Santa took to the silver screen as soon as the silver screen became available. The jolly old elf made his debut in a short 1897 silent movie, Santa Claus Filling Stockings. The photo on the left is from a silent film around 1905. The modern Santa is pictured complete with the fur lined suit (probably red).

Santa Claus also was the star of many animated features, too numerous to even attempt to list. The photo here is from the 40's, but Santa continues to be included in cartoons to the present day.

The years have seen a sleighful of onscreen Santas, a number of which are more than forgettable like 1964's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. A few are interesting: Jeff Gillen in 1983's A Christmas Story and David Huddleston in 1985's Santa Claus: The Movie. A few are bright spots and further the legend: Edmund Gwenn in 1947's Miracle on 34th Street, Jan Rubes in 1985's One Magic Christmas, and Tim Allen in 1994's The Santa Clause. Edmund Gwenn won his Supporting Oscar for playing the loveable Kris Kringle hired by Macy's, and his portrayal continues to be the one all others are measured by.

Santa at the reins in another early film depiction (circa 1910).

(1947) When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.
Edmund Gwenn - Kris Kringle

(1951) An old bitter miser is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts on Christmas Eve.
Francis De Wolff - Spirit of Christmas Present

(1964) The Martians kidnap Santa because there is nobody on Mars to give their children presents.
John Call - Santa Claus

(1983) Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940's.
Jeff Gillen - Santa Claus

(1984) The Night They Saved Christmas from an oil company looking for bubblin' crude at the North Pole.
Art Carney - Santa Claus

(1985) An angel must show a mother the true meaning of Christmas. It's not just presents and materialistic things, but the people she cares about.
Jan Rubes - Santa Claus

(1985) A glimpse into the history of the titled character and his wife as they make the North Pole their home.
David Huddleston - Santa Claus

(1988) Santa Claus needs a little help to find a successor.
Douglas Seale and
Oliver Clark - Santa Claus

(1994) When Santa meets with an untimely accident on Christmas Eve, a man finds himself magically recruited to take his place. The role was reprised in The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause (2002) and again in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)
Tim Allen - Santa Claus

(2001) Twas The Night - a boy and his irresponsible uncle (Bryan Cranston) take Santa's new high-tech sleigh for a joyride.
Jefferson Mappin - Santa Claus

(2003) A man raised as an elf at the North Pole returns home.
Edward Asner - Santa Claus

(2003) Bad Santa - A darker side of Christmas, a miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve.
Billy Bob Thornton - Willie
(aka: Santa Claus)

(2004) The Polar Express - A young doubter is transported to the North Pole on Christams Eve aboard a magical train. The wonder of Christmas need not be lost to those who truely believe.
Tom Hanks - the voice of Santa Claus

(2005) The Chronicles of Narnia - Father Christmas gets to outfit the kids with some lethal weapons.
James Cosmo - Santa Claus

(2007) Fred Claus - Santa's self-centered brother moves back to the North Pole to help with the Christmas rush.
Paul Giamatti - Santa Claus

(2010) The Night Before the Night Before Christmas - Santa sets off on his Christmas duties a day early and crashes into the Fox family's house.
R.D. Reid - Santa Claus

(2014) Get Santa - A father and son who team up to save Christmas once they discover Santa Claus in their garage after crashing and finding himself on the run from the police.
Jim Broadbent - Santa Claus

(2015) Northpole: Open for Christmas - A successful businesswoman chooses to restore and sell her beloved aunt's inn right before Christmas.
Donovan Scott - Santa Claus