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Bad Santa

Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Produced by John Cameron
Ethan Coen
Joel Coen
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Written by Glenn Ficarra
John Requa
Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Terry Zwigoff
Starring Billy Bob Thornton
Tony Cox
Brett Kelly
Lauren Graham
Lauren Tom
with John Ritter
and Bernie Mac
Music by David Kitay
Cinematography Jamie Anderson
Editing by Robert Hoffman
Distributed by Dimension Films
Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) November 26, 2003 (2003-11-26)
Running time Theatrical cut
91 minutes
Director's cut
88 minutes
Unrated cut
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18,000,000
Gross revenue $76,057,639

Bad Santa is a 2003 American dark comedy film directed by Terry Zwigoff, produced by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Billy Bob Thornton as the title character and Tony Cox as his partner in crime. Actors Bernie Mac and John Ritter (in his final live-action film) co-star. Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Ethan Phillips, Brett Kelly, and Cloris Leachman are also featured.

The unrated version of the film was released on DVD in 2004 and on high-definition Blu-ray Disc (November 20, 2007) as Badder 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), but is three minutes shorter than the theatrical cut and ten minutes shorter than the unrated version. The film was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.[1]



The film begins in a bar on a December night in Milwaukee, where the viewer is introduced to Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a bitter, lonely alcoholic. Willie works the holiday seasons as a mall Santa along with his dwarf friend, Marcus (Tony Cox), who works as Santa's elf. Every Christmas Eve, the two of them disable the security alarm after the mall closes and rob the mall safe; afterwards, Marcus returns to living with his wife (who Willie finds very ugly and annoying), Lois (Lauren Tom), while Willie goes to Miami and spends all his money on booze, a resort condo, and other purely hedonistic pursuits.

At the new mall they plan to steal from, Willie's alcoholic rants arouse the suspicion of paranoid mall manager Bob Chipeska (John Ritter), who asks security chief Gin (Bernie Mac) to investigate. Meanwhile, Willie meets bartender Sue (Lauren Graham), and they begin a relationship. He also meets a pudgy, preteen boy, whom he nicknames the Kid (Brett Kelly), during their visit in the mall. When the Kid first meets Willie, he asks a bunch of irrelevant and annoying questions. When he leaves the bar and is confronted by a hostile man (Ajay Naidu), the Kid stops the man from beating up (or possibly raping due to the man turning him around) Willie after the guy falsely accuses Willie of being gay. A lonely, unpopular boy, the Kid lives with his senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman) who only says "Roger, you're home! Let me fix you some sandwiches"; his mother is dead and his father is in prison for embezzlement. After taking the Kid home to the Kid's father's mansion, Willie breaks into the house safe, takes all the money, "borrows" his father's BMW, and winds up spending the money on more booze. However, the Kid is too kindhearted and he lets Willie take all of his father's things.

Mr. Chipeska hears Willie having anal sex with a fat woman in the big and tall changing room in the mall and tries to fire him. Willie and Marcus threaten to sue Chipeska for discrimination against African American "little people" like Marcus if they are fired, and Chipeska reconsiders. Marcus is irritated by Willie's reckless behavior, including his new car, his alcoholism, and flirtatiousness with customers and young women. Marcus spots Willie flirting with a teenage girl and while teaching her how to play pinball, he starts pounding his crotch area into her behind. When Gin breaks into Willie's motel room posing as a police officer, Willie takes up residence with the Kid, which proves to be quite a convenience. During his time spent with the Kid, Willie starts to show small signs of kindness, offering advice when the Kid is beaten by bullies and playing checkers with the Kid.

Willie has a series of incidents in the mall in between his time spent with the Kid and Sue. During one of his lunch breaks, he yells at a mother and son after Marcus insults him. Marcus is continually disgusted by how unreliable Willie has become. Gin, meanwhile, discovers the history of Marcus and Willie and he demands half of the money and merchandise they plan to steal, creating further friction between Willie and Marcus. Willie goes to the mall drunk the next day and destroys a reindeer display in a drunken rage, shocking the customers. Marcus and Gin try to cover it up, but get into an argument. The next day, Willie tries to commit suicide, giving the Kid a letter to give to the police when they would come to collect his corpse, explaining the mall robbery. He is motivated to live when he sees how the bullies have blackened the Kid's eye. He beats up the lead bully (Max Van Ville) as his friends run away and then gives the Kid a very unsuccessful boxing lesson.

