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December 18, 2022

Our Favorite Portrayals of Santa Claus

There are lots of amazing Clauses, but these are the ones we love the most

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With Christmas movie viewing getting underway in full force, there’s no better time to reflect on our favorite Santa Clauses! It wasn’t easy trying to pick our favorites. After all, who doesn’t love Santa? At Santa.com, we got together, thought of our favorite holiday films and specials, including live-action and animated options, and came up with this list of the eight favorite Santa portrayals we adore! We are sure that this roundup includes a Santa you love or will help your family discover a new Claus to watch and enjoy this year.

8. Tom Hanks- The Polar Express

Tom Hanks voices multiple characters in this train-centric holiday hit. Along with most notably voicing the train conductor, Hanks is also remembered for being the voice of this film’s Santa Claus. Hanks’ animated Claus appears larger than life, with a booming yet gentle voice. Despite his short screen time, who can forget when he gives out the first gift of Christmas?

7. Bill Nighy - Arthur Christmas

Bill Nighy plays Grandsanta, the surviving matriarch of a family of Santa Clauses in one of our favorite animated Christmas films, Arthur Christmas. His distinctly British charm and zany, slightly kooky version of Santa Claus is what makes him such a memorable character. However, it’s his surprising wisdom and love for the holiday that provides inspiration and guidance for his Grandson Arthur.

6. J.K. Simmons- Klaus

A complex performance by J.K. Simmons as Klaus, in this moving holiday film of the same name, is our obvious number six. Hulking, gentle, and tragically hurt, watching Klaus find joy in making children happy again is always emotional. Although he doesn’t personify the classic tropes of a Santa Claus, he embodies those key themes of charity, love, and redemption like few other Clauses can.

5. Mickey Rooney- The Year Without A Santa Claus

At number five, we had to put Mickey Rooney, who lends his voice to Santa in Rankin and Bass's classic The Year Without A Santa Claus. It’s so iconic for adults and children that you can almost hear that classic voice in your head when you think of a stop-motion Santa.  In this special, Mrs. Claus helps Santa rediscover his joy for the holidays, and in the process viewers young and old are bound to fall in love with Rooney’s  Saint Nick.

4. Ed Asner- Elf

We love Ed Asner’s curmudgeon of a Claus! Only Ed Asner could portray Santa Claus as both kind and magical but also as gruff and precarious. He plays a key role in Buddy’s journey, as not only the person who tells him the unfortunate truth about his real father, but also when recruiting Buddy’s unique sensibilities to help get Christmas back on track in the climax of the film. 

3. Richard Attenborough-Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

A slightly more intense portrayal of Santa Claus in this 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, Richard Attenborough’s Santa manages to be both befuddled, but also sensitive and sweet. He’s more overtly magical than the original portrayal of this character but Attenborough manages to imbue his distinct wit and charm into the role, which is what makes him our go-to number three.

2. Tim Allen- The Santa Claus

An entire generation’s Santa Claus, Tim Allen’s turn as Scott Calvin in The Santa Claus and its sequels will remain a constant source of joy and wonder for so many. From struggling father to Saint Nicolas himself, watching Allen make that transition never gets old. The trademark humor he brings to the role can’t be beaten and this is why he was always going to be our number two. 

1. Edmund Gwenn- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

He’s what you’d wish every mall Santa could be, kind, gentle, enigmatic, whimsical, and most importantly magical. Edmund Gwenn is THE Santa Claus. After this 1947 classic, every film portrayal of Santa Claus was always playing a bit of catch-up to Gwenn’s incredible and nuanced performance. The film rides the line expertly between fantasy and reality, never quite being so overt as something like the 1994 remake. It’s that magical thinking combined with the authenticity and mystery of Gwenn’s Santa that makes us believe in him too and why there can be no doubt about his number one spot.