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Bad Santa

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

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 12 reviews

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 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 byRuckman February 7, 2009

Bad Santa

Bad Santa This movie is for the ones who love comedy. A great actor named Billy Bob Thornton plays Bad Santa. Bad Santa is a drinker. He goes out every night... Continue reading
Parent of a 8 year old Written bycone March 11, 2011
Kid, 8 years old January 8, 2011
Teen, 14 years old Written byCf-Panda777 August 19, 2011

Great for mature kids

I'm 14 and this is, by far, my favorite christmas movie of all time. It is hilarious. Billy Bob Thornton plays his character perfectly. If you're a te... Continue reading

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

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