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Best Santa Claus Movies of All Time – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Best Santa Claus Movies of All Time



Santa Claus is a beloved figure known worldwide for his jolly demeanor and iconic white beard. Despite his reputation for breaking and entering through chimneys and stealing cookies and milk, everyone loves him. Santa Claus has evolved over time from the classic Jolly Old Saint Nicholas seen in Norman Rockwell paintings to various interpretations by actors such as Whoopi Goldberg in Call Me Claus and Jose Elias Moreno in Santa Claus.

As of June 11, 2023, it is never too early to prepare for Christmas. Nikole Finger has updated this article to provide viewers with the latest information on the best Santa Claus movies. The legend of Santa Claus has provided filmmakers with endless possibilities for interpretation. From heartwarming tales to dark comedies, there is a Santa Claus story for everyone.

With so many Christmas films to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find the best ones. The following are some of the best Santa Claus movies of all time.

19. The Santa Clause (1994) – Walt Disney Pictures
Tim Allen plays Santa Claus in this timeless comedy. When Scott Calvin (Allen) accidentally kills Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he takes on the role of Santa and delivers gifts to children worldwide. The film’s premise may seem hokey, but it thrives on the idea of magic, making it a favorite among viewers of all ages.

18. Elf (2003) – New Line Cinema
Will Ferrell delivers a career-best performance as Buddy, a grown man living as an elf. When he travels to America to find his birth father, things get hilariously out of hand. Directed by Iron Man director Jon Favreau, Elf is a family romp with enough sass to entertain adult viewers too.

17. The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Netflix
In The Christmas Chronicles, two siblings help Santa Claus when he crashes his sleigh. The cheesy yet fun Netflix movie is perfect for families to enjoy together.

16. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – FilmFlex
This Finnish film features a Santa Claus who isn’t like any other. When an archaeological excavation unearths Santa, strange things start happening. A vigilante group takes it upon themselves to catch this not-so-jolly Santa. The film makes a sociopolitical statement about the commercialization of Christmas and is a memorable twist on the classic Santa Claus tale.

15. Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Paramount Pictures
Rise of the Guardians follows holiday icons such as the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost, but Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin) plays a huge role in the story. This unconventional version of Santa is a mentor to Frost and reminds viewers of the core reasons behind the holiday.

14. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – 20th Century Fox
Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) is locked away as unstable because he claims to be Santa Claus. A young lawyer is thrust into defending him and proving that he is Kris Kringle. This classic film reminds viewers that the idea of Santa Claus is needed all year round.

13. Bad Santa (2003) – Miramax Films
Billy Bob Thornton and director Terry Zwigoff turn the Santa Claus movie on its head with Bad Santa. Willie (Thornton) poses as a department store Santa to stage a robbery on Christmas Eve. The film lacks Christmas spirit but makes up for it in hilarious entertainment.

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12. Fred Claus (2007) – Warner Bros. Pictures/FilmFlex
Vince Vaughn plays Fred Claus, Santa’s no-goodnik brother, who helps him during the busy Christmas season. Both Vaughn and Paul Giamatti, who plays Santa Claus, deliver great performances in this semi-oddball holiday movie.

11. One Magic Christmas (1985) – Walt Disney Pictures
Mary Steenburgen plays Ginny Grainger, a woman who hates Christmas. Her family is struggling, and she doesn’t believe in anything anymore. All of this changes when her daughter has an encounter with Santa and Gideon, a Christmas Angel. One Magic Christmas is nearly pitch-perfect and a must-watch during the holiday season.

In conclusion, Santa Claus movies are a great way to bring cheer and joy to the holiday season. With the endless possibilities for interpretation, there is a Santa Claus story for everyone.

Who doesn’t love Santa Claus? This jolly, rotund individual with the big white beard is loved and revered by all, despite his countless acts of ‘breaking and entering’ through the chimney and property theft (of cookies and milk). Santa Claus has more recently deviated from the historic Jolly Old Saint Nicholas we see in Norman Rockwell paintings, with everyone from Whoopi Goldberg in Call Me Claus to Jose Elias Moreno in Santa Claus taking on the iconic character.


