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Buddy's Most Memorable Elf Moments Ranked By Kindheartedness

When thoughts of Christmas cheer come to mind, names like Santa, Rudolph and Frosty may be at the forefront, but there's one who embodies the Yuletide spirit with more enthusiasm than anyone else: Will Ferrell's Buddy in the 2003's holiday classic "Elf." 

As an orphaned baby, Buddy stows away in Santa's gift sack on Christmas Eve and becomes the first human ever to see Santa's Workshop in the North Pole. Buddy is adopted by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), and as he grows and is educated alongside other elf children, he continues to believe he's one of them — despite all physical evidence to the contrary. When Papa Elf admits Buddy was actually born to human parents and that his biological father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), still lives in New York City — and is on the Naughty List — Buddy sets out into the big, wide world.

While Buddy's innocent attitude and love of all things Christmas are met with plenty of skepticism in New York, his innate kindheartedness eventually wins over his new family, including his gruff, workaholic father, and a few friends including Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), the disillusioned Gimbels department store employee that Buddy is infatuated with. 

Through it all, there are plenty of memorable moments in "Elf" where everything Buddy learned as an elf clashes in the most hilarious ways with the attitudes and beliefs of people that weren't brought up in the North Pole. Here are 12 of them, ranked by how kindhearted Buddy's intentions are.

12. Reacting to Gimbels' imposter Santa

Buddy has never had to grapple with the question of Santa's authenticity, as the presence of Saint Nick (Edward Asner) was a constant in his life ever since infancy. In fact, Santa was the closest thing to a rock star in Buddy's world, and the lives of the elves revolve around getting Santa ready for the big show on Christmas Eve.

So, when Buddy learns that Santa is scheduled to visit shoppers at the Gimbels department store, he's ecstatic. After all, who wouldn't be stoked to see the man they grew up idolizing? As a result, Buddy has a hard time handling the revelation that the man wearing the familiar red suit (Artie Lange) doesn't seem like the real deal. 

After informing this phony Santa that he sits "on a throne of lies," they come to blows over his legitimacy, quickly disproven when Buddy pulls off Santa's beard and Santa tackles him. In fairness to Buddy, he was only trying to stand up for the real Santa.

11. Proving himself to his brother during a snowball fight

After meeting his father, Buddy learns he has a younger half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay). Michael is what Buddy may have become had Buddy been raised by Walter too ("Elf" makes a case for the nurture side of the nature versus nurture debate). Michael is cynical, shut down and angry at the world, the complete opposite of Buddy. So when Buddy meets Michael after school in the hopes that they can bond, Michael isn't thrilled at the prospect.

But then the pair are ambushed by a group of snowball-hurling boys on their walk home. While Michael wants to run and hide, Buddy has other plans. In the North Pole, where it snows year-round, snowball fights must be a regular occurrence, which means Buddy probably has more experience with them than almost any other human on Earth. So when the boys attack, Buddy is determined to beat them at their own game — and given his snowball fighting prowess, they don't stand a chance.

Buddy is not only able to quickly make dozens of perfect snowballs, but he can hit his targets with them with stunning accuracy. The sheer brutality of Buddy's snowball-fighting technique may not be all that kind — he even makes one boy cry — but it gets the job done. Buddy's skills impress Michael, and the boy begins letting his guard down, newly willing to join in on the fun.

10. Dueting with Jovie while she's in the shower

The first time Buddy sees Jovie, she's dressed like an elf and decorating a Christmas tree, a combination that makes her irresistible. Even her skepticism of the holidays and unwillingness to sing in public don't faze him. So when he hears her crooning "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to herself in the  women's locker room shower at Gimbels, he can't help but get closer... and join in.

If there's anything audiences learned from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," it's that the shower is a uniquely vulnerable place, and even though Buddy's wielding nothing more than Christmas spirit and a love of classic holiday songs, Jovie is justifiably freaked out when she finds him on the other side of the shower curtain. Ironically, Buddy is equally frightened by Jovie's shrieking, and their combined veer from singing to surprised to dismayed make for a particularly memorable scene.

Fortunately for Buddy, Jovie is remarkably forgiving, even letting it go when Buddy insists he had no idea that Jovie was naked in the shower (a declaration that seems suspect given Buddy's knows how bathing works — his trouble fitting into the elf-sized showers in the North Pole is highlighted in the "Elf" prologue). Ultimately, Buddy's far more interested in hearing Jovie sing than anything else, making the moment both innocent and a bit off-putting.

9. Eating cotton balls at the doctor's office

After multiple encounters with Buddy and the revelation that Buddy has a photo of him with an old flame, Walter decides he needs to set the record straight once and for all. So Walter takes Buddy for a paternity test, which confirms Walter really is the elf's father. Buddy's reaction to being in the doctor's office transcends the fact that the scene is giving viewers information they already know.

