10 Best Movie Santas, from Edmund Gwenn to Kurt Russell With Christmas right around the corner, television networks and streaming services are lining up with holiday movies. And as the list of these movies keeps getting bigger as we speak, it’s definitely more than any one person could watch! If you have to pick and choose which films to add to your annual re-watch list, maybe you should pick one with an excellent portrayal of jolly old Saint Nicolaus himself.
Santa Claus is seen as embodiment of kindness, generosity and Yuletide beneficence. And though there has been no shortage of cinematic Santa renditions, it takes more than clunky black boots, a red suit and convincing white beard to make the list. Keeping that in mind, here are the 10 Best Movie Santas.
1. Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The only actor to win an Oscar for playing Santa Claus, Edmund Gwenn deserves the top spot of the Best Movie Santas. Gwenn’s Kris Kringle saves the Macy’s parade from a drunken impostor, generates publicity for the department store by alerting customers about better deals being offered by competitors, enchants a young Natalie Wood into believing in magic, and even proves his sanity at a court hearing. With a performance like this, who wouldn’t believe in Santa?
2. Douglas Seale in Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
A comedy about the Santa title changing hands features veteran British character actor Douglas Seale as a Kringle. His character, on the verge of retirement, travels to Florida to transfer the gig to a kind-hearted kids’ TV host. For all the wacky slapstick afoot, Seale maintains his dignity, presenting a Santa who’s both capable of genuine magic while also very much a part of the real world — a tricky balance in any movie, much less one built around Jim Varney’s rubber-faced and admittedly, hilarious antics.
3. Richard Attenborough In Miracle On 34th Street (1994)
A touching Christmas remake of the original classic (featured on #1 of the 10 Best Movie Santas). This particular verison we’re talking about is the 1994 version with Richard Attenborough playing the role of Kris Kringle. He gets nominated to become the new department store Santa after the previous one is fired for being drunk. But then Kris gets into trouble and winds up in court after assaulting the other Santa and to get the charges dropped, his lawyer has to prove that he is actually the real Santa Claus.
4. Tim Allen in The Santa Clause (1994)
The Santa Clause is a trilogy following Tim Allen’s character Scott on his journey to becoming Santa Claus. Scott gets the job after accidentally startling the former Santa Claus while he’s standing on the roof. After he dies, Scott is forced to pick up the mantle and take on the job of saving Christmas.
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The second movie follows Scott as he tracks down the perfect Mrs. Claus and in the third movie, Scott has to decide if being Santa for life is truly what he desires. Onto his journey, Allen makes the perfect guide, with his character evolving from cynical to sweet as he completes his metamorphosis into the North Pole’s most famous resident.
5. Ed Asner in Elf (2003)
Cementing the #5 position on the 10 Best Movie Santas; is the Christmas movie of all time Elf. Will Ferrell is easily the star of this movie and the one who stands out the most as the cheery Buddy the Elf, but Ed Asner also plays an impressive Santa in the film. Buddy helps Santa get back on track and save the day and looks to him as a hero after he found Buddy as a child and gave him to the elves to be raised. With not an ounce of cynicism or irony to this modern classic, this film brings enough cheer to last through your holidays
6. Tom Hanks In The Polar Express (2004)
Although it would be great to see him play a live-action version of Santa some day. for now we have to be happy with the animated version. The Polar Express is a traditional Christmas movie with an intriguing story and Tom Hanks plays seven roles in the movie (along with serving as an executive producer on the film). The story is about the mysterious Polar Express which takes the lucky Hero Boy and other children to the North Pole so that they may meet Santa Claus and get some gifts to open on Christmas Day. In addition to voicing the conductor, Hero Boy, and many other characters, Hanks is Santa. He’s kind of the perfect choice for Santa as American’s Sweetheart and favorite actor.
7. Paul Giamatti in Fred Claus (2007)
Although the title of the film belongs to the brother ‘Fred Claus’, Paul Giamatti’s version makes him one of the 10 Best Movies Santas. Giamatti, as older brother Saint Nick is forced to bring his negligent, rule-breaking brother Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) to work at the North Pole. Fred gets himself into a tight spot and needs 50,000 dollars in bail money, money that Nick agrees to lend him, so long as he’ll come to the North Pole and pay him back by working alongside the elves. Guess, being Santa Claus isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
8. Jim Broadbent in Arthur Christmas (2011)
In this delightful animated adventure from Aardman, Jim Broadbent plays the current Santa in a long lineage: He assumed the reins from his father (voiced by Bill Nighy), and is about to pass them along to son Steve (Hugh Laurie), who has modernized the toy delivery system, reducing Santa to a dotty figurehead.
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As voiced by Broadbent, he’s a bit of a dodderer, but still very much in love with the job. Arthur Claus eventually manages to prove himself a worthy successor to Santa at the end and succeeds his dad as the new Santa Claus.
9. Alec Baldwin In Rise Of The Guardians (2012)
Rise of the Guardians is an underrated animated film that many people have sadly forgotten. Despite performing well theatrically, Rise of the Guardians failed to kickstart a franchise. In this movie, Santa is edgier than more interpretations. Alec Baldwin voices “Nicholas St. North” who is Russian and has tattoos. He also works with a bunch of Yeti as his henchmen. You wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
10. Kurt Russell In The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
The Christmas Chronicles is a fairly new Christmas film that only released on Netflix only two years ago. Despite its youth, it has already become a movie worthy of re-watching every year. The story is about a brother and sister who decide to try and prove Santa is real. They wind up hiding in his sleigh and causing it to crash. The sibling duo has to help Santa deliver gifts or else the Christmas spirit will fade away and cause a catastrophe. Russell might be the hottest version of Santa in existence and one of the best reasons to check out this campy feel-good movie.
Which of these 10 Best Movie Santas is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.