If there’s one thing a lot of Christmas films have in common, it’s the appearance of Santa. He might have a small cameo in a mall scene or be the star of the film, but either way the red suit and white beard are pretty much guaranteed wins for the Christmas film bingo card.
As such, Santa has been brought to life by many different actors over the years; from Matthew Perry in Friends to Tom Hanks in The Polar Express. Actors quite literally have big boots to fill when it comes to playing the man in charge of Christmas, but who does it best?
A poll conducted by UNILAD pitched some of the most iconic performances against each other, with Twitter users asked to vote between Tim Allen, Kurt Russel, Richard Attenborough, Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton, among others.
Each actor puts their own spin on the role, from Thornton’s misuse of the character for his own gain in Bad Santa to Attenborough’s kind-hearted, Miracle on 34th Street depiction.
Some had less success than others when it came to winning the audience’s hearts, evidenced by the fact that the straight-talking Kurt Russel of The Christmas Chronicles, Edmund Gwenn from the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street and Santa Claus: The Movie’s David Huddleston each came in last place in their respective rounds.
Though Buddy would have probably put him in first place, Elf’s Ed Asner was among the Santas that received middling results, along with Richard Attenborough from the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, Fred Claus’ Paul Giamatti, Leslie Nielson of Santa Who? and James Cosmo from The Chronicles of Narnia.
Following three rounds of voting, the top three contenders for the best Santa emerged as The Santa Clause’s Tim Allen, Billy Bob Thornton from Bad Santa and Jim Broadbent from Get Santa. Evidently, Santa works best when there’s a bit of law-and-order involved.
Each actor portrayed Santa to a different extent, with Broadbent the only one who actually played Santa himself from the beginning. Fans of The Santa Clause will know Allen transformed into Santa over time, while Thornton’s Santa experienced a whole different approach to the job.
Though Broadbent was the only full-time Santa among the finalists, he came in third place with just 9.9% of the vote, leaving it up to Thornton and Allen to battle for the top spot.
The Bad Santa film series proved that Thornton isn’t against fighting other Santas when he needs to, but his lack of Christmas spirit appeared to cost him the crown on this occasion as he came in second place with 25.2% of the vote.
Throughout multiple appearances in The Santa Clause series, Allen proved to do the best job of bringing the character to life as he stormed ahead with 64.9% of Twitter voters crowning him the best Claus.
While Allen’s character Scott Calvin was in denial about taking on the role of Santa at first, once he accepted the white hairs and extra pounds were there to stay he became much more comfortable with his new persona – an outlook I think we could all use as inspiration after this year.
There will no doubt be many more depictions of Santa over the years, but only time will tell if anyone manages to take the crown from Tim Allen!