Perhaps they don't have healthcare in the North Pole, because going to the doctor seems like an entirely new experience for Buddy. Unlike most adults and children, who typically aren't excited to see the doctor, Buddy approaches the whole experience with wide-eyed wonder. He's even intrigued at getting a finger prick — at least, until it happens and he realizes finger pricks hurt.

What makes the situation especially silly is the way he cautiously eats — and then starts to devour — cotton balls with reckless abandon, despite being told not to. Maybe Buddy thinks they look like cotton candy, maybe he likes how soft they are. Whatever the reason, Buddy seems convinced that cotton balls are some kind of delicacy; he even eats the one he's used to staunch the blood after his finger prick. 

Buddy's actions are questionable and kind of gross and, if he eats too many cotton balls, may even land him back at the doctor's office. But more than anything, they make Buddy seem like an outlier in the elf community — and not just because he's human. After all, the other elves may be cheerful and polite, but they also seem level-headed enough not to eat cotton balls.

8. Explaining the four main food groups

To say that Walter is uncomfortable with his long-lost son the overgrown elf is an understatement. Walter feels responsible enough for Buddy, however, that he feels compelled to take him home to his wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael, ensuring that Buddy at least has a place to stay. Initially, Emily is thrilled to learn that Walter has another child, and despite the complications, she's happy to meet him. But during their first dinner together it quickly becomes clear that Buddy is fully committed to his identity as a Christmas elf.

When the family sits down at the table to eat together, Buddy starts the meal by regaling Walter, Emily, and Michael with the tale of how he walked all the way to New York from the North Pole, chugging a large bottle of Coca-Cola without a second thought. After that, he asks for the syrup, and when Emily reminds him that they're eating spaghetti, instead of picking up on her hint, he retrieves his own bottle from the inside of his sleeve and liberally unloads it onto the pasta.

Buddy's diet is eyebrow-raising for many reasons, but it turns out meals at the North Pole may have been even more decadent, if, as he memorably explains to Emily, he really did stick to the elves' "four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup." This raises many questions, including how Buddy has managed to avoid becoming obese, diabetic, chronically ill and/or all of the above – and also, why the elves don't include cookies, cake, pie, and maybe some gingerbread in their food groups.

7. Asking Jovie out on a date

Buddy knows very little about humans when he comes to New York, but he seems particularly naive when it comes to adult topics like dating. So, although he's definitely attracted to Jovie, it never occurs to him to ask her out. At least not until his brother brings up the idea. 

Given that Buddy looks north of 30 years old, it seems strange that he never learned at least a little bit about dating and romance from Papa Elf. On the other hand, the movie doesn't give viewers much information about elf courtship rituals, so perhaps elves do things a little differently. Nevertheless, if Buddy wants to begin a relationship with the very human Jovie, he needs to ask her on a date — and for better or worse, Michael's there to be his wingman.

At 12 years old, Michael isn't exactly experienced with women, which makes him only slightly more knowledgeable about dating than Buddy. So when Michael explains to Buddy that if he likes Jovie he has to ask her out for food because it's some secret code only girls seem to know about, it makes perfect sense for his age. That's not true for Buddy though. Fortunately, Jovie has already shown she's surprisingly tolerant of Buddy's eccentricities, so his well-meaning yet blunt invitation to join him for food and invocation of a code she knows nothing about amuses her — and the viewer — more than it comes across as weird. Somehow, Buddy has found a woman that sees him as the kindhearted guy he is, rather than the creep many would believe him to be.

6. Meeting his father for the first time

Although Buddy is attached to Papa Elf and his elf identity, once he learns he's human, he becomes every bit as attached to the idea of getting to know his biological father. In Buddy's mind, his reunion with Walter will be joyous and Walter will accept Buddy as his son without hesitation. But Walter isn't exactly prepared for the news Buddy brings him.

Without any understanding of human customs or that his clothes and general demeanor are considered unusual, Buddy doesn't exactly do a good job setting expectations when he arrives at Walter's workplace in the Empire State Building. So, it makes sense when Walter's assistant Deb (Amy Sedaris) mistakes him for a Christmas-gram and sends him to Walter's office.

This leads to a memorable father-son reunion. As Walter's colleagues watch, he jokes with Buddy about being from the North Pole and then asks if he's going to sing him a song, a request Buddy eagerly accommodates with an awkward, impromptu melody that explains their connection. Even though Buddy's unceremonious removal from Walter's office by security is a little harsh, it's not entirely surprising that Walter has trouble believing him at first. Walter and Buddy's culture clash may be hilarious, but from Walter's perspective it's also pretty unnerving.

