Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Funniest Moments In Elf Ranked

2003 was a very different place from today, pop culture-wise. Jon Favreau had not yet rocketed into the big leagues as a filmmaker after helming 2008's "Iron Man" and helping kick-start the MCU. Will Ferrell was still mainly known for being a featured player on "Saturday Night Live" and some supporting roles in well-received comedies. 

Both Favreau and Ferrell found their fortunes dramatically changed after they collaborated on the 2003 Christmas comedy movie "Elf." Favreau helped write the script and directed Ferrell, the soon-to-be Hollywood A-lister, played Buddy, a regular human child living in an orphanage who accidentally gets transported to Santa's home in the North Pole. 

Growing up surrounded by Santa's elves, Buddy eventually discovers he has a human father living in New York City, and sets out to find him. "Elf" became a huge hit when it was first released, and was praised for its heartwarming storyline and off-kilter sense of humor. Let's take a rundown of the funniest scenes in "Elf" that have made it one of the most popular Christmas films of all time.  

Buddy the Bigfoot

Sometimes a joke doesn't need an elaborate setup or complex payoff. Sometimes a joke works simply based on our collective knowledge of the world. Those are the kinds of jokes that get turned into single-picture memes on the internet. In "Elf," such a meme-worthy joke occurs near the end based on two facts: Bigfoot sightings are a national obsession. And Will Ferrell is a huge guy.

The fact that Buddy is a towering man instead of a tiny elf is used for comedy throughout the movie. At one point, Buddy spots Santa's (Ed Asner) sleigh in trouble, and races into Central Park to help. A video of the grown man dressed as an elf is captured and broadcast on the local news channel. 

In the footage, Buddy can be seen walking through the woods with his hands swinging wide, before the video freezes with Buddy in the middle of the frame. The shot is clearly a reference to the famous alleged picture of "Bigfoot" that went viral around the world in the years before social media was a thing. The scene also amusingly sums up how the people of the North Pole and later New York see Buddy as a strange, otherworldly creature who is simply too big in his green-and-yellow elf tights.    

Buddy really likes sweet things

Buddy is always depicted as a big, friendly kid who views the world in simple terms. To emphasize his childlike nature, a running gag involves Buddy trying to add sugar or sweets to every one of his meals. As he tells his human family, "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."

In keeping with his strict diet, Buddy always carries with him a bottle of maple syrup that he adds to everything from spaghetti to coffee. Of course, if Buddy really subsisted on an all-candy diet, either he would suffer from some form of diabetes or have some sort of magical remedy to offset the harm done to his organs from all that sweet food.

But despite the gaps in logic, the fact that Buddy is always eating sugar in some form helps explain the manic energy he displays at all times, like a 10-year-old just coming off the world's biggest sugar rush. Hopefully living in the human world after the events of the movie introduced Buddy to other food groups and a more balanced diet.  

Michael knows what everyone wants

At the end of "Elf," Santa's sleigh is lying broken down in the middle of Central Park. In order to get the sleigh going again, Santa needs the people in the surrounding area to believe in the magic of Christmas again. To help Santa, Buddy's little brother Michael (Daniel Tay) takes Saint Nick's ledger bearing the names of naughty and nice children, and what they want for Christmas.  

Michael arrives at a crowd of people gathered around a reporter who had been sent to cover news of the strange object that fell out of the sky and into Central Park. Michael tries to tell everyone the object was Santa's sleigh, and people need to believe in the spirit of the season to help the sleigh fly again. Naturally, the adults don't believe Michael's story. 

In response, he opens Santa's ledger and tells the reporter what she wants for Christmas, which is apparently "a Tiffany ring and her boyfriend to stop dragging his feet and commit already." It's even more funny when Michael reads out that someone called "Dirk Lawson" wants a "day of pampering" at a spa. Cut to a gang of toughs watching the news at a bar. They all turn to stare at one of the toughest-looking guys in the bar, who sheepishly remarks, "Must be another Dirk Lawson."  

Buddy thinks Santa has arrived

A large part of the comedy in "Elf" comes from the fish-out-of-water nature of Buddy's visit to New York to find his birth father. He does not embark on the mission with any sort of preparation and does not even bother to change out of his very tight, green elf clothes.

Naturally, at the first mall Buddy visits, he is mistaken for one of the elves working for the mall Santa. Buddy obligingly goes along with the miscommunication as he is led to where actors dressed up as elves are preparing to greet children. Upon being told that "Santa" will be arriving soon, Buddy becomes ecstatic, bellowing at the top of his lungs, "SANTA! OH MY GOD!" 

What makes the scene even funnier is the department manager standing next to Buddy, looking completely unimpressed by his display of enthusiasm at the prospect of meeting Santa Claus. The scene also connects to the ending of the movie in an important way, when the citizens of New York are shown to briefly set aside their cynicism and welcome Santa and the magic of Christmas with open hearts, just like Buddy does.   

