- The best Christmas characters are those who embody the Christmas spirit and make holiday movies memorable favorites that people return to.
- From Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic portrayal of Catwoman to the lovable Ghost of Christmas Present from The Muppet Christmas Carol, these characters steal the show.
- While new Christmas movies may deliver memorable characters, there are already plenty of iconic Christmas characters ready to be reintroduced.
The holiday season means it is the time to revisit all the classics of the festive time of year and become reacquainted with some of the best Christmas characters. While there are countless Christmas movies to choose from, with more being added each new year, only the best stand out and become the favorites that people return to again and again. In most cases, it is the characters at the center of these stories that make them so memorable.
Some of the best Christmas characters from holiday movies include those who embody the Christmas spirit while spreading it to everyone else. Others are on a redemptive path with the season bringing out the best in them, while some are the heroes of the tale while others are scene-stealing supporting players. It remains to be seen if new Christmas movies like Eddie Murphy’s Candy Cane Lane and Red One will deliver some truly memorable new additions to the genre, but there are already plenty of iconic Christmas characters ready to be reintroduced.
25 Catwoman – Batman Returns (1992)
Played by Michelle Pfeiffer
Tim Burton’s second gothic take on the Caped Crusader set the story around Gotham’s Christmas season, causing the movie to become an unexpected holiday favorite. While there is a thrill of seeing Michael Keaton back in the bat-suit and Danny DeVito is a lot of fun as the grotesque Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer steals the show as Catwoman. With her own unique origin story, Selina Kyle goes from timid secretary to powerful cat burglar who is easy to cheer for despite being on the other side of the law. From her memorable catsuit to her stills with the whip to her romance with Batman, Pfeiffer still remains one of the most beloved versions of the DC character.
Batman Returns is available to stream on Prime Video and Max.
24 The Ghost Of Christmas Present – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Played by Jerry Nelson
When it comes to versions of A Christmas Carol, the Muppet’s take on the classic tale is a favorite of many. Michael Caine makes for a memorable Scrooge and it is fun seeing all the classic Muppets stepping into the story, but a new Jim Henson creation becomes the movie’s scene-stealer. The Ghost of Christmas Present is the second spirit to visit Scrooge and by far the friendliest. The forgetful giant introduces himself with boisterous energy and kindness that cracks even Scrooge’s hard exterior. It is his enthusiasm for Christmas that truly makes Scrooge appreciate the holiday, and in that way, The Ghost of Christmas Present is the hero of the story.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is available to stream on Hulu and Disney+
23 Santa – Violent Night (2022)
Played by David Harbour
While there have been some surprisingly deadly depictions of Santa as a Chrismas character, none have been as likable as Violent Night‘s Santa. David Harbour stars in the holiday action-comedy as the world-weary Santa who has lost his faith in the world only to find himself the only hope to save a family being held hostage by a team of deadly mercenaries. The backstory of Santa as a Viking warrior is great outrageous fun, while Harbour wisely doesn’t take the movie too seriously yet still becomes an effective action hero. The unconventional take on the holiday icon may become a new classic for the season.
Where To Watch Violent Night
22 Present – Spirited (2022)
Played by Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell has a more iconic Christmas character in his career, but his role as Present (aka The Ghost of Christmas Present), is the highlight of Spirited. The musical holiday movie takes a look inside the world of those spirits who help selfish people find their way on Christmas each year. Present is a successful operator in the job, but he meets his challenge when he comes up against the seemingly irredeemable Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds). Watching Presents’s desperate attempts to get through to Clint while enjoying Ferrell’s song and dance skills makes it yet another great Christmas character from the actor.
Where To Watch Spirited
21 Ghost Of Christmas Past – Scrooged (1988)
Played by David Johansen
Another unorthodox take on A Christmas Carol is Richard Donner’s Scrooged which takes a modern approach to the story, starring Bill Murray as a cynical television executive who is in need of a Christmas haunting. However, it is another instance of the ghosts stealing the show with the madcap take on The Ghost of Christmas Past being the most memorable. Depicted as a cigar-smoking cabbie, the ghost is a loud and obnoxious spirit who seems to really enjoy his job. The scene of the ghost taking Murray’s character back to the children’s show he used to work on and getting more excited than the children in the audience is a hilarious look at the strange character.
