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Movies Like 'The Santa Clause' to Watch Next

How many different Santas do you want to watch? At least try these 10!

Danielle Turchiano
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Tim Allen in 'The Santa Clause'

Walt Disney Pictures

The long-awaited series follow-up to the beloved holiday film franchise The Santa Clause just premiered on Disney+, and with it comes a lot of explanation of the Santa lore within that world, as well as what it means if the current Santa is considering retirement.

The original film was released in 1994 and follows the former Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) as he becomes Santa Claus, much to the delight of his young son Charlie (Eric Lloyd), but much to the disbelief of just about everyone around them. In this story, the new gig is an accident: He puts on the suit after he finds the current Santa sprawled out on his lawn, having fallen off his roof, and the rules that he didn't even know exist state that he who puts on the suit becomes the new Santa.

The majority of the film is spent following Scott as he slowly turns into Santa over the course of a year and has to prepare to head up to the North Pole to take on the job once and for all. It's a family-friendly story about how a young child's belief can help you do impossible but amazing things, and how the magic of the holiday season can make you a better, more caring person.

The subsequent sequels follow Scott/Santa as he learns about the Mrs. Clause, which requires him to get married and as he flippantly wishes he had never become Santa — right when Jack Frost (Martin Short) has a magic snow globe that allows that to come true and give him the job instead.

Whether you're looking for tales of familial bonding on a holiday backdrop or specific stories about the Santa mantle being passed from one person to another, here, Metacritic highlights 10 movies like The Santa Clause to watch next.


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Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood in 'Miracle on 34th Street'

20th Century Fox

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Metascore: 88
Best for: Fans of classic Hollywood
Where to watch:

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Runtime: 96 minutes

Although this story has been told many times (including a 1970s TV movie version and a 1994 feature reboot starring Mara Wilson and Richard Attenborough), it is this 1947 original that takes the cake for most film fans. As one of the highest-rated holiday films overall, it is likely one you've seen already. But it's worth watching again and considering the similarities to The Santa Clause. They're not identical of course — for one thing, Edmund Gwenn's Kris Kringle is not new to the gig. However, he is new to playing Santa in the Manhattan Macy's, a task he takes on because the guy originally hired for it is drunk. In doing so, he meets Susan (Natalie Wood), who isn't sure whether she should believe he is the real deal, let alone that Santa is real at all. Whereas Scott has to learn to accept and embrace being Santa, here, it is the rest of the world who has to do so about Kris — to the point of him going to court to defend his identity. But, as the title suggests, there's a little bit of magic that helps nudge some characters' beliefs in his direction.

"It's a highly professional piece of Hollywood sentimentalism." — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader


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Will Ferrell in 'Elf'

New Line Cinema

Elf

Metascore: 52
Best for: Fans of singing Christmas carols, maple syrup, and, of course, smiling
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 97 minutes

Santa (Ed Asner) isn't as big a figure in this 2003 film as in most of the others on this list, but the father-son dynamic that is so prevalent in The Santa Clause certainly is. In fact, in this case it's two-fold: Buddy the titular elf (Will Ferrell) was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) in the North Pole after he crawled into Santa's sack as a baby and ended up there unexpectedly. But after finally learning he is human, he sets out to meet his biological father (played by James Caan) in New York City. The two men could not be more different in personality or outlook on life, and the assumption is that Buddy's elf-ness is a delusion, but he still ends up teaching his family some very important lessons about togetherness and Christmas cheer, all while also making a romantic connection.

"Will Ferrell graduates to his first solo leading role with flying colors in Elf, a disarming holiday comedy about a clueless innocent who saves Christmas and fosters a renewed sense of family in his reluctant father." — David Rooney, Variety


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Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in 'The Christmas Chronicles'

Netflix

The Christmas Chronicles

Metascore: 52
Best for: Fans of Santa stories that see him go on adventures with kids
Where to watch: Netflix
Runtime: 104 minutes

Kurt Russell dons the iconic red suit for this Netflix original film (the first of two in the franchise) in which he loses his equally iconic hat when two kids stow away in his sleigh. Although he might not need his hat as much as he lets on, he says he needs it a lot in order to get the kids (siblings who are having a tough time moving on from the loss of their father) to work together. There are more adventures in normal society than the North Pole, but some of the antics they get up to are similar to things that happen in The Santa Clause. And of course it also comes with a very important message about the importance of family.

"It's as predictable as an Advent calendar, but thanks to Kurt Russell's grizzly charms, The Christmas Chronicles at least gives us one of the movies' best Santas yet." — Dan Jolin, Empire


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Kit Connor (second from left) and Rafe Spall (second from right) in 'Get Santa'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Get Santa

Metascore: 52
Best for: Fans of father-son stories and Santa as you've never seen him
Where to watch: 


Runtime: 102 minutes

For those Santa Clause fans who really respond to the father-son relationship between Scott and Charlie, Get Santa may be something to check out next. In this 2014 British holiday comedy, dad Steve (Rafe Spall) and his son Tom (Kit Connor) have to step in for Santa (Jim Broadbent) who gets arrested and thrown in jail. Tom sees Santa before it happens and gets his father to take him to visit Santa in the clink, where they learn what they need to do. Together, they instill the Christmas spirit, including in Steve himself. Meanwhile, Santa has adventures of his own busting out of there.