Buddy tangles with a raccoon

Upon discovering that his birth father lives in New York, Buddy wastes no time in making his way to the Big Apple to find his missing family. But first he has to say goodbye to the North Pole where he had grown into adulthood. Many of Buddy's friends come to bid him farewell, including Santa, elves, and even a bunch of magical creatures straight out of a child's fairy book.

After saying goodbye to the North Pole, the surrounding enchanted lake, and the nearby candy cane forest, Buddy finds himself in the land of men, where things are considerably less magical and whimsical. This is driven home when Buddy spots a raccoon messing around in the snow and gleefully approaches the little creature to give it a hug.

In response, the raccoon snarls and attacks Buddy with all the ferocity of a feral animal defending its lair. All Buddy can do is yell, "I just wanted a hug," while being scratched and bitten by the wild beast. That is Buddy's first clue that the world outside the North Pole is not all candy canes and friendly animals, and he will have a rough time fitting into this bleak new world.  

Buddy crosses an angry 'elf'

Nowadays, we often hear about certain aspects of classic comedies being considered problematic by modern standards. One scene in "Elf" that definitely qualifies involves Buddy walking into his dad's office to see his father talking to Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage), a best-selling author who also happens to be a dwarf. 

Buddy immediately assumes Finch is an elf and greets him rapturously. The novelist is far from amused, especially when Buddy asks, "Does Santa know you left the workshop?" Finch tries to dismiss Buddy's words as a pathetic attempt at an insult. But Buddy persists with his efforts to make friends with a fellow "elf." 

Finally Finch snaps, running across the table to throw himself bodily at Buddy. What follows is an epic butt-whooping that you can't help but feel Buddy deserved. Even when Finch angrily storms out of the room, all Buddy does is mutter after him, "He must be a South Pole elf."  

Buddy is enamored with New York

After arriving in New York, Buddy takes some time to bounce around the big city and take in the sights. He is amazed by the rush of humanity surrounding him and the way the people of the city pass their time. Pretty soon, Buddy wants to do more than stare. He dives hilariously into all the activities the streets of the city have to offer. 

He spots a guy waving furiously and happily waves back, not realizing the guy is trying to flag a taxi. He sees two guys handing out flyers, and obligingly keeps coming back to take the flyers several times, until the men have had enough and shoo him away. Getting a shoe shine keeps Buddy giggling uncontrollably, while the revolving doors of a store are like a carnival ride for him.

But the biggest find for Buddy is the restaurant titled "World's Best Cup of Coffee." Not realizing that the title is a marketing gimmick and not the literal truth, Buddy rushes in excitedly to congratulate the staff on finally having cracked the code to make the best coffee. The workers are left completely bemused by the strange man in the elf tights yelling, "You did it! Congratulations!"    

Buddy tries the escalator

When Buddy enters a giant mall, he is awed to discover a miracle of human engineering that he has apparently never encountered before: the escalator. Buddy sees other customers getting on the machine with no problem, but is hesitant to give it a shot himself. He keeps muttering "Sorry," and letting other people go before him while trying to build up the courage to take the plunge.

Finally, Buddy puts one foot on the stair of the escalator while keeping the other foot rooted to the floor. The result is a strange, balletic pose that Buddy is forced to strike as his legs are stretched out over the stairs behind and in front of his torso. It's weird and uncomfortable, but at least it takes Buddy to the top of the escalator. 

Almost immediately afterward, Buddy is shown trying out the mall toilet, looking over the top of the stall at some poor soul in the toilet next door to exclaim, "Have you seen these toilets? They're ginormous!" The moment is a clever little throwback to the start of the film, when we see Buddy trying to accommodate his great size to furniture and toiletry designed for tiny elves in the North Pole. 

Buddy stops a taxi

To properly appreciate "Elf," you have to understand that the movie's director, Jon Favreau, consciously set out to make a film that simultaneously lampoons and pays homage to classic Christmas movies. As Favreau explained to Rolling Stone about reworking the original "Elf" script before directing it, "The character [of Buddy] became a bit more innocent, and the world [of the movie] became more of a pastiche of the Rankin/Bass [animated Christmas] films."

With that in mind, we get a hilarious scene in which Buddy sees the giant, shiny mall Gimbles for the first time. The scene plays like a moment out of so many holiday movies, where music swells in the background as Buddy's eyes grow wide at the sight of Gimbles. Like many holiday movie protagonists before him, Buddy rushes joyfully toward the mall, leaving all his troubles behind him.

He quickly reaches the middle of the street and is almost immediately hit by a yellow taxi. The Christmas music abruptly stops, as viewers are reminded that this is still New York City, and the road doesn't care about whatever special moment you're having if you're going to run like a maniac into oncoming traffic. To cap it off, Buddy gets up, slightly woozy from the impact, and apologizes to the taxi driver before running onward.  