5. Enjoying the fun of a revolving door

When you're a kid, there's something magical about a revolving door. Buddy never lost that sense of wonder, and while "Elf" doesn't indicate whether there were revolving doors in the North Pole, the buildings in New York City are full of them; so when Buddy arrives and encounters his first revolving door, he gleefully runs around in it while screaming at the top of his lungs. In fact, he spins so long and so quickly that he makes himself sick. Yet, after he's done vomiting in a nearby trash can, he still finds the siren's song of the revolving door irresistible, darting back to play in it again.

While Buddy couldn't get away with this in most busy buildings, he manages to choose a revolving door to a building that doesn't seem to get a lot of foot traffic, ensuring nothing will interrupt his fun. As a grown man, Buddy is certainly able to move the revolving door faster than any child could, but what makes the moment really memorable and even kind of poignant is the way it reminds viewers of a childhood desire to do the same thing, an instinct perhaps repressed, but never fully erased.

4. Learning Santa is coming to Gimbel's

Mall Santas are a mainstay of American life during December. In between decking the halls at home and shopping for the perfect present in stores, many parents make a yearly ritual of taking their children to the mall to visit Santa. 

When Buddy arrives at the Gimbels in New York with Christmas on the horizon, it's no wonder he fits right into the winter wonderland the staff is creating or that the manager (Faizon Love) is planning a Santa meet-and-greet as the centerpiece of the display.

Of course, Buddy knows and loves Santa in a way no other human does. So, when Wanda announces that Santa will arrive at Gimbels the next day, Buddy can't contain his exuberance, an excitement particularly pronounced now that he's found himself in a strange city full of people who don't exactly embody the joy of the season. It's one of the film's most indelible scenes, with Buddy's kindhearted naivete summing up how thrilling the holidays can be if you fully embrace them.

3. Toy testing jack-in-the-boxes

According to Papa Elf, elves are the only ones who can make toys in Santa's Workshop because their "nimble fingers, natural cheer, and active minds" make them perfectly suited for the job. Given the sheer number of presents Santa brings to children every Christmas, making toys is a year-round occupation for them, with the preparations for the next year starting as soon as Santa returns from his global trek on Christmas Eve.

Buddy may have the natural cheer and even the active mind of an elf, but by the time he's old enough to take a job, he lacks the nimble fingers. As a result, he isn't the toy maker that Santa and the other elves need him to be, and to prevent him from putting them even further behind their quotas, Buddy is placed on toy-testing duty. 

His job is to make sure each of the toys works effectively. It's not nearly as glamorous as toy-making, and Buddy knows it. To add insult to injury, Buddy has to get through testing jack-in-the-boxes, toys he finds frightening. That means Buddy has to trigger jack-in-the-box after jack-in-the-box, never knowing when the clown inside will pop up and scare him. When one doesn't go off until well after it's supposed to, it's even more startling. Buddy's predicament is entirely relatable — after all, who hasn't had a bad day at work — and more importantly, who decided jack-in-the-boxes are fun? The whole situation is a lot for someone as kind-hearted as Buddy to take.

2. Congratulating a diner's staff on making the world's best cup of coffee

Even though the elves make toys for a living, it seems they aren't exposed to much advertising. They also don't seem to lie much; even Papa Elf's failure to tell Buddy he's human is a lie of omission, not the result of an outright falsehood. So, on Buddy's first day in New York, when he comes across a diner that claims to offer the "world's best cup of coffee," Buddy has no reason to doubt the claim.

This leads to one of Buddy's most kindhearted actions in the film: entering the diner simply to congratulate the staff on their momentous achievement. Buddy doesn't even ask to try the coffee for himself; he just wants everyone there to know they've done a great job. It's an entirely selfless act.

Sure, most people would know that despite what the sign says, the diner probably doesn't make the world's best coffee, or anything close for that matter. Still, it's nice to be praised once in awhile, and it's nice that Buddy takes it upon himself to deliver that praise, even if he mostly just manages to confuse the diner's patrons and workers.

1. Introducing Jovie to all his favorite New York activities

Buddy's never been on a date before, so his first one with Jovie in "Elf" is new territory for him, and since they don't have an agreed upon plan for the night, Buddy decides to introduce Jovie to his favorite New York activities. This includes blind-folding her and having her try the "world's best cup of coffee," introducing her to the joys of the revolving door, and other such shenanigans.

While some women might be repelled by Buddy's nonsensical nature, Jovie takes his actions as a sign of his innocent good-nature and finds them charming. When he takes her on a tour of tall Christmas trees he's found around the city, she even joins in the fun and impresses him by taking him to see the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

Clearly, Jovie and Buddy are perfectly matched, and their first date is both funny and sweet. But the scene's holiday backdrop ensures it's even more memorable, as the pair find the comfort and joy of the season in one another.