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.