Update June 11, 2023: It is never too early to start getting ready for Christmas, and Nikole Finger has updated this article to give viewers all the latest information they need to choose the best Santa Claus movie.

Santa Claus is a mythic figure, one recognized the world over, and can be reimagined in a number of different ways. The lore surrounding Santa Claus has provided filmmakers with many unique interpretations. There is a Santa Claus story for every type of genre, it seems. The holidays typically mean people are busy. There is such an overwhelmingly wide array of Christmas films, but if people could see a few of the great Santa Claus movies there are to enjoy, chances are this would make their holidays a little merrier and a bit less stressful. However, people take their Santa. These are the best Santa Claus movies of all time.

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19 The Santa Clause (1994)

Disney's The Santa Clause
Walt Disney Pictures

Tim Allen plays Santa in this 90s comedy that has proven timeless since its release. The plot of The Santa Clause is simple. When Scott Calvin (Allen) unfortunately kills Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he ends up having to take his place and deliver gifts to all the children of the world. The premise may seem hokey, but movies about Santa Claus always seem to thrive on the fact that they can reside in the realm of magic. Sure, this might not be high art, but who really wants to see that after a rough day of Christmas shopping?

The film also spanned a successful series of films, first with 2002’s Santa Clause 2 and then 2006’s Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. Tim Allen returned to the franchise in 2022 with the Disney+ series Santa Clauses, which was renewed for a second season.

18 Elf (2003)

Elf
New Line Cinema

Will Ferrell gives a career-best performance as Buddy in Elf. He is a grown man living as an elf, and this is causing major problems in the North Pole. Thus, Buddy travels to America in order to discover who he really is. It turns out his birth father is a man named Walter Hobbs (James Caan), and, as you can guess, Hobbs isn’t falling all over himself to claim this elf-man as his son.

What ensues is a wildly entertaining family romp that also skews nicely toward adults. They don’t usually make Santa Claus movies with this much sass, but it works delightfully here. Part of that is because the film is directed by Iron Man director and The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau, and the late great Ed Asner plays a wonderful Santa that is equally grumpy and sweet.

17 The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Kurt Russel as Santa in The Christmas Chronicles
Netflix

It’s hard to be a kid and not wonder how Santa Claus is able to pull everything off in just one night. In The Christmas Chronicles, two siblings get to see everything behind the scenes when Santa crashes his sleigh and needs their help to save Christmas. The Netflix film is a little cheesy, but sometimes that makes a Christmas film all the more fun. It has just enough holiday wonder to make it worth checking out after baking all of those gingerbread cookies. The movie is one that the whole family can enjoy together, or the kids can watch while the adults sit by the fire with their eggnog.

16 Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

rare-exports-a-christmas-tale
FilmFlex

Rare Exports has Santa Claus in it, but this isn’t your grandparent’s Santa. This oddity from Finland features a Santa Claus who is dug up during an archaeological excavation. Things get even stranger when reindeer die, and young kids start to go missing. Suddenly, a vigilante group of sorts takes it upon themselves to nab Santa and get rid of him.

Related: The Best Dark or Sad Christmas Movies

These men may have guns, but Santa has demonic elves, which might be the equalizer here. What follows is a crazy adventure that makes a sociopolitical statement about the commercialization of Christmas. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t really a Santa Claus tale you’ve seen before, but that is what makes it so memorable.

15 Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians
Paramount Pictures

While Rise of the Guardians follows many holiday icons, like the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), and Christmas play a huge role in the story. This version of the jolly saint has a bit of an edge, with tattoos and an intimidating build. However, he mentors Frost to embrace his center.

Santa Claus is the Guardian of Wonder, which is what makes him the holiday icon he is. While this version is a little unconventional, it reminds audience members to appreciate the core reasons we have holidays and their icons at. As a bonus, Rise of the Guardians has a winter aesthetic but technically takes place in the spring, so it is a holiday movie that can be watched any time of year.