The Kid gives Willie a Christmas present in advance: a wooden pickle he bloodied when he cut himself carving it. He then gets a low-grade report card (all Cs, with the exception of one B), hoping to make Willie happy (from this, Willie learns the Kid's name: Thurman Merman). Thurman asks for a pink stuffed elephant this year, since he hadn't received any presents for the past two years.

That night, Marcus and Lois murder Gin with their van when he refuses to take less than half the money. On Christmas Eve, Sue helps Willie and Thurman decorate their house for Christmas. Willie leaves to rob the mall with Marcus. After cracking the safe, Willie takes a stuffed elephant for Thurman. However, Marcus produces a gun and reveals that he is going to kill Willie because he finally has become too unreliable for the job. Willie asks Marcus and Lois if they really need everything they steal. Fortunately for Willie, the police arrive, having been tipped off by Willie's letter that Thurman gave them. Willie flees and speeds to Thurman's house in order to give him his present; he arrives at the house and is shot eight times by the police in front of the whole neighborhood.

Afterwards, Thurman gets his present and it is revealed that Willie has survived and will avoid prison time because of the letter he gave the police, and because "Everyone agrees that the Phoenix Police Department shooting an unarmed Santa Claus in front of children is more fucked up than Rodney King." Marcus and Lois are both arrested and are in prison. Willie, Sue, and Thurman will form a kind of family upon Willie's release from the hospital as Sue is legally given guardianship of Thurman. Furthermore, in an ironic twist of events, Willie is to be made a sensitivity trainer for the police department, so that "incidences such as [Willie's getting shot] will never again embarrass the whole fucking department."

In the final scene, Thurman wears a shirt that Willie sent him, which says on the back, "Shit happens when you party naked," together with his original present. When Thurman goes out for a bike ride, the head bully appears and starts to taunt Thurman by threatening to steal his bike. But Thurman kicks him in the groin and rides off giving the bully the middle finger.

Director's cut

Terry Zwigoff's director's cut features numerous changes to the film, as Zwigoff removes many scenes or changes some; as a result it is actually three minutes shorter than the original. In this cut, Willie is viewed as a less sympathetic character, as many of the scenes where he helps out Thurman are excised from the film. Most prominently featured is a radically different ending. In this version, Thurman simply cleans Willie's blood from the front porch rather than attacking the bully. Some other changes include:

  • The opening monologue about Willie's father is removed.
  • The scene where Willie celebrates with Marcus after the robbery is removed, along with the scene with Willie stealing from the bar in Florida.
  • Willie screams more obscenities and throwing more beer bottles when he fails to turn off his alarm clock.
  • Marcus calls Willie a "drunken imbecile" after he throws a bottle into a car windshield.
  • A different take of Willie screaming at Thurman when he loses his checkers game.
  • The subplot with Thurman's Advent calendar is removed.
  • A scene is added before the "pinball" scene, where a boy band performs along with an interpreter for the deaf.
  • The luminaria subplot is removed
  • The scene where Willie teaches Thurman to defend himself is removed.
  • A scene is added before the robbery, which takes place during Marcus and Willie's final day on the Santa Claus job. Here, Marcus chastises Willie for being drunk on the job, telling him to get in shape and "suck it up" before the robbery.
  • Willie's quote at the climax saying that "This is Christmas and the kid (Thurman) is getting his present" is removed.
  • A different, more cynical version of Willie's letter to Thurman, stating that he would return when he wants to "fuck Mrs. Santa's sister in the jacuzzi." His request to have Thurman fix some sandwiches is also removed.
  • A new sequence before the credits, which shows every cast member.




Bad Santa, Zwigoff's fourth film, was his most mainstream, following the very limited releases of Crumb and Ghost World. The original screenplay was written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who had previously been known for the 2001 family film Cats and Dogs. They would later go on, alongside Bill Lancaster (the original screenwriter; although he has since died, he is still credited), to write the screenplay for the 2005 remake of The Bad News Bears, also starring Billy Bob Thornton. Prior to filming, producers Ethan and Joel Coen and director Zwigoff did rewrites on the script, although by WGA rules, they were uncredited.

