Santa Claus in film: who did it best?

Big white beard, a fur-line red suit and matching hat, jolly cheeks and a sack full of presents. Our writers discuss who the best portrayal of Santa Claus is...

multiple writers
9th December 2023
Image Source: IMDb
Despite the religious origins of the Christmas holiday, the festive season is defined by the bearded man in a red coat and matching hat. Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nick - whatever you want to call him, he is one of the most recognisable figures around the globe. We asked our writers who the most iconic portrayal of Santa is and they delivered a gift this festive season.

Adelaide Dodson

There seems to be, quite literally, hundred versions Santa in hundreds of films (more and more every year) and so many good ones it seems a little impossible to pick a favourite.

However there are definitively a few front runners performance wise: Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street, the Santa that randomly pops up in Narnia, the bumbling Santa in Arthur Christmas but my favourite must be Tim Allen in the Santa Clause

What more do you need in a Christmas film than sassy elves, a reluctant Santa and a physical embodiment of the North Pole? Plus, the film is always received with giggles in my house which puts us in the Christmas spirit.

The highlight of the film though is definitively Allen’s performance. His portrayal of a reluctant Santa, merely playing along until everything stops (which it won’t) is particularly entertaining. The transition from this grown up who doesn’t believe in Santa and barely plays along with the act for his own son to a man who is and embodies Santa better than I think anyone could have expected at the start of the film is heart-warming and unexpectedly wholesome.

Christmas, to me at least, is half the present and half nostalgia and this film provides the perfect route to remembering past Christmases and having a laugh while doing it. 

Rosie Brennan, Opinion Sub-Editor

To me, the epitome of Christmas is the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special. And no, not the new one. The OG cannot be beat. And that is why my favourite portrayal is the one and only Vanessa Shanessa Jenkins (or Nessa, if you’re not an insane person who’s basically memorised the script, like me).

Technically this isn’t from a film, or an actual portrayal of Santa Claus. Nevertheless, it’s too iconic in my opinion to be left out of this debate. A Welsh Santa is something nobody knew they needed, especially one that makes you pay a quid for a gift.

If somehow you’re one of the only living people in Britain that hasn’t got every word of this episode memorised, here’s a brief summary. Gavin has to speak to Nessa, and finds her working in a hut as Santa Claus on Barry Island (obviously, lol). He finds her boyfriend Dave, a, let’s face it, slightly dodgy ginger Welsh man, dressed in a horrific Rudolph costume.

Gavin has to queue outside behind the line of children waiting to see the only Father Christmas in Britain that would utter the words “ your mother’s been through enough this year without you sulking all over the shop”. When he finally gets in, he sees Nessa, not very well-disguised as Santa Claus, and is forced to sit on her knee.

There’s something about this whole slightly awkward interaction that feels festive to me. At some point, every child in Britain will have sat on a middle-aged truck driver’s knee with some sort of indistinct, yet very strong, regional accent claiming to be Father Christmas. And if you never experienced this, all I can say is, you’re missing out on a quintessentially British experience (and I’m slightly jealous). This portrayal wouldn’t be complete without the immaculate line that is “OH, OH, OH, Merry Christmas”. It doesn’t get much more festive than that.

Charlotte Lee, Blind Date & Agony Aunt Co-Ordinator

While Tim Allen's portrayal of Santa in the 1995 film The Santa Clause is arguably the most nostalgic for me, he cannot be compared to what I consider one of the underdogs of Christmas films: Bad Santa. Our first impression of Billy Bob Thorton's 'Willie' is that he’s a vulgar alcoholic, sex addict disguising himself as a department store Santa in order to rob the joint. Yet, despite the film's twisted plot details, it has the undertones of a true Christmas film; Willie changes from an angry, indecent criminal into someone with a surprisingly warm heart when he befriends the local loser kid who is having trouble with bullies. Overall, while it may not be the most tasteful of watches, nor the festive fave you want to watch with your nan, it is the story of a Scrooge who eventually starts to care about the world around him in the most concerning of ways. And that for me makes it a Christmas classic.

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