Holiday movies often teach lessons about the importance of sharing, helping others, giving thanks, etc. One method these storied films use to highlight the importance of the ideas they promote is by featuring someone who doesn’t follow them. This person is someone who may even hate those ideas. So much so that they try and prevent people from practicing them, or exploit those that do for their own benefit. These characters are the villains of holiday movies, and without them, the lessons being taught would not have as much impact. These are our picks for the 10 best holiday movie villains.
10. Granville Sawyer – Miracle on 34th Street
Worst Thing They Did: Attempted to commit Santa Claus to an Psychiatric Institute
We start this list with a grown men who just can’t believe that Santa is real. Oddly enough, he’s a psychologist that was hired by Macy’s department stores to do psyche screenings on its employees. He uses his profession as a way to tell people their problems and in doing so feel better about himself, rather than helping others. When he finds one of their department store Santas claiming to be the real Santa Claus, he becomes overly concerned. Sawyer then goes out of his way to provoke Santa as an excuse to have him committed. While the idea of sending Santa Claus to the looney bin is depressing for kids everywhere, Sawyer’s efforts aren’t as evil as other people on this list. He was, after all, just doing his job when it comes down to it, and at the end of the film the case is dropped anyway
9. Willie T. Soke – Bad Santa
Worst Thing They Did: Stole from shopping malls while working as a Santa
Willie may be closer to a protagonist than an antagonist, but he earns his spot on this list because he is such a (entertainingly) despicable character. Willie is a manipulative, sex-addicted, obnoxious alcoholic. He ruins the holidays in several different ways. First, he works as a mall santa only for the opportunity it affords him and his accomplice to rob the stores. Second, his demeanor and alcoholism frightens and disturbs children, going so far as to ruin their views on Santa. Finally, he takes advantage of an innocent child to further his own schemes and even turn his best friend against him. Bad Santa is a fitting nickname for the character as he represents the opposite qualities that normal Santa would have.
8. Harry and Marv – Home Alone
Worst Thing They Did: Stole from people’s houses when they leave town for the holidays.
Harry and Marv aren’t big time villains or scary monsters like some of the names on this list. What they are, however, are a somewhat more grounded threat to the holiday season. Harry and Marv are small time criminals, looking for easy ways to make money. Despite being outwitted by a kid, their plan has some logic to it. They take advantage of the holiday season, when people will have new, unopened gifts laying on their floors just waiting for someone to break in and collect. Waiting until these people leave makes the plan relatively low risk, and targeting a rich Chicago neighborhood makes even more sense.
7. The Bumble – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Worst Thing They Did: Ate reindeer, hates Christmas.
The Bumble is not overly menacing. In fact, he’s kind of cute. However, it’s a Christmas cartoon meant for kids, so the bad guy can’t really be all that scary anyway. The Bumble is basically the Abominable Snowman of the North Pole. A giant monster who lives in the wild and threatens all those who venture into his realm. As a carnivorous beast, he has to eat, and he likes to eat reindeers in particular. Those are the same reindeers that Santa needs to move his sleigh and deliver gifts to kids on Christmas. The Bumble is therefore a very real threat to Christmas and must be dealt with in a borderline inhuman way in order to prevent him from ruining everything.
6. Mr. Oogi Boogie – The Nightmare Before Christmas
Worst Thing They Did: Enjoyed torturing Santa Claus
Tim Burton’s first feature-length animated film has its share of characters that are threatening. One could even claim that the protagonist, Jack Skellington, is a threat to Christmas because he doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas and ends up causing more harm than good because of this. However, there’s one character above all who threatens Christmas the most. While Skellington is busy trying to be Santa Claus, he gives Santa Claus to Oogie Boogie, which is a big mistake. Oogie Boogie is a problematic gambler, a genuinely creepy character, and unlike many of the other characters in Halloween Town, seems to actually be evil. He threatens the life of Santa Claus, and ultimately has to be defeated in order for Santa to be freed and Christmas to be saved.
