Known for his jolly laugh, love for milk and cookies, and penchant for making more deliveries in one night that is humanly possible, Santa Claus remains one of the most iconic and enduring symbols and figures of Christmas itself.
He brings joy to millions of people, and for some odd reason also helps advertise for Coca-Cola. As loving and jolly as he can be however, horror films have a great way of twisting things like that into terrifying territory.
So with Christmas upon us, we thought it would be fun to count down the top 10 killer Santas. To qualify, they must either be the real Santa or someone dressed as him, and must either try to or successfully kill people.
The criteria for ranking will be the following: how well is the character developed, how strong is the performance, how cool their design is, and of course, how fun it is to watch them on screen!
While the murderous mythical mage portrayed in that movie is the Dutch origin of the figure we know as Santa Claus, it’s still not quite the Santa we know and is more of a bishop. It’s a technicality and apologies if you’re upset as his exclusion, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.
Also let’s give a deserved shout out to Scott Calvin from The Santa Clause. His startling of Santa and causing him to fall off the roof to his death could very well be ruled involuntary homicide by negligence. And since he goes on to don the big red coat and take the job, that technically makes Scott Calvin a Killer Santa!
10. Zombie Santa (Calum Cormack) – Anna and the Apocalypse
He may only get a few mere seconds of screen time, not have any lines, and technically just be a guy in a Santa suit bitten by a zombie, but he’s still an iconic image in my new favorite Christmas horror movie! It’s both terrifying and kind of hilarious imagining someone getting bitten by this carnivorous Kris Kringle.
9. Asylum Patient Santa (Larry Drake) – Tales from the Crypt: “And All Through the House”
The premiere episode of Tales from the Crypt included a fun segment about an escaped asylum patient who dresses as Santa and tries to break into a house. The homeowner, who’s already dabbled in murder herself tries to fend him off in a hilariously over the top method. It’s cheesy, but fun, which was always the tone of this series. The only odd thing about it was that it originally aired in June?
8. Robot Santa (John Goodman) – Futurama: “Merry X-Mas”
While this series isn’t at all horror, there’s no way to do this list without including the John Goodman voiced robotic killing machine that believes everyone is naughty, therefore must die.
It’s a fun spin on a traditional character, and perhaps what’s most fascinating is how this version of Santa is just considered normal in the year 3000, and has been ever since he was made by the Friendly Robot Company in 2801. We don’t get much of him, but he definitely deserves his own spinoff!
7. Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) – American Horror Story Asylum: “Unholy Night”
While many celebrate in December, for someone as traumatized and abused as Leigh Emerson, it only served as a reminder of how miserable he was. There’s a real sadism that comes out when uses Sister Jude’s own disciplinary tools on her, as well as murdering 5 entire families.
What makes Emerson so fascinating is that he’s not just a killer dressed as Santa, he’s the antithesis of Santa himself, the embodiment of all the stress, frustration, and depression that also goes along with the Christmas season. In a season of AHS that was already jam packed with too much plot, Leigh Emerson deserved more attention.
6. Kristofer Kringle aka “Satan’s Claws” (Tom Glynn) – Creepshow Holiday Special
This most recent iteration of a killer Santa comes from Shudder’s Creepshow Holiday Special (check out our full review here). Kris Kringle is revealed to be a werewolf hunter who was given claws by Satan, which eventually bore the name “Santa Claus”.
He’s without a doubt the coolest visual design on this list, what with his leather suit and snapping blades for hands. It’s one of the most randomly bizarre depictions of any Santa, let alone a killer one. And it could only come from something like Creepshow.
5. Zombie Killer Santa (George Burza) – A Christmas Horror Story
We’ve already featured a zombie Santa, so now it’s time for zombie-killing Santa, as seen in this anthology Christmas gem. He racks up an impressive body count as he cuts down zombie elves and even has an epic duel with Krampus himself.
He’s a gritty and scruffy Santa who doesn’t back down from a fight. And the twist we get at the end of his story (which we dare not spoil here) is legitimately jaw-dropping!
4. Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson) – Silent Night, Deadly Night
One of the most iconic killer Santas on this list, Billy is nothing more than a traumatized kid who carried it with him as he grew up. He’s deranged and disturbed, but you can’t help but feel for him.
He genuinely tries to put his past behind him, but his childhood trauma keeps rearing its ugly head, and he realizes he’ll never be free of it. So naturally, murder is the next logical course of action.
3. Le Pére Noël (Patrick Floersheim) – Deadly Games aka Game Over
This much darker version of Home Alone (which came out a year earlier) features a particularly sadistic Santa who goes after a child. There’s a quiet creepiness to this Santa, unlike any of the others. In many ways, he’s similar to the one we saw in Tales from the Crypt, only with much more screen time and better development.
2. Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart) – Christmas Evil
Similar to Silent Night, Deadly Night, Christmas Evil deals with a traumatized, disgruntled child growing up to become a killer Santa. Sadly the former completely overshadowed the latter, and thus fewer people even know about this movie.
What sets it apart is the slow descent into madness that we bear witness to. Like the protagonists of other early 80’s gritty thrillers (like Taxi Driver and Maniac), Harry Stadling is surrounded by a harsh and cold world that cares not for him. And when his last button his pushed he snaps.
This killer Santa gets an edge over Billy Chapman because he’s just a bit more relatable. Who hasn’t felt frustrated with their lot in life. Sure it doesn’t drive any of us to don a Santa suit and commit murder, but it makes us understand him just a bit more.
1. Satanic Wrestler Santa (Bill Goldberg) – Santa’s Slay
How could this ass-kicking, tagline-spewing Santa not be the number one pick?! Santa’s Slay is by no means an Oscar contender, but it’s insanely over the top and hilarious in its own way.
Unlike most of the other entries here, this isn’t just a person dressed up as Santa, rather it’s Santa Claus himself, and apparently he’s always been evil and only delivered toys because he lost a bet with an angel. It makes you rethink the whole Santa mythos, knowing that all the years he was bringing presents, he actually wanted to murder everyone in the house.
Between an amazingly fun performance by pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg, and the awesome kills, this killer Santa is truly the best among them!
Who’s your favorite killer Santa? Let us know in the comments!