The Very Best — And Absolute Worst — Santa Clauses In Pop Culture History
Once again, it’s that time of year where we see nothing but Santas, from the drunken idiots trashing neighborhoods during SantaCon to the ones we’re tired of looking at in our favorite Christmas movies. We just can’t escape good ole Saint Nick, not on TV, not in video games, not in the movie theaters, not in real life. So let’s embrace it!
Santa has taken many forms over the years. He’s been a drunken lush wallowing in his own sick, he’s been Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, he’s even been an obesely overweight sumo wrestler. It’s time to take a trip down memory lane and give thanks for the many forms of the man who’s simultaneously brought joy and terror to children all over the world.
BEST: Kris Kringle in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’
No, we’re not talking about that remake with the girl from Matilda. We’re all about the original! Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle is the Kris Kringle to which we should be comparing all Kris Kringles. He’s joly, he’s huggable, he knows a great deal at Macy’s when he sees one and he knows when he doesn’t. Chances are this movie will be playing non-stop on all the major TV channels a week before the big day, and this big guy is the reason we keep coming back to watch.
WORST: Willie in ‘Bad Santa’
From one of the best Santas to one of the worst: Billy Bob Thornton as the drunken lush of a man Willie in Bad Santa. First of all, any Santa that’s portrayed by Billy Bob should be considered one of the worst Santas. But the fact that this guy loves to drink, have such crazy sex that his partners “won’t shit right for a week,” and terrorizes kids at the mall in a blackout haze only adds to his infamy.
BEST: North in ‘Rise of the Guardians’
I wish I could’ve seen the looks on every fundamentalist Christian when they saw Santa Claus as a tatted-up, Russian, jolly giant. In Rise of the Guardians, Santa (aka North) is one of the most badass characters you’ll ever meet. He can fly through wormholes on his sled, he leads a team of Yetis, he can slice and dice his enemies with his signature pair of swords, and he lets out a borderline insane cackle at the sight of anything Christmas-themed. What’s not to love about this guy?
WORST: Sumo Santa in ‘ClayFighter’
The most disgusting sumo wrestler we’ve ever seen has got to be Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers movies, but ClayFighter’s Sumo Santa comes in at a close second. He uses every part of his rotund shape, including his secret storage of fat folds, to crush his enemies. Can you imagine what it must be like to suffocate underneath this sweaty mass? It’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
BEST: Greatfather Winter in World of Warcraft
Even in the digital depths of World of Warcraft, the citizens of geekdom celebrate X-mas. When gamers encounter Santa, who’s called in this instance Greatfather Winter, he’s a level 30 quest giver (whatever the hell that means) in the commons of the dwarven city of Ironforge. He can only be encountered during the Feast of Winter Veil, but when you meet him, he bestows upon you a mission of great importance: getting some munchies for Santa. That’s totally what I’d use my power and influence for: a shit ton of milk and gingerbread cookies.
WORST: Robot Santa in ‘Futurama’
The Friendly Robot Company designed a ‘bot that would be responsible for deciding whether a child was naughty or nice and sorting their presents accordingly. Thanks to a system error, however, he quickly became the one figure everyone in the galaxy fears the most. Now he flies around on his sleigh of death to blast anyone he encounters into the day after tomorrow. Actually, he’s pretty badass, if you think about it. But he is responsible for decimating lots of people, so…yeah.
BEST: Santa in ‘American Dad’
Here’s another instance where one of the more villainous Santas could be considered one of the best. Yes, he’s out to kill Stan, his entire family and all that he holds dear, but that’s only because his son Steve accidentally shot him full of bullets. He, obviously, had to go all I Know What You Did Last Summer before unleashing total hellfire laced with deadly sharp candy canes down on his enemies.
WORST: Killer Santa in ‘Silent Night’
“You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is gunning you down.” Oh the wordplay! Silent Night is one of those horror movies you watch because you’ve seen every other one that’s actually worth watching, and you go, “What the heck. It’s Christmas-themed, I guess.” Then you watch it and it’s pretty awful, but the Santa serial killer is creepy as hell. In his defense, he does get creative with his murders, including electrocuting a man with Christmas lights.
BEST: Comic Book Santa
In the Marvel world, Santa Claus has an origin story that’s based in Thor: as a descendant of Thor’s dad, Odin, Santa road around in a sleigh pulled by rams to drop gifts in celebration of Thor defeating one nasty troll who tried to destroy Asgard. But Santa has popped up in a number of comic books over the years, in both Marvel and DC. He has teamed up with the likes of Superman and The Fantastic Four, and he’s even tried to kill The Avengers. Well, it wasn’t really him, but rather a minion of the evil robot Ultron made up to look like Saint Nick. Oh, but there was that one time he got a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet and went mad with power.
WORST: Mall Santa in ‘A Christmas Story’
Even now we can’t get the face of the Devil out of our heads. It’s been haunting us ever since we were kids, and now that A Christmas Story plays every year on TBS, we have to relive the terror that is that frickin’ mall Santa and his bastard elf. It’s a face that makes kids scream in terror. We feel for Ralphie. All the kid wants to do is ask Santa for a BB gun, but the asshole won’t even hear him out. If we were the kid, the first thing we would’ve done after finally getting one for Christmas would be hunting this guy down and poking his eye out.
BEST and WORST: Scott Calvin in ‘The Santa Claus’
Tim Allen’s version of jolly ole Saint Nick in The Santa Claus (after he accidentally kills the real Santa) is an institution, which is why he’s one of the best out there. However, by the time he made The Santa Claus 2 and, even more unfortunate, The Santa Claus 3, we wanted to gouge our eyes out with a melon scooper. It was Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight who said, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” And, boy, did we want to go all Christian Bale on Allen’s ass by the end of his reign.