The debate over what qualifies as a Christmas movie has she will continue to exist for as long as there are movies being made about the holiday. The biggest and most argued about film is probably Die Hard, with both sides adamant that they’re right. I, for one, believe any movie set on Christmas, is automatically a Christmas movie but that’s not to say every character within said Christmas movie is a Christmas character per say. The movie can only be tangentially connected to the holiday and still be considered a Christmas movie but I think for a character to be considered a Christmas character, they have to have to be connected in some way to the holiday. Die Hard is a Christmas movie but John McClane is NOT a Christmas character. With that poorly defined criteria out of the way, let’s rank the greatest characters in Christmas movies.
This is the 20 Greatest Christmas Characters of All Time.
20. Burgermeister Meisterburger (Paul Frees) | Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Burgermeister Meisterburger is the miserable, fun-loathing mayor and dictator of Sombertown who hates anything that provides pleasure, especially toys. He passes a law that states that anyone in possession of a toy will be locked in a dungeon. A man of his word, Meisterburger has no qualms about locking up children or even the entire Kringle clan once he finds out that Kris is still delivering toys to Sombertown. A rarity among Rankin–Bass villains and Christmas films in general, Burgermeister Meisterburger is never redeemed throughout the entire film. There’s never a scene in which he learns the error of his ways and grows as a person. He starts miserable, does horrible things throughout (including the aforementioned lock ups and also some toy burnings and the destruction of Santa Claus’ childhood home) and dies miserable. He’s the Grinch if the Grinch never met that adorable tyke.
19. B.Z. (John Lithgow) | Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
An unscrupulous toy manufacturer who manipulates one of Santa’s elves Patch (Dudley Moore) to help him take over Christmas, B.Z. has only one goal in mind: capitalize on Christmas. In his eyes, Santa is a schmuck for giving all those presents away over a millennia for free when he could’ve charged. Not only that, but why limit the profit to just that holiday when you could make a new and improved Christmas 2. The antagonist in most Christmas movies is almost always someone who’s greedy and who’s lost the Christmas spirit. It’s the Scrooge arc: the villain starts off caring only about money but slowly over the course of the film, he learns that there’s more important things than monetary wealth. B.Z. is the exact same but without that epiphany. He never learns anything. Instead, he eats too many magical candy canes and floats off into space where he most likely suffocated and died. It’s a brutal end to a horribly greedy miser.
18. Gus (Dennis Leary) | The Ref (1994)
For many of us, spending time with our families or in-laws during the holidays is akin to torture. Some of us only see them a handful of times per year out of necessity because if we saw them anymore than that, we’d either kill them or ourselves. Or maybe both. The only thing worse than spending time with your shitty family on Christmas, is spending time with someone else’s shitty family on Christmas. Add to that a nasty leg wound and a aggressive manhunt searching for you and that’s Gus’ situation in the film The Ref. He’s a professional thief who takes the absolute two worst people on planet Earth hostage: a couple going through a divorce. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are the couple and all they do throughout the film is bicker and bitch back and forth. Gus becomes the mediator not to help their marriage but simply to shut them the hell up. He’s literally only helping them just so he can get five minutes of quiet. His predicament is hilariously hellish but it acts as the best metaphor for Christmas ever.
17. Anna Shepherd (Ella Hunt) | Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)
Anna and the Apocalypse feels like an extra long two part episode of Glee based on the film Shaun of the Dead and depending on your tastes, that’s either the best thing ever or interminable. Personally, I found it a bit obnoxious and a case of trying too hard and somehow not trying hard enough. I appreciate what it was trying to do but I feel like it missed the mark. Ella Hunt on the hand, hit the bullseye every time she was on screen. Her portrayal of Anna is multifaceted. She’s a deeply melancholic girl who hides her depression with pluck and spunk. On top of the inconvenient zombie apocalypse, she’s juggling a laundry list of personal problems. She’s got a dead parent, another one she’s potentially going to hurt by moving away, a boyfriend she probably has to dump, a friend she’s definitely going to have to reject and a girlfriend she’s most likely going to abandon. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, especially a teen but she deals with them all with a sarcastic wit, a catchy song and a deadly oversized candy cane.
16. Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) | It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
After some two centuries of doing valiant work, Clarence had yet to obtain his wings. His big break came on Christmas Eve in 1946 when the upper echelon angels Michael and Joseph sent Clarence down to Earth to save the life of a man named George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who was on the verge of suicide. Instead of just preventing his death, Clarence was tasked with guiding George through a parallel universe in which he was never born. The fact that everyone’s life he knew (including the entire town itself), turned out to be trash since he wasn’t there to help guide them is a sobering wake up call. His life has meaning. Clarence doesn’t have a big role in this film but he’s essential for the third act to work. And if It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t work, we’d all collectively miss out on one of the all time best Christmas movies of all time.
15. Krampus | Krampus (2015)
In his first movie Trick ‘r Treat, Michael Dougherty tried to create a new Halloween icon in the form of Sam. His little orange onesie and burlap sack mask made him an instant fan favorite. In his next holiday themed follow up, Dougherty tried to hit paydirt for a second time and while he wasn’t as successful in creating another genre icon, his take on the Krampus myth is still worth checking out. Unlike previous depictions that portray him more like a slender faun man, his Krampus is a huge hulking beast when giant razor sharp claws and a human face as a mask. It’s a terrifying creation further helped by his army of insidious toys and ghoulish elves.
14. Willie T. Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) | Bad Santa (2003)
A mall Santa during the day and a safe cracker at night, Willie uses the cover of his temporary gig to do some reconnaissance and while that’s all well and good, there’s one major problem with his plan: he’s a hardcore alcoholic. He’s a short tempered, mean spirited lush who berates and/or fucks everyone he meets. He’s as vile and hateful as the Grinch and as antisocial and loathsome as Scrooge but without the greed. Which makes his eventual redemption all the more powerful. In addition to his mall shenanigans and drunken escapades, he also strikes up a friendship with a weird kid named Thurman Merman. At first he can’t stand him, but over time, the kid’s odd eccentricities start to rub off on Willie and soon he’s beating up other children who bully him and he even steals him a pink stuffed elephant. It’s not as big a gesture as saving Christmas or buying a cripple kid a turkey but seeing as how Willie is one of cinemas biggest assholes, it’s a big deal.
13. Heat Miser/Snow Miser (George S. Irving/Dick Shawn) | The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
Two feuding brothers — one who has pyrokinesis and the other a subzero midas touch — Heat Miser and Snow Miser having been going at it for years and years. Their feud hit its apex when both brothers fought over the Claus throne, with both wanting to be “Santa Claus” for a day. The skirmish only ended when Mrs. Claus told their mother on them. While not properly utilized and arguably a bit wasted as characters, the two nevertheless have a couple of great songs and their constantly bickering is undeniably entertaining. Once Disney inevitably buys Rankin–Bass and starts churning out remakes to these films, give these two more to do. They’re an untapped spring of potential.
12. Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann) | Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Arguably the greatest companion in any Christmas movie, Yukon Cornelius not only helps balance out the annoyingly sweet Rudolph and the aggressively plucky Hermie with some much needed manliness, he also has the best arc in the film. Rudolph never really grows as a character; he’s bullied but stops being bullied the second he’s proven useful within their community. Hermey wants to become a dentist, is told no but the second an elf has a toothache, he’s able to practice dentistry. Neither one of them has to prove themselves or is really tested in anyway. They want something and through pure luck and happenstance, get exactly what they want by the end. Yukon on the other hand, starts off as a greedy treasure hunter who’s obsessed with silver and gold (later unedited broadcasts reveal he’s actually looking for peppermint) but once he encounters the Abominable Snowman, he switches from an obsessed prospector, to a heroic protector. He saves Rudolph, Hermey and even saves and befriends the Abominable Snowman who he affectionately refers to as Bumble. It’s not the deepest arc but it’s the most entertaining and arguably the most important because without him, Rudolph would still be lost in those caves.
11. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) | The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The patron spirit of Halloween, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is the living embodiment of the holiday like Santa Claus is for Christmas or the Easter Bunny is for Easter. His job? Scare the bejeezus out of children and anyone else participating in the holiday but ol’ bone daddy is getting tired of the same old spooks. He does the same thing every year and the repetition is starting to wear on him. After finding a portal in the woods that leads him to Christmas Land, he immediately falls in love with the holiday and decides to steal it. Based on Tim Burton’s frustration with department stores putting up Christmas merchandise before Halloween had even happened, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a film about Halloween striking back. Jack may not have succeed in taking over Christmas within the film but in the hearts of every goth on planet Earth, he did.
Who are some of your favorite Christmas characters? Do you think they will make the top 10?