Scrooged is available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount+
20 The Old Man – A Christmas Story (1983)
Played by Darren McGavin
A Christmas Story is one of the most iconic holiday movies ever made. While the film is a nostalgic look at a young boy’s hopes of getting his coveted Christmas present, his father, known as, The Old Man, provides many of the best moments. Constantly tinkering with the broken furnace and swearing all the time, he is caring but also stern, and overall a really lovable character. The pride he has with his iconic leg lamp prize is mixed with moments of hilarious anger as when the neighbor’s dogs eat their Christmas turkey. He is eventually the one who makes his son’s dreams come true when he gets him a BB gun, showing his soft heart underneath the gruff exterior.
Where To Watch A Christmas Story
19 Isaac – The Night Before (2015)
Played by Seth Rogen
The Night Before is a rare R-rated Christmas movie about three childhood friends who reunite for their annual night of holiday shenanigans while also facing many changes in their lives. But the most hilarious of the trio is Isaac, a soon-to-be father. While Isaac seems to be dealing with his upcoming child quite well, his drug-fueled night out with friends brings out his biggest fears. Seeing him constantly freak out about this life-changing event makes for the funniest moments in the movie, especially when he finds himself stoned at Christmas mass. The relatable fear mixed with Seth Rogen’s energetic performance allows Isaac to steal the show.
Where To Watch The Night Before
18 Arthur – Arthur Christmas (2011)
Played by James McAvoy
Arthur Christmas is one of the best modern Christmas movies with its titular character providing a warmhearted and kind holiday hero for new generations to enjoy. Arthur is the youngest son of the current Santa, and while the title of the iconic gift-giver will go to Arthur’s serious older brother, Arthur cares more about Christmas than anyone. However, when the new high-tech approach to gift delivery misses a child, Arthur is the one who takes it upon himself to ensure no child is disappointed on Christmas morning. Even though he is timid and clumsy, Arthur is an endearing hero who looks for the best in everyone and does his best to make Christmas the best day of the year.
Where To Watch Arthur Christmas
17 Willie – Bad Santa (2003)
Played by Billy Bob Thorton
Bad Santa is a very different kind of holiday film. This isn’t a family-friendly movie, with Willie being a criminal who spends his Christmases dressing as Santa so that he can eventually rob the shopping mall. Willie is a truly deplorable character for most of the movie, as he drinks, womanizes, and swears in front of the children. However, his gradual and reluctant redemption is found when he forms an unexpected bond with a young outcast. While it is too much to say Willie is a good person by the end, he shows he has a bigger heart than expected while also delivering huge laughs with his bad deeds.
Where To Watch Bad Santa
16 Jesper – Klaus (2019)
Played by Jason Schwartzman
The excellent Christmas movie Klaus subverts many tropes about Santa in its unique origin story, but it is the character of Jesper who has the more interesting arc. A lazy and spoiled young man, Jesper is given a position as a post officer in a small and unfriendly town where he strikes up a partnership with a local toy maker. A lot of Christmas movies have a theme of redemption in them, and that is very much at the center of Jesper’s story. He provides big laughs as the selfish and pampered man out of his element, but the growth he has throughout the story is very rewarding. Seeing where he ends up at the end of the movie, and the touching relationships he has along the way, adds to the Oscar-winning Klaus‘ heartwarming story.
Where To Watch Klaus
15 Ebeneezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol (1951)
Played by Alistair Sims
Klaus‘ Jesper and Bad Santa‘s Willie have their own unique redemption stories, but nothing compares to that of A Christmas Carol‘s Ebeneezer Scrooge, who proves the Christmas spirit can change anyone for the better. Going from a heartless man who cared only for money to someone with kindness, compassion, and love for everyone, it is a heartwarming story no matter how often it is told. Learning his lessons from the ghosts of Christmas (who are all also iconic characters), Charles Dickens’ classic story remains timeless. There is plenty to be learned from A Christmas Carol, and while there are countless versions to choose from, Alistair Sims gives the best performance in the 1951 version, perfectly playing both Scrooge’s meanness and his kindness in the end.
A Christmas Carol is available to rent on Amazon
14 Jack Skellington – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Played by Chris Sarandon
While Jack Skellington could also be associated with Halloween, the fact is, he is also a Christmas icon. Jack spends the majority of the movie learning about the holiday as he becomes ‘Sandy Claws.’ However, the beauty of The Nightmare Before Christmas is how it crosses two popular times of the year in one amazing movie. His journey to embracing Christmas in his own twisted way may be misguided, but he also has an innocent enthusiasm about it that makes him so likable. Even though he makes a terrible Santa, there’s no denying that Jack’s heart is in the right place.
