Santa is the representation of the true meaning of Christmas — sharing, caring and goodwill toward mankind — but unfortunately, movie studios usually only see him as a bright, red character to make a buck off of. However, once in awhile, Hollywood will give us a memorable performance of the jolly old Saint Nick that makes us feel like little kids again, waiting in front of the Christmas tree just waiting to see him come down from the chimney. Let's count down the most holly and jolly guys in red!
8. Mickey Rooney (Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town)
I'll be honest, I am not really a fan of the Rankin/Bass short Christmas films. Not to say I think they are bad — they are fine films to show kids — but I'm not one of those people who still watch them every year around the holidays. However, I can't deny that the one I watched the most and still find myself watching is Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, which is basically the Batman Begins of Santa Claus movies...okay, maybe it's not as epic as that movie, but it's the same basic idea: we see the origins of Kris Kringle becoming the iconic figure of Christmas from his youth to his adulthood.
The character is voiced by Mickey Rooney, who just owns the role as this extremely kind man who wants to give toys to the people of a town. Not much to it other than he's just so likable that he practically saves the entire film.
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7. Paul Giamatti (Fred Claus)
While this movie is far from perfect, I find myself surprised by how much more I like Fred Claus every time I watch it. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty stupid at times, but if you're looking for a decent little comedy to watch around Christmastime, I recommend you check it out.
The best thing about this movie is Paul Giamatti (one of my favorite actors) as the younger brother Nick, a.k.a. Santa Claus. This is a much different Santa than most because of that fact that he's over-stressed from his work, he's having trouble keeping up, and throughout the movie we see him try so hard to stay optimistic until something happens, which results in him just becoming more and more devastated.
He was so likable when he was optimistic, so when we see him become depressed because he might lose his job and Christmas will be ruined, we can't help but feel sorry for him. However, this makes the happy resolution so much better. By the way, the best scene with this Santa is a confrontation between him and Kevin Spacey's character, which is when we see the giving and caring nature of Santa finally come back.
6. Douglas Seale (Ernest Saves Christmas)
So yeah, I happen to love Ernest movies (yes, even the really dumb ones that came out later) and probably the best one is Ernest Saves Christmas, which probably has one of the most bright-eyed, lovable Santas of all time. This Santa was supposed to retire and pass the torch onto another man several years back, but because he loved it so much, he kept going.
Douglas Seale (who you probably know mostly as the sultan from Disney's Aladdin) plays this character in such a great way. There is no other Santa quite like him, and that is why I love him so much. He's so gentle and kind to everyone, even to those who clearly don't believe in him. He's always trying to help people when he can, especially when he speaks to the character Harmony or his replacement, Joe.
5. Tim Allen (The Santa Clause)
Leave it to Disney to come up with a holiday classic. The Santa Clause is a very different take on Santa, about what happens if someone were to take over the job. Well, according to this movie, it's basically a little kid's version of David Cronenberg's The Fly, where the main character gradually changes into Santa. He gains weight, grows a beard, his hair turns white, and basically what should be a horror movie, if you think about it too hard, is a charming Christmas classic.
Tim Allen's Scott Calvin starts off as very cynical and sassy (let's face it, it's impossible to remove Allen's smartass-ery), and it's quite hilarious yet enjoyable seeing him deal with his bizarre transformation into a warmhearted spirit of Christmas.
Tim Allen does a great job with both the comedic side and the jolly, kind side of Santa — and when things need to be taken seriously, he gives a surprisingly good performance. Even in the disappointing but enjoyable sequel and the godawful third film, Tim Allen still manages to bring a very charming performance as one of the best Santas we could ask for.
4. Edmund Gwenn (Miracle On 34th Street, 1947)
Yeah, I can't talk about cinematic Santas without mentioning the classic story about a man who truly believes he's Santa, so he is taken to court to settle whether he is or not. Now, the sound of a Christmas movie about a court case might sound odd, but it truly is one of the best Christmas films ever, and that is mostly due to a fantastic performance by Edmund Gwenn as Santa.
