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Willie's 12 Worst Bad Santa Moments Ranked By Most Naughty

Willie Soke, the degenerate safecracker played by Billy Bob Thornton in 2003's "Bad Santa" and its 2016 sequel, has an appropriate name. He's soaked in a lot of things: In booze, in regret, in self-loathing, in misanthropy, and in bodily fluids — typically, his own. 

Despite all this, the universe keeps offering the larcenous shopping mall Santa shots at redemption, whether that's the love of a pie-eyed kid (Brett Kelly) and a bartender with a Kris Kringle fetish (Lauren Graham), or saving a kids' charity fund from his heartless mother (Kathy Bates). That may be the biggest joke of all in this pitch-black comedy series; Ebenezer Scrooge, at least, was grateful after receiving a second chance at being a good man. For Willie, it's just one more thing getting in the way of his depression.

The "Bad Santa" series, in case you didn't know, is most definitely not for kids, and its non-stop parade of profanity, depravity, casual bigotry, and violence may be too much for even some adults. Just when you think Willie couldn't sink any lower into the depths, he finds a new level and makes his home there, to the point that his being an unrepentant burglar seems like the least of his shortcomings. Nearly everything he does in these films would land him firmly on Santa's naughty list; let's take a look at the absolute worst of Willie Soke.

12. Stealing drinks at the bar

Compared to Willie's other numerous offenses, this one is pretty minor, but every list has to start somewhere. In the "Bad Santa" opening heist sequence, viewers already know Willie is in bad shape (he throws up in an alley after delivering a voiceover monologue about his terrible life), but everything goes more or less as expected. Willie's accomplice Marcus (Tony Cox) hides in the department store after hours and disables the alarm, and while Willie cracks the safe Marcus steals luxury items for his wife/getaway driver Lois (Lauren Tom). In their post-robbery celebration, Willie proclaims that he is leaving the life, using his $50,000 share of the loot to move to Miami Beach, settle down, and maybe open a bar.

And for a moment, it looks like he's actually made it happen. The next scene opens several months later, as a Hawaiian shirt-clad Willie sits behind an outside bar, contently cutting limes while surrounded by beautiful people frolicking on the beach. Everything seems to have worked out for him — until the actual bartender (comedian Bryan Callen) returns and screams at him to get out. Willie panics and chugs the glass of vodka he was pouring while the bartender punches and tosses him over the bar. That brief glimpse of the honest life, honestly, turns out to be Willie's final moment of dignity in the entire series.

11. Breaking a car windshield with a liquor bottle

No, Willie did not realize his dream of opening a bar on the beach, so when Marcus calls him for another job, this time at a shopping mall in Phoenix, he accepts. The two men walk through the mall parking lot, Santa and his elf, on a scorching December day in Arizona. Santa, of course, smokes a cigarette and takes slugs from a half-pint of vodka. When he's finished with the bottle, he flings it underhand into the air, where it shatters the windshield of a parked Mercedes and sets off the alarm. They are not even in the building yet, and already alarms are going off. This is not going to be a good job.

Like stealing drinks at the Miami bar, breaking a car windshield with a liquor bottle is relatively minor for Willie, a random outburst that speaks to his addled state of mind. But the choice of car also speaks to the latent class warfare at the heart of their schemes. 

The film, directed by Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb," "Ghost World"), doesn't condone Willie's behavior, but also implicitly sides with outsiders like him, Marcus, and the Kid against the yuppies and bullies of the world. In the later scene where Willie meets Sue (Graham) at a Phoenix bar, the camera lingers on smiling, happy people, dressed for the office, chatting with cocktails in hand. These are the people who spend hundreds of dollars at the mall on things they don't need, whose money Willie is all too happy to take.

10. Beating up a kid's bully

This is a tough moment to rate on the naughty scale. Beating up a child is never a good thing, but in "Bad Santa" it's also an act of kindness that warms Willie's heart and sets him on, well, not the right track but something slightly closer than where he was. Early in the film, viewers see the kid — the strange near-orphan later revealed to be named Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), who gloms onto Willie and seems to believe that he is actually Santa, against all evidence — being harassed by a group of skate punks outside the mall led by a blonde teen played by Max Van Ville. When the bullies give Thurman a terrible wedgie, Willie tries to teach him to defend himself, a training session that results in Willie, Thurman, and Marcus kicking one another in the crotch.

At his lowest moment, Willie sits inside Thurman's garage with a hose stuck to the tailpipe of his car, waiting for the carbon monoxide to suffocate him. Thurman comes to check on him, which Willie barely registers — until he sees that Thurman has a black eye. Smash cut to Willie beating the snot out of the skateboard bully and throwing him to the ground. The experience of laying waste to Thurman's bullies turns out to be transformative; it doesn't make Willie a good person by any means, but it gives him a feeling of accomplishment to do something for someone he cares about.

9. Fighting another Santa in the street

"Bad Santa 2" puts Willie in the backseat, not so much the driver of the film's naughtiness but an observer of others doing just as bad, if not worse — particularly his con artist mother Sunny (Bates), who gave birth to him in an Arkansas juvenile detention center when she was 13. But Willie still doesn't play well with others, as seen in a very public altercation with a rival Santa (Mike Starr). 

