The Best and Worst Actors Who've Played Santa Claus

Not all memorable holiday holiday movies are created equal.

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How do you like your Santa? Funny? Serene? English? A woman? *Gasp* There have been many, many actors who have played Santa Claus on screen over the years, with some of the roles more successful than others. Chances are, you have a definitive Santa you picture when you think of a film or TV portrayal, whether it be from an animated holiday movie or a live-action one. Everyone has their own favorite, but there's also a clear hierarchy.

Obviously, this list of 11 actors who have played Jolly Old St. Nick isn't exhaustive. We've focused on some of the most popular Santas in pop culture, from movies or specials that featured the character heavily or memorably.

So, from a couple of criminal Santas to a gender-swapped version, here are the 11 most popular movie Santas ranked from worst to best. And for critically acclaimed festive flicks, check out The Best Christmas Movie of All Time, According to Critics.

Read the original article on Best Life.

11
Paul Giamatti in Fred Claus (2007)

Paul Giamatti in Fred Claus
Warner Bros. Pictures

Paul Giamatti is known for a variety of roles, including parts in Sideways, 12 Years a Slave, and American Splendor. And in 2007, he played Santa Claus in the comedy Fred Claus. It's about the big red guy's brother, Fred (Vince Vaughn), a criminal who ends up back at the North Pole after Santa bails him out of jail. Giamatti's Santa isn't a typical one, and the movie was a flop overall.

For more holiday films people love to hate, This Is the Worst Christmas Movie of All Time, According to Critics.

10
Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa
Dimension Films

Speaking of unusually dark takes on this beloved holiday figure, there's also Bad Santa starring Billy Bob Thornton. This 2003 comedy follows a mall Santa, who is also a mall burglar. It's over-the-top and crass, but plenty of viewers enjoy it for precisely those reasons.

9
Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Jim Carrey in The Grinch
Universal Pictures

First of all, you're not supposed to like the Grinch—at least, for the majority of the movie. So, when the Grinch plays Santa as a way to steal Christmas gifts from all the residents of Whoville, you're not supposed to like that either. Plot aside, Jim Carrey did what he could with the Grinch, but the film wasn't well-received and his heist is not that memorable of a Santa performance.

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8
Tom Hanks in The Polar Express (2004)

Tom Hanks in The Polar Express
Warner Bros. Pictures

Tom Hanks playing Santa Claus seems like it could work. After all, they're both beloved icons in their own way. But when it comes to 2004's The Polar Express, the only thing anyone remembers is how creepy the motion capture animation in the film looks. It's not Hanks' fault. He put in a great deal of effort playing five roles in the film.

7
Anna Kendrick in Noelle (2019)

Anna Kendrick in Noelle
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Noelle is a Christmas movie from 2019 about two siblings, Nick (Bill Hader) and Noelle (Anna Kendrick), who are the adult children of Kris Kringle (Jay Brazeau). When Kris dies, Nick is supposed to take over as the new Santa, but Noelle ends up taking his place instead. The movie didn't become an instant Christmas classic, but Kendrick is as charismatic as usual and broke this Christmas-themed glass ceiling.

For how the Queen and her family do the holidays, check out 15 Royal Christmas Traditions That You Need to Know About.

6
Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles
Netflix

Kurt Russell stars as Santa in the Netflix original The Christmas Chronicles—and its sequel The Christmas Chronicles 2—as a more lively Santa, who has to save Christmas with two kids (Judah Lewis, Darby Camp). While Santa is usually pictured as jolly, but calm and old-fashioned, this Santa says things like, "Let's get this party started!" I guess if Santa's going to be a main character rather than someone who shows up at the end, it makes sense to make him a little more energetic and engaging.

5
Stan Francis in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Santa in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
CBS

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a holiday classic that first aired on TV in 1964. So, for many people who grew up watching it, Stan Francis's voice is the voice of Santa Claus, period.

If you need shopping inspiration, These Are the Most Popular Christmas Gifts of 2020, According to Google

4
Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street
20th Century Fox

We'll get to the original Miracle on 34th Street in a minute, but, for now, let's talk about the 1994 remake. It stars Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, a man who becomes a department store Santa even though he is actually the real deal. After being set up for a crime by the fake Santa, he has to prove his true identity in court. It's a very classic depiction of Santa Claus, especially if you believe Santa has an English accent.

3
Tim Allen in The Santa Clause (1994)

Tim Allen in The Santa Clause
Buena Vista Pictures

In The Santa Clause, a normal guy named Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) becomes Santa after accidentally killing the original Santa. It's a dark start to a family movie, but as Scott adjusts to his unexpected new role, he really begins to look and act the part. The movie was a hit that scored two sequels, so Allen comes in at number three.

2
Ed Asner in Elf (2003)

Ed Asner in Elf
New Line Cinema

Will Ferrell stars as a human who was raised by elves after being found by Santa in the 2003 holiday classic The St. Nick who found him is played by Ed Asner, who's actually played the big guy in several movie and TV roles. The guy isn't just a beloved TV legend, he also knows his way around playing St. Nick.

1
Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street
20th Century Fox

We've made it to the top of the list, and the best onscreen Santa of all time is Edmund Gwenn from the original Miracle on 34th Street. Gwenn plays a classic, Americana Santa, who gets a lot of screen time as the star of the film, and who shaped the way we see Santa on film and in TV for years to come. Gwenn even won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, making him the only actor in history to get an Oscar for playing Kris Kringle. And for more winning performances, check out The Single Best Movie of the 21st Century, According to Critics.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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