Bad Santa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bad Santa
A scruffy dishevelled Santa Claus, standing beside a scowling man in a yellow suit, and a fat child and an Santa helper elf standing in front of them.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Zwigoff
Written by
Story by (uncredited)
Produced by
CinematographyJamie Anderson
Edited byRobert Hoffman
Music byDavid Kitay
Distributed byMiramax Films[1]
Release date
  • November 26, 2003 (2003-11-26)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[2]
Box office$76.5 million[2]

Bad Santa is a 2003 American Christmas black comedy crime film directed by Terry Zwigoff, written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and starring Billy Bob Thornton in the title role, with a supporting cast of Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, Lauren Tom, John Ritter, and Bernie Mac. It was Ritter's last live-action film appearance before his death on September 11, 2003. The film was dedicated to his memory. The Coen brothers are credited as executive producers. The film was released in North America on November 26, 2003, and was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.[3] It received positive reviews and was a commercial success.

An unrated version was released on DVD on March 5, 2004, and on Blu-ray on November 20, 2007, as Bad(der) Santa. A director's cut DVD was released in November 2006; it features Zwigoff's cut of the film (including an audio commentary with him and the film's editor), which is three minutes shorter than the theatrical cut and ten minutes shorter than the unrated version. A sequel, Bad Santa 2, was released on November 23, 2016, and failed to match the critical and commercial success of the original.


Willie T. Soke and his dwarf assistant Marcus Skidmore are professional thieves. Every year, Willie gets a job as a department store Santa Claus and Marcus as an elf to rob shopping malls on the night of Christmas Eve, with Marcus' wife Lois as their getaway driver. Marcus takes his job seriously, but Willie, a sex-addicted cursing alcoholic, is steadily unable to perform with children. When they are hired at the Saguaro Square Mall in Phoenix, Willie's vulgarity shocks the prudish mall manager Bob Chipeska, who brings them to the attention of security chief Gin Slagel. At the mall, Willie is visited by Thurman Merman, a friendly but exceedingly gullible, dimwitted young boy who believes he really is Santa and is constantly bullied by a teenage gang of skateboarders. At a bar, Willie meets Sue, a bartender with a fetish for Santa Claus, and they begin a sexual relationship.

After having casual sex with Sue in his beaten-up Impala, Willie is harassed and attacked by a man he had encountered earlier at the bar, but Thurman intervenes. Willie gives the boy a ride home, where he lives with his senile grandmother. Thurman reveals that his mother died and claims his father, Roger, is out "exploring the mountains" (though he's actually in jail for embezzlement). Willie tricks him into letting him rob their safe and steals Roger's BMW 740iL. Bob overhears Willie having sex in a dressing room and sends Gin, who starts to investigate. After Willie sees his motel room being raided, he moves into Thurman's house, much to his delight. Marcus is angry at Willie for taking advantage of Thurman and disapproves of his sex addiction. Gin visits Roger, who inadvertently reveals that Willie is staying with Thurman illegally. Confronting Willie and Marcus, he tells them he has uncovered their plan, blackmailing them for half the score to keep silent. Willie and Marcus’ partnership begins to falter, further exacerbated when Willie shows up to work drunk, destroying the Santa attraction. Willie, about to commit suicide by inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes, gives Thurman a letter of confession for the police, including his misdeeds and the heist planned for Christmas Eve. However, he sees Thurman's black eye, and abandons the suicide attempt to confront the skateboarders; he assaults their leader, intimidating them to leave Thurman alone.

Furious at Gin's blackmail, Marcus and Lois set a trap for him. Feigning the need for a jump-start, Lois hits Gin with the car, and then kills him by crushing him between the vehicles. Willie and Thurman prepare for the approaching holiday with help from Sue. On Christmas Eve, Willie, Marcus, and Lois raid the mall; although some technical difficulties arise, Willie successfully cracks the safe. Meanwhile, he also gets a pink stuffed elephant that Thurman wants for Christmas. However, Marcus reveals to Willie that he intends to kill him, fed up with his increasing carelessness. As he is about to execute Willie, the police unexpectedly swarm in, tipped off by Willie's letter that he gave Thurman. A firefight ensues between Marcus and the cops while Willie flees. Determined to give Thurman his present, he leads the police on a chase to his house, ignoring their orders to freeze. He is shot repeatedly on Thurman's porch but manages to survive. The epilogue is told through a letter from a recovering Willie in the hospital. He expresses his gratitude to Thurman and reveals that he was cleared of the robbery—as the shooting of an unarmed Santa had embarrassed the police—and will be working for them as a sensitivity counselor. Sue is granted guardianship over Thurman and his house until his father's release. Marcus and Lois are in prison; Willie ends the letter by hoping that Roger will avoid them and telling Thurman that he should be out of the hospital soon and to be ready for his return. When the skateboard gang leader harasses Thurman again, Thurman finally stands up to him by kicking him hard in the crotch and riding away on his bike, giving the downed bully the finger.



