The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Santa edition

Joe Holloran gives us his opinion on which movie Santa is the best, the bad and the ugly

Joe Holloran
2nd December 2019
Western cinema has featured Christmas tales since the 40s. So, with the holiday season almost with us once again let’s take a look at some of the best, worst and downright weirdest jolly fat men from over the years.

The Good - Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

A controversial choice for the best movie Santa, perhaps, is the performance given by David Huddleston in the bizarre but brilliant 1985 comedy Santa Claus: The Movie. This Santa is unique in that he has recently been promoted to that role. With this comes the anxiety that comes with the responsibility to bring joy to the children of the world. Huddleston’s Santa ticks all the boxes of a great movie Chris Cringle. He has both jolliness and an empathetic nature. But kids watching get the added insight into Santa’s personality and his troubles. It is this more human nature that makes Huddleston’s Santa the best in all cinema.

The Bad: Fred Claus (2007)

There is no shortage of choices for the worst cinematic Santa. My vote, however, goes to the usually reliable Paul Giamatti in the terrible two-hander Fred Claus from back in 2007. Here Giamatti gives a painfully unfunny performance alongside Vince Vaughn as Santa’s half-wit brother Fred. Yeah, it is as bad as it sounds. There are plenty of decent Giamatti films, but this is one I think he would prefer we forget.

No i'm not exaggerating, it truly is awful. Don't watch it. Like, not ever for a luagh on 'Bad Movie Night'. Just don't.

The Ugly: Bad Santa (2003)

My ugly movie Santa choice is, oddly, also a contender for the best. It is safe to say that Billy Bob Thornton is an acquired taste. However, I think his most acclaimed performance is one that on paper should not have worked. 2003’s Bad Santa stars Thornton as conman Willie Soke who, alongside his partner played by Tony Cox, gets a job as a mall-Santa in order to rob stores on Christmas eve. Produced by the Coen Brothers, the movie is odd, gross and heart-warming. Undoubtably a huge part of its success is Thornton’s performance as Soke. Christmas films often have a theme of redemption and Bad Santa does that better than most. Its ‘ugliness’ is down to its often-crude humour, but don’t get me wrong, Bad Santa is one of the few great modern Christmas films.

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