Buddy meets a fake Santa

A running theme throughout "Elf" is that Christmas time is business as usual for jaded adults, while Buddy still sees the holiday through the eyes of an excitable child. The mall where Buddy is recruited to work as an elf soon announces that Santa is coming to greet the visiting children, and Buddy can barely contain his excitement at the prospect of meeting Father Christmas.

But Buddy's excitement turns to ashes when he sees the mall Santa (Artie Lange) is most definitely not the guy he knows from the North Pole. Outraged at the thought of an imposter fooling everyone at the mall, Buddy confronts the mall Santa in a series of heated whispers, hissing, "You disgust me," "You sit on a throne of lies," and "You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa."

The confrontation heats up even further when Buddy snatches the Santa's false beard away and starts yelling, "He's a fake!" Santa gets mad and the fight soon gets physical while children scream and mall employees rush in to try to control the chaos. Little wonder that Buddy was let go from his post — presumably while the parents explain to their kids that Santa needs a wig because he's losing hair in his old age.

Buddy sings along with Jovie

It wouldn't be a Christmas movie without some romance in the air. While working at the mall, Buddy falls for Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a fellow mall elf. At first Jovie is put off by the strange huge man in the elf tights who acts like an excitable 10-year-old unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning. 

But over time, Buddy's infectious enthusiasm helps Jovie open herself up to the holiday spirit. At first Buddy invites Jovie to sing along with him in celebration of Christmas. But Jovie declines, stating that she doesn't sing. Later Buddy overhears Jovie singing to herself in the mall shower. Entranced, Buddy takes a seat on the washbasin next to the shower and joins in the song. 

Slowly, it dawns on Jovie that there is an unknown man keeping her company while she bathes. She sticks her head out of the shower and screams at Buddy, "Get out! Don't look at me!" Panicking, Buddy covers his eyes with his hands and runs away, colliding headfirst with the wall next to the door. And that is this film's version of the "meet-cute" scene used so often in rom-coms.   

Buddy improvs a song for his dad

The biggest moment of Buddy's life is when he arrives at the office building where his dad Walter Hobbs (James Caan) works. Naturally, Buddy has no idea how offices work and he wanders straight into the main waiting room. There he meets his father's secretary (Amy Sedaris), who assumes based on Buddy's clothes that he is a singing telegram that someone had sent for her boss.

Buddy is ushered into his father's office, where Walter greets him resignedly. Not recognizing his long-lost son, he asks Buddy to deliver the singing telegram as intended. Thoroughly confused, but willing to oblige his dad, Buddy launches into a hasty improv song to introduce himself.

The lyrics include such gems as "I was adopted, but you didn't know I was born, so I'm here now," and "Guess what? I love you, I love you, I love you!" What makes the song even funnier is that Walter still thinks it's part of the telegram. He returns to his desk, muttering "That was weird, usually guys just, you know, put my name into 'Jingle Bells' or something."   

Buddy works in the mail room

After getting fired from the mall for starting a fight with Santa, Buddy's father puts him to work in his office's mail room. At first Buddy is completely lost, remarking that the mail room "reminds [him] of Santa's workshop, except this place smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt [him]."

But gradually Buddy discovers the fun of working in the mail room. Especially when a fellow worker introduces him to the joys of working while high. Soon Buddy and his new friend are lying stretched out on mail room carts, hazily talking about the friend's "great ideas," and "going with the flow" versus "getting out of the flow" so he can make something of his life while still young.  

In the end, Buddy's father is told about his antics in the mail room, where Buddy is busy doing an energetic dance on the main table while the rest of the workers cheer him on. Once again, it is Buddy's childlike nature that affects the jaded adults around him and brings out their inner children as well. Or maybe the mail-room employees were just looking for any excuse to blow off work.

Elves have limited career options

"Elf" begins with the film's narrator, Buddy's adoptive father Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), giving a brief recap to the audience regarding the history of worker elves in the human world. The satirical comedy that the movie indulges in throughout is expertly set up right from that introductory scene. Papa Elf explains that an interesting "Elf-ism" is that there are only three types of jobs that an elf can do. 

We see the first of those jobs, where a group of elves resentfully make shoes for a sleeping cobbler at night while bitterly remarking, "Lazy bum. Couldn't even make a clog." The second job is baking cookies in a tree. But as the next scene shows, having an oven in an oak tree can backfire quickly in the dry season, as the tree catches fire and a bunch of screaming elves that have been set aflame run out.

The third job, and naturally the one that every elf wants to do, is making presents for Santa in the North Pole. Papa Elf also mentions that Santa tried using gnomes and trolls to make toys, but the gnomes drank too much and the trolls weren't toilet trained. Now we can't stop thinking about a spinoff movie exploring this world of burning elves, drunken gnomes, and leaky trolls.