Bad Santa

Movie review by
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media
Bad Santa Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Too naughty for kids; nice for some grown-ups.
  • R
  • 2003
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 18 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Very few positive messages here. Willie learns that taking care of others can be just as rewarding as taking care of himself ... sort of.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Several characters are outright criminals who steal, con people, and even commit murder. Willie's specialty is safecracking. During the Christmas holidays, he poses as Santa Claus in order to rob department stores. He also steals a car, takes money from a residence's safe, and is overall a selfish, mean, reckless individual. However, the movie establishes him as an antihero whose actions are played for laughs. He later experiences an epiphany when he befriends a lonely boy and becomes an unorthodox father figure to him. He stands up to Thurman's bullies, but he's still no role model.


Violence includes murder, characters being shot, attempted suicide. A man is killed when other characters conspire to murder him and then pin him between two vehicles. Police officers and a store robber engage in a gun battle. His partner, who flees the scene, is shot eight times by police, but survives. A lot of fighting, such as punching, kicking, shoving, and kicking in the groin. A man appears to be attempting suicide in his car in a garage, but he doesn't go through with it.


Very explicit sexual situations and references. A man and a woman -- both shown clothed from the waist up -- have sex in a car. They later have sex in a hot tub. A man and a woman have what's implied as anal sex in a department store's fitting room; their legs are shown under the door. A man hits on a girl during a pinball game; she's later revealed to be underage.


Extreme profanity and strong language throughout. Swearing includes many uses of "f--k," "motherf-----r," and "s--t," as well as "pr--k," "d--k," "p---y," "t-ts," "a--hole," "hell," "bitch," "goddamn," "for Christ's sakes," "oh my God," and  "sweet Jews for Jesus."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and smoke frequently throughout the movie. Willie is a belligerent alcoholic who regularly drinks to excess. His love interest, Sue, is a bartender. Willie is seen throwing up from drinking as well as passed out. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bad Santa, though it features a Santa Claus character and Christmas theme, is not for kids and may even be too much for some adults. It includes profanity, nonstop drinking and smoking, extremely explicit sexual references and situations, and graphic violence, including a suicide attempt, hitting below the belt, murder, and shooting. Note: This is not a review of Badder Santa, an unrated version that was released on DVD and is available through Netflix.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJohn_B.1985 December 22, 2020

Dark, but warm

It’s a dark comedy, with a warm underbelly. It’s one of my favourites to pull out over the holiday season. Definitely not for younger viewers though. I’m surpri... Continue reading
Adult Written byemera December 1, 2020
I would look at the trailer but In my opinion it was a good movie.
Teen, 13 years old Written by13reasonswhyfan123 October 28, 2017

This movie is for kids 15 and up

I'm 13, and I have watched this movie like 30 times. I watched this movie when I was like 10 or 11. I think it's okay if a kid watches this movie wit... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bymarvelfreak June 8, 2016

Warning!!! He is a bad Santa

This movie is pretty naughty. There is frequent swearing lots of sex ( although nothing sensitive is shown) so this is recommended for older teens and adults.

What's the story?

A dark comedy with raunchy humor, BAD SANTA centers on Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed ex-con.. For many years running, Willie and his partner in crime, a little person named Marcus (Tony Cox), get jobs as Santa and his elf in a department store and rob the place blind on Christmas Eve. As Santa, Willie is slovenly, self-loathing, and angry at the world, he drinks and smokes on the job, insults the kids, and has sex with women in the ladies' fitting room. Everything changes in Phoenix, where he meets the perfect woman and Thurman, a lonely little boy who lives with his grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Thurman desperately needs a father figure. Willie has no patience with kids and is hardly a role model. Not only does he steal the family's car, but he also robs their safe -- assuring the kid that he'll use the money to repair his sleigh. Thurman, however, seems to adore his live-in Santa. Willie, meanwhile, develops a fondness for the kid and is soon protecting him from bullies and teaching him to defend himself.

Is it any good?

There's no question that viewers will find Bad Santa crude and irreverent. But while some might be shocked and disgusted, others will find themselves laughing all the way through this unconventional Christmas tale. Indeed, Willie emerges as the ultimate antihero. Those who aren't utterly offended might even find themselves rooting for Willie, who is portrayed as more of a washed-up, disorganized loser than a genuine menace. He starts out as a Grinch, but seems to be headed for his own version of redemption. A scene where Willie and his girlfriend help decorate the home for Christmas is surprisingly sweet.

In his final film role, the late John Ritter shines as the uptight department-store manager. Lauren Graham brings just the right mix of freewheeling sexiness and earthy compassion to her role Willie's love interest, and Bernie Mac is solid as the store's deadpan, scheming security guard, and Cox plays a great straight man to Thornton's over-the-top Willie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dark comedies and the raunchy humor of Bad Santa. Do you think comedies are getting raunchier? What more recent comedies can you compare this to?

  • Would this movie work with a more innocent brand of humor or not? Which movies are funny without the violent and sexual content?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate