screaming instincts, the movie ends with Bad Santa caring about people other than himself. It’s a bottom-of-the-sack kind of Xmas miracle, but we’ll take it.
Where to watch in UAE: Currently not streaming, but available to purchase
5. David Harbour, Violent Night
I imagine the studio pitch for this movie included the line ‘a traditional Christmas tale, with a little sprinkling of John Wick‘. It’s filed under the (absolutely legitimate) Die Hard subsection of the festive film genre and features Harbour’s grizzled St. Nick meting out jolly justice to a gang of single-manifesto-pledge, pro-humbug kidnappers. He might not be the most cuddly iteration of festive-cheer-personified, but sometimes you need to sleigh, to save Christmas Day.
Where to watch in UAE: OSN+
4. Tim Allen, The Santa Clause movies
This franchise – placing a reluctant Tim ‘the Toolman’ Allen in the titular man-in-red role – ran to three movies across the nineties and early noughties. The premise is simple, Scott Calvin (Allen) plays a Grinchy big-toy exec, who inadvertently kills old Father C whilst he’s doing the chimney shimmy on his roof. Following the Santacide, Calvin puts on the suit and finds himself contractually obliged to deliver toys (a legal ‘Santa Clause’) until such time as he too shuffles off this tinselly coil. Scott eventually accepts the reality he’s present-ed with and embodies the Yuletide spirit with ‘bowl-full-of-jelly’ gusto.
Where to watch in UAE: Disney+ (where you’ll also find two seasons of The Santa Clauses)
3. Kurt Russell, The Christmas Chronicles movies
I’m not sure who had ‘seeing Kurt Russell as Santa’ on their Christmas wish list, but I think we can all agree on being grateful to them and Netflix for the manifesting. The two Christmas Chronicles films are an homage to the traditional feel-good festive format which tackles the cognitive dissonance behind adults not believing in Santa; of Christmas cheer having tangible, actionable value; and flying reindeer. There’s also a big song and dance number, Russell’s real life wife Goldie Hawn playing Mrs Claus – and after a long career in action movies, you instinctively back to Kurt to secure the sack.
Where to watch in UAE: Netflix
2. David Huddleston, Santa Claus: The Movie
Originally released back in 1985, the film opens with a Papa Noel origin story – how he got his powers (no, it wasn’t being bitten by a radioactive reindeer, but on that note, Netflix – call me) and why he embarked on his toy delivering mission. There’s also a confrontation with that big 80s movie theme of ‘greed is good’ when an outcast elf (Dudley Moore) is co-opted into toy retail hell by a deliciously malicious John Lithgow. Huddleston’s Santa comes across in a joyously authentic way, and he probably would be the ultimate big screen Santa if it wasn’t for…
Where to watch in UAE: Currently not streaming, but available to purchase.
1. Richard Attenborough, Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Some people may remember this Attenborough brother from his velociraptor bothering stint on Negligence-Suit-Island but for us, it’s all about his appearance in the reboot to the 1947 Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street. The film dives surprisingly deeply into the concept of belief and the importance of occasionally suspending disbelief. It’s filled with heartwarming interactions, powerful performances and knee-sat requests of Peter Pollywog Patrol Frogs. The whole experience being given an extra mistletoe and logs on the fire boost by the, now sadly deceased, Dickie Attenborough who embodied the spirit of Santa so well, that we’re still not 100 per cent sure he was acting.
Where to watch in UAE: Disney+