Where To Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas
13 The Conductor – The Polar Express (2004)
Played by Tom Hanks
Though the animation in The Polar Express has often been criticized, the movie brings a lot of Christmas magic, especially with Tom Hanks’ charming role. Hanks actually voices many characters throughout this movie, but it is The Conductor that makes the biggest impact. The Conductor is an incredibly warm and positive character who provides thoughtful comments and real lessons to the young characters onboard the train. He’s full of heart and has a real love for Christmas, which just makes him a perfect festive character. Hanks’ voice work overcomes the awkward animation, a testament to the actor’s skills.
Where to Watch The Polar Express
12 Scott Calvin – The Santa Clause (1994)
Played by Tim Allen
Though the new nostalgic holiday series The Santa Clauses carries on his story, Scott Calvin’s Christmas adventure first started in The Santa Clause. He plays a work-obsessed man who accidentally knocks Santa off his roof and subsequently takes up the mantle. As nice as it is to see Scott fully in his role as Santa in the sequels, it is a lot of fun to see him trying to make sense of this new role in the first outing. From being introduced to the magic of the job to the sudden weight gain to the un-shaveable beard, Scott is a hilarious character to follow on this journey where he fully embraces his important new job.
Where To Watch The Santa Clause
11 Susan Walker – Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
Played by Natalie Wood
Miracle on 34th Street is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time featuring one of the most beloved depictions of Santa with Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle. However, it is Susan Walker who really is the standout here. Due to how she is raised by her broken-hearted mother, Susan is incredibly skeptical about anything magical or wondrous. She doesn’t buy into fairytales or even Santa Claus until she meets Kris Kringle, whom she thinks is the real Father Christmas. Natalie Wood’s performance as the wise-beyond-her-years child is excellent and it is truly special to see her skepticism fade as she begins to believe.
Miracle on 34th Street is available to stream on Hulu, Disney+, and Prime Video.
10 Mr. Poppy – Nativity! (2009)
Played by Marc Wooten
The Nativity movie series has quickly become incredibly popular among fans of festive movies, and a big reason for that is Mr. Poppy. He brings all the heart and the comedy to the movies, with the teacher’s assistant bringing tons of joy and enthusiasm into everything he does. He works incredibly hard to help everyone, and because he has so much charisma and passion, he instantly becomes a very memorable character. It is the kind of enthusiasm that makes the holiday season more special and Mr. Poppy brings it out in those around him.
Nativity! is not currently available to stream or rent.
9 Clark – Christmas Vacation (1989)
Played by Chevy Chase
Clark Griswold is one of the most relatable characters from Christmas movies, as he not only loves Christmas, but he shows how hectic the holiday season can be. In Christmas Vacation, Clark wants to have the best Christmas with his family, but he has to contend with intrusive relatives, an ungrateful boss, and more than a few injuries. Seeing Clark deal with one problem after another is hilarious yet also endearing, as he doesn’t let any of the setbacks ruin his perfect Christmas plans.
Christmas Vacation is available to rent on Apple TV
8 John McClane – Die Hard (1988)
Played by Bruce Willis
The debate will always rage on as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. While many might not agree that it is, for those who do, John McClane is certainly an iconic character at the most wonderful time of the year. Bruce Willis’ performance helped establish him as a movie star and a legend of the action movie genre as he fights against terrorists crashing the Christmas party. Battling against them head-on, the movie is packed with amazing one-liners and some truly superb action sequences that helped to turn John McClane into the greatest action movie hero of all time.
Where To Watch Die Hard
7 Luther Krank – Christmas With The Kranks (2004)
Played by Tim Allen
Tim Allen has been involved in several Christmas movies over the course of his career, but his role as Luther Krank really is one that stands out. Christmas with the Kranks follows a couple who learns their adult daughter won’t be returning home for Christmas and decide to skip the season altogether, much to the annoyance of their neighbors. In some ways, Luther’s desire to avoid the chaos of the holiday is very relatable, even if he sometimes takes it too far. However, he learns the lesson that having loved ones around is what makes all the madness of this time of year worthwhile.
Christmas with the Kranks is available on Prime Video and AMC+.
6 Gizmo – Gremlins (1984)
Played by Howie Mandel
Gremlins is another film that isn’t quite the typical holiday movie but is still a favorite among many people. It is also the movie that introduced the memorable movie monsters, the Gremlins, and their more adorable member, Gizmo. Even with all his cuteness, Gizmo comes with a lot of responsibilities as he can spawn other Gremlins who are far less friendly. An army of scaly, vile, and very mischievous creatures is unleashed, which turns the festive fun into a nightmare. However, Gizmo remains a sweet and lovable critter who helps to save the day from the evil Gremlins.
Where To Watch Gremlins
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