Top Ten Christmas Movie Characters, Traditional and Otherwise

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Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s
Photo Credit: MGM/UA Entertainment Company
December 16th, 2013

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Top Ten Christmas Movie Characters, Traditional and Otherwise

Over the years, there have been countless Christmas films full of memorable characters, and each of these icons of the season has a place in the pantheon of cinematic holiday cheer. But there are also a number of films that use Christmas as a setting without focusing too closely on the holiday itself, and some of these spawned great characters of their own. Here are ten of the best Christmas movie characters, both from traditional holiday fare as well as non-traditional films.

10. Gizmo, "Gremlins"
While audiences may still remember the iconic rules about the Mogwai that caused so many problems if forgotten—no bright lights, don't get them wet, and never feed them after midnight—few may recall that the reason the cute and fuzzy Gizmo entered the Peltzer household in the first place was as a Christmas present.

9. Jack Skellington, "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
This animated tale, written and directed by Tim Burton, focuses on Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and leader of Halloween Town, who discovers a town devoted to Christmas and decides to take over the new holiday landscape for himself.

8. Martin Riggs, "Lethal Weapon"
The action film that spawned three sequels, "Lethal Weapon" takes place well into the holiday season. Mel Gibson's portrayal of the comically unbalanced Detective Martin Riggs helped cement his status as an action star in the 1980s and early 1990s.

7. Cousin Eddie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
While Cousin Eddie first appeared in the original "National Lampoon's Vacation," the character truly comes into his own in the sequel, set during the Griswold Christmas family celebration. Eddie's insanity helps drive the plot around the hapless Clark Griswold, and while the character goes further off the rails in later sequels, in the Christmas installment he remains the epitome of that clueless relative who never seems to understand the impact of his actions.

6. The Ghost of Christmas Present, "Scrooged"
1988's "Scrooged" is a retelling of "A Christmas Carol" packed with unique characters, but the show-stealer is definitely Carol Kane's Ghost of Christmas Present. As she guides Bill Murray's Frank Cross through the Christmas Eve shared by his friends and family, she takes great pleasure in punching, kicking, and otherwise abusing the miserly executive through his ghostly learning experience.

5.  John McClane, "Die Hard"
Another action film set during the holiday season is "Die Hard," featuring Bruce Willis as wisecracking New York cop John McClane. The original film sees him facing off against a memorable terrorist mastermind during a holiday party in Los Angeles. Willis has continued playing the character through four sequels.

4. Willie, "Bad Santa"
The epitome of the anti-Christmas Christmas movie is "Bad Santa," a film starring Billy Bob Thornton as Willie, a con man who uses his job as a mall Santa to rob stores during the holidays. When Willie befriends an ungainly and naive young boy who believes he may be the real St. Nick, Willie re-evaluates his life's path and avoids disaster at the hands of his former partner.

3. Clarence, "It's a Wonderful Life"
A staple of the Christmas season, "It's a Wonderful Life" features James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who finds himself on the brink of suicide in the face of adversity. The only guardian angel available to intervene is the misfit Clarence Odbody, who nevertheless manages to correct George's path by showing him what the world would be like if he had never been born. The bumbling Clarence provides some of the film's comic relief and a share of the emotional impact as he finally earns his wings for doing good work,

2. Buddy, "Elf"
Will Ferrell's 2003 Christmas film "Elf" introduced audiences to Buddy, the human child inadvertently kidnapped and raised in the North Pole, unaware of his true heritage. When he begins to outgrow all of his friends and family, his adopted father tells him the truth and sends him into the human world to seek his fortune. The film balances Ferrell's trademark madcap humor with a good old-fashioned let's-save-Christmas story, and it has proven to be a favorite of modern Christmas movie fans.

1. Ralphie, "A Christmas Story"
A Christmas movie so iconic that it regularly dominates 24-hour holiday marathons, 1983's "A Christmas Story" is full of fantastic characters, but none so memorable as narrator and protagonist Ralphie. His frantic quest for a Red Ryder BB gun despite everyone's assurances that he'll shoot his eye out has become an integral part of the Christmas season for generations of movie lovers, and his flights of fancy throughout the film remain some of its most entertaining moments.