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This holiday season will see two new entries in the pop culture Santa Claus canon — one with a familiar face and one brand new. On Nov. 16, Tim Allen, 69, returns in a Disney+ miniseries sequel to The Santa Clause trilogy, in which everyman-turned-Santa Scott Calvin sets out to find his replacement as he nears retirement age. On the other end of the spectrum, Stranger Things star David Harbour takes on the man in red in Violent Night, a black comedy action thriller in which he helps a wealthy family defend their compound after mercenaries attack on Christmas Eve. Below, see how Allen stacks up against some of our other favorite movie Santas, then check out Violent Night to decide if Harbour belongs on the naughty or nice list.
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The Santa: Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The premise: In this beloved holiday film, Macy’s special events director Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) hires a man to play the department store’s Santa Claus after his predecessor is discovered to be drunk during the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The new guy throws a wrench into Doris’ plans when he claims to be the real Kris Kringle, kicking off a sensational trial in which he defends his sanity — and makes those involved in the case question their own beliefs in the magic of Christmas. Gwenn won the best supporting actor Oscar, and Richard Attenborough earned acclaim for taking on the role in the 1994 remake.
Why he belongs on the nice list: In a world full of cynics, Kringle manages to restore faith in the hearts of nonbelievers by something as simple as talking to a little girl in Dutch.
The Santa: Stan Francis in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The premise: OK, we know the Rankin/Bass special is a seasonal classic, but we have some complaints about this stop-motion Santa: Reindeer bullying runs rampant at his North Pole workshop, and he’s, well, a bit svelte for our liking. (As Mrs. Claus says, “Whoever heard of a skinny Santa?”) The “king of jing-a-ling” does get bonus points for having a catchy musical number with “Jingle Jingle Jingle,” a feisty partner and a keen fashion sense — we’d definitely wear that plaid hunting cap he dons the first time he meets a newborn Rudolph.