The sequel has Willie and Marcus in Chicago helping Sunny knock over a children's charity that utilizes street corner Santas taking donations from passersby. When Willie grabs a spot downtown to play the part of the charity's new volunteer, he gets into a spat with the Santa who usually works that corner, a spat that turns violent when Willie accuses him of being a pedophile (or rather, "peedophiliac").

Was Willie right? The rival Santa did quietly admonish him for "scaring all the kids away," which Willie took as evidence that his accusations were correct, though the audience will never know for sure whether his violence was righteous or just self-righteous. Either way, when the cops show up, they find one Santa viciously beating another with a Nativity scene Mary as a horrified crowd watches. Willie is arrested, insisting all the way that he's the hero.

8. Yelling at a kid while on his lunch break

"I'm on my f***ing lunch break!" Willie shouts at a boy and his mother (Hallie Singleton) with cheap food court salad hanging out of his mouth. This scene, albeit with the swearing removed, was a key part of the first film's advertising, a moment that showcases how lazy, surly, and disgusting Willie is all at once. 

The film, of course, is more than just the spectacle of Billy Bob Thornton gleefully cursing at or around children, but that is undoubtedly a major part of the film's appeal. Many of the "Bad" films that followed in the wake of "Bad Santa," from "Bad Teacher" to "Bad Grandpa" to the "Bad Moms" series, also rely heavily on the fundamental inappropriateness of using adult language around children; Thornton himself did a more family-friendly riff on it in Richard Linklater's remake of "The Bad News Bears."

The lunch break scene is the most well-known moment of Willie being inappropriate around kids, by virtue of it being included in the advertising, but it's hardly the only one. Willie does very little throughout either film to moderate his constant stream of profanity, or even to keep his fake beard from hanging loose around his chin. He is an extremely unconvincing Santa, though oddly no kids ever seem to mind. The food court mom threatening to speak to his manager is the only time the audience ever sees a parent really take offense at Willie, as well. It seems that in the "Bad Santa" universe, everyone expects shopping mall Santas to be a little scuzzy.

7. Hooking up with the caterer while his mother robs a house

Willie has mostly left his days of kids sitting on his lap behind in "Bad Santa 2," but Sunny recruits him for a special mission, essentially kidnapping him and driving to a private Christmas party at a fancy house in the Chicago suburbs. The grift is pretty simple: Willie (as Santa) will distract everyone by hearing what every little boy and girl wants for Christmas, while Sunny as Mrs. Claus — putting on a wholesome smile and chipmunk voice — cleans the place out. 

The scene plays like a sidequest to the main plot; there's no connection here to the children's charity or its married founders, a crooked cheater named Regent (Ryan Hansen) and his sexually frustrated wife Diane (Christina Hendricks). Its purpose is to play the old "Bad Santa" hits and get Thornton drunk and talking trash to a bunch of cute kids again. Amazingly, it works, both as a screenplay contrivance and a burglary. Sunny makes off with money, jewels and sex toys, while Willie gets more than he bargained for, first by being peed on by one of the kids and then by hooking up with a statuesque caterer (Valerie Wiseman) in an empty study. Willie runs out of the mansion, still holding his pants up.

6. Numerous instances of sex in public

Aside from booze and larceny, sex is likely Willie's strongest vice, and he has a particular affinity for doing it in public, whether in a parked car, an alley, a Christmas tree lot, or a department store dressing room. His dressing room rendezvous in the first film is particularly horrifying in the eyes of milquetoast store manager Bob (played by the late John Ritter). For some reason, though, Bob does not consider this grounds for dismissal, despite it seeming like more than enough reason to fire a seasonal worker like Willie. 

"I was against the Clinton impeachment," Bob stammers to his head of security Gin (Bernie Mac), who muses, "Man is a sexual being. Can't do s**t about that, Jack."

But Willie's heart (and other parts) are mostly reserved for Sue the Santa-loving bartender, who luckily shares many of his pastimes; the couple, along with Thurman Merman, form an unexpectedly sweet family unit. In "Bad Santa 2," however, his sexual activities are far more mercenary, if still very public. He seduces Diane, whose put-together demeanor hides a sordid past and a decade of sublimated desires, and has a brief tryst with security guard Gina (comedian Jenny Zigrino) in a bar bathroom in order to steal a key from her, taking the job only after Gina rejected the advances of Marcus, who has been in jail since the end of the first movie.

5. Robbing Thurman Merman's house and stealing his father's car

While Willie is not really a good guy, he's a better guy than perhaps he thinks he is. That's one of the reasons why the audience will stick with him as he slides further and further into depravity. There is also perhaps something anonymous or even victimless about Willie and Marcus' shopping mall robberies, which makes the few times in these films when he outright victimizes a specific person a little jarring. 