14 Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

miracle-on-34th-street
20th Century Fox

In today’s day and age of “fake news,” Miracle on 34th Street is needed now more than ever. Okay, Santa Claus may actually be fake, but the idea of Santa Claus, or what the big man in red represents, is very real. Miracle on 34th Street is the story of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn). He is locked away as unstable because he claims to be Santa Claus.

Suddenly, a young lawyer is thrust into defending this person and basically has to prove that he is Kris Kringle. Now, this movie may be dated, but it has never been more poignant. We live in a time of soundbites where every thought and idea is for sale, and everyone disagrees on what to believe. Miracle on 34th Street quaintly reminds us that the idea of Santa Claus is needed all year round.

13 Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton as Willie in Bad Santa
Miramax Films

Billy Bob Thornton and director Terry Zwigoff basically turned the Santa Claus movie on its head here. What this film lacks in Christmas spirit, it makes up for in tough, hilarious love. Billy Bob plays Willie, a conman of the highest order with one goal– he wants to stage a robbery on Christmas Eve by posing as a department store Santa. The premise is unwieldy, but the execution is flawless, and darns if it if, by the end of the movie, you don’t love this Bad Santa and all of his foul-mouthed drunken ways.

12 Fred Claus (2007)

fred-claus_1200x630
Warner Bros. Pictures/FilmFlex

Wanting to be Bad Santa but constricted by its PG rating actually seems to help Fred Claus. Vince Vaughn plays the title character. He’s one big, no-goodnik of a man who doesn’t really care for his older brother, Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti). However, Santa needs help during the busy Christmas season, and his brother Fred needs money, so it seems like they have a deal.

As one can guess, these two distant family members end up coming together in the most unexpected of ways. Both Vaughn and Giamatti are quite deft with comedy, and that is what really helps carry this semi-oddball of a Santa Claus movie.

11 One Magic Christmas (1985)

one-magic-christmas
Walt Disney Pictures

One Magic Christmas should be rated G for “gem” as it is nearly pitch-perfect in every way. Mary Steenburgen plays Ginny Grainger, a woman who hates Christmas. Her family is struggling, and she doesn’t believe in anything anymore. All of this changes when her daughter has an encounter with Santa and Gideon, a Christmas Angel.

They pay Ginny a visit, and this sets in mind a wild chain of events. Ultimately, they lead Ginny back to the meaning of the season. Sure, this premise may sound a bit milquetoast, but overall it is delightful and warmhearted. It shows that no matter how tough things get, one should never stop believing in hope.

10 Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town
Rankin/Bass Productions

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town is both a classic Christmas song and movie. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus became the holiday icon he is today, starting from when he was just a little baby and ending with him as the jolly man in a bright red coat and snowy white beard. The movie is one of the many iconic stop-motion animation films of Christmas from the 70s, featuring many cute critters and intricately designed characters. The music in the film is perfect for getting anyone in the holiday spirit, while the timeless story gives off feelings of Christmas nostalgia.

9 The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Santa on his carriage
ABC

It is hard to argue with a film that has Mickey Rooney voicing Santa Claus. The Year Without a Santa Claus is special for a number of reasons. First off, at 51 minutes, it is short but sweet, and secondly, it was all done in classic, colorful claymation. Thirdly, and this might be most important, the story follows a depressed Santa Claus who is kinda over being the jovial big man.

He is even considering not delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. Well, Mrs. Claus is never going to let that happen, and their relationship is the crux of this exceptional Santa Claus film with outstanding and memorable musical moments.

8 The Polar Express (2004)

Hero Boy on the Polar Express
Warner Bros. Pictures

A film about a boy taking a special train that transports him to the home of Santa Claus. Talk about a slam dunk. Sure, a lot of people love to talk about the majestic artistry of this film, but once one can get past all the technical magic, you have a Santa Claus film that really captures the heart of the season. There is a richness and depth to The Polar Express that really seems to work despite this film being in love with technology. The fact that they have Tom Hanks playing multiple roles (yes, he plays Santa Claus) only adds to this movie’s warmth and holiday cheer.

