After the Devil, Father Christmas is the most portrayed character on screen. According to the statistics I’ve found, he’s appeared a whopping 814 different times. That’s mental. Imagine getting them all together in one room. It would be both fantastic and kind of terrifying. There have been some absolutely iconic portrayals of Jolly Old Saint Nick and there have been some bloody terrible ones. Everybody has their personal favourite and it all comes down to their childhood. Satan Claus is like Doctor Who. We all have our version. In terms of Doctor Who, I love David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, but the one I remember from my childhood (watching reruns) is Jon Pertwee. So, he’s always going to be one of my favourites. It’s the same with Santa. There are very few portrayals from recent years that I can really get behind. I’m not here for you modern-day interpretations. I want classic 80s and 90s Santas. Like these guys… plus a few others.
Richard Attenborough – Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
It might be the nostalgia talking but Attenborough is, hands down, the greatest movie version of Santa. He’s so kind and gentle in the role. You can’t help but love him. There’s a great charm to him and a sparkle in his eye. For one thing, he looks the part and is just the nicest person. I spent so much of my childhood (and the rest of my life) wishing I’d been Mara Wilson. She was so fucking lucky.
David Huddleston – Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
I know that no everybody loves this film as much as I do. I know that, on a technical level, it probably isn’t worth watching. However, I bloody love it. I was obsessed with this film as a child. So much so, I would always demand to watch it when we visited a certain friend’s house. They had it VHS and we didn’t. It rarely happened but that didn’t stop me. I think David Huddleston is another of those classic Santas who is just so nice and gentle. He’s perfect.
Jim Broadbent – Arthur Christmas (2011) and Get Santa (2014)
Again, this is possibly just down to my strong love of Jim Broadbent. He just seems like a lovely man. Another classic Father Christmas with such a gentle way about him. He’s got the perfect Santa voice as well. I guess it doesn’t count as much that he’s animated in Arthur Christmas but he’s clearly the best thing about Get Santa. I’d love to see him play Jolly Old Saint Nick again.
Kurt Russell – The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
Anyone who read my review of this Netflix Original film will know that I’m not a fan of this film. However, I was really on board with the idea of Kurt Russell as Father Christmas. He’s not the kind of Santa that you’d expect but he’s fun. It was certainly the best thing about that bloody film.
Mel Smith – Father Christmas (1991)
This adaptation of Raymond Briggs Father Christmas books is amazing and Mel Smith really does make a great Santa. Yes, he’s a bit gruff and not the traditional kind and gentle version we know. But there’s something realistic about him. He feels like a real person and is relatable. It just works.
Ed Asner – Elf (2003)
Maybe it’s just because he’s such an antidote to Buddy’s over-the-top excitable nature but Ed Asner’s Santa Claus in Elf is perfect. He’s got that kind of gruff and relatable thing going. Plus, Asner also gives off good old guy vibes. He’s not quite as twinkly and gentle as some of the others on this list but he’s still a good fit. It might not be the same in a different setting but, alongside Will Ferrell, it all comes together.
Ed Ivory – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Again this might have something to do with the dark setting but this animated version of Santa just seems so jolly and nice. We barely get to see him but the fact that he forgives the residents of Halloween town tells you everything. He has the Christmas spirit and the kindness that you expect.