Updated December 2023

When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind?

Turkey, stockings, presents, carols, cold weather, Christmas trees, time with family…

All of the above, of course. But the festive season wouldn’t be the same without – Christmas movies!

When it’s freezing and dark outside, what’s better than curling up in front of a heartwarming festive film? Especially if you’ve got lots of Christmas food to munch on at the same time. 

I’ve brought seven of my online teaching buddies onto the blog today to share their favourite Christmas films with you. And the suggestions are amazing.

If you’ve been looking for the ultimate guide to Christmas movies for English learners, then read on. Or hit play on the video version of this post below. 

By the way, if you love watching Christmas movies but you struggle to understand native speakers when they talk fast, I’ve created something I think you’ll love – my audio course, Movies on the Run, that teaches you to understand native speakers through movie quotes in just 2 weeks!

Silvia from italearn

What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

In my family we have a tradition of Christmas Home Cinema. After our meal we move our living room furniture, set the projector and use some 30 minutes to agree on at least 3 movies to watch. So I don’t really have a Christmas favorite, I just go with the flow! But in more recent years I find myself re-watching “The holiday” around this time of year.


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

One scene that I really like is when Iris tells Arthur why she swapped houses with a complete stranger. His response is indeed brutal, but very true. Behind those “brutal” words there is indeed an important message: be the leading lady of your own life.

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

I would recommend this film because you can listen to 2 of the most common English accents/varieties at the same time. The storyline is not complicated so it’s a plus when you need to concentrate on listening.  


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do?

I’m not a big fan of Christmas myself, but I like the fact that for a couple of days you can just stay with your family and… eat!

Elfin from All About Italian

About Elfin: I help English speakers find fun ways to  learn Italian even on the busiest of days on Instagram where I give daily lessons for intermediate students. Join my newsletter here.


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

For me it would be Trading Places. I live in Italy and they run it on TV on Christmas Eve, every year. So, it has become a classic and I can’t imagine setting the table for Christmas without having it playing in the background.

It’s not a very traditional movie. It’s the story of a  Wall Street commodities broker and a hobo that are forced into switching places. There’s good feelings and loads of laughter. If you’re busy laughing, it’s harder to argue with tipsy relatives over dinner, right?


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

It’s when Eddie Murphy is playing a blind Vietnam veteran and he gets stopped by the police for panhandling. They try to put him on the spot with their questions and he just rattles on one funny answer after another. If you’re not sure of what he’s saying, check the comments. People who watched and found it funny, wrote out some of his incredible lines.

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

For English learners, there are quite a few challenges. The main linguistic joke is the cultural gap between the Wall Street crowd and Eddie Murphy’s African American English.  

When he makes the transformation from homeless street hustler to commodities broker, his English changes too and becomes more upper-class. I’d definitely recommend it because the whole idea of African-American English is something learners struggle with.


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

I normally spend Christmas with my family. As I live in Italy, that involves lots of food and meeting people I haven’t seen in ages.

My favourite part is listening to my uncle tell his stories – he’s such a good storyteller. I can’t imagine Christmas without his tales over food.

Luciana from Sounds like English


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

It’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. I’m quite partial to all things Peanuts (the comic strips by Charles M. Schulz featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown and their gang). Apart from that, the film is cute, funny and profound.

When Charlie Brown complains about the materialism that he sees amongst everyone during the Christmas season, Lucy suggests that he becomes director of the school Christmas play. Like all other Charlie Brown’s projects, it proves to be a frustrating struggle.


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

In this scene, Lucy asks Schroeder, who is an accomplished pianist, to play the traditional Christmas song Jingle Bells. I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but what follows is hilarious.

A bit of context: Lucy has a crush on Schroeder, but she has no respect for Beethoven, the German composer who is Schroeder’s hero. It’s no surprise that Schroeder doesn’t like her.

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

Yes! The storyline is simple and easy to follow, but the language isn’t childish. On the contrary, it can be quite sophisticated at times. Charlie Brown’s voice is a bit muffled in my opinion, but all the other characters are easy to understand.


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

This year I’ll be spending Christmas with my relatives in my hometown. It’ll be my first Christmas with them in 20 years. It will be very special.

Danielle from Get Test Obsessed


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

During the Christmas season, my siblings and I always celebrate with a Christmas movie marathon that takes place in the background while we bake Christmas cookies and wrap presents; this year is no exception.

