Christmas is here which means Christmas movies are everywhere. In the spirit of the season I thought it would be fun to look back at an older Phenomenal 5 that I originally published in 2013. One that focuses on a signature yuletide character. Of course I’m talking about Santa Claus. So today I’m revisiting five of the very best Santas from cinema. Now obviously with so many to consider I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I have no trouble recognizing these five jolly old elves as nothing short of phenomenal.
#5 – Tim Allen (“The Santa Clause”)
While I’m not a big fan of this series of movies as a whole, I do really enjoy the first film. “The Santa Clause” tells the story of a selfish father named Scott Calvin who through a nutty accident inherits the position as Santa Claus. Of course a lot of things come with that role – a big round belly, a snow-white beard, etc. Allen is great showing us his character’s transformation from a self-absorbed slug to a loving, caring father and ultimately Jolly Old Saint Nick.
#4 – Ed Asner (“Elf”)
He’s certainly not the main draw in “Elf”, but Ed Asner’s performance as Santa Claus is a key ingredient to this movie’s success. Asner never winks at the camera. Instead he seems completely invested which accounts for some really funny moments. He not only looks the part but he carries himself just as you would imagine his character would. There are several good moments as he manages things at the North Pole but also when his sleigh crash lands in Central Park. Fun and fitting – that is how I would describe Asner’s portrayal.
#3 – Tom Hanks (“The Polar Express”)
I know some people have problems with Robert Zemeckis’ motion-captured animated film “The Polar Express”. Not me. I’m a fan and it has become one of our holiday favorites. And while he doesn’t appear until the very end of the film, Tom Hanks is a wonderful Santa Claus. What makes him such a great Santa has a lot to do with the buildup. The film truly creates a larger than life, jaw-dropping perception of Santa and we the audience see him through the awe-struck eyes of those children. The animation is gorgeous and Hanks fits the picture perfectly.
#2 – Jeff Gillen (“A Christmas Story”)
How can a movie Santa Claus who only appears for 3 minutes of a film have such a prominent position on this list? Easy – when he gives us such a hilarious and utterly timeless scene. This is what Jeff Gillen does in the modern holiday classic “A Christmas Story”. His tired and grumpy department store Santa grows more and more irritable as he approaches the end of his Christmas Eve shift. Grumbling elves and Gillen’s bored and dismissive delivery doesn’t provide young Ralphie with the best experience, but it sure is a load of fun for us.
#1 – Edmund Gwenn (“Miracle on 34th Street”)
Let’s be honest, who else could be number one? In my book Edmund Gwenn’s fabulous portrayal of Santa Claus is the perfect blueprint for how to play the character. Gwenn’s Oscar-winning performance still stands out today and from the first moment you see his Kris Kringle you can’t help but be drawn to him. He has the demeanor, the cheer, the charisma, the childlike exuberance. And with the exception of one old grump, he makes everyone around him happier and every circumstance better. Edmund Gwenn embodies the character to absolute perfection and he is unquestionably the best movie Santa Claus.
So what do you think of my list? Agree or disagree with my choices? Please take time to share your choices in the comments section below. And of course…Merry Christmas!