Bad Santa


Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 38
  2. Negative: 4 out of 38

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Critic Reviews

  1. 90
    Much like "School Of Rock," Bad Santa salvages a tired, paint-by-numbers formula by resisting it every step of the way, stubbornly refusing to stop its juvenile fun until the last possible moment.
  2. As surreal as it is obscene, as clever as it is crude. It plays like some raw offspring of underground comix and the comedies of the 1920s.
  3. The movie is -- how can I say this? -- funny as hell. It's like an old Mad magazine "Scenes We'd Like to See" put together by someone on crystal meth, with a vicious streak, an existentialist streak and no mercy anywhere in his soul and only the tiniest flinch at the end, which is probably, sigh, the best way to end.
  4. Suddenly, you're looking at life in his (Thornton's) jaundiced way and laughing with a sense of vicarious liberation, even when he says the most outrageous things -- to children, no less. And I daresay you can still recover your holiday spirit when you're through laughing.
  5. 90
    But Bad Santa does feature one last turn from the late John Ritter as a twittery department-store manager (his name, Mr. Chipeska, is a stroke of brilliance that I still can't quite put my finger on).
  6. 88
    The foulest holiday movie I've ever seen -- and the funniest.
  7. 88
    A demented, twisted, unreasonably funny work of comic kamikaze style, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Santa in a performance that's defiantly uncouth.
  8. 88
    Won't appeal to everyone, of course, particularly those who blush easily. And parents who take children to see it deserve to have their heads examined. But for those who don't mind a little bile in their eggnog, it's the perfect antidote to all that prefab Christmas cheer.
  9. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    This is a filmmaker who instinctively knows that a shot of Santa sitting at a bar as Ricky Nelson sings Jingle Bells will be no-frills funny.
  10. 88
    Gloriously funky in the good old meaning of the term. Its vulgarity may be offensive, but it's also pungent and real, and it fuels some ferocious humor.
  11. 83
    It's a film for those people -- and they are legion -- who recoil in horror from the very notion of Christmas cheer. If you're in that crowd, and you know who you are, you'll love it.
  12. Happens to be extremely funny -- at times sidesplittingly so -- thanks to Zwigoff's way with raw irreverence and Thornton's perfectly pitched, ready-for-anything performance.
  13. It unapologetically exults in its characters' glorious imperfection. It's good to know that oddballs, outcasts and people who don't look like Barbie and Ken still have a place in American movies and that not everyone in Hollywood pays lip service to the nice and polite.
  14. 80
    Takes all the Christmas season's bad vibes and converts them into an achingly funny and corrupt dark comedy.
  15. My kind of Christmas movie--profane, subversive, and swarming with scuzzballs.
  16. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Not for everyone. The plot is full of holes, and its language is worse than it has to be. But it has some swell supporting performances and a lot of vulgar inventiveness, and best of all, it plugs into -- and electrifies -- the mostly unacknowledged grimness that lies just beneath our holiday cheer.
  17. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Zwigoff doesn't hype up the gags, and his deliberately deadpan style gives even farfetched jokes an edge of reality.
  18. Reviewed by: Adam Smith
    A delightfully obscene alternative to the usual Christmas tosh.
  19. No doubt about it: Bad Santa is blasphemous. But, to borrow a phrase from another famous hedonist, Homer Simpson, it’s also sacrilicious.
  20. 75
    If you've had it with all that feel-good holiday sludge, hook up with the combustibly nasty Bad Santa. It could become a Christmas perennial for Scrooges of all ages.
  21. 75
    It has two modes: dark and darker, and dares to do some things with the Christmas motif that haven't been done since Norman Rene's "Reckless."
  22. "Ghost World" director Terry Zwigoff, working with a depraved script by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, has fashioned the sickest -- and funniest -- black comedy in years.
  23. A tasteless, vulgar, savage assault against everything that is good and decent in the Christmas season. I think you are going to like it.
  24. An unrepentantly rude, anti-seasonal dish of malice and mischief. Director Terry Zwigoff works from a story that originated with the Coen brothers and passed through at least four writers, including him...The results may leave you aghast or breathless with laughter, but you won't be neutral.