Every year we watch holiday classics like It’s A Wonderful Life as well as children’s Christmas movies like The Grinch. Many Christmas movies are about embracing your inner child, so it’s fun to watch and continue to enjoy movies that we loved when we were very young.


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

My favorite Christmas movie is A Muppets Christmas Carol, and we watch it every year without fail. The movie takes all the most famous components of Charles Dickens’s famous novel and has Kermit, Miss Piggy and other muppets assume the role of characters like Bob Cratchit, his wife, and Marley’s ghost.

Although this movie, like the novel, deals with very serious topics and strongly criticizes greed and a general lack of empathy, the muppets bring humor and song, giving this tale fresh life. It’s a great, family-friendly film that’s light-hearted enough to be enjoyed by viewers of all ages.


Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

I’d definitely recommend this to non-native speakers because it will familiarize them with a culturally significant story that is referenced and alluded to constantly at this time of year.  After watching the film, you’ll never need to wonder what someone means when they say “bah humbug” ever again!

Packed full of great vocabulary for describing people and their attitudes right from the opening number on Scrooge, the terms here are useful for understanding everyday conversation as well as getting ready for exams like the TOEFL.  

Tests like the TOEFL love to ask about personality traits for independent essay questions.  Once you’ve mastered words all the vocab (like stingy and underhanded) make sure to put them into practice by grabbing 30 free TOEFL essay prompts.


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

While the story itself is a classic tale featuring how even the most cold-hearted can change, my favorite scenes in the film are the comical interactions between Gonzo and Rizzo that are often surprisingly deep.  

Gonzo serves as the narrator (he actually explains that he is an omniscient narrator, a phrase that anyone taking a literature class should be familiar with).  He often breaks the fourth wall; in other words, he uses the technique of talking directly to the viewer.  

Rizzo is used as a foil, a character that is designed to contrast with another.  As a result, this Christmas film serves as a fun way to familiarize yourself with literary vocabulary found in university classes and on tests like the TOEFL.  Didn’t think that studying literature can be fun?  Check out this silly scene from the film that shows just how far the duo will go in order to bring the viewers the full story of Scrooge’s transformation:

Kim from English with Kim

About Kim: Kim is an accent and communication coach for non-native English speakers. If you want to clearly communicate your meaning through essential conversation skills and natural intonation, check out her resources at  englishwithkim.com. You can also join her free accent reduction course at  soundmorenatural.com.


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

My favorite Christmas movie is Little Women, starring Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. Although not specifically about the holidays, most of the key scenes in the movie take place around Christmas.

This movie is an engaging adaptation of a classic novel about four young women growing up in the Boston area in the 1800s. Little Women celebrates togetherness and the bond these sisters share with each other, their mother and father, and their friends.

In particular, I am always moved by the timeless struggles faced by the women as they try to define and follow their own paths in life, explore different identities, and find romance. I love watching the movie around the holidays because the Christmas spirit is truly captured by the music and cinematography, and the winter scenes are so cozy.


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

My favorite scenes all include classic Christmas carols! If I had to choose, I would say that this scene where Beth receives a piano as a gift is my favorite. This scene illustrates how families and friends come together to celebrate and how the best gifts are those given from the heart.

I also love this scene of the sisters bringing food to neighbors in need and singing joyfully as they meet Laurie, a key character, for the very first time.

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

Absolutely! I feel like Little Women shows people from other countries what the New England area looks like in the winter. Although the movie takes place in another century, it illustrates how the struggles we share as humans are truly universal. All of the characters in the film are well-spoken so the movie is easy to understand.


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

Yes, of course! For me, Christmas is all about traditions. In particular, I love listening to Christmas carols and hanging colorful lights. In my family, we decorate the Christmas tree with ornaments from my childhood so it’s always fun to remember when my brother and I were little.

I can’t forget the tradition of baking Christmas cookies and gingerbread – I look forward to eating these special treats all year!

Sam from English for Study

About Sam: Sam Pealing helps busy but ambitious non-native English speakers to finally feel comfortable and confident when using English in real life.


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

My favourite Christmas movie of all time is Home Alone. It’s about a kid, Kevin, who feels left out, bullied and ignored by his family, so he wishes they would disappear.

And they do…Kinda. They go on holiday and accidentally leave him at home all alone.

In the beginning, Kevin loves his new freedom. He’s able to do, eat and watch whatever he likes… but, something bad happens and he starts to miss his family.

He starts thinking about where his family is and how much he wants them to come back.

