Santa Claus is the ubiquitous face of holiday cheer; a wholesome figure who represents all that is good and right about Christmas and the season of giving. So it makes perfect sense that various filmmakers have reinterpreted jolly old St. Nick in some of the most twisted ways imaginable.
From killer Santas with massive bodycounts to ancient supernatural beings that are better left in the past, here are 12 crazy versions of Santa Claus who had decked the halls of cinema history like no other.
12. Mars Needs Santa
- Movie: Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
- Director: Nicholas Webster
- Year Of Release: 1964
According to movies, everybody loves Christmas, and aliens are no exception. Desperate to celebrate Christmas, a couple of Martians quickly drop by Earth to kidnap Santa Claus (John Call) from the North Pole in their attempts to get some holiday cheer up in the little red planet they call home.
Santa, sadly, does not conquer the Martians or any other alien race in ways viewers may expect. Santa instead wins the support of his alien captors through their hearts and minds by introducing them to the wonders of the Christmas holiday. In a sense, Santa did conquer the Martians - albeit through capitalism and commercialization instead of armed encroachment. The closest thing to a show of force Santa does in the film is when he unleashes his army of toys on foolish Martians who dared question the holidays and its effects on their youth.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians also features a somewhat catchy theme song. Check out the song below.
11. Deranged Holidays
- Movie: Christmas Evil (aka Terror In Toyland or You Better Watch Out)
- Director: Lewis Jackson
- Year Of Release: 1980
- Box Office: $450,000
After a string of bad luck and realizing that people just exploit his good-hearted nature, the disturbed and Christmas-obsessed, but otherwise harmless, Harry (Brandon Maggart) loses it. Furious at the world, Harry believes that he is in fact the true Santa Claus, so he decides to become the "best Santa Claus" by dutifully rewarding the nice and exacting violent vengeance on the naughty.
If you've ever wanted a more serious and psychological take on the killer Santa archetype that shows just how demented he would actually be, then Christmas Evil is definitely worth checking out.
10. Camp Crystal Santa
- Movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night
- Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr., Steven C. Miller
- Year Of Release: 1984, 2012
- Box Office: $2,491,460, $14,567
Though not the first movies to feature a killer Santa, the Silent Night, Deadly Night series definitely popularized the concept. The franchise as a whole is known for holiday-themed kills, glorious cheesy acting and spawning way too many memes, with the "Garbage Day!" line from Silent Night, Deadly Night: Part 2 being the most well-known example. (Check it out below.)
As the sequels went on, killers wearing the Santa costume were used less and less until only the Christmas holiday remained. Because of this, the first Silent Night and its loose remake from 2012 are seen by fans as the most in line with the holiday spirit.
The first Silent Night, Deadly Night featured a psychotic, nun-hating killer in a Santa costume, while the remake made Malcolm McDowell fight a flamethrower-wielding Santa. Whoever says remakes are inferior has obviously never seen the new Silent Night.
9. Santamania In The Burbs
- Movie: Santa With Muscles
- Director: John Murlowski
- Year Of Release: 1996
- Box Office: $220,198
Just like many other aspiring sportsmen of the time, World Wrestling Federation (WWF) star Hulk Hogan tried to cement his name in the world of cinema. To this end, he starred in countless so-bad-it's-good movies, including Santa With Muscles where he played an incredibly jacked-up Santa Claus.
After the flamboyant millionaire Blake Throne (Hulk Hogan) wakes up with amnesia, he believes that he is Santa Claus. He does the most logical thing imaginable by setting out on an adventure to save an orphanage from money hungry bad guys who look like they came out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Santa With Muscles features the star of Hulkamania beating the crap out of baddies (including a doctor who weaponizes farts and a nefarious geologist) while he wears a modified Santa costume that was specifically designed to show off his muscles.
8. Empire Of Claus
- Movie: The Santa Clause 2
- Director: Michael Lembeck
- Year Of Release: 2002
- Box Office: $172,855,065
In this The Santa Clause sequel, Santa (Tim Allen) needs to find the right woman to be his bride before a magical deadline strips him of his position as Father Christmas. To fill his boots in his absence, his elves create a robotic Toy Santa.
Problems arise when Toy Santa's simplistic idea of "naughty and nice" turns the North Pole into a dictatorship. Toy Santa also converts the once happy toy factory into a coal plantation dedicated to giving naughty kids (read: every kid on Earth) a beautiful chunk of low-sulfur fossil fuel. The good guys do defeat Toy Santa's tyranny, but not before he imprisons all of his detractors, unleashes an army of robot soldiers and endangers the holidays during his short reign.
7. Santa Really Needs Rehab
- Movie: Bad Santa
- Director: Terry Zwigoff
- Year Of Release: 2003
- Box Office: $76,488,889
Santa Claus is almost always depicted as an ideal role model, but that can't be said for Bad Santa's Willie T. Soke (Billy Bob Thorton). As a con man who uses his job as a mall Santa as a front, Willie makes damn sure that everyone around him knows how much he hates the holidays and pretty much anyone unlucky enough to be in his general vicinity.
Before pulling off his big mall heists, the hedonistic Willie spends the holiday season getting drunk and/or high, picking fights with Christmas decor, swearing at children, getting it on with any woman he can, and pissing himself while on duty as Santa. Unless their name is Thurman Merman, don't let your children go near this man.