Several different actors interested in the role of Willie were unable to participate due to scheduling conflicts. Among them were Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray, who were already filming Something's Gotta Give and Lost in Translation, respectively. Coincidentally, Nicholson, Murray, and Thornton all received Golden Globe nominations that same year for their roles, with Murray winning the award.


The movie attracted bad publicity before its release from critics, who 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 its Miramax subsidiary.[2]

The film was ultimately well received by critics. It maintains a rating of 7.3 at the Internet Movie Database[3], an aggregate "Certified Fresh" rating of 76% at Rotten Tomatoes[4], and a positive 3-1/2 stars out of four by critic Roger Ebert.[5]

The film was a box office success, grossing over $60-million at U.S. box offices and over $76-million worldwide.[6]

This was John Ritter's last live-action role—he died two months before the release—and it is dedicated in his memory.

Home media

In the U.S, a theatrical version, an unrated version, a director's cut and a Blu-ray version (which includes unrated & director's cut) have all been released. According to, the special features for the theatrical cut of the film included: a behind-the-scenes special, outtakes, & deleted scenes. The unrated edition was released June 22, 2004 and had all of the above plus a 'Badder Santa' gag reel and over seven minutes of unseen footage. The director's cut was released October 10, 2006 and contained the new version of the film (in which the director originally intended it to be) and it had a new commentary (in addition to the rest of the features: outtakes, deleted/alternate scenes, & the behind-the-scenes feature). The Blu-ray version released November 20, 2007 and contained the unrated version & the director's cut of the movie. Among its special features were director's commentary, an interview with the director & the editor along with other features ported over from the previous unrated version's release in addition to an all-new movie showcase feature.


On September 18, 2009 Billy Bob Thornton appeared on a segment of the NFL Network's flagship show, NFL Total Access, called "Celebrity Picks". He confirmed that, after host Rich Eisen hinted, there will be a sequel to the 2003 hit Bad Santa. He also noted he had received the script earlier that day and would be reading it that night.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Bad Santa is a 2003 film about a miserable con man and his partner who pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.

Directed by Terry Zwigoff. Written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
He's very naughty . . . and not very nice. (taglines)



  • I said, "Next," goddamn it! This is not the DMV!
  • I'm not your fucking Da-Da.
  • It's Christmas and the kid's gettin' his fuckin' present.
  • OW! Watch the toenails, kid. Shit!
  • Things are fucked up at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus caught me fucking her sister, now I'm out on my ass.
  • I'm an eating drinking shiting fucking Santa Clause.
  • (While on his lunch break a woman comes up to Willie with her child) I'M ON MY FUCKING LUNCH BREAK.


Marcus: More booze, more bullshit, more butt-fucking
Willie: Sure, the 3 B's.

Kid: Should I fix you some sandwiches?
Willie: I don't want any fucking sandwiches. What is it with you and fixin' fucking sandwiches?
Kid: I think someone messed with my Advent calendar.
Willie: No one messed with it. What's wrong with you?
Kid: This one has a... candy corn in it.
Willie: Well they can't all be winners.

Hindustani Troublemaker: I am not gay!
Willie: What the hell, buddy?
Hindustani Troublemaker: Buddy? I said I am not gay!
Willie: Are you off your fucking meds or something?
Hindustani Troublemaker: Yes. But that isn't what this is about. You're as queer as a ten dollar bill.
Willie: Let me tell you something, motherfucker. My brother lost a goddamn arm fighting you fuckers in Vietnam. So I want you to look at me. I want you to look at my face one last fucking time. This is the last thing you're ever gonna see before I...
Hindustani Troublemaker: [grabs Willie and pins him against the car] Elf fucker! Motherfucker. Elf fucker! Who's the bitch now, Santy Claus? Faggy Claus! Faggy...
Kid: Leave Santa alone!
Hindustani Troublemaker: Little boy, don't interfere. I am doing this for all of us.
Kid: Leave Santa alone!
Hindustani Troublemaker: [Willie pulls free. Hindustani Troublemaker turns to leave] Ass clown.

Willie: You can't drink worth a fuck.
Marcus: I weigh ninety-two pounds you dick!


  • He's very naughty . . . and not very nice.
  • He doesn't care if you're naughty or nice.
  • Get Naughty this Holiday Season.


External links

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