Then something terrible happens…

Burglars try to break into his house and he decides he needs to defend himself.


What’s your favourite scene and why?

This scene is my favourite scene: the exciting music, the planning, the traps and the ‘kid on a mission’, really inspired me as I was growing up. Now when I watch the film, it tells me that the exciting ‘home defence’ scene is coming up.


Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English?

Personally, I think Home Alone is a great film for English learners. It’s a simple film made for families. It shows many aspects of common Christmas celebrations (such as visiting Santa, decorating the tree, snow and so on).

But, most importantly, the language is very accessible. It’s easy to understand. The topics aren’t too deep. The sentences are quite simple and a lot of the language is situational.

This makes it the perfect film for an English learner to watch.


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

Yes! Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love the lights, the food, the parties, the music… Everything! Plus, people in England tend to be a bit happier during the Christmas season (so, if you’re thinking of travelling to England, Christmas is a great time to go).

We’ve travelled back home to England to spend Christmas with my family. This year is extra special because it’s my son’s first Christmas!

Trisha from Vagabond English


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

Better Off Dead (1985) with John Cusack might not seem like an obvious pick.  But for a few of you out there, it will be the perfect holiday film:

➣ If you love a good 80’s flick…

➣ If, as a kid, you identified with John Cusack in all his moody and misfitting 80’s permutations…

➣ If you’ve ever been the loner, the dreamer, the doodler…

➣ If you’ve ever felt like your Christmas in your family wasn’t that sparkling blizzard of joy, perfect presents, peace and love that “everyone else” seems to be living…

➣ If you’ve ever spent the holidays away from home…

➣ Or had a horribly awkward experience as a traveler or exchange student…

You need to check out this film.


What’s your favourite scene and why?

I can’t share my favorite clip from this film. The truth is, there are so many memorable moments: One-liners that, as a child of the 80’s, I used to go around quoting with my friends.  

This is that kind of film.  

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English?

And this film has a few things going for it that will help you in your fight for subtitle freedom:

➣ The plot is typical of many 80’s films, so it’s going to feel familiar to you.  You’ll go into it knowing what to expect.

➣ The film is rich with silent pauses and visual humor–that will help your overall understanding.

It’s one of those cult classics that even native speakers have seen several times–so you won’t have to feel odd if you decide to watch a few clips until you can imitate the actors…In fact, you’ll just be joining the club.

So this is a bit of an oddball Christmas film. But maybe it’s the perfect film for you.


And if you happen to be a bit like John Cusack’s 80’s characters…a dreamer with a rich inner life, someone who asks questions, makes up stories…

I’d like to invite you to join my Short Story Series where you can find inspiration reading short fiction, get fun prompts for your journal habit, and maybe start writing a story of your own…  


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

I wish you the best holiday season. Whether you feel like an insider or an outsider this time of year! I normally spend Christmas eve with my tiny French-American family of four eating finger-foods and listening to Christmas songs in English (We have 500 of them). And Christmas day eating a typically French 3-hour meal with our extended family in France.  

Cara from Leo Listening

About me: I’m Cara Leopold, I run Leo Listening where I intrepid travellers and adventurous expats understand fast-talking native speakers through movies. 


What’s your favourite Christmas film and why?

It’s a cheesy choice but I’m a huge fan of Love Actually. Say what you will about Richard Curtis’ films, they bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.

This film came out during a difficult period in my life. But I feel that no matter how hard things get, it can’t fail to cheer you up with it’s multiple tales of festive romance.


Can you share your favourite scene with us?

When Colin, played by Kris Marshall, one of my favourite comic actors, decides to go to Wisconsin the USA to find love. And it works! Want to know why?

Would you recommend this film to people whose first language isn’t English? Why? Why not?

Yes because there are lots of well-known actors such as Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson or the late, great Alan Rickman who have standard British accents.

You’ll probably be familiar with them from other famous British films so it won’t be such a shock when they open their mouths!


Do you celebrate Christmas? What do you usually do? 

I love spending Christmas in the UK. I find that France isn’t quite as Christmassy.

We have a traditional Christmas dinner (without the turkey though) and spend the rest of the evening trying to digest it while watching Christmas TV – films or Christmas specials of classic UK series.

The 26th of December is also a holiday in the UK. My huge extended family usually goes round to my gran’s house and we squeeze into the living room to play party games like pass the parcel. It can get pretty noisy and competitive, with lots of British humour and ‘banter’.


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