The 14 Most Iconic Screen Santas Of All Time

There have been an AWFUL lot.

Vicki Notaro lists the men (and women) that channelled their inner Kris Kringle and brought Santa to life most memorably in cinema and on television.

Santa in ELF

“SANTA! I know him!!” Probably one of the greatest Christmas movie quotes of all time, from Will Ferrell’s Buddy The Elf. Now, Santa is not the star of the show here, (the clue is in the title), but he plays a strong supporting role, and of course Buddy saves the day when his sleigh runs low on Christmas cheer fuel.

Played by Hollywood stalwart Ed Asner, this Santa wasn’t so saccharine as some of the others, but we loved him just the same.

Kurt Russell

Can Santa be sexy? After seeing Kurt in the promo pics for Netflix’s Christmas Chronicles, we think so! That lustrous beard, the lack of paunch, the stunning leather and fur outfit… yep, we officially fancy Santa, not even sorry.

The flick is the streaming giant’s latest festive flick (following on from A Christmas Prince and The Holiday Calendar), and it’s fun for all the family and a particularly millennial take on the classic films we all know and love.

It starts streaming from 22nd November, and it was produced by the man behind Home Alone, so you know it’ll be good.

Bad Santa

Another kinda sexy Santa, but this time because he’s a baddie, and there’s just a glint in Billy Bob Thornton’s eye in this flick that endears him to us.

Not one to watch with all the fam, this Mr Claus gets up to some very, um, adult stuff, including loud sex, robbery and plenty of booze, drugs and violence. However, he stands out from the pack for being, well, bad, but also ultimately kinda good as well – like us all, right?!

We also love the fact that Lorelai Gilmore AKA Lauren Graham plays his foxy love interest.

The Polar Express

It’s Tom Hanks, but as you’ve never seen him before – in CGI form, playing Santa. The whole film, like many Santa tales, is about whether or not you believe in the big fella himself, but the main character Hero Boy is eventually convinced by a trip to the North Pole and a face to face with Mr Claus. I mean, that would convince you.

Jack Skellington

Is it a Halloween film? Is it a Christmas move? Who knows and who cares, because Tim Burton’s dark fantasy The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the most enjoyable winter films you can watch.

Protagonist Jack is the local Halloweentown Pumpkin king, but he gets bored of his seasonal role and instead decides to infiltrate Christmastown where everything is merry and bright, by kidnapping and essentially becoming Santa. However, it doesn’t exactly go to plan…

Miracle on 34th Street

Whether you love the original from 1947 or the 1994 remake, most of us adore the classic Christmas tale of a department store Santa that claims to be the real thing, and the sceptical little girl that becomes the only one to believe in him. There’s everything here – romance, intrigue, cute kids and also a bit of courtroom drama – what more could you want?!

The Santa Clause

So beloved it spawned several sequels, Tim Allen’s turn as Father Christmas is quite literal. He’s a workaholic divorced dad struggling to connect with his son when he accidentally, um, has a hand in the death of Santa Claus, and is forced to take on the role, whether he wants to or not.

The overnight weight gain (who can relate at Christmas?!), instant facial hair, adorable elves and general 90s gasness all contribute to a stonker of a festive film, and deffo one of the best Santas there is.

Santa Claus: The Movie

At the time of its release, this film majorly flopped and received scathing reviews, but it’s since become one of the greatest cult Christmas movies there is. It shows Santa’s origins at the North Pole, features an exiled elf who lets greed get the better of him and a villainous toy executive played brilliantly by John Lithgow, as well as teaching children about homelessness, poverty and those less fortunate. Worth a watch alone for the 1980s special effects, and some very cute robotic reindeer.

The Kelloggs Santa

He’s a cultural icon, the Santa from the ad where the gorgeous little girl waits up all night to see her idol, and then happens across him tucking into a bowl of corn flakes. Other ad Santas we love include the one on the back of the Coca Cola truck,
the mention of the “verdy gud” Santa in the Denny ad, and the one from the Irish Telecom ad back in the 80s.

Nick Claus

Paul Giamatti’s Nick in Fred Claus is one of the most likeable Santas there is, especially when compared with his older brother, played by Vince Vaughan. Nick is a moral compass for his wayward sibling, wanting to make him see the good in the world and work for a living – however, all his goodness is often wasted, and Christmas is nearly ruined thanks to Fred’s bad behaviour. Anyone with an angelic sibling will relate…

Bad Moms Christmas

You might recognise this Santa from This Is Us – Justin Hartley plays one of the triplets on the hit weepie show. Here though, he’s playing a sexy, stripping Santa in the under-acclaimed Bad Moms Christmas, to the titillation of Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell. Warning – he does get more naked than this later in the film.

Santa Paws

This was a straight to video film from 2010, but rejoice, it’s on Netflix, and as the title suggests it concerns a canine Santa’s little helper, and is as cute as a film can be where the animals’ mouths are reanimated to make it seem like they’re talking.

If this is your kinda thing (and no judgement here), do also check out Santa Buddies from 2009, oh, and Santa Paws 2. Ahem.

Ryan Philippe

Is this just an excuse to show off a shirtless, young Ryan Philippe displaying some rippling abs underneath a Santa suit? Perhaps it is, and we’re not a bit sorry. Ryan donned the infamous suit in the pretty crap film 54, which is based on his character stumbling into the night life of acclaimed 70s club Studio 54, and the glamour and heartache that went along with that scene. The film is sort of set at Christmas, explaining the costume, but this is probably the only good scene, so drink it all in and watch Cruel Intentions instead, if you ask us.

The Mean Girls

Can anyone hear Jingle Bell Rock without thinking of this iconic scene? True, the girlos aren’t exactly playing Santa, but if the furry hat and sexy boots fit…
Shout out to other sexy Santa pop culture moments, from Jake Gyllenhall in Jarhead to Mariah Carey in All I Want For Christmas, and every Hun on a 12 Pubs of Christmas who chose a cute costume instead of a jumper.


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