Movie Santa Clauses – ranked!

Ten of the best Hollywood Kris Kringles, from Jim Broadbent (twice) and Billy Bob Thornton to Richard Attenborough and Gene Hackman

10. David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

For the veteran supporting actor – who would go on to play a certain big Lebowski – this must have seemed like a welcome headlining role, even if the plot revolves round Dudley Moore’s wide-eyed elf being seduced by capitalism. Still, Huddleston brings bags of earthy jollity.

9. Jim Broadbent in Get Santa (2014)

In this plucky but overlooked Britcom, a crash-landed Santa gets banged up by mistake. Can ex-con Rafe Spall break him out in time to save Christmas? A never-cuddlier Broadbent twinkles in both full red-and-white regalia and drab prison denims.

8. Tim Allen in The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

In the best of the contract-focused festive franchise, Santa must leave the north pole to find a wife – long story – so clones himself to keep toy production ticking over. It’s a double role for Allen who gets to show his range and, when the pair fall out, punch himself in the face.

David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie.
David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie. Photograph: Allstar/Tristar

7. Richard Riehle in A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011)

The perma-stoned H&K movies have a very loose grasp on reality so when a jovial but sly Santa turns up – in the form of stocky character actor Riehle – it seems perfectly plausible that he made it his mission to reunite these estranged buddies via a giant spliff.

6. Alec Baldwin in Rise of the Guardians (2012)

In this animated fantasy, Saint Nick assembles an Avengers-style superteam of childhood icons to battle a nightmare king. A likeable festive berserker, this Santa boasts “Naughty” and “Nice” sleeve tattoos, wields dual sabres and has Baldwin doing a truly go-for-broke Russian accent.

5. Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971)

So, have you been naughty or nice? If it’s the former, Hackman’s tenacious stakeout Santa will chase you down a street, beat you with a cosh from his boot and then baffle you into spilling your guts by asking if you’ve ever been to Poughkeepsie.

A great Santa! Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.
A great Santa! Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia

4. Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Netflix’s latest attempt to monopolise the Christmas movie market is a dud overall, but Russell channels every ounce of his square-jawed charisma to embody a swaggering Santa with a red leather jacket who does a mean Elvis impression.

3. Bill Nighy in Arthur Christmas (2011)

Technically, Jim Broadbent voices Santa in Aardman’s crammed CGI fable. But the real standout is Nighy, who drops his usual effortless urbanity to play the cackling, gurning Santa Sr, who helps his gormless grandkid save Christmas the old-fashioned way.

2. Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa (2003)

The original bawdy ballad of Willie Stokes – a selfish career criminal who dons the fur-trimmed costume for an annual scam – remains surprisingly heartwarming without ever becoming too treacly, the perfect vehicle for Thornton’s ratbag charm.

1. Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Disreputable Santas who subvert the jolly stereotype can be fun but sometimes you just want a crinkly Kringle with half-moon glasses and a white beard who can remind everyone – even lawyers! – about the magic of Christmas. Purists might prefer the 1947 original, but the visually rich 1994 remake bathes the avuncular Attenborough in a warm glow and really makes that red suit pop.


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