5 Phenomenal Movie Santa Clauses

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Christmas is quickly approaching which means Christmas movies are popping up everywhere. In the spirit of Christmas I thought it would be fun to look at one iconic yuletide character that has popped up in movies for years. I’m talking about Santa Claus. Now some movies just don’t give us anything memorable but others present Santa in a way that brings us back year after year. We just have to watch these seasonal favorites. So today I’m looking at five of the best ones. Now with so many cinematic Santas I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I have no trouble recognizing these five Santa Clauses as absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – TIM ALLEN (“The Santa Claus”)


While I’m not a big fan of this series of movies as a whole I do really enjoy the first film. “The Santa Claus” tells the story of a pretty 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 Santa Claus. His performance shows that he is having a blast with the role and he is the main reason the film works.

#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 gives us some really funny moments. He not only looks the part but he carries himself just as you would imagine jolly old Saint Nick would. There are several good moments as he manages things at the North Pole but he also has some really fun moments when his sleigh crash lands in Central Park. Fun and fitting – that is how I would describe Asner’s Santa Claus.

#3 – TOM HANKS (“The Polar Express”)


I know some people have had problems with Robert Zemeckis’ motion-captured animated film “The Polar Express”. Not me. I really like the film and it has become one of our holiday favorites. And while he doesn’t appear until the very end of the film, Tom Hanks as Santa Claus is such a wonderful addition. 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 same awe-struck eyes of those children. The animation is gorgeous and Hanks fits the portrait 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? When he gives us such a hilarious and utterly timeless scene. This is what Jeff Gillen gives us in the modern Christmas classic “A Christmas Story”. His tired and grumpy department store Santa grows more and more irritable as he ends his Christmas Eve shift. Unfortunately for Ralphie, that is when he goes to see Santa in hopes of getting his elusive Red Rider BB gun. Grumbling elves and Gillen’s bored and dismissive delivery doesn’t provide 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, could there be a different number one? In my book Edmund Gwenn’s fabulous portrayal of Santa Claus is the perfect blueprint on how to play the character. Gwenn’s Oscar-winning performance still stands out today as absolutely brilliant. From the first moment you see Gwenn’s 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 and every circumstance better. Writer and director George Seaton conceives the perfect Santa Claus and Edmund Gwenn embodies that version to absolute perfection. He is 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.

REVIEW: “Elf” (2003)


Christmas movies are their own special brand of films. Much of what makes them good is centered on how well they tie into this wonderful holiday season. You can’t separate them from the holiday, and their success depends on that relationship to Christmas. Jon Favreau’s “Elf” is a perfect example. Soaked with Christmas lore, “Elf” captures the sentimental spirit of Christmas within its clever and often times hilarious story. “Elf” is inseparable from Christmas and your perception of the holiday will naturally impact your perception of this movie. That’s probably why I can forgive its few flaws and appreciate it as a true holiday treat.

Will Ferrell stars which can sometimes throw up a few red flags for me. Ferrell and this movies often follow a fairly overused formula where he plays someone in an absurdly out-of-place position (see movies such as “Semi-Pro” and “Blades of Glory”). But unlike those movies, it really works here. He plays Buddy the Elf, a toymaker at Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. How’s that for a wacky fit?

But there are several noticeable differences between Buddy and his fellow elves, none more glaring than the fact that he’s 6’5 and not very good at making toys. His father, Papa Elf (hilariously played by Bob Newhart, fully decked out in a bright elf costume with green tights) decides it’s time to reveal to Buddy that he’s really a human being. Feeling uncertainty about where he truly belongs, Buddy sets out on a journey to find his real father. His quest takes him to the magical world of New York City.

Image Courtesy of New Line Cinema

It’s here that the absurdity really kicks in. Buddy arrives in the Big Apple in full elf garb where his elf mentality immediately clashes with the concrete jungle. He comes face-to-face with many new and exotic things including New York cabbies, coffee shops, and the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s often hysterical watching Buddy’s elf sensibilities smash up against big city life. The fish-out-of-water script provides plenty of funny moments. Of course it gets a little sappy at the end, and the baked-in holiday cheer means the ending is fairly predictable. But that goes hand-in-hand with Christmas movies. You pretty much know what you’re going to get.

Then there’s the terrific and committed supporting performances. I especially love James Caan as Buddy’s real father, Walter Hobbs. He’s a shrewd children’s book publisher who spends more time at work than with his wife (Mary Steenburgen) and his young son (Daniel Tay). Then there’s Zooey Deschanel as Jovie, a Gimbel’s department store worker who catches Buddy’s eye. Much like Walter, she’s in desperate need of some Christmas spirit, something that Buddy has in spades. Ed Asner is a wonderful fit as Santa Claus, and Faizon Love has several great scenes as the Gimbels toy department manager.

“Elf” is utterly absurd and unashamedly silly and I say that as a compliment. Even if you aren’t a Will Ferrell fan, he’s an absolute blast in this fun and festive holiday treat. It may be handcuffed by its Christmas movie boundaries, and it certainly dips into sentimentality at the end. But it’s such a warm and clever film; one with plenty of good gags and family-friendly laughs. It may not be up everyone’s alley. But for many, it’s a film that has become one of the “must watch” movies of the Christmas season. That’s certainly the case at our house.