The Christmas season is a time for joy, for giving, and for getting together with family to eat, drink, and be merry. While the movies have celebrated this most festive of holidays in numerous classics — from Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life to A Christmas Story and Elf — they’ve also made occasional detours into insanity, especially when it comes to jolly old St. Nick himself. Reimagining the portly present-giver in wonderfully weird ways, these out-there winter sagas care little for tradition — and, as is sometimes the case, even less for lucidity. For those interested in serious Yuletide season unconventionality, these 10 crazy Santa Claus movies will definitely make your spirits bright.
(Note: Some clips may be NSFW.)
Santa Claus (1959)
Also referred to as Santa Claus vs. the Devil, this Mexican cult classic involves a demon that’s sent to Earth to make children behave inappropriately as part of a trap to get Santa Claus — who, it turns out, lives in outer space. Sleep powder, flowers that make Santa disappear, and Santa’s trusty pal Merlin the Magician all eventually play a part in this hallucinatory whatsit, which is marked by trippy visuals, low-rent production values, and the recurring appearance of Lucifer himself.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Nicholas Webster’s 1964 film rose to notoriety after being mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that ridicule was well-earned, given the wholesale chintziness and absurdity of this fiasco, which involves Martians who kidnap Santa Clause (and two Earth kids) because they believe he can bring happiness into the lives of their own pleasure-deprived children. A murder plot also factors into this equation, in ways that make little sense but result in plenty of unintentional laughs.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
When Santa’s reindeer decide that Florida is too hot for their tastes, they take off, stranding him on a beach. Luckily, a group of random kids appear to help St. Nick figure out a means of returning home — which eventually involves the assistance of the Ice Cream Bunny (i.e., a man in a ratty Easter costume). If that weren’t loopy enough, Santa spends most of the movie telling his young friends a fable about Thumbelina, which is dramatized in a long fantasy sequence that, it’s clear, is actually a wholly unrelated short film shoehorned into these proceedings.
Christmas Evil (1980)
John Waters has long proclaimed Lewis Jackson’s 1980 slasher film his all-time favorite Christmas movie, and considering its outright strangeness, it’s not difficult to imagine why. A spiritual predecessor to Silent Night, Deadly Night, it concerns a young man who, disgusted by what he perceives to be society’s phony perversion of the holiday spirit, glues a beard to his face, dons a Santa costume, and starts doing away with those on his (figurative) naughty list. What ensues are tongue-in-cheek gonzo thrills.
I Believe in Santa Claus (1984)
This French effort (originally known as I Met Father Christmas) stars singer Karen Cheryl as a fairy who helps two children travel to a magical place known as Lapland, where Santa lives. The reason for this mission? The kids’ parents have been kidnapped by African criminals, and they need Santa to save them. Rarely has Santa seemed so oddly out of his element.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Initially pulled from theaters (after out-grossing A Nightmare on Elm Street on its opening weekend), Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s 1984 slasher film follows a mentally disturbed man as he copes with his deep psychological problems — all stemming from seeing his parents killed by a man in a red hat and coat — by dressing up as Santa Claus and going on a homicidal rampage. A grim grindhouser, it’ll make you think twice about trusting anyone decked out in a Santa costume.
Santa With Muscles (1996)
Hulk Hogan may have been the greatest wrestling star of the ’80s and ’90s, but when it came to acting, well, let’s just say his performances left a lot to be desired. That’s definitely true of his turn in this 1996 dud, in which he stars as a shady millionaire who hits his head while wearing a Santa suit, awakens to believe he is Santa, and then fights to rescue children from a scientist (Ed Begley Jr.) who’s intent on mining magic crystals from beneath an orphanage. Somehow, it plays even loonier than it sounds.
Bad Santa (2003)
There’s never been a more inappropriately funny Santa than Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie T. Soke, who spends each December dressing up as Kris Kringle at department stores — all to eventually rob the establishments with the aid of his little-person partner Marcus (Tony Cox). From listening to the wishes of snot-nosed brats sitting on his lap, to taking some personal time in the dressing room with female co-workers, Thornton’s Soke is the lewdest, crudest, most hilarious Santa in movie history.
Santa’s Slay (2005)
Few Santas are as outright bonkers as the one found in this 2005 black comedy, which features wrestling star Bill Goldberg as a murderous Kris Kringle who’s actually the offspring of a virgin birth involving Satan, and who has only been refraining from killing people because he lost a curling match with an angel and, for that defeat, had to deliver presents for 1,000 years. Stalking his prey with the aid of his “hell-deer,” he’s a Santa of an absurdly sinister variety.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
In this unique Finnish import, a frozen-in-ice Santa Claus is unearthed by American excavators — and, unfortunately for them and a young boy who lives nearby (not to mention the reindeer that live in the snowy area), he’s an ancient, evil being who has scrawny nude elves steal children for him, so he can tan their hides and boil them in cauldrons. With a story that’s as corny as it is scary, Jalmari Helander’s film is a dark and demented delight.
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