Case in point, the way he takes over Thurman's house after bringing him home from the mall one night. Pulling his old beater into the swanky driveway, Willie discovers that the kid's mother is dead, his father is in prison (or hiking mountains, according to the boy), and his sole guardian is a senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman, in an uncredited role).

Smelling opportunity, Willie cleans out the old man's safe and steals the BMW in the garage. Later, he moves out of his fleabag motel and shacks up with the kid and grandma, bringing Sue around for screwdrivers and late night hot tub sessions. Before too long, however, the house starts working a strange magic on Willie, a dream of domestic bliss that slowly comes to life, with him, Sue, and Thurman Merman as a makeshift happy family, trimming the tree and putting out presents.

4. Coming to work drunk and trashing the decorations

Willie spends most of the "Bad Santa" series in, at the very least, a low level of intoxication; it's unlikely the film shows him sober at any moment. But sometimes he is drunker than usual, and sometimes he is drunker than anyone has ever been. After mall security head Gin figures out the scheme by Willie and Marcus and blackmails them for half the take, Willie shows up for work the next morning in a complete stupor, his red suit hanging open and his hat and beard gone. "Oh no," Marcus sighs as he sees his partner shamble up the escalator with a broken bottle in his hand.

First, he trips over the mall's decorative sleigh, knocking fakes presents across the floor. Then, seeing a papier-mâché Christmas burro staring down at him, he punches its head off and tears its body to pieces as horrified children and parents look on and a crowd begins to form. Marcus storms off as Gin hefts Willie out of sight and leaves a sign on Santa's chair: "Santa has gone to feed his reindeer. He'll be back soon!" This is Willie's rock-bottom moment, which, considering that he had already peed himself before on the job, is saying a lot.

3. Teabagging Marcus while he's incapacitated in the hospital

Willie and Marcus have a fraught relationship, to say the least. They are business partners first and friends a very distant second, so distant in fact that they are rarely friendly with each other at all. Marcus has plenty to be mad at Willie about, from his chronic unprofessionalism to his general unpleasantness and casual racism and ableist slurs. At the start of the first movie, Marcus notes that with every job Willie is worse than the one before, and so it makes a certain amount of sense why he would betray Willie at the end of the Phoenix job and hold him at gunpoint. Just as Marcus is about to shoot him, however, the police intervene and Marcus is arrested.

Thirteen years later in "Bad Santa 2," Marcus is out of prison and recruits Willie on Sunny's behalf for the Chicago job. The two are on bad terms, not just because of the attempted murder, but also an offscreen incident where Marcus "teabagged" an incapacitated Willie — that is, put his testicles on Willie's face and took a picture. By the end of the film, Marcus is laid up in the hospital after Sunny betrays Willie and him, shoots him, then runs him over with the getaway van. His body lies helpless in numerous casts and attached to medical equipment as Willie enters the room in a custodian uniform, smiles, pulls out his phone, and unzips his jumpsuit. The end credits roll over multiple shots, apparently posted to social media, of Willie's sweet teabagging revenge.

2. Eating the kid's advent calendar

Willie's relationship with Thurman Merman forms the emotional spine of the first film. Willie is at once repulsed by his fascination with him and his overall weirdness, while also eager to take advantage of the kid's naivety for all its worth. But as he spends more time with Thurman, Willie develops a fondness in spite of himself. He may not love the strange eight-year-old, but Willie doesn't want to see him hurt, either physically by bullies or emotionally by his own thoughtlessness.

On Willie's first night squatting in Thurman's house, he shows Willie his prized advent calendar, counting down the days to Christmas with a Bible verse and a little piece of chocolate. Later, while drunk, Willie rips the calendar apart and scarfs the rest of the chocolate himself. Remorse takes over the next morning, so Willie makes amends. While he doesn't cop to ruining the kid's calendar, and in fact still complains about it and how "the story sucks," he secretly tapes it back together, filling each window with candy corn, aspirin, and whatever else he can locate. It's a silly, stupid gesture, but a sincere one, even if Willie won't (or can't) own up to it. When the Thurman finds the candy corn, Willie acts indignant, saying "Well, they can't all be winners, can they?"

1. Telling the kid about Santa

Telling a child that there is no Santa Claus is probably the naughtiest thing a Santa can do. It's not a crime like robbery, or a compulsion like substance abuse or sex addiction, but there is just something about the amount of trust that children place in Santa and his proxies that makes the betrayal of that trust sting harder than just about anything else. 

When Thurman Merman brings home his report card and proudly shows it to Willie; since his grades are so good, he wonders if Willie will give him a present, since he didn't get anything from Santa the year before. Willie, full of self-loathing and furious that anyone would dare to care about him, lashes out and finally tells the kid what he should have surely guessed by now: Willie is not Santa; according to him, no one is Santa.

It's a hard moment, and the kid is hurt by what Willie said, but not in the way you might think. "I know," Thurman says. "I just thought maybe you'd want to give me a present because we're friends." The moment hits like a gut punch — or rather, like the kick to the crotch that Thurman Merman gives his skater bully at the end of the film. Willie realizes that this kid's obsession with "Santa" is far less strange, and far more basic, than he thought.