In January 2002, Variety announced that Terry Zwigoff would be directing Bad Santa (his fourth picture and follow-up to Ghost World) under Dimension Films, with Glenn Ficarra and John Requa writing the screenplay and the Coen brothers serving as executive producers.[4]

The Coens had developed the concept for Bad Santa, before eventually hiring the writing team of Ficarra and Requa to bring the story to life.[5] The Coens told Ficarra and Requa that the story would center on an alcoholic "bad Santa" who seeks redemption very later on; additionally, they wanted it to be as funny as The Bad News Bears. Afterward, Ficarra and Requa completed what they described as a "really crass script", with the Coens adding "a bunch of crass jokes".[5] When the script's final draft was sent to Universal Pictures, the studio rejected it because "[I]t was the foulest, disgusting, misogynistic, anti-Christmas, anti-children thing we could imagine," all of which influenced Bob Weinstein of Miramax to give it the green-light.[5]


The Coens initially tailored roles for specific actors, such as James Gandolfini as Willie (since they had worked with him on The Man Who Wasn't There), Danny Woodburn as Marcus, and Angus T. Jones as Thurman.[5] Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson, and Robert De Niro were also considered for the role of Willie, but it eventually went to Billy Bob Thornton. Mickey Rooney auditioned for the role of Marcus.[6] Zwigoff cast Tony Cox for the role of Marcus and Brett Kelly for Thurman, which led to disagreements between himself and the producers.[5] Upon learning of Cox's casting, the Coens told Weinstein that they "hate" him, and according to Zwigoff, Dimension was pining for "a more Disney-like generic cute kid" to play Thurman. "Maybe there are other actors who could do a great job with these parts. But Tony and Brett are just funny. They are these characters," explained Zwigoff.[5]


The movie was filmed in various parts of California. Filming began on July 8, 2002, and ended in September 2002. The "Miami Beach" sequence at the beginning of the movie was filmed in Long Beach, while all of the scenes at Thurman's house were filmed in West Hills. All of the Saguaro Square Mall scenes were filmed entirely in the northeastern wing of Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, particularly in the former Montgomery Ward building, which was used for the mall's fictional anchor store, "Chamberlain's." The store and the entire wing were both vacant at the time of the movie's filming. The wing and building where the movie was filmed have since been demolished and replaced with the mall's new open-air lifestyle center.


Box office[edit]

The film grossed over $60 million domestically and more than $76 million in total worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 78% rating, based on 221 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "A gloriously rude and gleefully offensive comedy, Bad Santa isn't for everyone, but grinches will find it uproariously funny."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 70 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a "B" grade on an A+ to F scale.[9]

An editorial in The Washington Times likened the movie to an "evil twin" of Miracle on 34th Street and chided The Walt Disney Company for allowing such a beloved figure as Santa Claus to be trashed by Miramax Films, then a Disney subsidiary.[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3+12 stars out of four, writing how Bad Santa was a "demented, twisted [and] unreasonably funny work of comic kamikaze style".[11]


On October 29, 2015, it was announced that Billy Bob Thornton would return for Bad Santa 2, and that filming would begin in Montreal in January 2016 for a scheduled release of Christmas 2016.[12] On November 3, 2015, it was announced that Mean Girls director Mark Waters would direct the film.[13] On November 19, 2015, it was announced that Kathy Bates would join the cast as Willie's mother, and that Brett Kelly and Tony Cox would reprise their roles from the first film.[14] On December 21, 2015, it was announced that Bad Santa 2 would be released on November 23, 2016.[15] On January 6, 2016, Christina Hendricks joined the cast.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bad Santa (2003) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 20 May 2021. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Bad Santa (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Bad Santa". Archived from the original on 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  4. ^ Dunkley, Cathy (January 29, 2002). "Dimension Films more than naughty". Variety. Archived from the original on June 7, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fretts, Bruce (November 2, 2016). "How the First 'Bad Santa' Boozed Down the Chimney". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 18, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  6. ^ "'Rabbit Hole:' Glenn Ficarra & John Requa on How Real-Life Espionage & David Fincher Influenced the Series". Collider. 28 March 2023. Archived from the original on 26 May 2023. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  7. ^ "Bad Santa". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 6, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  8. ^ "Bad Santa". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  9. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  10. ^ "Bad Disney". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on 2005-05-01.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Bad Santa movie review & film summary (2003) | Roger Ebert". Archived from the original on 2022-03-10. Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (2015-10-29). "Billy Bob Thornton Returning in 'Bad Santa 2'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2015-11-22. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  13. ^ Gettell, Oliver (2015-11-03). "Mean Girls director Mark Waters to helm Bad Santa 2". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (2015-11-19). "Kathy Bates Joins Billy Bob Thornton in 'Bad Santa 2' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2017-09-27. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
  15. ^ "'Bad Santa 2' to Hit Theaters in Time for Holidays". Variety. Archived from the original on June 24, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  16. ^ "Christina Hendricks Joins Billy Bob Thornton in 'Bad Santa 2'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2016.

External links[edit]