  25. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    First-rate talent and a uniquely dyspeptic mood separate this effort from more routine, populist stabs at tasteless yukkage.
  26. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Billy Bob Thornton's performance is--there's no other word--beautiful.
  27. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Without question, not for the children. It is, however, just the cup of rancid black-comedy eggnog for anyone fed up with holiday cheer in all its manifestations.
  28. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    I wanted to believe in Bad Santa. At least half of the time I did.
  29. 50
    Bad Santa is a one-joke film; to his credit, Thornton embodies that joke with vicious, vaguely insane conviction.
  30. 50
    A determinedly raunchy holiday comedy about a libidinous, larcenous and perpetually soused St. Nick with a nonstop potty mouth.
  31. 50
    Gets stuck in a rut. Hearing Santa say “f---” isn't nearly as funny the 50th time as it is the first 49.
  32. Aspires to the devilish crudity and unfettered social commentary of South Park. But Zwigoff's direction lacks the exaggerated cartoonishness necessary.
  33. 50
    Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the story, using the ancient gag of the toxic Santa as a vehicle for their patented brand of misanthropy; Zwigoff and company wring some laughs out of it, though the tone is uniformly mean and vulgar.
  34. Perhaps for Zwigoff, directing someone else's script, this was just a job of work. If not, the talent who made "Crumb" and "Ghost World "has now made his first movie mistake.
  35. 30
    The screenplay just isn't funny: Most jokes fall flat and just lie there in a pool of their own sick. And while Zwigoff's deadpan pacing was perfect for the wry, sophisticated humor of "Ghost World," here it's a comedy killer; that extra beat after each new outrage is just long enough for viewers to realize just how sad and disturbing it all is.
  36. Isn't up to much of anything besides pretending that swearwords and snot-nosed insults, served up by Santa with an almost institutional monotony, aren't just naughty. They're -- big joke! -- incorrect.
  37. 20
    A frozen pile of reindeer droppings. The cinematic equivalent to passing a kidney stone, Zwigoff’s unholy foray into “dark comedy” gives us a suicidal, sociopathic drunk slinging swear words with a ferocity that would make Tony Montana wince.
  38. If you're addicted to Billy Bob Thornton's slovenly charm, and thrill to the prospect of watching him talk endlessly about his bodily functions and penchant for anal sex with obese women, this is your movie. If not, it's like 90 minutes in hell.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 268 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 61 out of 77
  2. Negative: 13 out of 77
  1. Jul 10, 2014
    This film had me spitting out my drink. The timing of the actors was so on cue I'm amazed this movie gets so few awards. Billy Bob ThorntonThis film had me spitting out my drink. The timing of the actors was so on cue I'm amazed this movie gets so few awards. Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox are both the funniest and ridiculous duo that I can name off the top of my head. The kid and the bartender had me in stitches. Bernie Mac and John Ritter also gave funny performances. So sad to see them both go, so young. 'Bad Santa' maybe too vulgar for some, but dark comedies are an art form; to take a serious topic, and generate laughs from it takes skill and quality. It shows itself here, if you can get past the language and hedonism. Full Review »
  2. Feb 20, 2014
    Easily one of the best comedies ever made. It's not just the hilarious script and premise that make it stand out, but it has a lot of heartEasily one of the best comedies ever made. It's not just the hilarious script and premise that make it stand out, but it has a lot of heart too. For me it's a feel good film and every time I watch it I come away slightly choked up, in a good way. Amazing performances all around, just pure perfection really. I wish Zwigoff would hurry up and make a new film. Full Review »
  3. Feb 14, 2014
    Funny. Really funny and sweet. Several words can be used to describe Bad Santa, but only "Good" actually stands out. Because it was good. GoodFunny. Really funny and sweet. Several words can be used to describe Bad Santa, but only "Good" actually stands out. Because it was good. Good enough for me to hope for a sequel. Full Review »