While most Santas are jolly, energetic and over the top (in a good way), Gwenn's version of the character is much more like a well-spoken gentleman who brings so much positivity to every scene that all you can do is smile. He never talks down to the child character, he's always kind, always truthful, and you can't help but love him.
There are several reasons why Miracle On 34th Street is considered to be one of the best Christmas movies of all time, and one of them is most certainly Edmund Gwenn's performance.
3. Richard Attenborough (Miracle On 34th Street, 1994)
Please don't be angry with me for ranking Attenborough higher than Gwenn — this was incredibly hard for me to choose, because I love both of these movies and I love both of these performances so much. So I'll say this: if I had to choose the superior film overall, I'd go with the original version, but if I had to pick which movie had the superior Santa, I'd feel bad if I didn't choose the late Richard Attenborough, whose performance is downright perfect in this remake of Miracle on 34th Street.
Attenborough hits many of the same notes as Gwenn's version, but he still manages to portray this character in his own way. This version is much more jolly; he's always smiling or laughing, but he's still willing to take things seriously if he needs to. Everything you need to know how great of a Santa Attenborough is, is with this scene:
Come on, you can't deny that you are grinning after watching that, right? Fun fact: the little girl's reaction was genuine; Attenborough secretly learned sign language just so he could surprise the little girl and improv for just this one scene. My hat goes off to him for doing something so awesome for this little girl, and it's because of things like this, from beginning to end, this never actually feels like a performance; everything Attenborough does feels so genuine that all you can see is that he's a true Santa, whether he is the magical figure or not. You just want to give the old man a great big hug.
2. James McAvoy (Arthur Christmas)
I'm going to start this off by saying: if you haven't watched Arthur Christmas, watch it this year, because it is truly amazing what Aardman Animations created. In this story, the now old and forgetful Santa finishes his last run across the world before retirement, but unfortunately he forgot to give one child a gift — and his youngest son, Arthur, learns about this. He goes off on a journey across the world to bring this one gift to this one child.
Where do I begin with this? First off, James McAvoy plays the character of Arthur with so much energy and effort that, almost from the very first scene, you are sucked into the character like a moth to flame. Arthur goes through so much just to give this one little girl her present. He doesn't get anything out of the endeavor; he just wants to see little Gwen happy on Christmas Day.
The one scene where I knew that Arthur had become one of the best Santas is when he finally gives the gift to little Gwen, and he sees her reaction to it. Arthur is so joyful over this little girl's happiness, and you can't help but smile along with him as he basically became the new Santa Claus.
Some say I'm cheating, since Arthur is technically not a Santa, but considering how likable and selfless he is throughout the film, I'd say he's more of a Santa than anyone else in his family.
1. Alec Baldwin (Rise Of The Guardians)
We have listed so many Santas, all with very unique portrayals, so how does this Santa — my personal favorite — distinguish himself from the rest? Well, how about the fact that he's basically a magical superhero who defends children across Earth from villains? Yeah, I think that qualifies.
DreamWorks surprised me with this version of Santa, an Eastern European with swords and tattoos who is a completely hilarious badass. Alec Baldwin plays this version of Santa — named North — and he brings so much energy to the character; he sees the wonder and beauty in everything, so he gets enjoyment over the simplest of things.
North loves every task he's doing — even when he's simply just collecting teeth and leaving change, he has a complete blast doing it. At times he's hilarious and goofy, but he can still be a valiant and wise leader of the Guardians, which is why I consider him to be not only the best character of the movie (the best modern Christmas movie, in my opinion) but the best cinematic version of Santa we will ever get.
If you haven't seen Rise of the Guardians, please do and have yourselves a blast with Alec's wonderful portrayal of Santa that both adults and children can love.
So what do you think? Who do you think is the best Santa? Who did I miss? Let me know in the comments down below and have yourselves a holly, jolly Christmas!