Without conflict there is no drama and without Christmas villains there wouldn’t be dozens of holiday themed television specials and motion pictures. Christmas villains come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Most of them start out as not get the meaning of it all, but through a set of circumstances they repent and end up wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Then there are those villains who show up at Christmas with no intention of changing. So let’s raise a glass of eggnog to the Top Ten Christmas Villains. If not for them, we wouldn’t have any Christmas stories to tell.
Most Heinous Villainy: Making Santa a Most Wanted Criminal
This grumpy Gus made his appearance in the animated classic “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (1970). As part of Santa’s supposed back-story, the Burgermeister was the mayor of the small village where Kris Kringle first passed out his toys. When the Burgermeister tripped on errant toy duck he banned toys. Even a brief flirtation with a yo-yo wasn’t enough to convince him to change his ways. By making Kris an outlaw he forced Santa to go down chimneys. See how important Christmas villains are? The Burgermeister was given life by venerable cartoon voice artist Paul Frees who also provided the voice for the other cartoon villain Boris Badenov.
9. Heat & Snow Miser
Most Heinous Villainy: Using their weather powers for evil instead of good.
Following up on the success of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” the stop motion elves at Rankin and Bass delivered “The Year Without Santa Claus” (1974) and introduced us to two nasty brothers by the name of Hear Miser and Snow Miser voiced by George Irving and Dick Shawn respectively. The Misers were the epitome of sibling rivalry and it was only through the intervention of their mom Mother Nature that Santa was able to get back to business. In 2006, a live action version of “The Year Without Santa Claus” was made for TV with Michael McKean and Harvey Fierstein playing the weather challenged duo. These boys proved so popular they were given their own special in “A Miser Brother’s Christmas” (2008) where they finally learned the meaning of Christmas by filling in for Santa. And once again it was all thanks to mom.
8. The Martians
Most Heinous Villainy: Kidnapping Santa Claus.
Yes, the Martians from the classic turkey of a film, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964) . This cinematic chestnut was made on an obvious shoestring budget in a Long Island warehouse. When released it made only around $200,000. Then along came Mystery Science Theatre 3000 who in 1988 took the film out of mothballs, dusted it off and ripped through it. It’s been a good/bad classic ever since; right up there with “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “Showgirls.”
7. Old Man Potter
Most Heinous Villainy: Holding on to Uncle Billy’s deposit.
He was the meanest and richest man in Bedford Falls and made George Bailey’s life miserable. That is right up to the point when George discovered he really did have a wonderful life. Portrayed with delicious sneer by Lionel Barrymore, Old Man Potter goes down as the quintessential Christmas villain because there was no redemption for him. FYI, Lionel is the great uncle of Drew Barrymore and is credited with inventing the boom microphone back when talkies started up. Want to stump your friends with “It’s A Wonderful Life Trivia?” What was Old Man Potter’s first name? It was Henry.
6. Jack Frost
Most Heinous Villainy: Freezing over anyone who does him wrong.
Jack got his start as an impish elf in folktales who liked running around making people cold. “Wizard of Oz” writer L. Frank Baum used Jack Frost in his “Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” tome. With the Christmas TV specials and movies, Jack became the defacto go to Christmas villain. He caused trouble for “Frosty the Snowman” (voiced by Paul Frees!) and for Tim Allen’s Santa Claus in “Santa Claus 3: The Escape Clause.” (2006) There he was played by Martin Short. Jack also turned up in a couple of B slasher films, most notably the aptly named “Jack Frost” (1997) and its sequel “Jack Frost II: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman” (2000). And yes, that’s a real title.
Most Heinous Villainy: Sending an old lady shooting out of her home on her electric stair chair.
Don’t shine a bright light on them, don’t get them wet and whatever you do, don’t feed them after midnight. Those were three simple rules to follow to make sure this one of a kind Christmas present wouldn’t go all wonky. Of course we know what happened in “Gremlins” (1984). Gizmo got wet and the Mogwai “Stripe” was born who begat hundreds of other evil gremlins that wrecked havoc on Christmas night. In the first draft of the script, mean gremlin Stripe was actually supposed to be the Mr. Hyde to Gizmo’s Dr. Jekyll. Luckily, executive producer Stephen Spielberg nixed that idea. Look closely: the small town in this film was the same small town used in “Back to the Future.” In fact the movie theatre that went up in a fireball as the end of “Gremlins” is the same one Marty McFly crashed into in his first adventure.
4. Hans Gruber
Most Heinous Villainy: Killing Mr. Takagi in cold blood.
As long as there have been movies there have been movie bad guys, but one baddie stands alone: Hans Gruber from “DIE HARD” (1988). He counts as a Christmas villain because Hans and his crew picked an office Christmas party to raid. Unfortunately, for them John McClane was on the guest list. What happened next became the standard by which every subsequent action film would be judged. Making his feature film debut in the role of Hans was Alan Rickman. His reputation for playing a Hollywood heavy landed him several more roles right up to Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. For the scene when Hans was supposed to take a death tumble from the tower, Alan was actually dropped 21 feet to an airbag. To get the right reaction, he was let go on “2” instead of “3.” The look on his face says it all.
3. Marv and Harry
Most Heinous Villainy: After robbing houses, Marv would flood them.
Back in 1990, the brat pack’s favorite director John Hughes crafted a simple story about a little boy accidently left behind for the holidays while two inept burglars attempted to rob the house. The rest is film history. “Home Alone” went on to gross $533,000,000 making it the number one comedy film of all time. Marv and Harry were played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. For the filming, Joe Pesci had to be constantly reminded this was a family film and he couldn’t drop the “F” bombs he was used to. Director Chris Columbus got him to say “fridge” instead. When it came time for Daniel Stern to have a tarantula crawl on his face, he agreed to do it just once. He had to pretend to scream otherwise he would have scared the spider.
2. The Grinch
Most Heinous Villainy: Stealing all the Whos’ toys and decorations.
Popular children’s author Dr. Seuss first brought the Grinch to life in his 1957 book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The story had all the Suessical elements of the Whos living in Whoville, but it was the Grinch’s story. It’s also a perfect example of a Christmas villain finding redemption. For the 1966 cartoon adaption, famed horror actor Boris Karloff was hired to narrate and provide the voice for the Grinch. At first, Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) objected to Boris because he thought his voice might scare the kids too much. Thankfully, he was overruled and a classic Christmas villain was brought to life. And we got a new word for a grouchy and stingy type of person. Dr. Seuss wasn’t finished with the Grinch. He would go on to write “Halloween is Grinch Night” (1977) and “The Grinch Grinches the Cat In The Hat” (1982). Both animated specials won Emmys.
Most Heinous Villainy: Wishing there were more poor houses and orphanages.
If there was to be a number one Christmas villain it has to be Ebenezer Scrooge. The Scrooge archetype is essentially what every other Christmas villain strives to become. Charles Dickens creation was first published in 1843. Since that publication the story has never been out of print and has spawned at least 22 official stage variations, 2 operas, 4 recordings, 10 radio broadcasts, 49 television show adaptations and 20 film versions. Among the notable actors who have taken on the mantle of playing Scrooge have been Kesley Grammer and Albert Finney in musical versions. In classic versions Scrooge has been played by George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, Reginald Owen and everybody’s favorite Alastair Sim. And let’s not forget Mr. Magoo, Jim Carrey and Bill Murray in “Scrooged.” “Bah, humbug!”
by Rick Bitzelberger