"There's enough sly wit in the margins to engage the grown-ups and the whole thing conveys Christmas cheer without being overly cynical." — Trevor Johnson, Time Out London


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Anna Kendrick in 'Noelle'

Walt Disney Pictures

Noelle (2019)

Metascore: 48
Best for: Fans of girls getting it done
Where to watch: 


Runtime: 100 minutes

Though arguably made for a slightly older audience than The Santa Clause, this 2019 film draws on the same theme of preparing the new Santa in time for Christmas. In this case, the old Santa dies, and his daughter (the titular Noelle, played by Anna Kendrick) is taking it upon herself to get her brother Nick (Bill Hader) up to par. But he is not great at basic Santa tasks, such as identifying the good from the naughty children, and meanwhile at the North Pole, workers are trying to implement other changes, further complicating matters. We're sure you can tell by the title that she ends up being much more important to the legend than he does, taking a progressive step forward. But before that can happen, there is a lot of humor to be had with his missteps and her own as she touches down in Arizona to bring him home but struggles to blend in while there.

"Noelle is Kendrick's movie, and it's a fitting reminder of why she's such a potent star in projects that require some degree of cheerful borderline sociopathy. She smiles and sings and makes you believe in some truly unfortunate and fake-looking CGI reindeer in a story that keeps mutating and gobbling up other genres." — Emily St. James, Vox


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'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'

Universal Pictures

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Metascore: 46
Best for: Fans of Dr. Seuss
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 104 minutes

Jim Carrey stars as the eponymous Dr. Seuss character in Ron Howard's 2000 adaptation. The Grinch is probably the most atypical Santa you will ever find, and as such, this film is very different from the others on the list, but if you're looking for films about all kinds of Santas, this certainly fits the bill. He is a grumpy (to put it mildly) creature who ends up nominated as the "Holiday Cheermeister" by a local girl in Whoville. Although he originally plans to crush the Christmas spirit out of these villagers (by stealing their presents and decorations), he has a change of heart when he hears a spirited song. For many, this story was a staple at the holidays when it was a book, just like how The Santa Clause has become a must watch during the winter for a generation.

"One overstuffed movie, but it's by no means a turkey." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


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Jim Varney in 'Ernest Saves Christmas'

Touchstone Pictures

Ernest Saves Christmas

Metascore: 44
Best for: Fans of over-the-top comedy
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 91 minutes

The 1988 holiday offering from the Ernest franchise is the rare instance in which Santa (Douglas Seale) is actively seeking out his successor. In another deviation from the traditional holiday formula, that is a man named Joe (Oliver Clark), not the titular protagonist. Where Ernest (Jim Varney) comes in is that he drives Santa to meet Joe, and Santa leaves his sack of presents in Ernest's cab. As he is on a mission to return them, another one of his passengers is out to abuse the magical power that comes from having such an item in one's possession. It's even wackier than The Santa Clause, but of course all will still end well because that is the true magic of holiday movies.

"The best that can be said for the film is that it leaves Ernest behind now and then to focus on Santa, who is played by Douglas Seale with sweetness, sincerity and an amazing amount of dignity, considering his surroundings." — Caryn James, The New York Times


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Paul Giamatti (front and center) in 'Fred Claus'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Fred Claus

Metascore: 42
Best for: Fans of stories about sibling rivalry
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 116 minutes

Directed by David Dobkin and written by Dan Fogelman, this 2007 film oscillates between comedic and sentimental tones as Vince Vaughn plays the title character and Paul Giamatti plays his brother, Nick, aka Santa. The two have always struggled to get along (Nick literally becoming a saint probably didn't help), but after Fred needs him to bail him out of jail, he agrees to go up to the North Pole and work off his debt. Once there, their relationship is further strained, but when an injury sidelines Nick from his Christmas duties, his brother is forced to step into his boots to keep things going for the children of the world, getting a taste of magic and learning he isn't the only one who's had it rough.

"The exceptional cast — Vaughn, Giamatti, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey, Rachel Weisz — is an embarrassment of riches for a script this thin and this beholden to family-fare protocol, with its mushy-minded moral and slick sentimentality." — Michelle Orange, The Village Voice


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'Jack Frost'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Jack Frost (1998)

Metascore: 40
Best for: Fans of anthropomorphism and father-son bonding
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 101 minutes

Not to be confused with the 1997 horror film of the same title, this 1998 film follows a young boy named Charlie (Joseph Cross) whose recently deceased father's (played by Michael Keaton) spirit is transferred into a snowman he builds. Yes, seriously. It sounds like a lot, even for a genre that tends to live and breathe "a lot," but the father-son dynamic that is essential to the heart of The Santa Clause is even more important here. Charlie has a little more time to bond with and learn important life lessons from the most important man in his life, but of course there is a ticking clock on their elongated relationship because snow melts. Admittedly, though, Santa doesn't come into play here.

"Younger children who might buy into the fantasy are not of an age where they will recognize the family conflicts that Jack Frost is trying to raise and resolve. As the film serves up slapstick, chases and empty-headed seriousness, don't be surprised by their puzzled expressions." — Desmond Ryan, The Philadelphia Inquirer


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Ashley Williams and Tom Cavangh in 'Snow 2: Brain Freeze'

ABC Family

Snow 2: Brain Freeze

Metascore: N/A
Best for: Fans of memory loss high jinks
Where to watch: 

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Runtime: 87 minutes

This made-for-TV movie from 2008 is actually a sequel to 2004's Snow, but the reason it makes this list (especially despite not having enough critical reviews to give it a Metascore) is because it is about the journey to remember being Santa. Nick Snowden (Tom Cavanagh) knows that's his job in the first film, but in the second he loses his memory and it is up to his girlfriend Sandy (Ashley Williams) to track him down, help him remember, and get him back to the North Pole in time to make his all-important deliveries. It also shares similarities with The Santa Clause because Nick develops an important relationship with a young boy named Ryan (Alexander Conti), who, like Charlie does for his dad, helps him believe in himself as Santa.