7 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993
Buena Vista Pictures

What is Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon/Danny Elfman), the ruler of Halloween Town, to do? He’s discovered this place called Christmas Town, and now he wants to have Christmas with a few Halloween Town adjustments. The brilliance of this concept from Director Henry Selick (from a story written by Tim Burton) is that The Nightmare Before Christmas both is and isn’t a Santa Claus movie. Yes, it takes a very different look at Christmas and features an undead Santa wannabe. However, that is precisely what makes it the kind of film that is perfect for the holidays.

Related: Best A Christmas Carol Movie Adaptations, Ranked

Add in a few corpses, demons, mummies, and other oddballs in this Santa Claus film, and it’s easy to see why it is so beloved after all these years. Part of why so many fans of the Pumpkin King love this film is because of the music written and performed by the legendary Danny Elfman. But don’t think this is just a film for December. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie made for the entire pumpkin spice season.

6 Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Ernest Saves Christmas movie
Buena Vista Pictures

Jim Varney may not reek of the Christmas spirit, but that doesn’t mean that Ernest Saves Christmas doesn’t have a lot to offer. The storyline follows the standard ‘Santa needs a successor’ plot– Santa is looking for somebody to take his place, and Ernest P. Worrell (Varney) is determined to make that happen. If it doesn’t, then Christmas would be done, and that is just unthinkable. This film, despite its silliness, is really filled with heart and emotion. On top of that, Douglas Seale’s Santa Claus is probably the most realistic depiction to ever grace the silver screen.

5 Arthur Christmas (2011)

Arthur Christmas movie
Aardman Animations

How cool is a Santa Claus movie that is voiced by James McAvoy? Arthur Christmas tells the tale of the lovable Arthur. He doesn’t really do anything well, but boy, does he try. He is given a mission to return a misplaced gift, and he’s going to make this happen in spite of himself. With other voice cast members that include Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy, Arthur Christmas might be one of the lesser-known Santa Claus movies, but it’s one of the sweetest, funniest, and most inventive.

4 Santa Claus (1959)

José Elías Moreno in Santa Claus
Azteca Films Inc.

Rene Cardona’s tale takes another route entirely with Santa Claus, also known as Santa Claus vs. the Devil. He sits atop the North Pole, getting everything ready for his major delivery of gifts on Christmas Eve. Santa wants to help the needy, but the Devil finds out about this and will not let it happen. He enlists the evil Pitch, and they set about foiling Santa’s plans. However, Santa has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he won’t give up the spirit of Christmas so easily. This is a highly bizarre, legendarily weird, and artificial film made in 1959, Mexico but re-dubbed into English, and deserves its place as one of the oddest and most subversive Santa Claus films.

3 Get Santa (2014)

get-santa
Warner Bros. Pictures

Santa Claus is really in a pickle in this film. Basically, Saint Nick has crashed his sleigh and is on the run from the authorities. Well, this poses some big problems, as it seems to be messing up Christmas for the entire world, so a father and son team up to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Get Santa is a charming film in the grand tradition of Santa Claus films, ripe with nuance and unique perspectives about the holiday season and the lore of Santa himself.

2 Violent Night (2022)

violent-night-harbour
Universal Pictures

The latest film on the list is 2022’s Violet Night. The movie essentially puts Santa Claus (played by David Harbour) into a Die Hard situation where he is trapped in a house, having to save a family who has been taken, hostage. The film sees a disillusioned Santa Claus that needs to rediscover his holiday joy in a world that seems to have moved past classic Christmas joy. It is topical but also has a big heart on its sleeves that, luckily, does not get lost in all of the over-the-top violence.

1 Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Santa Claus the Movie
TriStar Pictures

Dudley Moore and John Lithgow make a surprisingly excellent pair in the family classic Santa Claus: The Movie. Moore plays the erstwhile Patch, an elf who leaves the North Pole and travels to New York. Along the way, he ends up getting sucked into the evil world of B.Z. (Lithgow). He is a ruthless tycoon with one goal… to turn Christmas into a profit machine for himself.

Suddenly, Santa Claus (David Huddleston) has to get involved to save not only Patch but Christmas itself! Santa Claus: The Movie was made in the mid-1980s. It’s got all that going for it and more in this cornerstone of a Santa cinema.

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