6. The Unbeatable Satan Claus
- Movie: Santa's Slay
- Director: David Steiman
- Year Of Release: 2005
Watching wrestling legend Goldberg slaughter people while dressed up as Santa may sound crazy on its own, but that's actually just the tip of the iceberg in Santa's Slay. What really takes the cake are Santa's revised origins, and they're something that has to be seen to be believed.
Santa in Santa's Slay is revealed to be a murderous demon who was cursed by an angel to spread joy instead of spreading peoples' insides for a thousand years after he lost in a game of curling. Now that he's done his time, Santa goes right back to killing and hunts down the angel who repressed his violent urges.
Santa's Slay is no masterpiece, but fans of Goldberg will be pleased to know that this Santa does brutally spear a bunch of hapless victims.
5. Santa's Shank Attack
- Movie: Hot Fuzz
- Director: Edgar Wright
- Year Of Release: 2007
- Box Office: $80,573,774
To emphasize how badass its lead character is, the cop movie parody Hot Fuzz opens with a quick action-packed montage of Police Constable Nicholas Angel's (Simon Pegg) heroics. One of his early criminal encounters involves a psychotic Father Christmas who stabs him in the hand with a pocket knife.
What makes this particular Santa cameo special is that the knife wielding Father Christmas was actually played by none other than an uncredited Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord Of The Rings movies. Though Father Christmas doesn't get any speaking lines, the fact that the director of some of the best fantasy movies made in recent memory took the time to stab Simon Pegg is something that should be appreciated.
4. Spreading Holiday Fear
- Movie: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
- Director: Jalmari Helander
- Year Of Release: 2010
- Box Office: $4,015,133
Unlike the other Santas on this list, the Santa in Rare Exports is a malevolent creature from ancient times and folklore that kidnaps naughty children before boiling them in a cauldron. It's up to a group of hunters who stumble upon the murderous old man in the snow to stop his killing spree.
To say any more would mean spoiling the movie's biggest and most creative twists, so just take my word for it when I say that Rare Exports will change everything you think you know about Santa and his little helpers.
3. The Unfriendly, Neighborhood Santa
- Movie: Hobo With A Shotgun
- Director: Jason Eisener
- Year Of Release: 2011
- Box Office: $703,372
To emphasize just how low its setting of Scum Town (originally known as "Hope Town") could get, the modern day exploitation movie Hobo With A Shotgun features a pervert dressed up as Santa Claus in a one-scene wonder. Santa also primarily preys on children, and watches them play with deranged glee outside of school playgrounds.
True to the movie's grindhouse roots, the titular Hobo (Rutger Hauer) quickly dispatches the sicko in a holiday costume by delivering a 12-gauge brand of vigilante justice -- and at point blank range to the face, no less.
2. Psycho Christian Santa
- Movie: Saving Christmas (formerly known as Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas)
- Director: Darren Doane
- Year Of Release: 2014
- Box Office: $2,783,970
If Saving Christmas is to be believed, Saint Nicholas of Myra (the real life basis of Santa Claus) was so violent that he brutally assaulted non-believers. This story was supposedly exiled into obscurity by Christians and historians who feared that it would scare kids celebrating the holidays.
Not only does Kirk Cameron's retelling of Saint Nicholas' story bear historical inaccuracies, but it also sends a highly problematic message on how religious folks should deal with people who think differently than they do. For moviegoers who are willing to suspend their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) for a second, Saving Christmas' version of Santa is incredibly forced yet hilariously and needlessly badass.
1. Mexican Space Santa From The 5th Dimension
- Movie: Santa Claus (aka El Santo Claus)
- Director: René Cardona
- Year Of Release: 1959
Chronologically, Santa Claus predates all of the previous entries, but the best (read: craziest) had to be saved for last.
In this Mexican holiday movie, Santa Claus (José Elías Moreno) is a powerful, omnipotent gift-giving entity who lives in a castle in space. With the help of his menacing robotic reindeer, kids from all over the world, creepily-designed privacy-breaching espionage technology that helps Santa keep track of kids' behavior, inter-dimensional powers and Merlin the wizard, Santa must defend the goodness of the holidays when Satan himself sends his minion Pitch (José Luis Aguirre) to wreck havoc on Christmas Eve.
Yes, these happened actually happen in the movie.
The scariest thing about an evil Santa is not the weapon he uses, but the amount of celestial power he wields - which is something Santa Claus depeicts in detail with its unintentionally horrifying holiday vision.
Honorable Mention: The Dark Side Of Christmas
- Movie: Krampus
- Director: Michael Dougherty
- Year Of Release: 2015
- Box Office: $61,548,707
Though technically not Santa or a guy dressed up as Father Christmas, the titular Krampus from the surprise holiday-horror hit of 2015 counts because he is clearly supposed to be the dark reflection of jolly old Saint Nick. If Santa shares cheer and gifts to children, Krampus takes everything and everyone from those who dare forget the meaning of the holidays.
Krampus himself doesn't show up for more than half of the movie and instead lets his evil, sentient toys do his bidding and killing. Outside of a few quick glimpses and teases in the introductory scenes, Krampus only appears in his full, monstrous glory during the movie's final act, making his reveal worth the wait.
Holiday movies make up a somewhat predictable and formulaic genre, which is why unintentionally funny and frightening renditions of Santa Claus bring new life to Christmas movies. While some examples are better than others, the movies listed here are all worth a watch - if only to see Santa do some of the craziest things imaginable.
With the holidays fast approaching, there's no better time than today to watch Santa go on a killing rampage or watch him do other questionable stuff - such as burn a town to the ground or fight the devil himself.