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The 5 Best Santa Clauses on Film

movie Santas
Dimension / Buena Vista / Fox

Santa Claus, who without a doubt really does exist, doesn’t have time to make a personal appearance in every Hollywood movie about Christmas ever made. Instead, he relies on a number of talented actors to portray him on the silver screen.

Some of these performers have left us with impressions of an exceedingly lovable and giving man, while others have shown us the darker side of Old Saint Nick. With the holidays bearing down upon us now, we thought we’d take a look at some of best actors who have donned the red cloak and played Kris Kringle.

Tim Allen

While some folks thought Tim Allen a strange choice to play Santa Claus, his charm and wit really came through when he transformed into Saint Nick for the film ‘The Santa Clause.’ Sure, the story starts off by killing the real Mr. Claus, but a tale of a father’s redemption—and a plausible explanation for Kris Kringle’s longevity—makes us think Tim did right by the red and white suit in the end.

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Billy Bob Thornton

Mr. Thornton became a very bad Santa for his turn in the white beard and furry hat. While his interpretation of Father Christmas might not be the best one for the little kids to watch, ‘Bad Santa’ had us rolling with laughter. With Bernie Mac in tow, Billy Bob shows us that sometimes Santa (or a Santa impostor) can be quite naughty. A sex-addicted criminal with a substance-abuse problem playing Mr. Claus at the mall is a very entertaining thing—if not keeping entirely with the traditional holiday spirit.

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David Huddleston

Santa Claus: The Movie’ not only showed us how Santa got his current job, it also gave us David Huddleston in the iconic role. This was a Saint Nick that the kids could really embrace (sorry, Billy Bob) and get behind, as well as their parents. Elves, toys, the North Pole, and Dudley Moore and John Lithgow to boot brought the legend of the famous jolly man alive in stellar fashion.

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Gene Hackman

What? Gene Hackman? He doesn’t belong on a Santa Claus list. Well, yes and no. His stint as an undercover Saint Nick in the gritty film ‘The French Connection‘ may be short, but it’s remarkable for it’s blazing speed and nontraditional approach to the classic role. Hackman’s Santa tries to entertain the kids for a while, but gives that up and ends up in brief knife fight, a furious street chase and then a criminal beatdown instead. Cinematic and Christmas misdirection at its finest.


Edmund Gwenn

Come on. How can you beat a ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Santa Claus—from the original film no less? Edmund Gwenn’s portrayal of the man is a performance that has withstood the test of time. His charming and whimsical version Father Christmas, played with wisdom and kindness, has endured for a reason. Gwenn, an English actor working in Hollywood, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1947 for his good work.

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