MOVIE REVIEW: Bad Santa (2003)

Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) pull off the same scam every year. Willie takes a job as a department store Santa with Marcus as his elf. Marcus uses his stature to hide and bypass the alarm and then Willie cracks the safe and they make off with all the takings on Christmas Eve.

Although Willie hates Christmas, playing Santa and children, he keeps coming back because by the time December rolls around, he’s spent all his money on booze and hookers to try and forget what a miserable excuse for a human being he is.

This Christmas is worse than ever, not only is Willie so wasted he can barely see straight, but he’s taken up with an almost equally boozy barmaid (Lauren Graham) and his inability to hold it together is threatening their jobs.

After a chance encounter with a rather unusual kid (Brett Kelly), Willie – ever the opportunist – moves into his house and becomes the worst de facto parent is history.

As Christmas eve draws closer Willie and Marcus face off against a store detective (Bernie Mac) with questionable motives and Willie comes to the disturbing realisation that he might actually have a heart.

Bad Santa is kind of predictable but there is something deliciously dark about watching Father Christmas, a symbol of innocence, behaving in an utterly reprehensible manner. Billy Bob Thornton is utterly perfect as Willie. He somehow manages to tread the line between making the character both vile and weirdly sexy and you can actually understand why Sue is attracted to him, outside her Santa fetish.

The supporting characters are really cleverly written too. Marcus’ personality, ambitions and rage are all three times his size and there’s a particular argument he has with Bernie Mac’s character that I could watch for days. The kid is hopelessly and hilariously naive, which makes him utterly lovable and John Ritter is so funny playing the department store manager. Of course Bernie Mac is just Bernie Mac, which is perfection.

The ending is preposterous, but this truly is one of my absolute favourite Christmas movies. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a bit of black comedy.



  1. I’m with you on this one, Abbi. Deliciously bad, and definitely one of my top three Christmas films. (I don’t have many top Christmas films, obviously. 🙂 )
    Oh, the other two are ‘Die Hard’, and ‘Gremlins’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Mr O LOVES Die Hard and we watched it on the 22nd. We wanted to watch Gremlins but it’s not on any of the services we subscribe to.

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