The history of Santa Claus in movies is a love/hate relationship. As revered as jolly old St. Nick is, sometimes we just can’t help making a mockery out of his jolly old visage. Before we ask you if you think we left anybody off this list, we know what you’re thinking: No Billy Bob Thornton for Bad Santa. Not only does Billy Bob’s bad Santa teach a kid how to box so he can get revenge on his tormentor, he also bags Lauren Graham. Those two feats combined are almost beyond the real Santa, himself. That’s not a bad Santa, that’s a metal Santa.
Here’s a short list of the worst Santas to ever disgrace the red & white uniform:
8. Santa’s Slay (2005)
According to this movie, Santa was originally the spawn of Satan, and Christmas was originally his day of slaying, instead of giving. This all changed, though, when an angel defeated Santa in a game of curling in A.D. 1005, and forced him to be good and give presents on Christmas Day for a thousand years.
When we skip back to the present day — meaning 2005 — we see that it’s been exactly one millennium, meaning Santa is free to kill again. And kill he does, according to Wikipedia, which records his body count at a stalwart 35. This movie speaks for itself.
7. A Christmas Story (1983)
The Santa Claus in A Christmas Story at least looks more like Santa than the rest of these fools. This however, doesn’t justify him making the Santa experience similar to how reform-school orphans must’ve done it in Victorian England for poor little Ralphie.
Notice how Ralphie has to climb up stairs with grouchy mall-worker elves grabbing his arms and snapping at his heels, and afterwards get shooed away by the one man who shouldn’t be telling him he’ll shoot his eye out that, goddamnit, he will shoot his eye out. Ho ho ho.
6. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
It’s safe to say Billy Chapman didn’t grow up loving Christmas. When he was a boy, his parents were murdered by a guy in a Santa outfit, causing him to grow up in an abusive orphanage. We understand that you have a beef with Christmas, annual reminder of your dead parents and all, but can’t you just wear a scary mask like all the other deranged psychopaths with axes?
A deranged, serial killer Santa understandably pissed a lot of people off before Silent Night, Deadly Night debuted in theaters, enough for the PTA to lobby for its banishment.
5. The French Connection (1971)
As a detective, we understand that you have to bend the rules a little to fight some crime, but dressing undercover as a Santa Claus collecting charity handouts to nab a crook is crossing the line. Santa Claus should be sacred — something not to be sullied or violated on either side of the law. The average dope dealer should be able to trust that the big guy isn’t waiting for him around the corner to chase him, beat him, book him, and then beat him some more because it’s New York, and it’s the 1970s, and Popeye Doyle is a crazy racist with a badge & gun.
4. Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)
Santa is awesome for a lot of reasons. Circles the globe in one night. Gives presents to all the little boys and girls. Sports a beard that would have sex with ZZ Top’s beard and never call that beard, again. But we all know there has to be a cap on Santa’s mystical abilities, and furthermore his responsibilities as an awesome dude.
Implying that Santa can also go to Mars to deliver presents to all the good little Martians opens up a whole new ‘but daddy, how does Santa survive on a planet with no oxygen?’ That’s a can of worms that no parent wants to elaborate on.
3. Trading Places (1983)
If any scenario can obliterate someone’s faith in the holiday season, it’s watching Santa Claus walk into a company Christmas party with a loaded gun and steel some of the delicious spread. Even worse, Dan Akroyd‘s white Santa tries to frame black Eddie Murphy by planting illicit drugs in his office. Golly jeepers, if Santa can’t live in a post-racial world and not assume that just because a guy is black that the shoe fits, who can?
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Making Santa Claus an asshole is one thing, but disfiguring him into some kind of skeleton with a moon for a head is the stuff of children’s nightmares. In Tim Burton’s extremely limited defense, Johnny Depp was probably unavailable at the time, which meant he had to let his imagination run wild… and therefore horribly wrong.
By having Jack Skellington turn face, pick up the holiday spirit, and make the rounds on Christmas Eve for all of Halloweentown, the underlying message of goodwill towards men gets lost in utter terror because he’s not a man so much as something that may or may not be hiding under your bed.
1. Gremlins (1984)
Remember that scene in Gremlins when Phoebe Cates finally explains why she hates Christmas? We’re sorry, Phoebe, but it’s your dad’s own dumb-ass fault for trying to actually slip down through a working chimney while his hands were occupied with gifts.
Was he too bored with the usual Christmas Eve procedure, the non-deadly one where dad just waits until the kids fall asleep to bring the presents out of the closet and tuck them under the tree?