The greatest on-screen Santas

Because Brandon Flowers isn't the only man who looks good in a red suit

Who are the greatest on-screen Santas? Like, obviously all are excellent in their own jolly way – but some have squeezed their portly bellies into the canon. Here we deliver five faves…


Who: Billy Bob Thornton

Film: Bad Santa, 2003

We first meet Willie T. Soke, a deeply misanthropic career crook who turns over the departments that cast him as Santa Claus, as he pukes up in an alleyway. Cue bum sex in changing rooms (“You’re not going to shit right for a week”), boozing on the job and an encounter with woman who just so happens to have a Santa fetish. Deck the halls with booze and shagging!

Special Santa skills: Swearing, drinking, bum sex.

Best line: A child reels off his Christmas list, to which Bad Santa replies: “Why don’t you sh*t in one hand and wish in the other, see which fills up first?”

Reluctant Santa

Who: Tim Allen

Film: The Santa Clause, 1994

So, you’ve accidentally knocked Santa from the roof on Christmas night and, oh dear, he is a dead Claus. Turns out there’s an ancient code that means that you, clumsy and negligent human, now become Santa. Scott (Allen) develops a white beard, a wobbly belly and reluctantly steps into those bright red boots. You know what? He might just learn a few life lessons along the way…

Special Santa skills: An expanding waistband, slipping down chimneys.

Best line: Scott’s son Charlie explains how Santa visits everyone in the world on the same night: “I think there’s some sort of time continuum that breaks down once Santa’s in his sleigh.” Mystery solved!

Scary Santa

Who: Brandon Maggart

Film: Christmas Evil, 1980

This delicious, insidious slasher movie has become a cult classic and a firm favourite of trash aficionado John Waters. A young Harry (Maggart) spots his parents partaking in a spot of hanky-panky when his Dad’s decked out as Santa – and he naturally grows up to be a homicidal Father Christmas. If you’ve been naughty (for example, one co-worker phones in sick but Harry later spies him in a bar) you’re gonna get something way worse than a lump of coal.

Special Santa skills: Stabbing, mainly.

Best line: When somebody points that Santa’s blood-stained suits is sullied, Harry replies: “Erm… There’s a lot of pollution between here and the North Pole.” A lot of dead bodies, too.

Goth Santa

Who: Ed Ivory

Film: The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993

Tim Burton’s mind is a weird place. In stop-motion cartoon from 1993, he creates Halloween Town, a gothic postcode in which spindly Jack Skellington is de fact leader. Jack wants to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, and so has Santa kidnapped with the intention of nicking his job. A turn-around for Santa, who’s no stranger to being flexible with the law, given that his entire career is based on breaking into other people’s houses.

Special Santa skills: Getting kidnapped

Best line: Jack’s droogs think Santa’s name is Sandy Claws and cheerfully sing: “ Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick / Lock him for 90 years, see what makes him tick.” A mince pie’ll do, cheers.

Classic Santa

Who: Richard Attenborough

Film: Miracle on 34th Street, 1994

The resident Santa at New York department store Cole’s is institutionalised when he claims that he’s the real deal. Can the dishy lawyer Bryan (Dylan McDermott) convince a court of law to leave him be? It’s a bloody miracle that this remake of the 1947 classic turned out to be brilliant, helped in part by Richard Attenborough’s loveable, twinkly-eyed performance as the dude in the red suit.

Special Santa skills: Being adorable.

Best line: Looking all handsome – so handsome – Bryan implores: “I ask the court to judge which is worse: A lie that draws a smile or a truth that draws a tear?” Swoon!