5. Stripe – Gremlins
Worst Thing They Did: Spawned an army of Gremlins to take over a town, murdered and caused chaos
The Gremlins didn’t start out as something inherently evil. That changed with Stripe, who took over as the leader of their mischief. Maybe he’s not as menacing a villain as he could be if he was bigger, but don’t underestimate him. Of all the villains on this list, only Stripe and Hans Gruber, a terrorist, are actually able to kill someone. More importantly, Stripe is one of those antagonists that doesn’t die. He keeps popping up. That’s a sign of a great villain. He does everything possible to keep going and fulfil his plan of domination. The only way he is eventually defeated is by outwitting him. Sure, he’s not human, and not part of a traditional holiday film, but Stripe is menacing nonetheless.
4. Henry F. Potter (“Old Man Potter”)- It’s a Wonderful Life
Worst Thing They Did: Stole money and lets an innocent man take the fall and suffer for it
While It’s a Wonderful Life is a hallowed holiday tradition, the tone and setting of the film are tragic and actually quite depressing. This can all be attributed to one character; Old Man Potter. Potter is a crony capitalist, looking for every opportunity to hurt his competitors and get more money in his own pockets. He takes advantage of poor people and then steals money that his competitor, George Bailey, needs to stay in business. As a result, Bailey becomes overwhelmed by his inability to fix the situation, going so far as to contemplate suicide. The worst part is, unlike the rest of the villains on this list, nothing bad or life-changing happens to Mr. Potter to change his ways. He gets away with everything.
3. Hans Gruber – Die Hard
Worst Thing They Did: Took hostages at Nakatomi plaza as a disguise to try and steal money.
Hans Gruber isn’t featured in a traditional holiday film, but the fact that he is such a great villain meant that I could not ignore him for the purposes of this list. Gruber is not only a good holiday film villain, he’s one of the all time greatest villains in film history. He has a lot of things going for him. First, he’s brilliant. Unlike some people on this list, Gruber’s evil plan is well thought out and almost succeeds except for a certain off-duty cop who ends up at the right place at the right time. Gruber’s exchanges with McClain are memorable, and his frustration with his plan gone wrong causes him to take risks which ultimately lead to his memorable downfall. Compared to the rest of the people on this list, he has the worst criminal record too, which should count for something.
2. Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol (various)
Worst Thing They Did: Claimed the poor were better off dead, thereby “decreasing the surplus population.”
Scrooge is the original holiday villain. Taken from Charles Dicken’s classic tale and seen on TV and movie screens several times and in several iterations over the years, his image and behavior have since become a part of the season itself. Scrooge may be the quintessential curmudgeonly old man, but he is ultimately guilty of lacking that holiday spirit. He is the foil to the happiness and joy that is supposed to make the season special. He is miserable in his love of money, driving away everyone that once loved him. He despises the poor and makes others suffer to maintain his wealth. The only reason Scrooge is not number one on this list is because he isn’t actively working to hurt anyone. He’s just so selfish that he doesn’t realize how bad his behavior had gotten. In the end he realizes his evil ways and changes.
1. The Grinch – Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Worst Thing They Did: Attempted to steal Christmas
The Grinch is like the supervillain among holiday movie villains. He lives in a mountain lair, planning his vengeance on the innocent world below. Everything about him is contrary to the holiday spirit. Physically, he’s weird and grotesque, not warm and fuzzy. He’s a hermit that knows nothing about sharing or helping others. Emotionally, he’s full of hate, not love. Jealousy gets the best of him. This resentment turns to anger, and anger causes him to take action. Like every great villain, he comes up with a sinister master plan. Christmas, it seems, is the thing that embodies everything he hates, and it should be destroyed. The Grinch wants to steal Christmas because he can’t stand seeing everyone else so happy when he is so sad. He also abuses his pet dog. Sure, he realizes his evil ways and changes in the end, but that’s only because he gets exactly what he wanted, being part of the festivities instead of excluded.